The Living Eden: Madagascar’s Unique Flora and Fauna

The Living Eden: Madagascar’s Unique Flora and Fauna

 

Tour Highlights

 

With Paul Urquhart explore Madagascar’s rich and unique wildlife habitats, venturing into exquisite national parks and reserves ranging from semi-tropical rainforests, succulent and spiny thicket, rocky landscapes of the central west and the spectacular mineral forest (karst spires) of the Tsingy de Bemaraha.

Learn about Madagascar’s fascinating blend of Austronesian and East African cultures.
View the spectacular Avenue of the Baobabs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Get up close with Madagascar’s unique lemur and hear the call of the Indri across the Andasibe rainforest.

Enjoy invigorating walks in Andasibe-Mantadia, Ranomafana and Isalo National Parks, while searching for lemurs, chameleons and strange insects in the forest.

Make an excursion to Masoala National Park and the island reserve of Nosy Mangabe home to the White-Fronted Brown Lemurs and Black-and-White Ruffed Lemurs, Leaf-Tailed Geckos and several species of chameleons.

 

23-day Flora & Fauna tour of Madagascar
Overnight Antananarivo (1 night) • Andasibe NP (3 nights) • Antsirabe (1 night) • Ranomafana NP (3 nights) • Isalo NP (2 nights) • Toliara (1 night) • Kirindy Forest Reserve (1 night) • Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve (3 nights) • Morondava (1 night) • Antananarivo (1 night) • Maroantsetra (1 night) • Masoala NP (3 nights) • Antananarivo (1 night)

 

Overview

Visit one of the world’s botanical and zoological hotspots with Paul Urquhart, an accomplished editor, author of several books on garden design and a passionate lover of tropical plants. Madagascar, the world’s fifth-largest island, has a higher percentage of endemic species than any comparable land mass; it has plant species, genera and even families that grow nowhere else on earth. Many natives have, however, made their way into gardens the world over. Among them is the magnificent Poinciana; we will see many more species of the outstanding genus of flowering plants, Delonix. Madagascar also has many unique native terrestrial mammal species, including such endearing creatures as lemurs. The exact number of species isn’t known, as new ones are regularly discovered or reclassified. However, 86 have been described, from the tiny Madam Berthe’s Mouse Lemur – the world’s smallest primate at about 30 grams – to the Indri, one of the largest living lemurs, that can weigh in at 9.5 kilograms. Chameleons can be as small as your little fingernail or as big as a kitten. Many do change colour, although not as dramatically as the cartoons would suggest. The Leaf-Tailed Gecko is possibly the world’s most perfectly camouflaged lizard – until it moves, you won’t believe it’s there. This is the land of the world’s largest moth, the Comet Moth, that can measure 20cm from antennae to tail; and who wouldn’t love a Tomato Toad or a Giraffe-Necked Weevil with a neck five times longer than its body? We see amazing scenery from the dry canyons and buttes of Isalo National Park, where John Wayne would have felt at home, to the pristine rainforests of Maroantsetra with its orchids and giant bamboos eaten by Madagascar’s equivalent to the Panda, the Bamboo Lemur. We also view the spectacular Avenue of the Baobabs (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the mineral forest (karst spires) of the Tsingy de Bemaraha, and the spiny forests of Ifaty. This land’s unique plants and animals are not its only charms. As the last major habitable land mass to be settled by humans, the history, culture and customs unique to the Malagasy people will fascinate all who experience it.

 

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.

 

Antananarivo – 1 night

 

Day 1: Monday 8 October, 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.

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 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) LD

 

Andasibe National Park – 3 nights

 

Day 2: Tuesday 9 October, 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 10 October, 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 11 October, 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 12 October, 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 13 October, 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 14 October & Monday 15 October, 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 Tail. 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 16 October, 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 17 October, Isalo National Park

Morning nature trail to the Natural Pool (Piscine Natural), 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 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 morning trail leads us to the ‘Natural Pool’, providing views of xerophytic and sclerophyllous vegetation as well as stunning sandstone runiforme scenery.

Our afternoon trail leads 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

 

Toliara – 1 night

 

Day 11: Thursday 18 October, Isalo – Zombitse National Park – Toliara

The Succulent Thicket of Zombitse National Park
Physical Endurance: An easy walk along the Mandresy Trail; terrain includes loose sand. Duration: 2hrs
Arboretum d’Antsokay
We make a very early start to drive to Zombitse National Park which protects one of the most important remnants of dry deciduous forest of Madagascar. Madagascar Cuckoo Rollers displaying maniacally over the canopy is one of the highlights here. Males of this huge forest endemic engage in flapping displays and loops accompanied by shrieking whistles.

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 will find our first Angraecum orchids and see Rhopalocarpus, a large tree and a member of a family unique to Madagascar. We might also find the giant green Phelsuma standingi gecko, a roosting White-Browed Owl and perhaps even Oustalet’s Chameleon, the largest chameleon in the world! The large white Verreaux’s Sifakas bound from tree to tree and often allow close views.

The forest is also home to one of Madagascar’s rarest endemic birds, the Appert’s Tetraka or Appert’s Greenbul (Xanthomixis apperti). The species was first described as late as 1972, and has been the subject of considerable taxonomic confusion. It was initially placed in the Greenbul genus Phyllastrephus, and later with the Old World warblers in the genus Bernieria. Recent research indicates it is part of an endemic Malagasy radiation currently known as the Malagasy warblers.

This morning 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. (Overnight Toliara/Ifaty) BLD

 

Kirindy Forest Reserve – 1 night

 

Day 12: Friday 19 October, Toliara – Morondava – Kirindy

Fly Toliara to Morondava (MD741 TLEMOQ 1335-1435)
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, at approximately 1800hrs, 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 13: Saturday 20 October, Kirindy – Belo Tsiribihina – Tsingy de Bemaraha

Journey by 4WD to Bekopaka via the Tsirbihina River and Belo Tsiribihina
This morning 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 14: Sunday 21 October, 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 15: Monday 22 October, Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

Climbing The Grand Tsingy (Option 1: strenuous)
Physical Endurance: Option 1: 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.
The Grand Tsingy: Adjacent Forest Walk (Option 2)
Physical Endurance: Option 2: A more leisurely forest walk. Duration: 2hrs
Afternoon at leisure
This morning we depart early for a one-hour drive to the Grand Tsingy. 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. Here there is the option 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).

For those who do not wish to climb the Grand Tsingy, there is the option of 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.

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 16: Tuesday 23 October, 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 17: Wednesday 24 October, Morondava – Antananarivo

Morning flight Morondava – Antananarivo (MD702 MOQTNR 0735-0835)
Royal Hill of Ambohimanga
Handicraft market of Antananarivo
This morning we take an early 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. We shall also visit the wonderful craft market which has beautiful fossil specimens for sale and stalls selling baskets, woodcrafts and vanilla pods. (Overnight Antananarivo) BLD

 

Maroantsetra – 1 night

 

Day 18: Thursday 25 October, Antananarivo – Maroantsetra

Flight from Antananarivo to Maroantsetra (MD500/414 TNRWMN 0700-0915) or (MD318/415 0630-1130)
Orientation tour of Maroantsetra
The Tomato Frog, Dyscophus antongilii
Early 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.

On arrival 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 may 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. In the afternoon we continue to our hotel Manga Beach facing the river Anjahanambo. (Overnight Maroantsetra) BLD

 

Masoala National Park – 3 nights

 

Day 19: Friday 26 October, 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: 2 hrs
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 20: Saturday 27 October & Day 21: Sunday 28 October, 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 Tampolo Marine Reserve
Nocturnal Forest Walks
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.

During our 2-day program here, there are options for both full day or half day walks. On the Western coastal trail, Lohatrozona is a paradise for ornithologists, while the marine reserve of Tampolo offers superb corals and nice, clean beaches for a swim. We may also explore the forest for wildlife in the vicinity of our lodge. Kayaking is also possible for the more energetic! (Overnight Masoala Dounia Forest Lodge) BLD

 

Antananarivo – 1 night

 

Day 22: Monday 29 October, Masoala – Maroantsetra – Antananarivo

Morning Charter Flight from Maroantsetra to Antananarivo (times to be confirmed)
Farewell Evening Meal at Villa Vanille
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 Villa Vanille, a charming restaurant housed in an old colonial villa. (Overnight Antananarivo) BLD

Day 23: Tuesday 30 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

 

Tabu Bed and Breakfast, Cairns

Tabu Bed and Breakfast, Cairns

 

‘Tabu’ is located in the foot hills of Cairn’s rainforest, in northern Queensland. An exclusive pavilion style room (1 only), opens onto a furnished deck with a view of the exotic tropical gardens. Guests have their own private entry to their room.

Your accommodation has a comfortable king size bed, personal ensuite and is fully air conditioned. Your room boasts fine designer linen, quality towels, coffee, tea & ironing facilities, the bar-b-que is available if you wish to ‘fire up a feast’.

The serene azure pool is set amongst cool plantings of mangos, lychees, bananas, gingers and palm trees, and is designed for your own private enjoyment.

A self served continential breakfast of fresh tropical fruit, baguettes/croissants & muesli for your enjoyment on your deck or in the garden.

Tabu is located 10 mins drive from the airport and 15mins from the city centre of Cairns, set in the leafy rainforest of Freshwater. Local community shops include an exquisite French artisan bread & Patisserie are easily reached within a quick walk. Tabu is situated a 3 minute walk from the Freshwater station which is your hop on point for the famous “Kuranda Rail” journey.

The local bar/hotel provides a large menu, occasional entertainment and courtesy bus to and from the venue.

Facilities

  • King Size Bed
  • Luxury linen
  • Quality towels
  • Pillow selection
  • Private ensuite
  • Airconditioned
  • Large wardrobes
  • Wi-fi
  • Tea, coffee and milk
  • Beach/pool towels
  • Hairdryer
  • Iron & iron board
  • Clock radio
  • Bedside lamps
  • Personal deck

Fairlie & Mark at Tabu can book and organise many of the reef trips & tours which Cairns has to offer.

Kangaroo Paw Picnic at Cranbourne Gardens

Kangaroo Paw Celebration

 

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and the Cranbourne Friends are combining to present a wonderful opportunity for people to participate in a very special occasion in November 2016.

The iconic kangaroo paw and its relatives will be a celebrated in a number of activities. We may be familiar with kangaroo paws in our own and other gardens, but there is a whole lot more to this fascinating plant family.

The Australian Garden at Cranbourne will be enlivened by the planting of over 5000 kangaroo paws. The main plantings will be in the Cultivar Garden and the Northern Exhibition Garden precinct. Planting of gardens and containers of varying proportions will provide a stunning floral display.

Over November 2016, the Gallery at the Australian Garden Visitor Centre will have a Kangaroo Paw and relatives themed exhibition of artworks, crafts and floral art. Cranbourne Friends groups such as Botanical Illustrators, Botanical Basketmakers and Botanical Fabricators will be represented. During the month there will be a ‘Best Kangaroo Paw Pic Instagram Competition’ with winner announced on 27 November 2016.

 

Kangaroo Paw Picnic

 

Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 November 2016

Held over the weekend of Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 November 2016 the Kangaroo Paw Picnic will provide a varied program of activities for everyone to enjoy.

 

Cranbourne Gardens

Cnr Ballarto Road and Botanic Drive (off South Gippsland Fwy), Cranbourne, 3977.

Open: 9am – 5pm. Entry to Cranbourne Gardens is free.
Please leave your dog (other than assistance dogs) and other pets at home to protect our local wildlife.

 

Some of the highlights include:

–   Guided Tours by Angus Stewart [Bookings are essential: ph (03) 5990 2200]
–   Launch of the beautiful Angus Stewart bred Anigozanthos ‘Landscape Violet’ at 11 am on the Saturday.
–   Special Growing Friends Plant sale of Kangaroo Paws & Cottonheads
–   Floral art demonstrations with Kangaroo Paws & Australian plants.
–   Live music by Dan Arnott & The Gardeners Blue Grass Band.
–   Everybody will have the opportunity to vote in the ‘Best Kangaroo Paw Competition’.
–   There will also be displays by Sponsors and Public Gardens in the Melbourne Region

 

The Horticultural Media Association Victoria is one of the sponsors of this important ‘Kangaroo Paw Celebration’.

 

The Jungle Lodge, Mount Tomah NSW

The Jungle Lodge

 

Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens
Bells Line of Road
Mount Tomah NSW 2758

The Jungle Lodge includes:
Bedroom 1 1 x Queen Bed, 1 x Port-a-cot & adjacent bathroom
Bedroom 2 1 x Queen Bed & Ensuite
Bedroom 3 1 x Double Bed, 1 x Single Bed & Ensuite
Bedroom 4 2 x Single Beds & 1 Trundle Bed & adjacent bathroom (share
with bedroom 1)
 After hours access to the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah
 Sole use of the Jungle Lodge
 Large lounge/dining room/LCD TV/DVD/Stereo System with MP3 docking station.
 Modern kitchen with all appliances including oven, griller, microwave, dishwasher,
fridge, kettle, toaster
 BBQ with gas supplied
 Main bathroom with bath, shower and toilet
 Two ensuite bathrooms with shower and toilet
 Additional separate toilet
 Electric blankets on beds
 Ceiling fans installed in bedrooms
 Iron & ironing board
 BBQ facilities & Outdoor setting overlooking the beautiful Devil’s Wilderness of the
Grose Valley across to the Wollemi National Park
 Slow combustion fire with firewood included
 Basic cleaning products
 Midweek & weekend bookings available
Guests are encouraged to bring all bedding/towels required for their stay (including linen,
pillows and doonas/blankets). Bedding packages are available at a price on application

 

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah features 28 hectares of gardens, including a southern hemisphere woodland, many conifer species, a bog garden, the Brunet Meadow, a Proteaceae collection including waratah and south African protea, remnant rainforest, formal garden and rhododendrons.

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

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo

 

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo is a premium 5 star hotel located in uptown Mejiro in the heart of Tokyo. The hotel is a 3-minute taxi ride or a 10-minute walk from Edogawabashi Station on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho line.

The hotel has 260 rooms, 36 banquet halls and 12 restaurants.

The gardens have many historical artefacts, such as the three-storey pagoda, a sacred tree reputed to be more than 500 years old and many statues, lanterns and shrines.

The gardens are beautiful in all four seasons.

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo
10-8, Sekiguchi 2-chome, Bunkyo-ku
Tokyo,
112-8680, Japan

Tel: +81 3 3943-1111
Fax: +81 3 3943-2300
Email: info@hotel-chinzanso.com

The Paradise of Sri Lanka with Michael Bates

ITINERARY

 

DAY 1
Thursday 18 February 2016
Home – Negombo

Meet your tour leaders Michael Bates and Paul Van Reyk at Sydney International Airport. Arrive late to Colombo. Transfer to your hotel in the resort town of Negombo, rich in culture and history. Accommodation: Jetwing Blue, Negombo

DAY 2
Friday 19 February 2016
Negombo – Kandalama (B/D)

Join Paul and Michael for breakfast and then set out for Dambulla within the cultural triangle in the centre of the island. Dating back to the 1st century BC, the Golden Temple of Dambulla has been the centre of pilgrimage for Buddhists and Hindus for 22 centuries! The cave monastery, home to Buddhist monks, is covered with exquisite 2,000 year old murals depicting life and times of Buddha. The shrines also house a collection of 157 statues in various sizes including a reclining Buddha 15m long. Vividly coloured frescos are the largest antique painted surface in the world. Finish our day with a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. Check into the Heritance, a hotel surrounded by pristine tropical jungle, designed by Geoffrey Bawa and overlooking the magnificent expanse of the Kandalama wewa (part of Sri Lanka’s famous ancient irrigation system) and across to the Sigiriya rock fortress in the distance. The hotel is one kilometre long and the hotels seven floors are unobtrusively set into the mountainside. Hotel boasts 3 swimming pools for relaxing. Welcome dinner tonight.
Accommodation: Heritance, Kandalama

DAY 3
Saturday 20 February 2016
Anuradhapura (B)

Visit the ancient city of Anuradhapura to visit its greatest treasures -dagobas – hemispherical shaped white domes. We’ll swing past the 2250 year old sacred Buddha’s tree of enlightenment – the Bo tree is said to be the oldest tree in the world and protected by UNESCO. Onward to Minintale for a beautiful mountain walk under frangipani trees to discover Buddhist caves.
Accommodation: Heritance, Kandalama

DAY 4
Sunday 21 February 2016
Sigiriya (B/L)

Explore Sigiriya or Lion Rock, a must-see natural wonder of Sri Lanka. Built by an obsessed monarch in the 5th century and an astonishing feat of engineering and construction. Sirigiya rises 200m of sheer core of rock above a forested plain. Discover a series of ancient gardens, moats, ramparts, pools, fountains arranged symmetrically on either side on the rock. Spot the remains or a pair of giant lions paws still guarding the staircase that leads to the summit, once occupied by a royal palace.
Enjoy a lunch cooking demonstration with Paul and the hotel chef.
Accommodation: Heritance, Kandalama

DAY 5
Monday 22 February 2016
Kandalama – Kandy (B/L)

Travel to Kandy stopping en route to visit a coconut rope maker and lunch in a spice garden where you can explore the history, tastes and ayurvedic health uses of spices for which Sri Lanka is renowned. Arrive in Kandy in the afternoon, a town that nestles in the hills at an altitude of 488m and the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings. The name Kandy conjures visions of past, splendour, legend, folklore, mystery and traditions kept alive lovingly for years.
Check in to the breathtaking retreat of Amaya Hills in the verdant mountains of Hanthana, 9km from Kandy, where the architecture is Kandyan palatial style and the 170ft swimming pool is more than tempting!
Accommodation: Amaya Hills, Kandy

DAY 6
Tuesday 23 February 2016
Kandy (B)

This morning visit the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, which was originally the pleasure garden of royalty. Nearly 4000 species of plants are found in the garden which is encircled by the Mahaweli River. Bandara Palipana, Professor of Botany who has worked in the garden for 25 years, will take us for a walk around the gardens that are famous for their collection of orchids. Afternoon tour of Kandy with its lakeside setting and a visit to the sacred Temple of the Tooth, which houses one of Buddhism’s most sacred relics and attracts followers of the faith from all over the world. The Royal Complex situated around the Temple of the Tooth and Kandy Lake comprises the Kings Palace, Queens Palace, Audience Hall, Boathouse and Royal Summer house, represent a zenith of ancient Sri Lankan architecture.
Accommodation: Amaya Hills, Kandy

DAY 7
Wednesday 24 February 2016
Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary (B/D)

A special visit to an elephant orphanage today with 75 elephants ranging from newborn to elderly matriarchs, some orphaned, some injured in the wild and others abandoned. We’ll watch them eat, play and bathe in the river.
Back to Kandy for a home visit with a difference, a midula is an open planned house with space for drying the harvest and relaxation.
Dinner tonight at Helga’s Folly.
Accommodation: Amaya Hills, Kandy

DAY 8
Thursday 25 February 2016
Kandy – Nuwara Eliya (B/HT)

Board the train at Peradeniya for one of the most scenic train trips in the world through stunning hills and tea plantations. We’ll get picked up at Nanu Oya station and drive to Nuwana Eliya to spend a relaxing afternoon in the hills and a special high tea at the Hill Club (dress code applies), which was founded in 1876 by a British coffee planter, as a home away from home, and today is a private club and hotel.
Check into the old world charm of Jetwing St Andrews, a former country house, reminiscent of the days of the British Raj – it’s all about English breakfasts, high tea and stiff brandy.
Accommodation: Jetwing St. Andrews

DAY 9
Friday 26 February 2016
Nuwara Eliya (B)

Tour Nuwara Eliya and understand how abundant rainfall, sunshine and cold nights makes the perfect cup of tea. Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of tea. Since the introduction of tea in the mid-19th century, Nuwara Eliya has been the capital of the tea industry where rolling mountains in the highlands are carpeted by green tea plantations. Tea plantations abound as we get a little taste of England in the hills with rose gardens and dotted with stone houses. We’ll wander around the Hakgala Botanic Garden and visit a Tea Plantation with tea tasting this afternoon.
Accommodation: Jetwing St. Andrews

DAY 10
Saturday 27 February 2016
Nuwara Eliya – Galle (B)

After breakfast we travel to Galle, an ancient Dutch outpost located on the south western coast of Sri Lanka. Pass by the landacape that was filmed for ‘The Bridge over the River Kwai’ on the Kelani River near Kitulgala which is famous for white water rafting. The minimalistic, stately and elegant Lighthouse Hotel is our home for the next four nights, another hotel designed by Geoffrey Bawa who was responsible for linking the islands ancient architecture with modern modernism. Hotel terraces sweep down to a small sandy bay and unrestrained views of the Indian Ocean. Hotel is famous for local seafood, Japanese delicacies and the very best of Sri Lankan cuisine.
Accommodation: Jetwing Lighthouse, Galle

DAY 11
Sunday 28 February 2016
Galle (B/L)

We discover Galle Fort’s low lined streets and rampart. The fort is a hive of activity and is one of the few World heritage listed sites which thrive with a bustling population, restaurants, shops and galleries, making this a pleasant and leisurely day. Today Chef Nimal and Paul will put on a luncheon cooking class to demonstrate the local lamprais – a great treat. Remainder of the day at leisure.
Accommodation: Jetwing Lighthouse, Galle

DAY 12
Monday 29 February 2016
Galle – Lunuganga (B/L)

Visit the Lunuganga estate, the former country home of Geoffrey Bawa. Started in 1947, the garden led Bawa, originally a lawyer to the bar, to decide to become an architect. The garden in the estate here remained his muse and an experimental laboratory for new and exciting ideas. Explore the garden with Michael leading the charge. Lunch to be taken within the gardens.
Accommodation: Jetwing Lighthouse, Galle

DAY 13
Tuesday 1 March 2016
Galle – Bentota (B/T)

Coastal drive this morning, passing coastal villages to Bentota, where our destination is Bevis Bawa’s Brief garden. The estate is located along the south coast in Bentota. Bevis, Geoffrey’s brother, also an architect and artist, designed and converted what was a rubber plantation, bequeathed to him by his mother in 1929, into the legendary garden it is today. It’s a magical world surrounded by a thick bamboo hedge. The garden is a private wonderland filled with nooks, alcoves and cloisters, and the house quite invisible with a roof completely concealed in white bougainvillea. Beautifully filled with sculptures by Bevis himself and his many artist friends, including Donald Friend, who went for a weekend and stayed for six years. The house also contains many artworks including a magnificent mural of Sri Lankan life by Donald Friend in the style of Chagall. Lunch will be served at the third of our Bawa hotel visits– the Bentota Beach Hotel.
Accommodation: Jetwing Lighthouse, Galle

DAY 14
Wednesday 2 March 2016
Galle – Colombo (B)

After a leisurely morning at the hotel we drive to Colombo. This modern city still retains its old world charm in places. We check into the iconic-historic-colonial Galle Face Hotel located within the heart of Colombo, situated along the seafront facing the famous Galle Face Green. Built in 1864 the hotel reflect the grandeur of the British Colonial period and is one of the oldest hotels east of the Suez, renowned for warm Sri Lankan hospitality.
Accommodation: Galle Face Hotel, Colombo

DAY 15
Thursday 3 March 2016
Colombo (B/D)

Explore the commercial and historic hub of Colombo. The city tour will take in the sights – old city fort, Viharamahadevi Park, Hindu temple at Sea street, Dutch church at Wolfendal and the historial Davatagaha mosque. Drive past the Hulftsdorp Law Courts and Independence Square and Pettah, a noisy oriental bazaar with a mix of chaotic bargain shopping. Afternoon free for shopping for precious gems, clothing and antiques. Enjoy a farewell dinner at Gallery café situated within the former office of Geoffrey Bawa.
Accommodation: Galle Face Hotel, Colombo

DAY 16
Friday 4 March 2016
Colombo – Home (B)

Day at leisure. We have arranged a late checkout. Evening transfer to the airport.

DAY 17
Saturday 5 March 2016
Arrive Home

Evening arrival into Australia.

Coucals Cottage, Queensland

Coucals Cottage, Queensland

 

This spacious double brick family home set in the hinterland of Brisbane includes:
3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms
Fully equipped kitchen
Lounge room, Dining area & Breakfast area
Rumpus Room
Laundry
Car Port and a huge covered verandah
Fully air-conditioned
IDEALLY SITUATED
30 kilometres from Brisbane CBD
40 minutes to Brisbane Airport
1 hour to the Gold Coast & Toowoomba
2 hours to Sunshine Coast
With 2 acres of landscaped gardens plus 2 acres maintained bushland

‘Coucals’ of Mount Crosby is situated 30 km west of Brisbane, Australia in the D’Aquilar ranges.
The 2 acre gardens, have been landscaped using 200 tonnes of Helidon sandstone.  The raised garden beds are flanked by 30 metre Spotted Gums and many other native trees originally situated on the property.
Jim and Jan Flanigan bought the property in 1980 where they built a house and raised 2 children.
In 1998 after a trip to the Butchart Gardens, Jan started to seriously garden, previously growing orchids in bush houses and planting shade trees.
These gardens have been created by Jim and Jan with just the aid of a Bob Cat machine to move some of the larger rocks. Jan designed and worked the gardens with Jim cutting rocks and building the many gazebos and seating areas.

A sloping hillside property with huge gums and views of the D’Aguilar ranges.
A variety of gardens incorporating various themes displaying a wide range of tropical, sub-tropical and temperate planting that is unified by the natural sandstone edging. Visitors can discover these garden areas via meandering paths and steps leading you on a journey of discovery, or quiet contemplation should you wish to sit in one of the many seating areas and just take in the bird calls, perfumes and natural beauty of the bush land setting.

The gardens include:

2 Rose Gardens
Rainforest Walk
Circular Terraces
Conifer Walk
Ponds
Waterlily Lagoon
Bromeliad  & Orchid Garden
Succulent Garden
Gravel Garden
Orchid & Wisteria Courtyard
Palm Border
Gazebos
Seating areas
Olive Grove/Dry slope
100 metre Mixed Border
Waterfall garden
Fairy garden
Vegetable garden
Bulb terrace
Bambooserie

OUR CLIMATIC DETAILS
Brisbane enjoys a Sub-tropical climate with temperatures between 0-20 degrees Celsius in Winter which is May to August.  The rainfall is low during these winter months and our driest time is Spring which begins late AugustThe Summer rains start about October and go through to April.  It is most humid (60%-90%) between December to February.  Temperatures during this time are generally around the low 30 degrees Celsius with a night time temperature around 20 degrees Celsius.

Our autumn (March to May) is just a ‘cooling off’ period with most leaf and bark drop in early spring or during dry times.

India and Bhutan with Peter Whitehead

ITINERARY

 

DAY 1
Thursday 26 November 2015
Home – Kolkata (D)

Meet Ross Tour Leader Peter Whitehead at Sydney Airport for our flight to Kolkata. Rest of the day at leisure. Spend the next 2 nights in Kolkata.
Accommodation: Overnight in Kolkata

DAY 2
Friday 27 November 2015
Kolkata (B/L)

We’ll take a walking tour of North Kolkata to the Marble Palace, then Kumartuli, a potter’s village, Jorasanko, the ancestral home of Rabindranath Tagore, and finally the Jain Temple. Enjoy dinner cruise on Hooghly River.
Accommodation: Overnight in Kolkata

DAY 3
Saturday 28 November 2015
Kolkata – Guwahati (B/L/D)

Morning flight to Guwahati in beautiful Assam. Begin with a sightseeing tour. Visit Kamakhya temple on top of Nilachal Hill. Nobel Laureate Tragore’s ancestral home. See the poignant Commonwealth War Graves cemetery before embarking on our cruise vessel. Set sail aboard our river boat, home for the next five nights.
Accommodation: Overnight on board

DAY 4
Sunday 29 November 2015
Cruise (B/L/D)

The day will be spent mostly cruising upstream with jungle-covered hills rising on either side. Time to pause and visit the north bank village of Khirakata, with its lush green fields of vegetables.
Accommodation: Overnight on board

DAY 5
Monday 30 November 2015
Cruise (B/L/D)

Leaving the hills behind, we will enjoy our first taste of the wilderness experience. See weavers at work in their homes and production of jaggary from sugar cane juice. Moor for the night with the Himalayas in view.
Accommodation: Overnight on board

DAY 6
Tuesday 1 December 2015
Cruise (B/L/D)

Today we’ll reach Tezpur, visit the 6th century Da Parbatia temple ruins. Explore the town by cycle rickshaw. Stop at Cole Park with medieval stone carvings, and pass by the bungalow where tea pioneer Alexander Bruce lived.
Accommodation: Overnight on board

DAY 7
Wednesday 2 December 2015
Cruise (B/L/D)

We drive to the Nameri NP at the foot of the blue hills of Arunachal Pradesh. Take a float trip down the Jia Bhoreli River through the park, while looking out for the great hornbills and wild elephant.
Accommodation: Overnight on board

DAY 8
Thursday 3 December 2015
Guwahati – Kaziranga (B/L/D)

Continue upstream to moor at Steemer Ghat. Disembark the ship onto the wild and untamed Kaziranga NP. Check into our lodge. After lunch we drive to Kaziranga’s Western Range for a jeep safari. Next 2 nights in Kaziranga.
Accommodation: Overnight in Kaziranga

DAY 9
Friday 4 December 2015
Kaziranga (B/L/D)

An early rise and adventure to Kaziranga’s Central Range for an early morning elephant ride, we think this is the best way to get really close to the rhinos. After breakfast drive to a Mising tribal village, then visit a tea estate. After lunch we take a jeep safari in the little visited Eastern Range.
Accommodation: Overnight in Kaziranga

DAY 10
Saturday 5 December 2015
Kaziranga – Siliguri (B)

Drive to Guwahati for our flight to Bagdogra. On arrival we will be met by local guide and drive to Siliguri.
Accommodation: Overnight in Siliguri

DAY 11
Sunday 6 December 2015
Darjeeling (B/L/D)

Travel to Darjeeling to experience the World Heritage Listed Toy Train, a beautiful blue British built steam locomotive on our Darjeeling Hill Rail trip. Afternoon walk to Observatory Hill and Bhutia Basti. Darjeeling for the next 2 nights.
Accommodation: Overnight in Darjeeling

DAY 12
Monday 7 December 2015
Darjeeling (B/L/D)

Early morning visit Tiger Hill and Ghoom Monastery, After breakfast visit Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Zoological Park and Tibetan Refuge Centre.
Accommodation: Overnight in Darjeeling

DAY 13
Tuesday 8 December 2015
Darjeeling – Paro, Bhutan (B/D)

Drive to Bagdogra Airport for flight from Bagdogra to Paro. The flight into Bhutan is one of a kind giving us a taste of our upcoming adventure. Look down over the Himalayan ranges. Meet our local guide who will take us to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Dinner in a local restaurant. Thimphu Hotel for 2 nights.
Accommodation: Thimphu Hotel, Paro

DAY 14
Wednesday 9 December 2015
Thimphu (B/D)

We explore Thimpu’s cultural sites. See the world’s largest book in the National Library and Folk Heritage Museum. We’ll walk to the revered National Memorial chorten and the lively weekend market.
Accommodation: Thimphu Hotel, Paro

DAY 15
Thursday 10 December 2015
Thimphu – Trongsa (B/D)

This morning we drive to Dochu-la pass to view the high Himalayan peaks towards the north east. Stop at Wangduephodrang town for lunch, then continue on to Tongsa across Pele-la pass. Stop en route at Chendebji Chorten. Arrive at Trongsa late afternoon.
Accommodation: Overnight at Trongsa

DAY 16
Friday 11 December 2015
Trongsa – Bumthang (B/D)

Walk by famous Trongsa Dzong, home to superb artworks and architecture. Drive to Bumthang over the Yutong-la pass (3,400m). After lunch visit Kurje Lhakhang, Jambey Lhakhang (7th century), Tamshing Monastery and Jakar Dzong.
Accommodation: Overnight at Bumthang

DAY 17
Saturday 12 December 2015
Bumthang – Punakha (B/D)

Explore the valley of Bumthang and Punakha, stopping along the way at Tongsa for lunch. Visit Wangduephodrang Dzong and town en route to Punakha.
Accommodation: Overnight at Punakha

DAY 18
Sunday 13 December 2015
Punakha – Paro (B/D)

Morning visit to Punakha Dzong, a massive structure built at the junction of two rivers. The Dzong has withstood damage from fire, earthquake and flood over the centuries. Drive to charming Paro. Stay in Paro for 2 nights.
Accommodation: Overnight at Paro

DAY 19
Monday 14 December 2015
Paro (B/D)

Hike to the famous Tiger’s Nest Temple. After lunch, we drive up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong, built in 1647 by the Shabdrung to commemorate the Bhutanese victory over the Tibetans in the war of 1644. En route visit Kyichu Lhakhang, built in the 7th century, then visits to the National Museum, and Paro Dzong, built in 1646. Overnight in Paro.
Accommodation: Overnight at Paro

DAY 20
Tuesday 15 December 2015
Paro – Kolkata (B)

Morning flight back to Kolkata, India. On arrival we’ll be met and transferred to our hotel. Rest of the day at leisure.
Accommodation: Overnight in Kolkata

DAY 21
Wednesday 16 December 2015
Kolkata – Home (B)

Our homeward bound journey starts today.

DAY 22
Thursday 17 December 2015
Arrive Home

Sensational Sabah with Libby Cameron

Itinerary

 

DAY 1
Thursday 11 June 2015
Home – Kuching

Meet your Ross Tour Leader, Libby Cameron at check-in. Depart Sydney for Kuching, capital of Sarawak State, Malaysia.
Accommodation: Hilton Hotel, Kuching

DAY 2
Friday 12 June 2015
Kuching (B/L/D)

Morning city tour of Kuching, once the seat of the White Rajah dynasty where Malay, Chinese, Indian and British created a unique community.
Afternoon visit to Semenggoh Nature Reserve to see orang-utans in their natural environment and their afternoon feed.
Accommodation: Hilton Hotel, Kuching

DAY 3
Saturday 13 June 2015
Sarawak Cultural Village (B/L/D)

Sarawak Cultural village is built on 17 acres on the edge of a beautiful lake. Here we get a good understanding of the major ethnic groups found in Sarawak namely the Bidayuh, Ibans, Orang Ulu, Melanau and Penans. Browse around the village and watch the locals cooking, demonstrating their skills in traditional handicrafts such as pua weaving and bamboo carving and making blow-pipes and other hunting instruments.
After lunch at Bayridge Restaurant we will relax back in our hotel before our evening Sarawak River Cruise (with light refreshments).
Accommodation: Hilton Hotel, Kuching

DAY 4
Sunday 14 June 2015
Kuching – Kota Kinabalu – Kinabalu Park (B/L/D)

A short flight this morning to Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah. After lunch we will travel over the Crocker Range to UNESCO World Heritage Kinabalu Park. Established as a state park in 1964, this botanical paradise emcompasses four climate zones. Stop at the Nabalu hilltop market to buy local fruit and handicrafts.
Accommodation: Kinabalu Pine Resort, Kota Kinabalu

DAY 5
Monday 15 June 2015
Poring (B/L/D)

Back into Kinabalu Park this morning. Mt. Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia at 4095m (13431 feet). Enjoy the cool air as we trek around the foothills to learn about the unique plants of Borneo including the carnivorous Nepenthes, rhododendrons & orchids.
In the lowland dipterocarp forest at Poring we will traverse the rainforest through the tree tops on the Canopy walkway 35m above ground level. We can take a dip in the Poring Hot Springs or we can bathe in the cool river pools. Hopefully we will see the world’s largest flower, the elusive Rafflesia.
Accommodation: Kinabalu Pine Resort, Kota Kinabalu

DAY 6
Tuesday 16 June 2015
Kinabalu Park – Sukau (B/L/D)

Travel through the heart of Sabah today from Kundasang in the mountains to Sukau on the Kinbatangan River. Relax in the tranquil surroundings of our lodge accommodation.
Accommodation: Kinabatangan River Lodge, Sukau

DAY 7
Wednesday 17 June 2015
Sukau (B/L/D)

Dawn and dusk cruises are our treats today as we explore the Kinabantangan River. We will be watching for hornbills, wild monkeys including the remarkable Proboscis monkey and orang-utans in the wild. Our boat will navigate the narrow Menanggul River to enjoy the best bird watching. Bring your binoculars!
Accommodation: Kinabatangan River Lodge, Sukau

DAY 8
Thursday 18 June 2015
Sukai – Abai (B/L/D)

Travel by boat downstream to Abai Village. We will participate in a re-forestation project this afternoon along with the locals.
Settle into our hotel before an evening walk in search of frogs and fireflies.
Accommodation: Abai Village Lodge, Abai

DAY 9
Friday 19 June 2015
Abai – Sandakan (B/L/D)

A morning river cruise to Sandakan. Visit Agnes Keith House Museum, the restored heritage quarters of the British Colonial Government called “Newlands”. Lunch today is a grand affair at the adjacent English Tea House overlooking Sandakan Bay.
Visit Sandakan War Memorial on the original POW camp where thousands of Australian and British POW’s died in WW2.
Accommodation: Sepilok Nature Resort, Sandakan

DAY 10
Saturday 20 June 2015
Sandakan – Kota Kinabalu (B/L)

Morning visit to the famous Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre to watch them feed and learn about the rehabilitation of orphaned orang-utans.
After lunch we transfer to Sandakan airport for a flight back to Kota Kinabalu.
Accommodation: Hotel Le Meridien, Kota Kinabalu

DAY 11
Sunday 21 June 2015
Kota Kinabalu (B/L)

Start the day at the Sunday Gaya Street Fair then an orientation of historic landmarks including the State & City Mosque, University grounds and Kingfisher residential area. Another treat this afternoon in a beautiful private garden. Wander the waterfront this evening to sample food in the various stalls and cafes.
Accommodation: Hotel Le Meridien, Kota Kinabalu

DAY 12
Monday 22 June 2015
Kota Kinabalu – Keningau (B/L/D)

Head south this morning over the Crocker Range into the beautiful Tambunan Valley. This is farming country with rugged mountain backdrop. Stop at the Tambunan Rafflesia Centre. Check into our hotel with dinner then wander through the night markets.
Accommodation: Hotel Juta, Keningau

DAY 13
Tuesday 23 June 2015
Tenom (B/D)

Tenom Agricultural park is a paradise for plant lovers filled with all the heliconias, gingers, bouganvilleas and tropical shrubs you could dream about.There are 21 gardens including a ‘living crop’ museum, an evolution garden, orchid houses and pitcher plants.
Accommodation: Hotel Juta, Keningau

DAY 14
Wednesday 24 June 2015
Keningau – Kota Kinabalu (B/D)

Travel back to Kota Kinabalu via Tambunan with a stop at Kipandi Butterfly Farm to see an exquisite collection of orchids, pitcher plants and hoyas, insects and butterflies.
Accommodation: Shangrila Tanjung Aru Resort, Kota Kinabalu

DAY 15
Thursday 25 June 2015
Kota Kinabalu (B/D)

Free day for optional tours or just relax in our resort hotel. Farewell dinner tonight at Shangrila Tanjung Aru Resort.
Accommodation: Shangrila Tanjung Aru Resort, Kota Kinabalu

DAY 16
Friday 26 June 2015
Kota Kinabalu – Home (B)

Mid morning transfer to airport for return flight to Singapore and connecting with overnight flight to Australia.

DAY 17
Saturday 27 June 2015
Home

Arrive home today.

 

Brickendon Colonial Farm Village Cottages

Brickendon Colonial Farm Village Cottages

 

Brickendon Estate offers guests an extraordinary experience of staying on a World Heritage Site in an original convict built cottage.

The Coachmans and Gardeners cottages were built by convict labour during the 1830s and have been restored to offer an authentic colonial experience. Deep old fashioned baths, antique furnishings and private cottage gardens, these cottages are the closest cottages you will find to times gone by but with modern conveniences. Located in the magnificent Heritage Gardens of Brickendon, both cottages offer unique features that will make your visit to Brickendon complete.

Brickendon’s Farm cottages are a wonderful alternative to the colonial cottages. Constructed with recycled materials and traditional building techniques, the three farm cottages ooze personality and invite guests to relax and unwind from their busy lives. With great views over the farm, a short walk to Brickendon’s World Heritage listed convict built Farm Village and a stroll to the river, these cottages provide a real home away from home. Ideal for either couples, families or groups the farm cottages are often visited by a wandering turkey or rooster and it is not uncommon to see a hen with her numerous chickens passing by. The friendly farm animals are close by so come and enjoy life on the farm.

When planning your holiday – it is worthwhile thinking about travelling distances as Brickendon is within one hours drive of most places in Northern Tasmania and only two hours from Hobart and the East Coast. Use us as a base and enjoy coming home at night to your private cosy cottage.

Historic Cottages

Gardeners CottageGardeners Cottage

The historic Gardeners Cottage was brought back to life in 1991 and offers guests a private cosy cottage featuring the original open fire, bread oven and recycled convict bricks around a deep old fashioned bath. Enjoy the delights of the quaint cottage garden while sipping a complimentary port on the verandah – you may even be visited by some passing sheep! Sleeps 2. See more

 

6058031129_fb85e5d411_zCoachmans Cottage

The historic Coachmans Cottage reflects a time of romance and wealth. Being regarded as the top servant, the Coachman’s lodgings were the most extensive and guests now days have many comforts. An open fire to sit in front and sip your complimentary port, antique furnishings, two upstairs and one ground floor bedrooms, a deep old fashioned bath and a delightful private cottage garden to enjoy the sounds of the evening. Sleeps 6. See more

 

Farm accommodation at Brickendon

In our rustic farm cottages you can wake up, look out across the paddocks and enjoy the sounds of our farm animals. What a contrast from city life!

  • 130_3084.JPG1_thumbPea in a Pod Cottage

    Very cute and very compact, Pea in a Pod is perfect for solo travellers or couples. See more

    Sleeps: 2

     

     

  • 130_3088_thumbPumpkin Cottage

    Pumpkin Cottage is our delightful one bedroom Farm Cottage overlooking the lush English style countryside and only a short stroll to the Macquarie River renowned for its excellent trout fishing. See more

    Sleeps: 4

     

  • 115_15751_thumb_1Sweetcorn Cottage

    What a perfect way to enjoy the company of friends or family. Sweetcorn Farm cottage can sleep up to 7 guests in two bedrooms and enjoys fabulous views over the farm. See more

    Sleeps: 7

Hoshinoya Karuizawa

Hoshinoya Karuizawa

 

Hoshinoya Karuizawa is a boutique high country resort only one hour from Tokyo by bullet train. Relax in steaming onsen (hot springs baths) and with Japanese traditional massage and healing, enjoy beautiful birds and local wildlife, including flying squirrels, and hike to nearby Sengataki Falls.

Riverside villas are located along the river, extending out over the water. Many rooms have their own private miniature Japanese garden courtyard.

HOSHINOYA Karuizawa
Address:
Hoshino, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun,
Nagano,389-0194
Tel: +81-(0)50-3786-0066 (8:00~21:00)
星のや 軽井沢
〒389-0194 長野県北佐久郡軽井沢町星野

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)

Redbrow Garden and Guesthouse, Murrumbateman

Redbrow Garden and Guesthouse, Murrumbateman

 

Located 20 minutes drive from north Canberra, and close to many acclaimed wineries and gourmet restaurants, Redbrow Garden is an ideal retreat for discerning Australian and international visitors to the Canberra region.

Our every aim is to ensure your comfort and enjoyment while you share the delights of Redbrow Garden and the local area with us.

Redbrow Garden is a 20 minute drive through scenic farmland to Australia’s national icons including the National Museum, Australian War Memorial and the National Gallery. It can also simply be the place for you to relax, rejuvenate and unwind. Take an early morning bushwalk to hear the songsters of the Australian bush, pick in season berries and fruit from the extensive garden or float silently amongst the reeds on the nearby lagoon. Lounge lazily with a good book in a garden nook, or converse with the farm’s inquisitive alpacas, Pedro and Amigo, or the dozen “Redbrow Girls” who provide your eggs each day.

We have four spacious, individual lakeside ensuite rooms. Designated by one of the common bird species in the garden and tastefully decorated with views of the garden’s thriving wetland habitat, all rooms have a large en suite with double showers and toiletries and are air conditioned/heated.

A room bar fridge is stocked with complimentary drinks. There is also a separate guest lounge with a TV, fridge, crockery, cutlery, microwave, electric frypan, electric wok and rice cooker.

The 3 bedroom self contained self contained Guesthouse is privately attached to the main homestead and has:

  • 2 bedrooms each with 2 single beds
  • A Master bedroom with a king bed, space for additional beds if needed in adjoining room
  • Large lounge area with enclosed fireplace
  • New fully equipped kitchen
  • Bathroom (2 additional toilets available nearby)
  • Parking at the rear entrance of the guesthouse.

Plentiful breakfast provisions are included in your tariff and include a selection of cereals, fruit, fruit juice, fresh eggs from the “Redbrow Girls”, bacon and sausages, teas, coffee and milo, a bread selection and condiments (including home made jams) plus a freshly baked item daily.

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)

Chorleywood B&B, Burradoo

Chorleywood B&B, Burradoo

 

Chorleywood B&B in Burradoo in the NSW Southern Highlands features a spacious, detached, private cottage with its own entrance.

The cottage contains a double bed (or twins), ensuite bathroom, with fluffy towels and all linen supplied.

Cool in summer, and cosily heated for those colder evenings, relax in comfortable lounges and enjoy TV, music, or reading magazines and books.

A fully equipped kitchen, with stove, fridge, microwave and all utensils, allows you to make your own meals during your stay.

Of course, at Chorleywood a generous breakfast hamper is provided with country fresh provisions to start your day: cereals, breads, ham, eggs, tomatoes, milk, plunger coffee and a range of teas.

Burradoo, established about one and a quarter centuries ago, is today an elegant residential area adjacent to Bowral, in the centre of the Southern Highlands.

Long favoured as a country retreat by generations of city folk, Burradoo’s leafy streets and lanes, grand houses, and magnificent gardens have their own very special attraction for the modern visitor.

Bowral, with its many cafes and excellent restaurants is just a fifteen minute walk away.

However, our guests often prefer to cook in the kitchen, serve a gourmet take-away and relax and dine in the cottage, or if you prefer – in the main house’s elegant dining room nearby.

Or better still, feel free to join your host Sue Hawick pottering around in the garden, or just spend some time in quiet reflection on one of the many benches and seats among the beautiful garden beds and trees and watch the abundant native birdlife.

A morning or evening stroll around the nearby picturesque streets of Burradoo is a local custom you will not be able to resist.

Sue will be happy to offer information about local attractions, and can help organise intineraries for sightseeing, golf, bushwalking, shopping, and assist with transport – to and from the train station, or while you are enjoying your getaway in the Highlands. Or, if you choose, offer a private and quiet environment for you to enjoy during your stay.

– Outstanding garden

– Internet Available

– Close to winery

– Close to restaurant

– No smoking on property

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History and Birdlife Cruise

11 Days (10 nights) – London to Edinburgh

Day 1. Arrive London and Embark Ship

On arrival, you will be met at the airport and transferred to Portsmouth (12.30 pm from the pre-cruise hotel or 1.00 pm from Victoria Coach Terminal) to board the MS Island Sky, your floating home for the next 10 nights.
Stay: Ten Nights: Aboard the luxurious small ship, the MS Island Sky
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Dinner

Day 2. Isles of Scilly and Tresco

Today you will cruise amid the beautiful Isles of Scilly, an idyllic archipelago off Great Britain’s southwestern 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. Here, enjoy a guided tour of the magnificent gardens, now internationally known as one of the finest examples of sub-tropical flora and fauna in the Northern Hemisphere. During your time here, you’ll also have the opportunity to go for a relaxing stroll along the traffic-free lanes of the island, 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. This evening, enjoy a delicious dinner.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Lunch
  • • Dinner

Day 3. Dunmore East, Freedom of Choice Touring

Your ship will arrive this evening at the picturesque fishing village of Dunmore East in County Waterford on Ireland’s southeastern coast. From here, you’ll travel to Mount Congreve Gardens, a vast and visually inspiring woodland garden set on the banks of the River Suir. Measuring around 70 acres, this privately-owned property features a four-acre walled garden. Later, choose from two touring options. You might like to drive to Kilkenny, one of Ireland’s most historic and attractive cities, where you will tour the Kilkenny Castle and design centre. Or, perhaps remain in County Waterford and visit Lismore Castle, which features the oldest continually cultivated gardens in Ireland, followed by a tour of the world-famous Waterford Crystal Factory.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Lunch
  • • Dinner

Day 4. Dublin, Freedom of Choice Touring

Arrive in Dublin Bay and enter the mouth of the River Liffey. From here, you have a choice of activities. Perhaps travel by coach into Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains and visit the gardens of Powerscourt and Mount Usher, or perhaps visit the private garden of botanical author, Helen Dillon and Mt Usher, or enjoy time at leisure to explore Dublin.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Dinner

Day 5. Welsh Gardens, Freedom of Choice Touring

This morning after breakfast, you’ll cruise to the Welsh Coast. Here, choose from a tour of Portmeirion village and its gardens, or perhaps visit the gardens of nearby Plas Brondanw, the family home of Clough Williams-Ellis. Then 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. Spend the afternoon strolling through the upper garden with its terraces and informal lawns, then continue into the wild garden of the lower section, formed by the valley of the River Hiraethlyn. In the evening, you will return to your ship for dinner back on board.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Lunch
  • • Dinner

Day 6. Belfast and Mount Stewart

Disembark your luxurious small ship in Belfast and enjoy a sightseeing city tour. Later, visit Mount Stewart, an 18th-century house and garden in County Down, Northern Ireland. Planted in the 1920s by Lady Londonderry, the beautiful gardens today are owned by The National Trust and are of significant international importance.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Lunch
  • • Dinner

Day 7. Isle of Jura, Isle of Gigha, Achamore House and Gardens

Cruise to the Isle of Jura, where you’ll have the option to visit a 200-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky Distillery or perhaps enjoy a walk. This afternoon, cruise to the Isle of Gigha. Privately owned by its 120 inhabitants, the island landscape consists of heather-covered hills, deserted sandy beaches, clear green seas and just one single-lane road. Here, wander through 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.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Lunch
  • • Dinner

Day 8. Isle of Iona, Isle of Mull and Duart Castle

Cruise to the Isle of Iona, a place of tranquillity and natural beauty, where more than 40 Scottish Kings, as well as Kings from Ireland, France and Norway are buried. Explore the elaborate and well-preserved Iona Abbey, and perhaps take a short walk to the Bay at the Back of the Ocean. Next, we set off to the Isle of Mull and Tobermory for a visit to Duart Castle, a 13th-century clifftop castle surrounded by the Millennium Wood – a superb collection of indigenous trees and shrubs planted in the year 2000.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Lunch
  • • Dinner

Day 9. Inverewe Gardens

Today you’ll cruise past the Isle of Skye and The Minch. Afterwards, your ship will drop anchor and you’ll enjoy a zodiac ride to one of Scotland’s premier gardens, Inverewe. Set on the coast among the north-west Scottish Highlands and widely regarded as one of the most beautiful gardens of the region, this botanical garden presents an amazing collection of exotic trees and shrubs that are sheltered by well-positioned windbreaks of native pine. Wander through the incredible gardens, covering some 49 acres, where you have the opportunity to take in the natural beauty of over 2,500 exotic plants and flowers.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Lunch
  • • Dinner

Day 10. 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. This magical 16th-century castle is renowned for its 240 hectares of incredible landscaped grounds and formal gardens. Here, take in the cinematic Scottish countryside as you explore the garden and surrounding woodlands. Back on board, enjoy an afternoon at sea before a special Farewell Dinner this evening.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Lunch
  • • Dinner

Day 11. Disembark Ship and Depart Edinburgh

After breakfast, disembark the MS Island Sky in Edinburgh.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast

 

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History and Birdlife Cruise

Day 1. Arrive London and Embark Ship

On arrival, you will be met at the airport and transferred to Portsmouth (12.30 pm from the pre-cruise hotel or 1.00 pm from Victoria Coach Terminal) to board the MS Island Sky, your floating home for the next 10 nights.

Ten Nights: Aboard the luxurious small ship, the MS Island Sky. (D)

Day 2. Isles of Scilly and Tresco

Today you will cruise amid the beautiful Isles of Scilly, an idyllic archipelago off Great Britain’s southwestern 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. Here, enjoy a guided tour of the magnificent gardens, now internationally known as one of the finest examples of sub-tropical flora and fauna in the Northern Hemisphere. During your time here, you’ll also have the opportunity to go for a relaxing stroll along the traffic-free lanes of the island, 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. This evening, enjoy a delicious dinner. (BLD)

Day 3. Dunmore East, Freedom of Choice Touring

Your ship will arrive this evening at the picturesque fishing village of Dunmore East in County Waterford on Ireland’s southeastern coast. From here, you’ll travel to Mount Congreve Gardens, a vast and visually inspiring woodland garden set on the banks of the River Suir. Measuring around 70 acres, this privately-owned property features a four-acre walled garden. Later, choose from two touring options. You might like to drive to Kilkenny, one of Ireland’s most historic and attractive cities, where you will tour the Kilkenny Castle and design centre. Or, perhaps remain in County Waterford and visit Lismore Castle, which features the oldest continually cultivated gardens in Ireland, followed by a tour of the world-famous Waterford Crystal Factory. (BLD)

Day 4. Dublin, Freedom of Choice Touring

Arrive in Dublin Bay and enter the mouth of the River Liffey. From here, you have a choice of activities. Perhaps travel by coach into Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains and visit the gardens of Powerscourt and Mount Usher, or perhaps visit the private garden of botanical author, Helen Dillon and Mt Usher, or enjoy time at leisure to explore Dublin. (BD)

Day 5. Welsh Gardens, Freedom of Choice Touring

This morning after breakfast, you’ll cruise to the Welsh Coast. Here, choose from a tour of Portmeirion village and its gardens, or perhaps visit the gardens of nearby Plas Brondanw, the family home of Clough Williams-Ellis. Then 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. Spend the afternoon strolling through the upper garden with its terraces and informal lawns, then continue into the wild garden of the lower section, formed by the valley of the River Hiraethlyn. In the evening, you will return to your ship for dinner back on board. (BLD)

Day 6. Belfast and Mount Stewart

Disembark your luxurious small ship in Belfast and enjoy a sightseeing city tour. Later, visit Mount Stewart, an 18th-century house and garden in County Down, Northern Ireland. Planted in the 1920s by Lady Londonderry, the beautiful gardens today are owned by The National Trust and are of significant international importance. (BLD)

Day 7. Isle of Jura, Isle of Gigha, Achamore House and Gardens

Cruise to the Isle of Jura, where you’ll have the option to visit a 200-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky Distillery or perhaps enjoy a walk. This afternoon, cruise to the Isle of Gigha. Privately owned by its 120 inhabitants, the island landscape consists of heather-covered hills, deserted sandy beaches, clear green seas and just one single-lane road. Here, wander through 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. (BLD)

Day 8. Isle of Iona, Isle of Mull and Duart Castle

Cruise to the Isle of Iona, a place of tranquillity and natural beauty, where more than 40 Scottish Kings, as well as Kings from Ireland, France and Norway are buried. Explore the elaborate and well-preserved Iona Abbey, and perhaps take a short walk to the Bay at the Back of the Ocean. Next, we set off to the Isle of Mull and Tobermory for a visit to Duart Castle, a 13th-century clifftop castle surrounded by the Millennium Wood – a superb collection of indigenous trees and shrubs planted in the year 2000. (BLD)

Day 9. Inverewe Gardens

Today you’ll cruise past the Isle of Skye and The Minch. Afterwards, your ship will drop anchor and you’ll enjoy a zodiac ride to one of Scotland’s premier gardens, Inverewe. Set on the coast among the north-west Scottish Highlands and widely regarded as one of the most beautiful gardens of the region, this botanical garden presents an amazing collection of exotic trees and shrubs that are sheltered by well-positioned windbreaks of native pine. Wander through the incredible gardens, covering some 49 acres, where you have the opportunity to take in the natural beauty of over 2,500 exotic plants and flowers. (BLD)

Day 10. 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. This magical 16th-century castle is renowned for its 240 hectares of incredible landscaped grounds and formal gardens. Here, take in the cinematic Scottish countryside as you explore the garden and surrounding woodlands. Back on board, enjoy an afternoon at sea before a special Farewell Dinner this evening. (BLD)

Day 11. Disembark Ship and Depart Edinburgh.

After breakfast, disembark the MS Island Sky in Edinburgh. (B)