The Call of the Canyon

by Julie on August 11, 2017

There is no doubt that canyons are a distinctive piece of the USA’s physical geography. For many foreigners and tourists, our National Parks are almost synonymous with great caverns, and with images of the great American outdoors often featuring canyons. Canyoneering is an umbrella term referring to a whole load of techniques used to enter the canyons; from rappelling, walking, climbing, jumping or even swimming in. Are you making the most of our Canyons? Read these top tips and prepare for an adventure.

1.Get The Right Gear

When descending into the belly of the canyon, it is important to have the right kit. Essential to any method of canyoneering are: a dry bag, decent proper shoes, a good knowledge of basic first aid and the relevant equipment. When making any outdoor excursion, navigational equipment and enough sustenance are must-haves. If you are climbing, you will need ropes and harnesses. When in the canyon you will need a helmet and a headlamp. Make sure whatever day you have planned, you have a permit if required and have sought advice from a qualified guide or tour operator. Unless you are a super experienced nature lover, going with a group is probably your best option. Before you embark, read-up on canyon safety from experienced adventurers.

2. Find the Best-Fit Canyon for your Abilities and Requirements

If you are going as a family, or even as a pair, your level of fitness and any phobias you might have will alter your destination. If members of your group are not ok with ropes and climbing, even with a certified guide, consider routes where you can kayak or raft between canyons. If you are looking for a proper climb, and are ok with caves and other chasms, look into enclosed canyons. If you are looking for a good place to start, consider making a Trip to Zion National Park. Zion National Park is widely held as one of the best places to do canyoneering, and they offer good family packages too.

3. Plan your Accommodation Wisely

Once you have decided upon the route you are going to take, and the park you are going to go to, make sure you don’t encounter an accommodation nightmare. If you are camping, that’s great, but make sure you have everything with you. Failing to bring essential items can put a real downer on a wilderness adventure, and nobody wants to get back from a hard day of canyoneering to discover that they do not have any plates to eat from. If you are traveling with a large group, it might be best to look into cabin or lodge stays, especially if you are only able to spare a few days.

4. Pause to Appreciate Your Surroundings

When doing something that takes a lot of concentration, and feels a little dangerous, it is easy to forget to stop and take-in what is around you. There is no point in driving for miles to abseil into a canyon if you can’t remember what it looked like down there. Recent studies have indicated that, contrary to what some people might say, you can take lots of photos and still enjoy your experience, but to do this you must do your best to engage with the moment.

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What it’s like working on a Cruise Ship

by Julie on August 9, 2017

Working on a cruise ship is all about having fun. Living and working aboard you’ll be helping guests have the trip of their life, travelling to exotic destinations all over the world, experiencing international cuisine as well as making friendships that last a lifetime. But what is it really like living on board a cruise ship? Is it really for you?

We’re not suggesting that working on a cruise ship is for everyone, onboard life is very different to life on land. You can expect to be away from home for up to 9 months, working a range of shifts everyday while sharing a room every night (or the other way around). But you’ll be having loads of fun and learning new stuff too.

Training and Development

Reputable cruise lines have dedicated training and development programs to ensure that their staff gain professional skills in a world-class environment. You can expect as a standard to build and enhance your job-specific skills as well as gain an introduction to management and leadership. Many cruise companies also have employee loyalty and recognition programs awarding prizes and benefits to their top performers.

Cruise Staff Benefits

You’ll find all your basics like uniforms, laundry, meals and bedding provided, but you’ll need to pay for things like WIFI, phone calls, snacks and toiletries . Many cruise lines also offer medical care, wellness programs, and dedicated staff areas like gymnasiums, learning centres, bars and swimming pools so you can relax in your downtime. We’d have to say the number one staff benefit was being able to get off the ship in ports all over the world experiencing incredible food and shopping as well as amazing landscapes and historic sites. And all with your new friends too!

The Naughty Stuff

You are absolutely allowed to date your co-workers but fraternising with guests is a guaranteed way of losing your job and being put off the ship at the next port. Cruise ships are really strict about it! If you’re an entry level employee you’ll probably be sharing a room with 3-4 other workmates so dating can be a little challenging. We’ll just say that scoring a room all to yourself is a guaranteed popularity bonus.

Getting Started on a Cruise Ship

Do you have the energy for a nine month stint at sea, travelling the world with a group of dynamic, adventurous souls? We think holding a Nationally Recognised Diploma or Advanced Diploma in Travel and Tourism is a great way to get you on your way (especially when managers and supervisors are the one who get single rooms).

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It’s something of a rite of passage for youth: backpacking across Europe and learning to find lodging, make friends, navigate foreign cultures, and live on a tight budget. One of the core difficulties with backpacking, though, is that there’s a sense that it can be done with little planning because you’re supposed to be improvising. This means some travelers overlook key steps.

Before you set off on your backpacking trip, here are 5 things you should know. From visas to hostels to spending money, backpacking is complicated but ultimately rewarding, and a great way for young people to assert their independence.

Create A Timeline

The first thing you should do when planning a backpacking trip to Europe is to set a timeline so that you can be sure your passport will be valid the whole time, that you apply for appropriate documentation on time, and so that you don’t miss out on any seasonal activities.

Depending on the dates on your documents, for example, you may be denied access to a country even with valid documentation. If you’re an American traveling without a Visa, for example, most European countries assume you’ll stay the full three months permitted and may deny you entry if your passport doesn’t have at least six months validity remaining.

Plan Points Of Entry

When traveling internationally, where you’re coming from is as important as where you’re going. For example, Americans can travel visa-free in both the UK and the Schengen area of Europe, a functionally borderless part of the EU, but those from other parts of the globe may require additional documentation.

If you’re coming from most African and Asian countries, you may need separate visas to travel to the UK and to the rest of Europe since the U.K. maintains a separate visa policy from the Schengen area. An immigration lawyer can help you understand your travel visa needs so that you aren’t denied access between countries en route.

Understand The Trains

Train travel is the heart of backpacking culture and Europe has an extensive rail system. Invest in an Interrail Global pass or Eurail pass and you’ll be able to minimize your travel and lodging expenditures. It’s normal to see travelers sleeping openly on trains throughout Europe. The culture of security is different and you can actually avoid paying for overnight accommodations by doing so.

Embrace The Hostel

When you do need to stay somewhere overnight, look for hostels, which are common in Europe. You can stay at a hostel for a fraction of what you would pay for a regular hotel, plus you’ll get to chat with other travelers, exchange tips, swap books, and more. You should carry a combination lock with you for when you stay at hostels so that you can use an on-site locker or lock up your possessions while you’re there, especially if you’ll be staying for a few days.

Don’t Roam

Backpacking is all about exploring, but one thing you don’t want to be too adventurous with is your phone plan. Roaming charges can tank your budget overnight and you’ll regret having a phone at all.

Luckily, smartphones have reduced some of the stresses of traveling abroad by freeing travelers from standard phone plans. Before you leave, set up wi-fi calling so that you can communicate with a few contacts regularly. Every parent’s worst nightmare is that their child will go missing and they won’t even know what country they’re in, so keep them abreast of your plans. Your smartphone can also help you check train schedules and avoid getting lost as you move between countries.

Fewer young people are backpacking these days, but what’s stopping you from testing your limits on the open roads of a foreign place? So give yourself a few parameters and get your documents in order – it’s time to set out on your next great adventure.

 

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Six Bay Area Stops Outside SFO

by Julie on August 2, 2017

When you mention “the Bay Area” most people instinctively think of San Francisco, but truth be told, there is significantly more to the region than the City by the Bay. Today, we’re bringing you a scattered selection of stops for day trips and extended visits throughout the greater Bay Area.

Grizzly Peak

A great way to start exploring is to get a true overview of the entire Bay Area, and Grizzly Peak, nestled in NE Berkeley between Miller and Sterling Avenues, is one of the best low-effort spots to do just that. It’s a great hike if you’re of an active disposition, but you can also easily drive to a vista point and soak in the sunset (though there’s no real parking available).

Stanford University

While it might not sound like a typical tourist destination, the lush campus of Stanford has much to offer visitors, as does the surrounding city of Palo Alto. Take a self-or student-guided campus tour. You can admire the architecture, visit Tressider Student Union, admire the Rodin Sculpture Garden, or even take in a game at Stanford Football Stadium if the timing is right. When you’re ready for a rest, fall back to one of the city’s tech-ready hotels, such as Nest Palo Alto, for a relaxing evening.

The Winchester Mystery House

Juxtaposed to Grizzly Peak, the Winchester Mystery House is a true Bay Area tourist attraction, gift shop and all. The house, built by rifle brand heiress Sarah Winchester, is a maze of doors to nowhere, nonsensical hallways and 160 rooms. The paranormal, architectural and historic elements of the home draw crowds of all backgrounds annually–and with a feature film coming out in Feb 2018, those crowds are sure to increase in size.

Bike the Bridge

If you’re aiming to stay active during your break in the Bay Area, rent a bicycle from Fisherman’s Wharf and head across the Golden Gate into Sausalito for an afternoon. Bask in the unique small town atmosphere adjacent to the big city, check out the kitschy houseboats and enjoy a bite and drink (and even a game of bocce) at one of the easy-to-reach establishments. The ride takes between two and three hours depending on your fitness level–and you can always take a boat back from Ferry Pier in Sausalito if you’re too pooped to keep pedaling.

Surf Stinson Beach

It’s difficult to be in the Bay Area and not want to hit the beaches, but often visitors aren’t sure where to go to find them. Stinson Beach is a great sandy beach offering everything from picnic spaces and camping areas to mixed-ability hiking trails. And if your timing is right, you can catch a wave on one of Northern California’s prime pieces of coastline.

Walk the Bulb

Part living history museum, part interactive exhibit, the Albany Bulb is a truly unique piece of the San Francisco Bay. The site is a former landfill peppered with art created by various local groups and webbed with hiking trails. There are excellent tide pools if you follow the trails that go toward the water. However, the area isn’t well patrolled or supported by any real infrastructure, so it’s best to plan ahead to avoid disappointment.

Whether you’re wandering far or sticking closer to home, enjoying a little down time in the Bay Area can be a great way to kick off or wind down your summer traveling season.

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Top Places For Holidays in the U.S.A

by Julie on July 28, 2017

The United States of America is super vast, and there are an almost infinite amount of choices for holidaying across the 51 states. With such diversity, figuring out where to go and what to do can seem an impossible task. Where to go in the Country that has everything? In order to give you just a little head start, here is a list of some of the top destinations across the USA, with a few lesser known gems chucked in for good measure.

City Breaks on The East Coast

If you are the metropolitan type who prefers cities to campsites, perhaps the East Coast should be your destination. As one of the main destinations for international tourists, New York has a lot to offer for families, couples and solo travelers alike. From the Statue of Liberty to the International Trade Centre and Central Park, New York is replete with many well-known attractions. If you head a little further down the coast to South Carolina you will find Charleston, a city less traveled but still with a huge amount to offer. Whether a civil war history buff or a nature lover, Charleston is sure to impress you.

Beach Bumming on the West Coast

From San Francisco to San Diego, the West Coast of America has an enormous amount of pop history to take in. Whether you choose to cruise down Route 66 and see what you find, or bunker down in Los Angeles for a week and experience the famous LA nightlife, you will have an unforgettable experience. If you are looking for a great place to spend a week, look into what’s on offer in Santa Barbara – a truly iconic city surrounded by incredible mountains. Drive around the Californian coast for a while, and you will feel like an extra from the OC in no time.

Go Exploring in One of The Many National Parks

National Parks occupy vast swathes of America, and there is no shortage of activities to do once you are there. Yosemite in Northern California is perhaps the best known internationally, and there are countless hotel chains and tour operators offering various physical activities to choose from. If you want to try something a little different, why not head to Zion National Park in Utah? There’s reasonably priced accommodation in the form of Zion National Park Hotel which can be booked through Bumbleberry Inn, and there’s plenty to do, from rock climbing to hiking and kayaking.

Head North and Experience a Whole Different America

Whether you go to Seattle (the home of grunge music) on the West Coast or Minnesota on the East, the North of the USA is particularly stunning. If you are a Fargo fan, drive through North Dakota into Minnesota and experience life all the way up next to Canada. There are many natural wonders for you to see, such as the Leech Lake Reservation for an insight into the lives of the Indigenous people. Remember, this part of the world is not for the faint hearted during the winter months!

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The Maldives: Heaven on Earth

by Julie on July 26, 2017


The Maldives is a republic of over a thousand islands in the Indian Ocean, south-west of Sri Lanka and India, and is world renowned for being an idyllic and luxurious destination for vacationing.

No two islands are the same; therefore, there will be something for everyone wanting to escape from the maddening crowds. Whether you’ll prefer the north for its more favorable snorkeling, or the south for its diver friendly deep lagoons, the Maldives provide a wonderful seascape.

The Weather

With its dry climate and near perfect temperatures all year round, the Maldives is a favorite luxury destination that can be visited at any time of the year. Winter sun vacations are the most popular and costly time to visit the Maldives, but if you are vigilant, you can find your dream holiday with Voyage Privé.

January to April has minimal rain and hot temperatures, and is the most popular time as sun-seekers enjoy the clear blue skies. The rainy season begins in May and lasts until September, but the low-lying level of the islands means that clouds blow over quickly and rain is quick to pass; there are also fewer travelers during this period. October to December sees the return of long sunny days and rising temperatures, and an increased number of visitors.

The Beaches

If you were to describe your idyllic beach, you would be describing one of the Maldivian to a tee. The bone-white beaches and the clear turquoise ocean are breathtaking. With strict laws governing development in the Maldives, no beach is compromised by unsightly development. The resorts are on their own private island, and are encircled by a ‘house reef’ which creates a natural swimming pool and provides protection from tidal currents. Heaven is a place on earth.

Seclusion

Each resort is located on its own island and provides residents with awe inspiring views of the ocean without the hustle and bustle of usual beach scenes. The private lagoons are quiet and restful and give a real haven for relaxation. You can walk along the white sand beaches and even take moonlit dips without seeing another soul.

Spend time together

You may be looking at a Maldives vacation as a honeymoon, or perhaps as a special holiday for your family. With only the resort staff and other residents on the islands, distractions are minimal, and you can concentrate on relaxing and unwinding together. Everything in the resorts is designed for peace and harmony.

The Maldives provide the perfect luxury holiday solution for a variety of travel groups; if you are honeymooning your requirements will be different to those vacationers on a family holiday. Be sure to select a resort that will give you what you want, and provide you with the amenities that you crave. If you may want scuba lessons, for example, you’ll have to seek a resort who can provide such comforts. Research your resort to make sure they can offer everything you wish for and more. The Maldives is a place of idyllic relaxation; there’s no need to burden yourself in such a beautiful part of the world.

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The Best Places to Visit in Tanzania

by Julie on July 21, 2017

Tanzania has some of the world’s most famous and most amazing national parks. Not only are there beautiful beaches with golden sand, but there is also Mafia Island with its coral gardens and colorful fish.

Probably the most famous attractions are Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti. Both are full of wonder and danger, but for different reasons. If you are planning on taking a trip to this stunning country, then there are a few attractions you need to see. Some are obvious, while others might be a little more unknown.

Mount Kilimanjaro

The obvious one first, Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the most visited attractions in Tanzania, and has the honor of being Africa’s highest mountain peak. The mountain is surrounded by the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park; however, most people do not come to this park for the animals. The majority of the tourists are interested in ascending the mighty mountain and standing on its summit.

Kilimanjaro can be climbed at any time of the year; however, the best time is in the dry season which is late June until October. Climbing this peak is no easy task, and you will need a lot of preparation to make sure you are ready.

It is important to read a climbing Mt Kilimanjaro guide to provide you with information on how best to get prepared and a comprehensive list of the things you need to take with.

If you don’t want to climb the mountain, then there are plenty of wild animals to see such as buffaloes, leopards, monkeys, and elephants.

Serengeti National Park

This vast treeless plain is home to millions of animals and is the largest national park in Tanzania. There are opportune times to visit the park, the best being December to June. If you wish to travel during the wet season of March to May or the coldest season from June to October, then you might not see as many animals.

In May and Early June, you can witness the impressive sight of the zebra and wildebeest migration. It is a spectacular sight and a big attraction for many tourists. While you are there, you can see many other types of wild animal. These include lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and jackals.

The park also hosts nearly 500 species of birds, and you may be lucky enough to see many of them while you are on your tour. There are a few official tours that can take you out onto the Serengeti at the best times to see the animals. It might involve a couple of early starts, but the rewards will be worth the effort.

Zanzibar Beaches

The islands of Zanzibar and Pemba make up the Zanzibar archipelago. The area is a huge attraction for tourists, and it is easy to see why. There are exquisite beaches with the softest and whitest sand which is why it is rated as having some of the best beaches in the world.

You also have crystal clear water that is more like a bath than sea water in temperature. For those who like to ride the waves, there are some great surfing spots on the islands.

Near the heart of Zanzibar is the beautiful old Stone Town. With its old Arabian townhouses, narrow alleyways and busy port, it will feel as though you have traveled back in time.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is located between the Serengeti and Lake Manyara. The most obvious feature of this area is the Ngorongoro volcanic crater. Once one of the tallest mountains in the world, Ngorongoro erupted and collapsed. The result is a crater that is permanently full of water.

It is this water supply that attracts thousands of animals and birds who don’t want to migrate. Although you can see rhinos, lions, elephants, and wildebeests, the most abundant animals are the zebra. Together with the wildebeest, they account for over half of the animals that live in this huge crater.

For those interested in archaeology more than animals, there is the Olduvai Gorge that in the past has been the location for skull and bone fragments. The fragments have been thought to come from early human life and have been of great interest.

Olduvai Gorge

Located on a series of fault lines, the Olduvai Gorge is a big archaeological site because of the years of erosion. From 1911, people have been coming here to find rare fossils of early human inhabitants. Skull fragments thought to be 2 million years old were discovered by the Leakeys.

There have also been tools, and hunting weapons found that are thought to be 1.5 million years old. Probably one of the most famous finds is that of footprints made by a man, woman, and child at Laetoli.

For those interested in history and archaeology, this area has some of the most interesting finds that have shaped how people think early humans lived.

Lake Manyara National Park

For those who like a bit of activity on their holidays, the Lake Manyara National Park has many things that you can do. The area is made up of forest, grasslands, and swamps, with a large area covered by water.

It is one of the best areas to see flamingos; it also has the world’s largest concentration of baboons. You can also see lions, elephants and hippos, which you can witness in much closer proximity than at other parks.

As well as the wildlife drives, you can also have a go at canoeing, mountain bike tours, and bird watching. It will be more than enough to keep you busy while you are enjoying the amazing scenery.

These are just a few of the many places Tanzania has to offer. If you are considering taking a trip, then it is a good idea to research all the country’s attractions before you make your choice. There are many places that offer diverse landscapes and animals within the same national park. Be sure to visit at the right times to see the animals you want.

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