In partnership with the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Foundation, Google has now made available Google Maps and Street View coverage of the fantastic bio-diversity region, the Galapagos Islands. For the first time you can now explore the islands via Street View’s high definition imagery in full 360 degrees! Not only can you see the fantastic array of animals on land but Google have also captured imagery underwater so you can see the Galapagos Sea Lions as well!
The Galapagons Islands Street View imagery can be accessed via the link below:
From Islao it was a 4 hour drive to Tulear & then a 1.5 hour, only 25 km, ride along the bumpy sand road to Ifaty. I was very good & did all the hotel inspections on the way to the hotel where I was staying for the night, so by the time I arrived @ la Mira Hotel I just wanted to get in the pool & cool down. Ifaty is a beach area with hotels dotted along the coast line. It was the perfect place to rest after a vey hectic & active trip south. Most of the hotels I visited were very nice. I personally preferred la Mira & Dunes Hotels.
La Mira is owned by an elderly gentleman who had lived in the highlands of Scotland-so we had a lovely chat. The swimming pool was a godsend as a heat wave had hit the area. The food was excellent, especially for me, as this hotel had the most vegetarian options of anywhere I have been.. wonderful.. Not that I struggled anywhere for vegetarian food.. I always had choices. For non vegetarians the food inMadagascaris superb-the sea food especially is excellent. I had 2 nights in Ifaty so a full day off to relax – brilliant, & even if I say so myself was well deserved.. I really appreciated getting into the pool for the sunset..
From Ifaty I went back by road to Tulear to take the speedboat over to Anakao. I only had 1 night at the beautiful Anakao Ocean Lodge Hotel. Anakao is a coastal fishing town with the good hotels located away from the town in secluded beachfront areas. It is necessary to take the speed boat service from Tulear as by road it would take hours. I arrived at Anakao Ocean Lodge during low tide so a hotel Piroque came to cullet us from the speed boat- I have to admit I was a little daunted about the transfer from 1 to the other, but it went ok without any mishap.. When I left the following day it was high tide so the speed boat came in & got me from the beach- phew!! This is a lovely area & a good option for honeymooners, but also because of the mangrove areas it is a good spot for bird watchers.
So I head back to Tana again so I can take the L’Hotel Anjajavy’s flight in the morning. I was on the 9-seat plane & was allowed to sit next to the pilot- I assured the other passengers I would simply observe & I could see the relief on their faces.. J The views as we flew North West, past Majunga, were wonderful. However it was concerning to see the extent of the deforestation. This whole stretch from Tana to Majunga was once all forest & now you are lucky to see some small green patches.
Arriving at Anjajavy airfield the hotel manager, Cedric, was there to give us all a very warm welcome. Cold bottles of water & cool face towels were available. We then got into the 4X4 to head for the hotel, through the Mangrove area. En route it was clear to see how passionate Cedric is about the property. He made stops to explain about their re-forestation programme, which they are heavily investing time & money into.
The private reserve of Anjajavy covers 550 hectares & guests will easily see the 2 species of lemurs they have there- the brown lemur & the dancing Sifaka lemurs. There are also 2 nocturnal lemurs species – the Sportive & Mouse Lemurs. The other wildlife is also wonderful here & it is the ideal place to mix relaxation, luxury & beach with wildlife – plus the hotel has many activities on offer.
There are only 24 bungalows but the hotel has 100 staff & 20 executive staff that speak English. The service at this hotel is excellent & every guest is made to feel so welcome. Nothing is too much trouble for them & the food was amazing.
I went with Cedric & his 2 beautiful daughters on the boat trip to MorombaBay. We saw the mushroom islands & saw the absolutely massive sacred Baobab tree, which is over 1000 years old, how incredible is that?! – but please remember you are not allowed to point at with your fingers!. It was a great trip & I would recommend it to all my clients. On my last night the hotel put on a traditional dance show- with the local people & children taking part, it was wonderful & I was really sad to leave the next morning. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful end to a very busy but rewarding trip.
I had to stay in Tana for 3 nights, which is a drag but has to be done sometimes to fit in with the domestic flights. As I had an afternoon free I headed to the handicraft market- which is where I bought my obligatory pink hat & basket.. this is a shoppers paradise..
I love Madagascar, it is not currently overly commercialised or touristy. The combination of all the amazing wildlife, the flora & Fauna, the wonderful people, excellent food, stunningly beautiful beaches & a whole array of accommodation makes it a very special & unique place to visit. I wonder if I will be allowed to make another trip next year – I do still need to see the Avenue of Baobabs in the West!
If you have any questions about Madagascar or want to talk to me about the perfect itinerary to suit your preferences & interests, please do get in touch. You can call me on 01202 606160 or e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org
So after a very long day we arrive at Ranomafana & Setam Lodge. All the accommodation in this area is fairly basic, but is comfortable, clean & has private facilities. The real draw to this area is the National Park & the wildlife. On my trek- in reality a walk for me, I saw heaps of lemurs – there are 12 species here & I was lucky enough to see the Golden bamboo Lemur.
When we arrived at the view point where we were expecting to have a stunning view anyway was made all the more fantastic to have about 20 lemurs in the trees really close to us. Some seemed really interested in us & seemed to be studying me! – maybe it was my pink cagoule. The paths here were good & even though its not very flat terrain the steps were in excellent condition. I managed so that means its ok . Apart from my private guide there was also a Pisteur- who goes off ahead of us to locate the lemurs & then through whistle communication tells the guide where we need to head. What a brilliant idea & it works extremely well.
I also did all the hotel / lodge inspections. I personally liked Setam Lodge as it was closer to the National park & seemed to fit in with the natural environment. However if clients want to be in the small town so as to be able to eat in local restaurants then there are other options. There can be availability problems, especially during high season so we also offer accommodation in nearby Fianarantsoa, which is a much larger town.
Next we are heading for Isalo – which was a big highlight of my trip. However en route I stopped at Ambalavao to visit the winery, see the silk being produced & visited the paper factory- which was more interesting that it sounds- honestly! We then carried on so that I could visit Anja Park- which is a local project that helps fund 4 villages. We did arrive quite late so it was a rush to see the Ringtail lemurs before they headed off to bed. But we saw then & some were lying out on the big rock catching the sum- it was wonderful to see. Then we watched then head off around these huge rocks to the places they sleep. It was worth visiting this area but I would suggest that you need a stopover to make the most of it. I stayed at Varangue de Betsileo, which was lovely & had amazing views of the rocky mountains.
Another stop en route to Islao was to the camps located in the Andringitra area. Camp Catta and Tsar Camp. It is quite a journey a long very bad road to these properties, but once
After a very long day I arrive at Islao- well its actually called Ranohira. Islao is the name of the rocky mountain range. The scenery here is stunning & totally different to the national park areas I have visited before. It really is the rocky mountain area of Madagascar. The National Park is massive so 2 nights is definitely needed & even 3 would be better – depending on how much walking / hiking clients want to do. In the area there are some amazing places to stay. I stayed at Setrana Lodge- which have luxury tents, with a brick built bathroom attached. This was a beautiful place to stay & I was very happy.. I also visited the other hotels including Islao Rock Lodge which was stunning & extremely comfortable. The sister hotels Relais de la Reine & Jardin de Roy were also extremely nice. there this is a fabulous place for adventurous clients wanting to go on long hikes, mountain climb etc.
I of course only had the 1 night here but so wished I could have stayed longer.
I had a wonderful trip to Madagascar last year when I visited many of this island’s fascinating areas, having the opportunity to see national parks & inspecting lots of the hotels & lodges. The trip really helped me to plan & book the perfect trip for many of our clients during last year. However, Madagascar is a huge island, so no matter how intense my first trip was, I did not cover even half of the island. Therefore, I headed back again this year- this time for 18 days and learnt even more.
On this trip I went up to Maroantsetra & Masoala National park, then did the southern route by road staying at Ranomafana & Islao- ending this part of the trip at Ifaty & then over by speed boat to Anakao. I was then lucky enough to end the very hectic trip with 3 nights at the absolutely spectacular Anjajavy Hotel.
As I had a long trip, 18 nights which would take a client approx 5 weeks to do, I will break the blogs down into separate parts- so you can have a break!
Masoala National Park is a really special area to visit being one of the countries largest protected region. Getting there is not very easy but definitely worthwhile. The only option – unless you want to be in the episode of the BBC’s “World’s Most Dangerous Roads” – is to fly from Tana or Tamatave to Maroantsetra. The schedule is not great however with direct flights currently only operating twice a week. It is necessary to have at least the first night in Maroantsetra as the sea transfer to Masoala has to be early in the morning- the sea can get very rough- so the earlier the better. I had a particularly rough 2 hour crossing & would not recommend this trip to anyone that gets sea sick. But arriving @ Masoala was well worth the wet ride!! It is a beautiful area & the National park is full of wildlife. 2 or 3 nights would be ideal to stay here, but the length of stay is going to be dictated by the domestic flight schedules in & out.
Clients that ask me about this area are usually hoping that they will get the chance to see the elusive Aye Aye lemur. However, they are extremely difficult to spot – they are nocturnal & Masoala currently does not allow night time walks. En route to Masoala I did visit Nosy Mangabe as it is possible to camp on this island but it cannot be guaranteed to see the Aye Aye- some people have camped for a week & left disappointed.
On my arrival for a 1-night stay in Masoala, I visited many of the lodges that are located on the stunning beach coast. The popular choices are the Tampolo Lodge & the Masoala Forest Lodge. My personal favourite was the newly opened Petite Masoala. It is located next to the park entrance – which is really convenient & they have 6 beautifully designed, very spacious bungalows.
Masoala has a lot to offer with stunning beaches & a huge amount of wildlife – please just do not build your hopes up too high on seeing an Aye Aye..
Then I head back to Maroantsetra for a night before flying back to Tana. I really liked the Relais du Masoala. They have individual bungalows & across the little lakes bridge you can walk to the beach & watch the local fishermen come back from the days fishing & watch the children enjoy swimming in the sea. The hotels food was great & they had a swimming pool.
The Southern Route: This is a really popular choice for clients as it minimises the number of domestic flights required- as you only need 1 to get form Tulear back up to Tana. It certainly helps with not having to work around the domestic flight schedule as we travel all way down by road. Some of the roads are really windy but I have been on worse in Costa Rica. Time being of the essence I only stopped off in Antsirabe to see the hotels we would use but I would recommend that clients break their journey here to Ranomafana. My favourite places would be Café Couleur & for clients interested in plants, they will love Chambres des Voyageurs.
Worldwide Holidays has experienced a great start to 2013 and we are now looking forward with our usual passion and a renewed sense of optimism and energy. We are pleased to report that our enquiry levels are once again on the increase, with numbers returning to our previously healthy levels. Our enviable record of repeat bookings continues and customer recommendations are also on the increase. We’ve also had the best ever response from our existing clients for our now sought after Worldwide Holidays Desk Calendars!
Our success is built on the quality of our partners and suppliers and we thank you all for your continued support, both on the ground and during the quoting process.
Even better news is that we have now joined forces with Steamond Ltd, our primary UK flight supplier. Not only will this provide Worldwide Holidays with keener rates for flights, it will allow us to develop our core proposition into other destinations over time through organic growth. This exciting development has seen the ownership of the company change hands to Steamond’s owner / founder, Marcio Da Silva.
Worldwide Holidays has been working closely and successfully with Steamond for the past 6 years. Reflecting on the new partnership, Marcio commented ‘I liked the company so much I bought it!‘ According to Helen Baillie, who founded Worldwide Holidays in 1996, the business plan for the company will not change, nor will the close relationships with our valued suppliers. “I have great confidence in the future of Worldwide Holidays ”
Helen added. “Our premier positioning and company values remain, and with Steamond on board we now have access to a larger client base and new investment opportunities setting us up for the future. With the support of our suppliers the future looks really exciting and I look forward to our continued working through 2013″.
The Sol & Luna Lodge & Spa has been named in the Top 25 Hotels in the World by TripAdvisor at its annual Travellers’ Choice Awards 2013. Just one hour away from Cusco the Sol & Luna Lodge is the perfect retreat beautifully designed and decorated in warm yellow colours.
The TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2013, based on millions of reviews and feedback from travellers who rated more than 650,000 Hotels around the world, recognized Sol & Luna Lodge & Spa in the Top 25 Hotels in the World, the only Hotel in Latin America named in this top award category.
Facilities include a tennis court, pool and stunning spa. The hotel also has its own ranch with famous Peruvian Paso horses – guests can arrange for horse riding excursions. The restaurant amid stunning Andean landscapes, offers neo-Andean cuisine, famous barbecue or the traditional pachamanca, all of which are enhanced by the ingredients harvested in the valley, producing fabulous food.
Minutes away from the hotel, you can find important archaeological sites such as: Moray, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero and Machu Picchu. Activities from the lodge include; mountain biking trails, ATV (quad bike) adventure, hiking, kayaking or for the more adventurous Tandem Paragliding.
If you’d like to read more about this fantastic lodge and spa just visit our dedicated Sol & Luna Lodge webpage!
Recently the Daily Mail featured an excellent article about Madagascar featuring stunning photos from expert photographer Paolo Torchio who spent one month travelling the Western region of Madagascar. The article features some of the most amazing sights of Madagascar including the “upside down” looking Baobab Trees and numerous pictures of Madagascar’s iconic Lemurs and Tsingy’s.
Be sure to take a look at these photos on the Daily Mail website using the link below:
To see more pictures of the largely undiscovered Madagascar why not browse around our Madagascar Holidays pages?
Worldwide Holidays, specialists in tailor made holidays to exotic locations, have developed the ultimate wedding gift – your honeymoon. Our innovative and exciting wedding list service allows honeymoon couples to chose a dream honeymoon destination and provides your wedding guests, family & friends the opportunity to contribute towards its cost, or alternatively, buy special activities for you to experience on you dream trip. So, instead of the usual quirky vase or additions to the Sunday best crockery, you could just as easily be having the time of your life and experiencing the stunning Costa Ricarain forests by zip wire !
Worldwide Holidays offers a number of select and distinctive destinations that will provide the stunning backdrop for your Wedding Day or honeymoon. Whether it’s the rich ecosystems of Costa Rica, the intoxicating, vibrant country of Cuba or the welcoming cultural Mecca of Sri Lanka that suits your taste, we can tailor-make your wedding and honeymoon to suit you. Perhaps Jordan’s special mesmerizing beauty, the wild land of Argentina or the amazing Galapagos Islands, the ultimate honeymoon location for nature lovers, where you will never be closer to some of the world’s most beautiful and stunning marine life. We can help select the perfect location for you.
Whether an intimate ceremony for just the two of you or a larger celebration with family and friends, we will help with all aspects of your dream wedding. And because we specialise and know our destinations intimately, we will not only advise you of the ideal destination and itinerary for you, but we will guide you through all the legal requirements of your wedding.
Our Madagascar Group Tour is back again! The revised group tour for 2012/13 allows clients to experience the amazing wildlife and local tribes & cultures. The 11 night tour features many of Madagascar’s highlights and national parks including Anja Park, Isalo National Park and Ranomafana National Park. We have selected small, comfortable, friendly hotels located in beautiful surrounding.
For more information on this unique group tour experience please visit our Madagascar Group Tour webpage.
Sad news reached the Worldwide Holidays office earlier this week when it was reported that Lonesome George, a Pinta Island tortoise from the Galapagos has died. Lonesome George was the last tortoise of his kind residing in a special conservation area in the Galapagos and has been described as the rarest creature in the world. Lonesome George was over 100 years old when he died on June 24th, it is beleived his death may have been related to heart failure.
The Ecuadorean government had been trying to find a suitable female mate for Lonesome George for many years but was unfortunetly un-successful and the death of Lonesome George means the world loses his kind as a sub-species.
Galapagos is such an incredible place so much amazing variety of wildlife many of the creatures are endangered species protected by the Darwin Research Station.
Our Galapagos ground agents were kindly able to provide a detailed history of Lonesome George, we hope you find this an interesting read.
When the Galápagos Islands became a National Park in 1959, conservation priorities were a top priority for the world’s scientific community. Giant tortoises, who gave their names to the remote archipelago, ranked high, together with the need to eradicate introduced animals (rats, goats, etc.) from the archipelago’s days as a pirate bolt-hole.
Hundreds of thousands of giant tortoises had been killed for food during the intense whaling years of the 18th and 19th centuries. Conservation reached Galápagos too late for some. Floreana and Santa Fe Island Giant Tortoises had disappeared long ago, and the only known living tortoise from Fernandina Island was killed and preserved in the name of research and conservation during a United States expedition in 1907. The La Pinta Tortoise was, officially, another species wiped out, while the island itself was plagued by introduced goats, the tortoises’ direct, warm-blooded competitors for food.
Inadvertently, in December 1971 a young snail expert, Joseph Vagvolgyi, while squatting over the resident Bulimulus spp snails of La Pinta Island, was startled by moving shrubbery. He expected goats to have caused the commotion, but instead saw a male tortoise emerging from the foliage. His report went unnoticed until 1972, when a team of park wardens went to La Pinta Island to hunt introduced goats. On that visit an Ecuadorian field biologist, Manuel Cruz, took the opportunity to analyze the stomach content of goats to understand better the effect of goats foraging upon the fragile flora of the Galápagos. Cruz once again stumbled upon the last living tortoise of La Pinta. But this time he opted for rounding up wardens to help him lug the weighty (200-pound/90-kg), reptile down to the beach. A few days later the tortoise was happily ensconced at the Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island.
The relevance of this ‘animal rescue’ didn’t become evident until much later. In the 1970s, each island’s tortoise population was taxonomically seen as a subspecies – with only subtle differences among them. In subsequent years, scientists agreed that they were all different species. The only remaining living tortoise of La Pinta became a “living extinct species”, unless a female was found. From that day forth, the search began to find another female La Pinta tortoise. Officially, a monetary reward still exists for the person who delivers a female La Pinta tortoise to the National Park authorities.
In the meantime, one of the wardens from the 1972 team on la Pinta, Fausto Llerena, took over the care of the all resident tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station. George, as he called him, became better known over the years as “Lonesome George”, possibly named after the American comedian George Gobel (1919-1991) who used this nickname in some of his shows.
As the last living tortoise of La Pinta species, Lonesome George soon became a living icon for conservation not only in the Galápagos but also internationally. His image is the logo of the Galápagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station, and he is possibly the world’s most famous reptile. He even has an entry as the rarest animal in the world in the Guinness Book of Records and a clothing line named after him. As author Henry Nicholls puts it: “His story echoes the challenges of conservation worldwide; it is a story of Darwin, sexual dysfunction, adventure on the high seas, cloning, DNA fingerprinting and eco-tourism.”
His departure is felt worldwide. A faint flame of hope remains, following a recent study in northern Isabela (where species with Floreana Island DNA were found), with the tortoises presumably removed in whaling days that carry George’s species DNA. Perhaps George’s death is not entirely the last page of a chapter initially stained by human greed, later redeemed with dedicated efforts towards the preservation of endangered species. As for the old male from La Pinta, he will be remembered for generations to come, and his story will serve to shed light on our responsibility towards the other species on our planet.