This year finds me virtually ‘full-on Costa Rica’, after spending the last four years with Worldwide as a part-timer.
Wow! What a surprise therefore to find myself landing with Geoff, my husband, in San Jose in the run up to it in November – a great opportunity to see and experience all the wonderful places I’d heard so much about.
The trip got off to a great start when Douglas, our driver, buzzed around us and organised everything – so helpful, so friendly, so informative – he couldn’t do enough for us.
Costa Rica is renowned for its wildlife and no sooner had we arrived than we were in the depths of the ‘jungle’ in Tortuguero with the added bonus that we’d reached it by a fascinating river trip that gave us a taste of what we were going to see from the enchanting Mawamba Lodge, situated on a spit of land bordering the Caribbean. Certainly it offers the best of both worlds with the sea, sand and famous Turtle nesting grounds on one side and the deep forest on the other full of birds and reptiles. Definitely full of the colour of Costa Rica!
From here we were driven to Arenal, site of one of Costa Rica’s active volcanos. The Arenal Volcano practically filled our patio windows, which with us leaving them open most of the time at the fantastic Kioro Hotel allowed us to immerse ourselves in the birdlife that flitted around us and the neatly laid out gardens. I could hardly drag Geoff and his camera away from the scenery to sample the outstanding cuisine at Kioro – but it’s well worth it, especially as its always accompanied by a smile and courtesy from the friendly staff who spoilt us every step of the way – even down to the full back massage that initially felt like punishment but left us revitalised.
Feeling adventurous we opted to rent a car for our drive to Manuel Antonio, which with the aid of an exceptional GPS made the trip easy, and contrary to reports we didn’t find the journey at all hair-raising. Although I do have to admit that we lived in India for 7 years and travelled all over the country by ourselves but that was a few years ago.
Manuel Antonio is a beautiful area with a number of uniquely styled hotels with grounds running down to their own beaches. The National Park, although one of the smallest in Costa Rica is an absolute must and the hotel-provided guide was great; we would have missed most of the birds and reptiles without him as their camouflage is so perfect. A picnic on the beach and a dip in the sea just capped a perfect visit into the park – as long as the Racoons don’t pinch your clothes!
Nature Air’s internal air service, from Manuel Antonio to Quepos, is so personal you feel as though you and a few friends have decided to travel the country in style in their De Havilland Twin Otters whilst your pilot points out local landmarks as you cruise by! All part of the adventure!
Our next mission, having boarded boats at Sierpe with the lodge guides, was to get to Casa Corcovado – a thrilling ride – slowly at first through the mangrove swamps and along the river banks, amazed by the number of Ibis, Kingfishers, Herons… and Crocodiles – fingers inside the boat please! Speeding up and tense with anticipation for what lay ahead we popped out into the Pacific.
Look! A pod of Dolphins circled a school of fish, rounding them up into a tight ball until they were ready to feed. The fish, thinking they could escape hugged our boat’s wake but the Dolphins weren’t fooled and circled our boat as we sped along – truly magical. Thrilled, our boat followed the coast for the next hour before surfing into land at Casa Corcovado’s private beach.
The fourteen thatched cabinas all have four-poster beds, huge showers and a view of the lush tropical rain forest outside. Trails lace the property which borders the National Park and you can see almost as much from these as you can from the jungle – isn’t that an Anaconda wrapped around that tree by the bar?
The sunset cocktail and gourmet cuisine are always welcome; especially if you’ve spent the day exploring the forest, swimming in spring-fed pools, wading rivers and straining your eyes so as not to miss a single thing, whether it be a Koati rooting around in the undergrowth or brilliantly coloured Macaws painting the sky with feathered rainbows.
Reluctantly we boarded another of our ‘private’ flights to head back to San Jose. Our disappointment at the prospect of leaving the rain forest swiftly overcome as we booked into one of Fiona’s favourite hotels – the Xandari Plantation y Spa – which with its avant garde architecture and outstandingly colourful artwork everywhere provides an outstanding complement to the surrounding greenery – the bottle of wine and superb dinner also did the trick and sparked off a stream of recent happy memories of our trip!
What an experience – I’d really recommend it to anyone with a love of nature, the great outdoors and sense of adventure – just ask me if you’d like to know more…and more, and more! You can see more pictures of my fantastic Costa Rica trip on our Facebook gallery.
Sri Lanka – “paradise with a smile” is the strap line here at Worldwide Holidays for Sri Lanka – well it is certainly one of the friendless countries I have ever visited. Everyone is so welcoming and seem genuinely pleased that you are taking the time to visit their country.
On my recent trip, which was my first to Sri Lanka. I travelled around most of the country so I was able to experience the culture and the variety of landscapes that Sri Lanka has to offer, including beautiful golden beaches, waterfalls and lush green tea plantations.
My trip began with a night at The Beach hotel in Negombo the only 5* star in this area, perfect after a long flight. All the beautiful rooms open up onto a private balcony or terrace and the large open baths are very inviting. From here I then visited the Pinnawella elephant orphanage which is one of only 3 in the world. A lovely experience, including helping bathe the elephants during their daily bathe in the local river. Continued on to the cultural triangle area and visiting all the main culture sights including the remarkable Sigiriya Rock fortress constructed by King Kashayapa. I took my guides advice and climbed Sigiriya before breakfast at about 7am and I was the only person around for at least half hour, it was incredible.
I have just returned from my first trip to Jordan and already can’t wait to go back!
Jordan lived up to more than my expectations. I recommend anyone to visit Jordan and would love to tell you all about it. It was also very interesting being there during Ramadan.
I flew with Royal Jordanian from Heathrow and could not fault the airline; it was a very pleasant journey with entertainment to pass the time.
I travelled to Jordan as part of a group tour. On arrival into Amman I obtained my visa. After being collected from the airport we travelled to the centre of Amman (approx 40 minutes) before arriving at our hotel (Red Rose hotel 3*).
I managed to catch a few hours sleep before starting the tour the next morning.
Our first day of the tour we travelled north to Um Qais and Jerash ancient roman ruin sites. Um Qais is much smaller than Jerash but there you are so close to other Middle East borders where you can see the Golon Heights and Sea of Galilee. There is a small rest house here which used to be an old ottoman schoolhouse with beautiful views. Jerash is still one of the best preserved roman cities in the world and you can really feel how it must have been all those years ago. We then drove approx 50 mins back to Amman for another overnight here where we enjoyed our first Jordanian meal. Delicious!
The following day we enjoyed a city tour of Amman city including the archaeological museum and amphitheatre which also has a folklore museum there which is worth a look. As we drove through the city it was interesting to see the difference from east to west, with the west being more prosperous. We then had an afternoon departure to the Dead Sea approx 1 hour drive from Amman. The Dead Sea is a lovely area to stay for a few nights to really relax. While the others were floating in the Dead Sea I went to inspect the Kempinski and Movenpick hotels. I loved the Movenpick, it has such a lovely atmosphere and the greeting and offer of tea as you walk in really gives a lovely first impression. The hotels have a vast amount of facilities to keep you wined, dined and entertained during your stay. We had an afternoon visit here but I would definitely recommend staying for a few nights (depending on the itinerary) and it can be very welcoming after so much walking.
We were then all very excited as we started to travel to Petra. On route we stopped at a few view points along the way including Dana Valley nature reserve and Shawbak Castle (crusader castle) which now has a visitors centre, the first sight of the castle can be quite breathtaking. Finally we arrived to Petra. As we arrived quite late to Petra I wasn’t able to experience Petra by night where the walk through the siq to the monastery is lit with many candles so I definitely have to fit that in next time! (Another reason to go back!) We arrived at the 4* Crowne Plaza hotel which is literally a 2 minute walk to the entrance of Petra so an excellent location! This hotel has rooms with a view of the Petra Mountains which is a lovely sight in the morning. Another hotel just a couple of minutes walk is the 5* Movenpick which is an excellent hotel with a beautiful roof top bar where you can enjoy Jordanian music and dancing in the evening. For people who would like to be a bit further out of the centre of Petra I visited the Beit Zaman which has just reopened after a major renovation. The hotel used to be former Bedouin houses and is beautiful with lovely views over Petra.
Slightly higher above Petra you also have the 4* Movenpick Nabatean Castle hotel (approx 10 min drive from Petra), this is a lovely hotel with many facilities and breathtaking views over Petra across Wadi Musa.
We were all very excited at breakfast and couldn’t wait to get going! We had a full day in Petra but we still needed more time. Petra is amazing and indescribable and I can only say go and see it for yourselves and you won’t be disappointed! We walked as much as we could within the time we had. You can easily stay for 2 or 3 nights so you can take your time to see everything possible. I was determined to climb the 1000 steps (or there about) to the monastery and in 40 degree heat this was quite a challenge but believe me it is well worth it when you get to the top! One of the group members decided to race us and take a donkey and she says she has never been so scared in her life! I’m glad I decided to walk! Once you get to the monastery if you walk slightly further you reach the most spectacular view points so if you have the energy go and enjoy the view! I wish we had longer in Petra to see some of the other sights including little Petra. After a full day in Petra it was a fairly early night for most!
After a late breakfast the following morning we set off for the desert – Wadi Rum made famous by Laurence of Arabia. I was a bit worried before we got there as to the facilities at the camp and what it would be like, I had already set my mind that I wasn’t going to sleep a wink. However I was to be pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed staying a night in the desert – I had the best nights sleep all week! It was so peaceful when we arrived after driving a couple of hours by 4×4 jeeps to visit Laurence’s spring, a sand dune with the option of tumbling down and also one of the many canyons in the desert that provide shade from the intense sun. We arrived at the camp at 5.30pm and after relaxing in the Bedouin type tent with a tea we waited to watch the sunset, this was so beautiful and I have never taken so many pictures of the sun! The camp was quite basic and is fairly new so they are developing it to be able to take more tents and better shower/toilet facilities – watch this space. The tents were good with wooden floors and proper pine beds with mattresses we even had blankets with Spiderman or Disney on! After the sunset you enjoy a traditional meal and of course a breakfast in the morning with a nice cup of tea! I felt so relaxed after our overnight and would definitely recommend Wadi Rum on any trip to Jordan.
Next we travelled from the desert to Aqaba (approx 40 min drive), Jordan’s main port. This is a small coastal resort and good for a few days to relax on the beach. The hotels are excellent here with many facilities. After leaving Aqaba we stopped at Mount Nebo – the site of the death of Moses where you have beautiful views. Then on to Madaba where we were to finish the tour. Madaba is the closest town to the airport so is ideal for your 1st or last night/s in Jordan. Madaba is famous for its mosaics and is where you will find the 6th century mosaic map found during construction in 1898 of the Greek Orthodox Church of St Georges. You will also find the church of the Apostles and the Madaba museum. Whilst staying in Madaba I would recommend a meal at Haret Jdoudna which is a lovely restaurant which serves an amazing Jordanian menu.
Then it was time to travel back home. Jordan is an amazing country and the people are so friendly it makes you feel very welcome and safe.
My trip to Jordan exceeded my expectations and would recommend it to everyone as it is very hard to describe everything and how special and diverse the country is. I would love to go back tomorrow!