The final in our series looking back at the best bits from a year in Travel.
ANYTHING THEY CAN DO . . .
Ziplining 18 storeys over the ocean — why not? When you’re on a luxury cruise liner in the middle of the South China Sea, you can convince yourself to give anything a go — even flying 35m down the side of a ship on a flying fox suspended over the sea many metres below. On board the Genting Dream earlier this year, which journeyed from Singapore to Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City and back over six days, I channelled my inner child and also gave a ropes course a go and a couple of very steep waterslides. Brilliant fun — if little kids can do it, you can too. dreamcruiseline.com
— Shandelle Battersby
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A MILLION WOW MOMENTS
Being asked to pick a favourite moment from a six-star cruise studded with “wow” moments is like being asked to name your favourite child. So I’ll settle instead for a favourite picture: my mate Lauren and I, fresh from Crystal Serenity’s hair salon (where yes, thank you, we would like a champagne with our blow wave) and about to head via tender to the Sydney Opera House.
Was it the thought of seeing La Boheme in such a famous building that created these huge smiles? Maybe. On the other hand, it could be all that vitamin D we soaked up poolside earlier in the day, or the canapes we had just been served. As I remember though, it was because Jose, our delightful butler-turned-photographer, is serving us lovely compliments along with our pre-outing drinks. Because Crystal cruises are all-inclusive, you won’t get a bill for a million bucks at the end – but I tell ya, I certainly felt like a million on this particular evening. 11/10, would Crystal again.
— Lorna Subritzky
GRAND OLD TIME
While some people might feel cruising has become like going to Disneyland at sea, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth still delivers the elegance of a time when one travelled with steamer trunks and pearls and referred to oneself as “one”.
From the bespoke carpets to the string quartets softly serenading your afternoon tea of cucumber sandwiches on fluffy little clouds of white bread, the Queen Elizabeth is all about refinement and style. Epicureans will find it hard to choose where to dine from the 10 choices on board and those who need a little pampering will luxuriate in the ultimate relaxation of the newly refurbished Mareel spa. Sail the deep blue feeling like, well, a queen.
— Helen Van Berkel
LIVING WITH THE LOCALS
The horizons are big in Africa, and the animals are even bigger. Seeing elephants, giraffe, lions and cheetah on safari in Kenya was awe-inspiring, and brought members of our group to tears more than once.
Watching them free and roaming their natural lands couldn’t be more different from seeing them in a zoo. They’re regal, powerful and free.
It’s also a reminder of how you can use tourism for good. Many of those big beautiful animals are now a major tourism draw for Kenya, which is the best protection they can get. An elephant can wreak havoc on crops, a lion can clearly cause problems, but now locals are finding ways to live alongside them because of the tourism benefits.
— Frances Cook
We have spent the past four hours climbing past small hamlets of ochre-hued houses where children point and laugh, old men stare out from under shady trees. We’ve woven our way along narrow tracks that cling to the steep hillside, navigated lush crop terraces carved into the rocky terrain, skipped across boulders in a fast-flowing stream. A farmer on a donkey pulls over to let us past and we push upwards. We are high in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains and will spend the night in a gite (tramping hut) in the tiny village of Tizi N’oucheg. Population 350. The Amazigh people who call this remote place home have lived here for more than 6700 years. We pause for a breather and gaze into the endless blue skies punctuated only by snow-peaked mountains. Lunch is tagines, flatbread, mint tea. We sit and talk with our guides and the locals, connecting over our similarities and our differences, and I quietly pinch myself. This is travel at its best.
— Amanda Linnell
Memories of travel can fill you with contentment but occasionally regret. I feel a pang when I think of a teapot at the Souq Waqif. Doha can dazzle with its awe-inspiring buildings, neon lights and impressive irrigation — but the old Qatar market place is where you can take a break from sensory overload — the dark narrow alleyways offering some respite from the heat. Vendors smile or sleep rather than haggle. And the smell of incense wafts gently through mixing with Arabic spices. Birds squawk at the bird market and the falcons glare out from inside their own little hotel, their owner off on a shisha break. And there are the teapots — in every colour, different shapes and sizes. Dazzling. “I can’t decide which one! It won’t fit in my suitcase!” I squawk, when the others say “just buy one.” I could have made it fit, I could have put it between my knees for the 16 hours on the plane. Pang.
— Anastasia Hedge
FEELINGS OF SPLENDOUR
I floated to another place in a hammam at Anjana Spa at the Rixos Premium Hotel in Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. After a sauna I lay on raised wet, warm tiles, on a thin towel. First came the kese, the exfoliation. Turkish masseuse Umu wielded a very coarse mitt and in long rhythmical strokes sent Bondi Sands into history. Then the olive soap, whipped into foam, massaging, stroking from head to foot and then the sluicing. Warm water swept down me like a silk sheet. The last sweeps were cooler then, on a bench seat, the sluicing was head-down, wake-up water. In breath-holding torrents. Wrapped in another towel I was guided into a cushioned, draped alcove to be offered teas and dates and to recline, odalisque-like, in splendour until I regained my equilibrium.
— Maureen Marriner