Mana Pools

Africa

 

Having climbed the Dent de Morcles a few days earlier I thought that the other peak that towers over our local town, Monthey, would be a good outing for a one and a half day trip. The Grand Muveran south face is a trickier climb than the exciting military route on the Dent de Morcles but you can still do it without ropes (if you don't look down). I also enjoyed it so much that I wrote a blog about it. Read more>

Yunnan Dancers

Asia

 

Gilberto, our extremely talkative guide, points to a house as we arrive in Olinda old town and tells us "all houses in the old town are just a door and two windows". I see his point although this is not quite true as some grander and humbler houses also line the steep cobbled streets. We are here to see a bit of the rest of Brazil after our Pantanal safari. Read more>

Champery

Mountains

 

I had never heard about the Pantanal when Cindy asked us if we wanted to go on a safari there. I have since learnt that this is the world's largest wetland with huge biodiversity and covering 170,000 sq km. Most is in Brazil's Matto Grosso and Matto Grosso do Sul states but it extends into Bolivia and Paraguay. Read more>

Patagonia

Rest of World

 

Ever since Vicky gave me a copy of Adam Nicholson's Long Walks in France I have fancied spending a few days walking through the French countryside. What a great thing to do when you are retired! For a first attempt I let a travel organizer do the hard work and booked a unaccompanied walk in Northern Provence through the hills and vineyards of Cote du Rhone wine country. Read more>

Asia Reading

 

Our first trip to Marrakesh and planned to celebrate my retirement. We have never been to Morocco and thought this would be a good place for some heat and sun at the start of May. So a great surprise when it starts to pour with rain and then to hail as we drive from the airport to our hotel. Read more>

 

Hey Daniel, you have changed your car" we say as we greet him outside a cafe in Martigny Croix. It is exactly a year since we went touring on the "Haute Route Imperiale" and we are all geared up for another week in the mountains. After dropping my car by the station we pile into his 'new' machine and head up the hill towards La Fouly. Read more>

 

We decided to come to Bequia for three nights for a bit of diving and relaxation before a week of partying in Barbados to celebrate Spencer Jones' wedding. We were last here 7 years ago on a sailing trip and are interested to see how the island has changed. We remember a relaxed and friendly place, good diving and simple home cooking at waterside bars and restaurants. Read more>

 

We are not going to get up again at 3am to watch the Carnival said Vicky last year. But here were are year later with our friends the Lewins heading off to the local bus stop at 3.30am to catch the start of Basel's Fasnacht carnival. It is the middle of the night and probably over a thousand locals are dressed up in spooky costumes with pipes and drums, lights on their heads and big lit up lanterns waiting with their 'cliques' or bands for all the lights in the city centre to be turned off. Read more>

 

Don Carlo is one of my favourite operas but I have never had the chance to explore the city of King Philip II and his unstable son. It is Vicky's birthday and we have three objectives - to explore the art in the fabulous galleries, enjoy the famous Spanish food and catch up with friends from Singapore, Ana and Philippe who now live here. Read more>

 

Our last visit to Mana Pools on the Zimbabwe/Zambian border was in 2015. We are back to this amazing spot in late September 2018 to spend a week with friends at the Goliath Safaris camp on the banks of the Zambezi. Mana Pools is special for many reasons. Beautiful landscape with mahogany, acacia and 'sausage' trees next to the river and overlooked by the Zambian mountains. Read more>

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We tried to see Orangutans in Malaysia but they were all off eating nuts in the Jungle. A few days left in Indonesia at the end of our 2018 diving trip gives us another opportunity. With all the terrible stories of the rare creatures being wiped out by forest clearance we wanted a chance to see them before it was too late. Read more>

We heard about Cenderawasih when we made our first trip to Raja Ampat in 2014 on board the Dewi Nusentara. See my write up of that trip to find out what a fantastic boat this is. Cenderawasih Bay is on the other side of West Papua's Bird's Head peninsular. Much more remote and less visited it offered the chance to dive with fish and corals that are rarer than those found elsewhere and also to see the whale sharks that frequent the locals' fishing platforms or bagans in the south of the bay. Read more>

 

At our charity fundraiser for United World Schools we bid for a weekend on a wine estate in the Douro Valley. Vicky and I imagined that we would get the keys to a cottage and be left to fend for ourselves. Instead we had a wonderful weekend in the care of a charming family. Read more>

 

In May 2018 Vicky and I were asked to visit Nepal as trustees and donors of United World Schools to find out about the challenges and opportunities of running remote schools in UWS's newest country. We had never visited Nepal before so were looking forward to learning about this beautiful and fascinating place. Read more>

 

On the afternoon before the start of our ski tour I get a call from our guide, Daniel. "Hi Ross, I think the conditions in Grand Paradiso will be bad, how about doing a tour in the Valais instead?". Respecting Daniel's experience I agree so after weeks researching the maps of Northern Italy we end up spending 5 days among some of Switzerland's most impressive 4000m peaks. Read more>

 

At the start of Lent every year the population of this sensible Swiss city in which I live goes bonkers for three days and nights. Fasnacht, the Basel Carnival, is one of the largest street events in Europe. Last year I missed it because of work so I was determined to experience the real thing this year. Read more>

 

"Pura Vida" says Claudio, our nature guide in Costa Rica. "Everyone says it now - and in the evening they say Pura Cervesas! After nearly four years in Asia a trip to the other side of the world to enjoy 'Pure Life" was inviting. When cousin Christine suggested Costa Rica, and possibly Nicaragua, we jumped at the opportunity. Read more>

 

Vicky is in Switzerland for the weekend and the weather is not looking too great for Basel. I have always wanted to visit the Italian corner of the country and spot that the forecast for Lugano is brilliant sunshine. A good chance to give the car a run and check out la dolce vita South of the Alps. Read more>

 

Six years after we were last in the Maldives we return to Soneva Fushi, a 'barefoot luxury' resort in the Baa Atoll. We loved our two previous visits here and at first glance nothing has changed. You hand over your shoes as you are ferried from the seaplane platform to the resort jetty and they are bagged for the duration of your stay. Read more>

 

We have been to the Maldives three times before but always staying in resorts. The appeal of being pampered has always outweighed the limitations on diving. However in April 2017, encouraged by our friends the Days, we book a week on the Emperor Virgo so that we can explore further afield and get the most of this amazing marine environment. Read more>

 

Shortly after I started ski mountaineering in 2008 Kevin, a friend from Val d'illier, told me about a trip he had made skiing from the top of the Jungfrau railway, climbing peaks from the Hollandia and Konkordia huts, before skiing back down to the Goms valley. This caught my imagination – with many of Europe’s 4000m peaks and longest glaciers this sounded like a fantastic place to go touring. Read more>

 

We are back from Asia but we don't want to give up our travel. London and the Swiss mountains are easy but we have never seen some of the great European cities so on a wet weekend in March we head for Berlin. Read more>

 

The Lauterbrunnen valley has some of the best views in the Alps. From Murren you get fine views of the Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau and then a great wall of mountains from the Rottalhorn to the Breithorn. Vicky and I are here for a few days in February as Sasha, her brother, has taken over the apartment in Champery. Read more>

 

"You enjoy the rest of your day" says Chloe, our charming waitress as we leave our delicious lunch at Vasse Felix winery. We are making the most of our weekend as two days later we are leaving this friendliest of countries as our three and a half year stint in Asia Pacific comes to a close. Read more>

 

As we drive past yet another dead walleroo we wonder how these animals can be so stupid to jump out in front of cars when there is so much space all around. We are in the North West Cape of Western Australia which is about as far west as you can get on land before you hit Reunion Island. Read more>

 

In 2014 we had our first trip aboard the Dewi Nusentara when we spent 11 days diving Raja Ampat. In my write up of our first trip I describe what a fantastic boat this is. We really wanted to do another trip and the Komodo National Park is an area that was highly recommended and which we have never visited so in August 2016 we are back on board.Read more>

 

I wanted to do some diving before our big trip to Komodo in August and the Hari Raya (Eid) holiday makes a perfect opportunity. The public holiday falls on a Wednesday and my team are all travelling so I take the start of the week as holiday and have a five day mini-break. Bruce and Fung were excellent hosts at Black Sands Dive Retreat so I book myself back in. Read more>

 

At the start of May I have a business trip to Sydney. I have not been there for 13 years and Vicky has not been since she was a teenager so she decides to come with me. As I am working Vicky gets to see a lot more than me but we do have a Saturday to explore and this is great chance to retrace some of Louise's steps when she had a great time on her last holiday in 2011.Read more>

 

We have come to Hanoi for the May Day weekend. For us it is an escape from three days in Singapore where there is not a lot new for us to do. For the Vietnamese it is a celebration of the end of years of war as Saigon fell on 30 April 1974. Read more>

 

To celebrate his big birthday, friend JP invites friends and family to travel to Northern Canada in April 2016 for a skiing experience of a lifetime. We are heading to Bell 2 Lodge, the more Northern of two lodges run by Last Frontier Heliskiing. It is not so easy to get to. Read more>

 

I have been working in Taiwan the week before Easter so we decide that Vicky will fly out and join me for the weekend. We have decided to visit the Taroko Gorge on the east side of the island near the small city of Hualien. Read more>

 

Laos is a sparsely populated and hilly country squeezed between Vietnam and Cambodia to the East and Thailand and Myanmar to the West. Many of its 6.5 million people live simple lives in the countryside and villages and modern progress has been hampered by war, a communist government and the natural inclination of the people to be satisfied with what they have got. Read more>

 

A visit to Borneo over Chinese New Year 2016 to explore the caves, rivers and forests of Sarawak. We managed to cover the Mulu and Bako National Parks as well as a few nights in capital Kuching. An excellent, if hot and exhausting, week. Read more>

 

We got back to Bali from our diving trip to Wakatobi on Friday afternoon and rather than go straight back to Singapore Vicky had the great idea of a couple of nights in Ubud. Vicky got to work on Trip Advisor and came up with the Tanggayuda hotel Read more>

 

In 2013 we had to cancel our trip to Wakatobi the day before we were due to travel because Vicky found a tumour in her leg so we were delighted to get to this fabulous Indonesian Dive Resort on a little island off the South Coast of Sulawesi in October 2015. Read more>

 

A family trip to our favourite safari camp on the banks of the Zambezi. This time 11 of us take over the camp and spend a great week tracking wild dogs and lions while avoiding elephants, hippos and crocodiles. Very relaxing apart from the scary bits. Read more>

 

Malaysia has some great wildlife and wilderness. Even though we have been in Singapore for 2 years we have explored very little of our neighbouring country. A trip to Fraser's Hill makes a great weekend of bird watching and walks in some great scenery.Read more>

 

We have been talking with our friends John and Christina for a while about going on a diving trip together. We want to find somewhere for a long weekend and fancied diving with whale sharks. However after a bit of research we realise that most whale shark locations are very touristy Read more>

 

A few days in Tokyo after Vicky gets back from London gives us the chance to try some delicious food (when I am not working) and also do a bit more exploring around Tokyo. I am here for a couple of days catching up with our Japanese businesses and Vicky comes too for a bit of shopping.. Read more>

 

My last experience of Singapore livaboards was not the greatest - the boat was quite comfortable but the dive sites pretty disappointing. This time I opt for a trip to the Anambas Islands - about 10 hours by boat to the East of Singapore. Read more>

 

"What's the point of muck diving?" we asked ourselves when we first heard about it two years ago from some enthusiastic Americans that we met in Melaka. Unlike most other diving in tropical waters you spend most of your time swimming over black silty sea bed rather than pretty reefs. Read more>

 

Another trip to India provides an opportunity to spend a long weekend on safari with our friends Cindy and Guy. Both Cindy and Vicky are African and we have been on safari with them in Africa several times. Now they are living in India and are exploring the wildlife parks there. Read more>

 

It is some time since I have added to the ‘Ross and Vicky travel around the Far East’ series.  Our trips to Raja Ampat and Myanmar deserved separate write ups and Christmas in Switzerland was fun but not news.  However I am writing this looking out over a snowy landscape with volcanic peaks and birch forests which means that we have made it to ski in Japan. Read more>

 

Myanmar is still well known as Burma, an exotic country of teak forests, rivers and temples sandwiched between India and China. After years of isolation under a military junta it is now changing fast. Since 2011when military control was loosened the country has discovered ATMs, mobile phones, affordable cars and a rapidly growing number of tourists. Read more>

 

In October 2014 we had been living in Singapore for over 18 months. Since a visit to the Dive Show early in our stay we really wanted to dive in Raja Ampat, off the coast of North West Papua. Having met one of the owners of the Dewi Nusantara we also wanted do it with them. Read more>

 

Our friends the Craggs told us about Borobudur and it sounded familiar. When we visited Ankhor Wat in 2006 we heard about a huge Buddhist temple in Java and this is it. You can do it in 3 days from Singapore so it seemed a great weekend break. Read more>

 

It's the end of August and friends Fi and Richard are passing through Bangkok on their way back from holiday. I am planning a work trip there and we arrange it so that we overlap. Despite being in Asia for 18 months this is my first trip to the Thai capital. Read more>

 

We were disappointed to miss our dive trip to Sulawesi last year when Vicky had to go into hospital. So with a public holiday coming up at the end of July Vicky researches destinations that we found out about at the Singapore Dive Show last year and comes up with Bunaken island Read more>

 

Vicky is away and I have nothing to do in Singapore for the weekend so I decide to go exploring. Penang is an hour's flight on the North West coast of Malaysia and I am told it is worth a visit. Read more>

 

We have not had a break on our own (apart from work trips and home) since last August so in May we splash out and head for the Six Senses Resort in Ko Samui. One of our favourite hotels, Soniva Fushi, shared the same owner so we were keen to see how they had done in Thailand. Read more>

 

It's 5:50 on the first Friday in April and we are waiting on the platform in Tokyo station for the shinkansen or 'bullet train' to Kyoto. This is the most popular time for Japanese to visit their old capital as I found out when I tried to book a hotel. Read more>

 

Aurangabad is now a fast growing city north east of Mumbai. It is home to VW and other European manufacturers as well as Indian media plcs but has a rich history. A British cantonment during the Raj it was also a centre of power and was briefly the capital of India when Daulatabad or Devagiri Fort took over from Delhi in the 14thC. Read more>