Serious ‘chillaxing’

Serious ‘chillaxing’

Serious ‘chillaxing’

 

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, March 31, a straw poll of the mums in the Tribes office revealed (not surprisingly!) that the chance to relax would be a most welcome gift. This then set us off onto a conversation about some particularly relaxing holidays or holiday experiences, with spa treatments topping the list  – we’re talking serious ‘chillaxing’!

‘In India they quite rightly take relaxation very seriously.’

Images © Ananda in the Himalayas

In India they quite rightly take relaxation very seriously, and just reading about the Ananda Wellbeing Holidays had us feeling tensions diminish.  Ananda in the Himalayas is a splendid palace set in 100 acres of grounds high above the Ganges River Valley. It’s a true sanctuary where you feel miles – and years – away from the stresses of 21st century life. There’s a range of programmes to choose from, including Yogic detox, stress management, Ayurvedic rejuvenation and even an active programme for those who want to combine spa therapies with circuit training, white water rafting etc.  Expert therapists, doctors and chefs collaborate to provide an immersive experience – all in a beautiful setting.

Another wonderfully relaxing location in India is SwaSwara, which overlooks Om Beach. This sanctuary is focused on refreshing you mind, body and soul, with three programmes that range from five to 21 nights in length.

A river cruise is, by its very nature, usually pretty relaxing, but an Irrawaddy River cruise in Burma on board the elegant Sanctuary Ananda is another thing entirely in the relaxation stakes. Seeing the sun rise over the temples of Bagan is a glorious way to start a day, and, while the trip has a fabulous range of activities to make the most of your being in this fascinating part of the world – including ox cart and rickshaw rides, pagoda and temple visits and demonstrations by local artisans – life on board the Sanctuary Ananda is designed to make everyday cares float away. Styled rather like a 1930s steamer, this luxurious craft has its own spa offering a range of theraputic and beauty treatments,  plus a plunge pool and a sundeck, which is a perfect spot for yoga.

‘Life on board the Sanctuary Ananda is designed to make everyday cares float away.’

Image ©Sanctuary Ananda

‘Spa treatments with organic, locally-grown Andean plants and herbs..’

Images © Sol y Luna

A number of the hotels in Peru’s Sacred Valley have spas, making them the perfect place to relax after exploring the stunning landscape and remarkable Inca archaeological sites. The charming Sol y Luna, for example, sits in a wonderfully relaxing location in the Sacred Valley, set in 25 acres of flower and bird-filled gardens. The Yacu Wasi spa of this Relais & Chateaux property offers daily yoga sessions as well as spa treatments with organic, locally-grown Andean plants and herbs. Tribes’ travel experts would be only too pleased to help you plan an itinerary that includes not only Sol y Luna but also the Belmond Andean Explorer – this luxury sleeper train has its own spa car!

Nyara Springs in Costa Rica (pictured above and in the image at the top of this page) is in a fabulous setting in the Arenal Volcano National Park. The mere fact that each room has its own private plunge pool fed by natural mineral hot springs is sufficient to initiate the relaxation process. Add a beautiful spa perched above the rainforest, with open-air treatment pavilions and a stunning yoga pavilion, and you’re likely to find it very hard to leave!

Having a spa treatment while on safari is a great treat, and there are some excellent spas to be found amongst the safari lodges of South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia, including The Elephant Camp (Zimbabwe) , Saruni Samburu (Kenya), Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve (South Africa), and Lemala Kuria Hills in Tanzania. This overlooks the plains of the Northern Serengeti. The Melengali Spa at Lemala Kuria Hills is a very relaxing place for a muscle-soothing massage – and the views from the bathrooms of the tented suites are fabulous too!

Or how about a classic Indian Ocean getaway? The White Sands Villa and Spa boutique hotel on the east coast of Zanzibar offers barefoot luxury and a beautifully-located spa in lush, colourful gardens a stone’s throw from the beach

Want to get even further away in search of peace and quiet? There’s no spa or massage service at Fanjove Private Island (pictured above) but, with just six guest bandas and requiring a flight in a small plane then a boat trip to get to it, this 1km x 300m piece of castaway seclusion in the Indian Ocean is hugely relaxing.

Or, if you want to get away from – pretty much – it all but still have a spa to hand, may we suggest Easter Island? A five hour flight from the Chilean mainland, Rapa Nui is an intriguing place to visit, and the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa is a fantastic place to stay on the island. Spa Manavi overlooks the Pacific Ocean – fabulous!

‘Chillaxing’ at Lemala Kuria Hills in Tanzania…

A week in Bhutan

A week in Bhutan

A memorable week in Bhutan

Paul Cook

Wendy and Anne Britt travelled with us to Bhutan in October, and told us “We fell in love with Bhutan, the nature, the people, the ethos, everything.” Bhutan is a unique place unlike anywhere else on the planet. Where else in the world is a country’s prosperity measured by its Gross National Happiness?

“We fell in love with Bhutan, the nature, the people, the ethos, everything.”

WENDY SCOTT

October is the ideal time to visit Bhutan. The monsoon rains have ended and the mountains are clear. Paro is the only international airport in Bhutan and the gateway to the country, with flight from Delhi, Nepal and Thailand. The trip Wendy and Anne Brit visited the highlights of Western Bhutan, starting with the capital, Thimpu, not far from Paro and then continuing over the mountain to Punakaha where they rafted along the Po Chhu and Mo Chhu river and then returned to Paro for what is the highlight of many visits to Bhutan, the hike to Tigers Nest. This ancient Buddhist monastery is perched on the side of a cliff only reached by a five hour hike. They gave us some great feedback from their trip and sent us some amazing photos.

“We loved the mountains, the space, the high tree line, the birds, the flowers, the tranquility, the attitude, the temples and monasteries, the people, feeling safe, never being quite sure what tomorrow would bring. The trek up to the Tiger’s Nest was tough, but with spectacular rewards. The white water rafting was a first, and loved it. Sharing temple moments with our guide and driver was very special, as was having the nuns in the nunnery way up in the mountains chant just for us with wishes for a long life. The visit to the farm with dancing, archery, cooking and lunch was a tiny insight into ordinary life in Bhutan. (We realise the dancing etc was not part of ordinary life, but everyone was so friendly and it was fun) Sitting in the early morning at Dhumra Farm Resort overlooking the river and the Dzong shrouded in mist way below us, with a scarlet minivet preening itself right in front of us – a memorable moment.”

WENDY SCOTT

“Given the way the system works in Bhutan, we know that money was being ploughed back into the system in many ways. It was good to realise that monasteries and nunneries, as well as children’s education, would all benefit in some way from our trip.”

WENDY SCOTT

Not just a load of hot air

Not just a load of hot air

Not just a load of hot air

ALEX NEAVES

When you think about a holiday to India, what are the first thoughts that come to mind? The Taj Mahal? The hustle of the Delhi markets? Tigers? Well, we were no different. So when the opportunity to do a hot air balloon ride over the Indian countryside came up, we thought this would be an alternative excursion to add to our trip , little did we know it would turn out to be one of the most incredible and outstanding experiences.

“why are we up so early on our holiday.”

ALEX NEAVES

It was an early morning as we were picked up from our haveli in Jaipur at 04:15am. After the initial thoughts of “why are we up so early on our holiday” we soon realised that we were in for a very unique experience. We had arrived on the outskirts of the city and the sun was just rising. Our transport for the day was already fully inflated and ready to go. There was just enough time for a swift safety brief and a cup of tea (the essentials!) and we were ready to board our flight.

I had never done a hot air balloon ride before and am not that comfortable with heights, however our pilot for the day made everyone feel extremely relaxed and even made time for jokes on lift off. It was a this point that I hoped not everyone in the basket had estimated their weight on the waver form as I had done, and that they all had consumed a moderate breakfast that morning! In a matter of seconds we were off and away!

I guess the first thing I noticed, and what separates balloon flight from most other modes of transport, was the lack of engine noise. There was silence. We could only hear the sound of cattle below and the chatter of local villagers and they made their way to work or school that day. So quiet in fact that we often startled farmers who were busy working on their fields only to look up and see 16 western tourists in a hot air balloon floating about their heads! For some reason, both parties found this highly amusing.

The other surprise (amongst many) was the height in which we travelled at. I had preconceptions of being high above the clouds and needing binoculars to pick out sites and landmarks. This was not the case at all! As our pilot explained, the balloons are controlled very easily and we spent most of the trip at approximately 10 meters from the ground. This allowed us to brush across the tops of tall trees and even pass sweets to the village children below, an experience I will never forget.

“This amazing experience is always first on the tip of my tongue when describing our time in India.”

ALEX NEAVES

Although I mentioned the balloons are easily controlled, they do mostly rely on wind direction which is why the landing site can often be unplanned and improvised. Today would be no different. As we were all just getting used to our new surroundings the pilot announced that we would be landing in an open field nearby. The touchdown was smooth and was welcomed with a huge applause from 16 highly satisfied passengers.

It was at this point we realised we would not be alone for long, after all it’s not every day that a 30 foot, multi-coloured hot air balloon lands in your back garden and we were soon the talk of the……village. Lots of locals came out to greet us and we were humbled at how welcoming and friendly they all were. We had just enough time to take some photos and have a brief conversation with our new friends before we were picked up by our chasing transfer vehicle.

I had thought this balloon trip would be a story I would tell friends after I had explained the Taj Mahal visit, the tiger sightings and the bike ride through Old Delhi, instead this amazing experience is always first on the tip of my tongue when describing our time in India.

With short grass

With short grass

With short grass

18

MAY, 2017

India
Pench National Park
trees

I was in Pench National Park in central India a few weeks ago, looking for tigers and wild dogs. It was hot, up in the 40s, and the forests were shedding their leaves. It stuck me how strange it is that our trees at home shed their leaves in the winter to avoid damage from frost, snow and high winds; but in this punishing heat of India the trees shed their leaves to stop themselves from dehydrating. There must be a changeover point somewhere on earth where the trees can’t decide whether to shed in winter or summer.

It’s quite a varied forest in Pench with no single tree species predominant. Sure, there were teak trees but I wouldn’t really call it a teak forest for all the other varieties like Indian blackberry trees, crocodile-bark trees and even the occasional white barked ghost tree. My guide was extremely knowledgeable so I thought I’d find out what you call this type of forest. I love the Indians’ tone of phrase; not because it is wrong but because it is so different to ours.

“Well…” he said, pondering for a moment. Then he came up with his answer. “Miscellaneous” he proudly announced. Then he qualified his answer with absolute authority. ”Yes, it is most definitely main category dry deciduous; sub category miscellaneous.” Then, almost as an afterthought, but to give me the full and proper definition, he added “with short grass.”

Wilddog-Pench

Wild Dog – Pench National Park

Photograph by Guy Marks

“So there we have it, the forest in Pench is dry deciduous, sub-category miscellaneous…with short grass.”

If you’d like to follow in Guy’s footsteps and see this special forest for yourself, we recommend a stay at Jamtara, a gorgeous tented camp set in a forest glade, just 2 minutes’ drive from the entrance to Pench National Park. The en-suite guest tents are spacious and decorated with wildlife paintings and colourful textiles. Between trips into the park you can unwind in the open-sided lounge, swim in the rim-flow pool and enjoy delicious food. To make your stay extra special you can opt to spend a night at a four-poster star bed set on stilts, where you can take in the sights and sounds of nature as afternoon melts into evening and then night. Magical.

Jackal-and-pups
Langur-in-banyan
Langur-and-baby
Mottled-wood-owl
Jamtara sky bed

Jamtara Wilderness Lodge

Jamtara consists of 12 luxury tents in a secluded glade near Pench National Park. The decor of the lodge harks back to the era of colonial safaris, with polished hardwood floors and hand-crafted wooden furniture. The tents are spacious, light and airy, with an en-suite bathroom. All have private verandas facing the riverbed where you’ll see a variety of wildlife.

This is the perfect place to unwind between safaris. The lodge has an outdoor pool and sundeck, too. There’s a large central, open-sided room with dining and sitting areas, though many meals are served outside. Sundowners are usually enjoyed around the firepit by the large banyan tree.

Jamtara-tent
Jamtara-pool
Jamtara-breakfast

The Jungle Book – where it happened

The Jungle Book – where it happened

Jungle

If you haven’t yet you surely soon will fall under the spell of this charming tale with the new Disney film recently released. With an all-star cast and clever CGI effects, it promises to be a treat, and is sure to increase interest in its Indian setting.

Penned by Rudyard Kipling, the original books – there were two written in 1894 and 1895 respectively, were in fact collections of short stories or fables, of which Mowgli’s is the best known. Charting the adventures of the ‘man cub’ these tales introduce various jungle animals he encounters, friend and foe, who have now become so familiar. Baloo, Bagheera and Ka, and of course villainous Shere Khan, have long been favourites with children and adults alike and are due a new boost of popularity with the film’s release.

The setting is central India. This region is blessed with some of the country’s finest national parks where you can have your very own jungle book experience. Here’s a brief guide:

Kanha is widely considered to the inspiration for The Jungle Book, so you’ll be in Kipling country here! Tigers* are the main draw, so you should get to see Shere Khan, as you explore the dense sal forests by jeep. There are many other mammals and a great number of birds, so you’re assured of an excellent all-round wildlife experience.

tigers

Bandhavgarh was once a Maharajah’s private hunting reserve, but now the wildlife is protected and the only shooting permitted is photography. The landscape here is quite rugged, with steep valleys and forested hills overlooked by the ancient Bandhavgarh Fort. You probably won’t see King Louie amongst the ruins, but there are plenty of monkeys in the forest and a great chance of spotting tigers here as well.

monkey

Pench is a smaller park named after the river that flows through it which attracts large herds of spotted deer. The landscape here is more open than in Kanha and Bandhavgarh. This won’t stop you seeing plenty of tigers, for which Pench is famous, but in the grasslands around the park you can also encounter the Indian wolves who raised Mowgli in Kipling’s tale.

spotted-deer

Satpura is a large and rugged park which sees fewer visitors than Kanha and Bandhavharh, but offers a great mixture of different wildlife activities. You can explore the park by jeep, canoe, on foot or even on the back of an elephant. Tigers are not as common here, but it is a great place to observe the sloth bears who served as an inspiration for The Jungle Book’s Baloo, plus blackbuck with their amazing spiralled horns, and birds.

heron

Tadoba is less developed than the parks further north, but is home to one of the highest concentration of tigers in India. The terrain is dominated by steep hills and narrow gorges blanketed with thick forest. Tadoba Lake provides a permanent source of water and is a great place to see both crocodiles and water birds, and this is another park where you may catch sight of Baloo.
tiger-bear

So next time you want to relive the thrills of The Jungle Book you just need to ask and we’ll make it happen for real.

 

Tigers in the News (not just for Sher Khan)

Tigers in the News (not just for Sher Khan)

Tigers

It’s always heartening to report good news. On 11th April it was announced that the number of wild tigers in the world has risen by 22% since 2010, to a total of 3,890. India has been at the forefront with a rise of over 500 tigers over the same time bringing the resident population to an impressive 2,226. Tiger numbers in Nepal, Bhutan and Russia have all increased too, while those in Burma, ranked at 85 in 2010, have yet to be reported, so the global total could now be over the 4,000 mark.

This is especially encouraging as it follows decades of declining numbers. Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International stated ‘This offers us great hope and shows that we can save species and their habitats when governments, local communities and conservationists work together’.    

There’s no place for complacency however, as the tiger’s overall status, determined by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) remains ‘endangered’. At the recent 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in Delhi, where the population announcement was made, a consensus was reached to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022. This project is named ‘T x 2’. In order to achieve this, tiger experts, scientists, politicians and managers all need to co-operate on issues such as landscape conservation and habitation management, the re-introduction of tigers to certain areas, improving methods of monitoring and continuing anti-poaching policies.

It’s good to know that the biggest of the big cats is on the increase and that so many people across a range of disciplines are dedicated to ensuring the protection and advancement of this most magnificent of animals.

Tiger-portraits

If you want to see tigers in the wild we recommend central India’s reserves. National parks such as Bandhavgarh and Kanha, two of our favourites, offer great viewing chances and have fewer visitors than the better known Ranthambore, meaning they’re less crowded. For more information on tiger spotting in India, or call or email us and we’ll be very happy to help you.

Tiger-eyes