31 July 2013

Self Catering Holidays

When considering your family holiday the question is not just where you want to go but also your choice of accommodation. Whether you would prefer a hotel with all the facilities and meals included or whether the self catering option would suit you and your family best. The recession has undoubtedly boosted the self catering holiday industry. Research by responsibletravel.com has revealed that there has been a general annual increase of 54% in self catering holidays and an 81% year on year increase in the numbers of people enquiring about self catering eco accommodation for groups of up to 10 people. This indicates that people may not be willing to forgo their annual holiday but they are definitely working out more cost effective ways of taking their holiday.

Enjoy the support of family and friends

Joining up and going on a self catering holiday with family or friends is not only cheaper but has many other benefits. If you have young children they will have others to play with and you will have a bit more freedom as they happily play with their cousins and friends. You will also have a built in babysitting service, family and friends can take turns at looking after the kids whilst each has an evening out alone so it can work out perfectly. Then there is the opportunity to save money on food and sharing the cooking and cleaning up not to mention being able to cater for the fussier eaters in your party! Providing you all get along, it can be a wonderful way for you and your children to bond with your family members and friends under the relaxed situation of a holiday.

Privacy + Flexibility = Family Harmony!

Taking a family to a hotel can offer its challenges. You may have to take several rooms to house all of your family. You might have to squeeze into a family room, the cramped conditions and lack of privacy could put extra strain on the family or you could suffer the expense of a suite if you want to have a bit more space but that could be out of the reach of most families’ budget. The appeal of the self catering family holiday offers greater flexibility to larger groups. Where there are children of differing ages, a holiday cottage or house offers more privacy and space for teenagers to get away from their annoying, younger siblings and happy children on holiday leads to an easier time for everyone! Also you can come and go as you please. You can get up late and not worry about missing the time for breakfast, you can wonder around in your robe all day not worrying who will see you!

Experience how the other half live

The other exciting thing about the self catering holiday option is the variety of experiences you can have. It allows you to choose to live for a week or two in a totally different environment. If you currently live in a rural location then maybe you’d like to experience a high class serviced apartment in Cambridge, London or even New York. Or if you currently live in an urban environment you may want to find peace and quiet in a traditional country cottage or what about a week on a farm for a total change of lifestyle!


Then there are the unusual holiday homes for hire such as converted windmills and lighthouses! The possibilities are endless as are the experiences to be had by living in a totally different life every time you go away!

Written by Karen James, business owner, corporate traveller and prolific writer for Citystay UK and other business sectors

Exploring the Beautiful Pugu Hills Forest Reserve, Dar es Salaam

There’s a lot to be said for a city break, particularly when that city is as exciting, exotic and as multicultural as Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. From humble origins as a nineteenth century fishing village, Dar es Salaam (the name means ‘haven of peace’ has evolved into an exhilarating African metropolis where ancient and modern cultures meet, and historic buildings stand cheek-by-jowl with cutting-edge architecture. 



Dar is a city where one moment you can be enjoying the air-conditioned opulence and mod-cons of a luxury hotel such as the Regency Dar es Salaam Kilimanjaro, and the next sweating it out among the locals and enjoying haggling with traders for second-hand bargains at the city’s Ilala Market.
 
Dar es Salaam offers enough landmarks, attractions, museums, galleries, shopping opportunities and other entertainments to fill several days of itineraries, but when it’s time to retreat from the buzz of the city and experience some of Tanzania’s natural beauty and tranquillity, there’s nowhere better to start than in the nearby Pugu Hills Forest Reserve.

Pugu Hills: some of the world’s oldest forests
It’s only necessary to travel around fifteen kilometres southwest of Dar el Salaam before the suburban outskirts of the city give way to a rolling landscape of tree-clad hills. These are the Pugu Hills, and the evergreen forests which cover them and the neighbouring Kazimzumbwi Forest Reserve and Selous Game Reserve are believed to be among the most ancient forests on earth.



Whilst the immense natural beauty of this coastal forest reserve is a major draw for visitors, it is also offers a diversity of fascinating environments to explore. The Pugu Hills are a rich source of kaolin, a fine clay mineral which is one of the key components of porcelain. The reserve contains what was formerly one of the world’s largest kaolin mining operations. Although this activity has ceased, the mining compound features an abandoned railway tunnel and a number of man-made caves which provide a habitat for large colonies of fox bats. These present a spectacular sight at dusk when they emerge en masse to feed.

The Pugu Hills Forest Reserve is also the source of the Msimbazi River which flows down to Dar es Salaam and onward into the Indian Ocean and the combination of river and forest habitat ensures that the reserve is rich in wildlife.

The diverse flora and fauna of the Pugu Hills Forest Reserve

The Pugu Hills Forest Reserve is undoubtedly an unmissable destination for nature lovers, bird watchers and wildlife spotters. The forest contains no fewer than fifty indigenous species of trees and shrubs including the fruit-bearing Natal Wild Pear, Custard Apple, Mangosteen and Black Plum trees, and the beautiful yellow-flowered Birdseye bush and the sweetly-scented Uvaria kirkii.

Whilst the reserve was once home to a population of lions none has been spotted in recent years. However, big cats including cheetahs, leopards and civets still inhabit the par along with a wealth of other exotic animals including elephants, giraffes, jackals, hippos, warthogs and colobus monkeys along with smaller mammals such as mongooses and elephant shrews.
Bird watchers will be in their element; among eighty species of birds regularly observed within the forest, the vigilant spotter might see the Thick-billed Cuckoo, Speckle-throated Woodpecker, Green Tinker bird, Red-tailed Ant Thrush, Kretchmer’s Longbill, the Little Yellow Flycatcher and the Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird.

Hiking in the Pugu Hills Forest Reserve

Enjoyment of all of this outstanding scenery and wildlife is made possible by the reserve’s well-established hiking trails which offer walks of vary duration to suit all abilities. As its name suggest, the View Point Hike climbs steadily through the forest to reveal outstanding panoramic vistas of Dar es Salaam and the Indian Ocean. Other popular hikes take in popular sites within the reserve such as a natural reservoir and a cave that is considered sacred by the local Wazaramo people.

29 July 2013

Guide to Getting Around London

Ways to Travel around London


Millions of holiday makers are attracted to the bustling UK capital each year to sample a blend of British history and modern attractions. Whilst a lot of walking is generally expected within a large city, there are plenty of alternative ways to get around London and see the city and its outskirts from new and exciting angles. Here are seven travel experiences that London has to offer.

The London Underground

Although this system is all too familiar to Londoners, visitors from overseas and other parts of the country continue to marvel at the world’s first underground network. Since 1863, the underground or tube has been a crucial part of the city’s transport network. Its 245 stations now ships more than 3 million travellers and commuters to all parts of London every day. Ticket prices are determined by how far you wish to travel outside of Greater London, therefore if you plan to stay within the Greater London area, purchase a zone 1-2 ticket for a cheaper price.



Hybrid buses

Eco-conscious travellers will be pleased to know that London introduced a new fleet of hybrid red buses in order to create a quieter and cleaner city. By 2016, more than 1000 hybrid buses are expected to hit the streets. London has one of the largest bus networks in the world with 19,500 bus stops within the capital with six travel information centres around London which provide live travel information and maps. 

The London Helicopter Tour

View the city from more than one thousand feet up in the air on the London helicopter tour. From its starting points in either Battersea or Red Hill, the route follows the River Thames from the west to the east. Along the way you can see London’s top attractions including Canary Wharf, London Bridge, Trafalgar Square and The Shard – the tallest building in Western Europe. 

Bike

If you prefer your feet to be firmly on the ground, take to the streets by bike to really soak in the energy of the city. Barclays bikes (better known as ‘Boris bikes’) can be found at 570 stations around the city. Since they were first introduced back in 2010, the bikes have become so popular that other cities like York in the North are now planning to roll out a similar scheme within the next few years. Prices and a guide to the system can be found online.


Coach tours

Why not sit back and relax on a coach and let a driver do all the hard work for you? Travelling by coach is a popular alternative for those travelling on a budget. The tours are particularly useful if you wish to travel to places outside of the city such as Kempton Park, Kent and Brighton - book in advance to save money. 

River cruise

The RiverThames has been acting as a transport system for hundreds of years. Today, visitors can take to the water via a river cruise to peacefully amble along and see the sites. Lunch and dinner cruises are also available alongside family deals and other discounts.

London taxi cabs

The London black cab is now synonymous with the city. Although many traditional taxi cabs (also known as Hackney carriages) are now decorated with advertisements and designs, they still retain their classic shape. Drivers usually expect a tip of around 10% and fares do alter depending on traffic and times.

22 July 2013

Tips For Visiting Langkawi, Malaysia


Escape to a fantastic chain of 99 tropical islands, where you can relax and rejuvenate with the soft white sand between your toes.



A romantic tropical hotspot, Lankawi is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Malaysia. A group of 99 islands drifting off the coast of Malaysia in the Andaman Sea, it is accessible by boat from Georgetown, Kuala Kedah, and Kuala Perlis. It’s an ideal place to unwind in peace and enjoy the unique Malaysian culture.

Palau Langkawi: The Main Island

This is the largest island in the group, and the only one with any real settlement. This stunning tropical paradise has long sandy beaches fringed with swaying palm trees, lush green jungles, and miles and miles of rice paddy fields. Many Malaysians escape here to this quiet retreat for their holidays, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a tranquil place with a slow rhythm of its own and no shortage of natural beauty.
Langkawi has been declared a duty-free zone since the 1980s, which has drawn even more tourists to its shores looking for great bargains on alcohol and other luxuries. Many tourist facilities have sprung up since then, such as a marina at Telaga Harbour Park and a few high end luxury resorts tucked into isolated coves around the islands.

Natural Beauty and Thriving Culture

While exploring the islands of Langkawi, there will be moments where you will feel like you have stepped back in time. Away from the major tourist areas, Langkawi is a rugged and rural Malay island where you will see life being lived as it was many hundreds of years ago. Small villages with simple architecture glean their food from traditional ride paddies, where you might spot a water buffalo in the morning mist.
However, although Langkawi has a tranquil and timeless simplicity, the islands also look towards the innovation of the future. The main island of Palau Langkawi is host to many major cultural events throughout the year, such as the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition. There is also the Langkawi International Festival of the Arts which brings fascinating pieces together by artists from around the world.

Tips for Visiting Langkawi

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when exploring these beautiful islands:
•    The beaches will be less crowded if you avoid the local school holidays. These are in March, May, and August and from November to December. This is when the islands will be at their busiest.
•    Mosquito repellent is recommended for visiting Langkawi.
•    Langkawi is very warm and humid, so wear lightweight cotton clothing. Swimming suits are acceptable, but sunbathing or swimming topless is not. When you are visiting places of worship, always dress appropriately by covering your arms and legs.
•    One of the cheapest ways to get around the island is to rent a bicycle or a car. They are available to rent at the beach resorts.

Enjoy unwinding on the tranquil paradise islands of Langkawi!