Wednesday, 16 February 2011

"I do" - it must be fit for a royal...

Lewa Downs in Kenya; a Paradise of Royal proportions


Lying just to the north of Africa’s second highest mountain, Mt Kenya, lies Lewa Downs, a paradise of Royal proportions.


Lewa started out as a settler farm in 1924 when the ancestors of the Craig family sought a new life in the colonial outpost of Kenya. In those days it must have been a pretty tough area to farm, and one can imagine the constant battle to keep the livestock safe against marauding lions and stealthy leopards. On the plus side, the altitude would have certainly helped against those pesky tropical diseases, and the beauty of the rolling hills set against the majestic mountain must have gladdened the heart daily.


Today, the Lewa Conservancy covers some 62,000 acres of which 14,000 is national forest and the rest privately owned land. Theis extremely diverse withgrassland interspersed with acacia forests, riverine woodland,gorges and ravines, montane forest and the Lewa swampland.


The history of the conservancy startsthe height of the rhino and elephant poaching days of the mid-1980's when Anna Mertz asked the Craig family to set asideareause as a rhino sanctuary. After a few years, the family decided to proportion more of the land to wildlife and slowly the emphasis changed to what Lewa is today - one of Kenya’s finest wildlife destinations.


To support the conservancy, the original Craig family homestead evolved into the small 18 bed personalised lodge, Lewa Wilderness, offering a high standard of comfort and personal service.



It is still run by Will and Emma Craig. A second tented lodge catering just 28 guests, Lewa Safari Camp, was developed to host tourists in the area near the rhino sanctuary. Between them, the lodges offer a range of game-viewing activities including both day and night game drives by open four-wheel drive vehicles, walks, horse and camel riding, and multi-day walking trails using lightweight mobile camps. And for the more romantic, take to the air ‘Out of Africa’ style in Will Craig’s personal bi-plane.


Today, Lewa is home to some 34 black and 33 white rhino. In addition, it's also home to around 25% of the world population of the rare Grevy's zebra whilst other animals to be seen include,giraffe, all the major predators and a host of antelope species including the swamp-dwelling adapted sitatunga. The birdlife is superb with over 440 species recorded - from the ridges, it is possible to photograph vultures and eagleswithin a few feet. There is also a prehistoric site where Acheulian hand axes can be found scattered on the groundAlthough most of the conservancy is set aside for wildlife,horticulture, stud cattle, andfarming practisesare still carried out. Furniture making (from local acacia woods) and rug weaving businesses create further employment for the local people. If you are interested, a visit to see the working side of the ranch and conservancy can be arranged. There is also Conservation Centre which is worthwhile visiting.


No surprise then that it was whilst staying at Lewa that Prince William popped the question - a paradise fit for a king.


For more details about visiting Kenya for a safari holiday or tour visit www.africaluxuryholidays.co.uk or call Robert Broad Travel on 01543 258631 or email nathan@robertbroadtravel.co.uk

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Lisa visit's Sweden's famous Ice Hotel

Lisa recently visited the world-famous Ice Hotel in Sweden, a destination we have specialised in selling for over 5 years (http://www.icehotels.co.uk/).

Here is Lisa's report from her unforgettable trip to Scandinavia...

Day 1: London Heathrow to Kiruna via Stockholm. I started my trip of a lifetime at Heathrow flying with SAS who offered a good service and checked our baggage in all the way to Kiruna, our final destination. When we arrived, we were transfered from Kiruna airport to the Hotel Artic Eden in Kiruna. The journey only took about 5 minutes and it was great to have a personal welcome after our journey.

This traditional, Sami style, cosy hotel has 36 rooms, including 4 of 'Superior' rooms that have their own jacuzzi and sauna - excellent for special occasions. Many visitors seek out the Northern Lights when visiting this part of the world and here there is also an observation room to allow for sightings should the weather permit.

There is also a main and Thai restaurant, indoor swimming pool and sauna and is a 2 minutes walk from Kiruna village centre. Overall, a great little find and highly recommended.

Day 2: Today we went on the Northern Lights Excursion to the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko. the journey from the Artic Eden to Abisko took around 50 minutes by road followed by a 20 minute ski lift which took us to the top of the mountain. From here there was a lovely log cabin restaurant where traditional Sami Meals are included (Local Fish, Moose and Reindeer). To ensure you get the best sightings there is a guide on look out for the lights and there is a viewing station/platform. The views are out of this world! The whole excursion took around 5 hours and was a really unique experience (this is a new excursion we are now offering our clients).

Day 3 – Today we visited the world-famous Ice Hotel...

On arrival we were given all of our winter clothing including warm suits with gloves and boots. It is an amazing experience to arrive in the middle of knowhere and then be shown round Sweden's world famous Ice Hotel.

During the day, the Ice Hotel is open to the public as a tourist attraction, although you wont come across large crowds, just smaller groups looking around the amazing rooms and features.

There are a number of different accommodations types; the Snow Rooms are quite basic with just beds and have no ice sculptures. The Ice Rooms however do have sculptures and are more spacious whilst the Art Suites are truly amazing! Each are individually designed with excellent sculptures and the Deluxe Room which is used as the Honeymoon Suite is out of this world.

Art Suite, Ice Hotel, Sweden

After 6pm all the day visitors have left and there is a serene quiet about the building. Our hosts advised how to sleep comfortably and safely in the cold accommodation.

A locker is provided for luggage and for clients who have an Art Suite and Deluxe Room booked have private changing lockers as opposed to a locker only (enough room to store luggage and change).

During my stay I also had a look at the Ice Chapel and the Ice Bar, which had a very good atmosphere, with music and people dancing. There is also a bar/lounge area where you can warm up before checking into to your cold accommodation.

(Ice Chapel, Ice Hotel, Sweden)

There are also three warm types of accommodation in the same complex as the Ice hotel; Northern Lights chalet, Nordic chalet and the Kaamos rooms. All are well equipped and yes, the warm the warm accommodation all feature hair dryers (our most commonly asked question!)

Northern Lights Chalet

Whilst at the Ice Hotel we also did a Snowmobile excursion into the wilderness. this was an amazing experience as we were taken to a traditional cabin half way to warm up with hot drinks and a fire. A balaclava is offered for the excursion – take it!

This evening we ate at the Homestead Restaurant, which is about a 15 minutes walk from the Ice Hotel, lovely cosy restaurant with Steaks, Chicken dishes and lasagne on the menu, meals were approx £25 per dish and wine approx £25 a bottle – which seemed to be the average cost for the destination. We enjoyed speaking with fellow travellers who were all so excited to be in such a unique destination.

After your night's sleep on Ice, you are woken in the morning with warm welcoming lingleberry juice. We headed to the Ice Hotel for breakfast, which was just a short walk (various choices available). There is also the option to visit the Sauna to warm up.

Day 4 – Today we went on a Husky Tour. This was great fun and again we were taken to a cabin for hot drinks and a snack to warm up half way. On these stops we heard from the Sami people about some of their local traditions which was very interesting indeed.

This evening we stayed at the Camp Ripan – Kiruna, which is about a 10 minute walk from Kiruna. Around Kiruna, the landscape is very dramatic, in particular around Camp Ripan which is located in the forest. There are 90 traditional Scandinavian Cabins and there are Igloos available to sleep in. We offer these accommodations as a cheaper alternative to staying in the warm accommodation at the Ice Hotel. They also have self catering facilities and many of the excursions can be taken from here.

(Camp Ripan, Kiruna, Sweden)

At Camp Ripan they have a new Northern Light Excursion based at their log cabin restaurant, which is lovely and have skylights to view the Northern Lights and is surrounded by forest. There is a Sami Lady who tells you about the Sami Culture and the 5 course meal is made by the hotels chef and has a Northern Light theme, again this was a great excursion and a new option available to our clients.

Day 5 - Alas, it was time to leave for ther UK. It was sad to say goodbye, but the memories of the Northern Lights, the Husky's and sleeping on ice will stay with me forever. This is most definitely a trip of a lifetime and with the new options that we can now offer (alternative accommodation and new excursions). I would also suggest a return visit for those who have been before.

For more details and example packages that we offer to the Ice hotel in Sweden please visit our website: www.icehotels.co.uk.

To view all the photographs from Lisa's visit to the Ice hotel in Sweden please visit our Flickr page by clicking here

For a personalised quotation call Lisa or any of our Travel Experts on 01543 258631 or email lisa@robertbroadtravel.co.uk