Travel & Technology - By Joy McGinnis

Technology and the travel industry have a love-hate relationship. 

Our degree of connectivity with our preferred suppliers and quick and easy answers to specific needs and requirements is great, however it can backlash when clients use the Internet as a tool to then take our suggestions and go to non-service websites to save a few dollars.

Joy McGinnis is a Travel Designer with Travel Time Inc.  To read the rest of her article, please click here or on the picture. 

Our South Pacific Adventure

After four days visiting friends in Brisbane and three weeks touring four islands in Indonesia, Ally and I are now back safe and sound in Mandurah, West Australia.

In Indonesia, we started on the island of Borneo.  Borneo is a very big island with three countries sharing its landmass - Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.  The main purpose for us to visit Borneo (and, in all reality, the main reason we went to Indonesia in the first place) was to visit with the orangutans.  Over 3 1/2 days, we had "close encounters" with both wild and semi-wild orangutans in the national park (Tanjung Puting) at Camp Leakey and several other wildlife preserves.  Observing these creatures up close was fascinating to say the least. 

Since humans share 97% of our DNA with orangutans, to say that they are "almost human" is a vast understatement.  On one occasion, one of the females stole a rain jacket from a tourist and was up the tree actually putting it on.  She has clearly done this before and, according to the guide, not the first time she has "worn" human clothes.  This same prankster the next day stole a tourist's back pack and took it up a tree.  She then casually and methodically went through the contents piece by piece, inspecting everything and throwing away anything she didn't like.  The passport was duly ripped into pieces and the cell phone she liked so much she decided to keep it.  Pretty funny to watch when it's not your stuff.

To see how caring and loving the mothers are with their babies, to see how the dominant males truly are "masters of their domain", to see all of them swing through the trees with almost no effort - it was all very magical and spell-binding.  Of course Alyson got close to 1,000 photos just of the orangutans, the majority of which are amazing with some of them absolutely breath taking.

While in the national park, we lived on a small "houseboat".  Google "klotok house boat borneo" and you'll see what I mean.  Living, eating and sleeping on deck with the jungle all around was both primitive and romantic at the same time.  Of course no A/C, only limited running water, a toilet you flush into the river with a small bucket and a shower that takes brown/black water straight from the river.  But the crew (captain and mate) were first rate, the cook was friendly and very talented, and our guide was knowledgeable and informative.

Then we proceeded to the island of Java, the main island of Indonesia with approximately 100 million people (about half the country's total population) and perhaps twice the size of Vancouver Island.  There we saw incredible Hindu and Buddhist temples, thick jungle and rain forests, rice paddies built into terraces high into the mountains, and lots and lots of traffic.

One hilarious thing that happened a number of times on both Borneo and Java was when local Indonesian tourists wanted to take our picture - sometimes with them as well and sometimes just Ally and me.  I guess in some places they don't see many six foot three white guys or blonde women so they have to get pictures to show their friends back home.  We tried to charge them $10 a shot but it didn't work!

Then on to Sumba Island where we stayed at a small resort (only 33 villas on a 2 1/2 kilometer private beach).  Rustic charm and luxurious amenities with service that is second to none.

Our final stop was on the island of Bali.  Yes, all the bad things you have heard about Bali are all true - there is too much traffic, too many MacDonalds, too many KFC's, too many cheap hotels and too many drunk Australian tourists.  But, fortunately, all of that nonsense is concentrated in the southern part right around the airport and the main city of Denpasar.  Venture 30-60 minutes away and you find the charming side of Bali - countless temples, tons of artistic galleries and shops, beautiful volcanoes and countryside, lovely spas, hotels and restaurants.  We didn't venture all the way to the north coast but we were told that that part of the island is sleepy, quiet and peaceful.  Quite the opposite of what you hear on the news.

Now we're back in Australia for the next two months.  The weather has been unseasonably cool and rainy for many months now but we hope that's about to change.  We spent the afternoon today at the beach but, even though it's Friday, is was quite deserted.  I guess 32C and breezy is not enough to get true Aussies out to the beach.  But, for a couple of Canadian snow-dodgers, the day was quite lovely (even if the water is a bit chilly).

We're looking forward to Christmas in a hot climate, BBQs on the deck, and long walks and bike rides along the beach.  

Lloyd and Ally - Kelowna

Travel Changes You - by Joy McGinnis

I’ve written about my own wanderlust, the restlessness that creeps in along the edges of my every-day life, drifting into my daydreams and toying with my focus. 

I feel more alive while travelling, more connected to the present. I live in the moment.

A recent university study compared students who studied abroad against a group who had not. The survey showed that students with travel history scored higher in intercultural learning skills and had a higher appreciation and understanding for different cultural perspectives and interactions. 

Joy McGinnis is a Travel Designer with Travel Time Inc.  To read the rest of her article, please click here or on the picture. 

Luxurious Family Fun in Jamaica

by Michele Peterson

As I float with the current, following a silver fish above a sea grass bed in Montego Bay Marine Park, I spot my 11‐year‐old grandson making a hand signal that unmistakably screams stop. I pop my head out of the water to find out more.    “That’s a great barracuda,” he says, taking the snorkel from his mouth. “Stay away…it might mistake you for prey.”  

This is untamed Jamaica where a vast range of sea creatures – from plump yellow starfish to schools of blue angelfish – are just a flipper kick away.   With so many Caribbean beaches to choose from, it’s easy to find family‐friendly fun. But when planning our family vacation, I was looking for more than just fun in the sun. I was hoping to find a still‐wild spot where we could delve deep into nature but not sacrifice luxury.   

I decided on Sunscape Cove Montego Bay, an all‐inclusive resort that’s been earning well‐ deserved buzz for the refurbishment of a property set directly on the marine park. Newly launched under the AMResorts brand, a collection of luxury all‐inclusive resorts in Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Curacao, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, it offers premium accommodation as well as proximity to white sand beaches, coral reefs and mangroves.    The next morning, we don’t waste any time getting out to explore the peninsula. Guests at Sunscape Cove enjoy full access to facilities at neighbouring Sunscape Splash Montego Bay with its pirate‐themed waterpark and four outdoor swimming pools, non‐motorized water sports and Explorers Club for kids. Just offshore the sea flashes with so many striped sergeant major fish it feels as though we have plunged into a washing machine full of black and yellow swim suits.   

The next day, Jamaica’s lush rainforest lures us inland. Our destination is the Blue Hole, a natural plunge pool above Ocho Rios that’s less well known than Dunn’s River Falls and sees fewer crowds.      

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We spend a blissful afternoon exploring the Blue Hole’s teardrop‐shaped waters.  Accompanied by a young guide who points out prime spots, we fling ourselves into a warm turquoise pool and explore dark underwater caves. An easy trail further into the rainforest leads to a multi‐tiered waterfall set among ferns, where it is possible to swing on a vine rope over the cascades.  

We wrap up our Jamaican adventure where it began, by snorkelling Montego Bay National Marine Park. As we float in the clear waters, I review my slideshow of memories — from barracuda to swimming holes — and realize that this open‐air classroom has served up a few life lessons along with its experiences. Most notably, avoid long silver fish with razor sharp teeth.  

New Zealand Adventure

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Our clients, Glen and Seonaid spent some time in Auckland and Queensland and toured Hobbiton in New Zealand.  They were kind enough to provide Travel Time with some thoughts.   Enjoy! 

Auckland:

The hotel was great! A super location close to restaurants and shopping. For the record Auckland is long and has poor infrastructure for transportation and there is one main road running the length of it. Everyone has to use it to get into the city and out so our driver said you always give yourself an extra hour at least to get anywhere! Just a little heads-up for any other clients intending to drive!

Our driver was great though not a big fan of Tolkien (He never even read the books???) but he was very informative about New Zealand and the drive was like a little tour in and of itself. He gave information when it was interesting and answered any questions we had but was not over the top talkative (Glen loved that).

Our private tour guide in Hobbiton was Sunny and he lived up to his name he was lovely! Private is definitely the way to go -  each group gets their allotted time in each section for the tour talk and pictures and they do not like it when people wander away from their own group and get in the way of another tour (i.e. taking pics when it is not your turn) so with a private tour you get great info and lots of photo time (you can imagine if you are in a group of 25 how you might be pressed for time).

Another lady who had a larger tour commented “How did Sunny get a private tour when he was so new to working there?” She was grumpy so I am glad we got Sunny! As a huge devotee of J.R.R Tolkien it was bucket list stuff for me, I almost cried in the gift shop before the tour even began! Sunny was constantly quizzing us on trivia; super geek-fun for me and I think Glen enjoyed the spectacle and I quote “it was cool!”

Queenstown:

Sofitel was excellent and we had a great time. It was a good idea to have a car and we used it lots on lovely drives and to take us to bungee jumping spots. We also took the Gondola this time and it was worth the price of the ticket! Note to any clients going who are mountain bikers you can take a bike up and ride down! It is a pretty hard-core ride so experienced cyclists only but I saw cyclists going up and down more than once so there must be a good deal if you are biking it. There are packages that include dinner (or lunch) in a nice restaurant and it is a pretty extensive buffet but the views are unreal and I bet dinner (if buffets are your thing) would be beautiful. We got all the weather from +30 to barely 12 all with in 5 days! Lots of fun :)

It was a dream come true to see Hobbiton and to get to jump everything in Queenstown! 

Seonaid

Athens to Istanbul

By Lorilee Larsen, Travel Designer

I've just returned from a wonderful trip to Greece and Turkey where I sailed from Athens to Istanbul aboard Windstar Cruises.  I also spent a few days in Athens and Istanbul before and after the cruise.  I traveled with another lady and being single females, new to these countries, we weren't sure what to expect.

Shortly after checking in to our hotel in Athens. This is the rooftop terrace at our hotel. We were not prepared for the iconic view or being able able to hear the concert performing at the Herodes Atticus open air theatre, outside the Acropolis.

Shortly after checking in to our hotel in Athens. This is the rooftop terrace at our hotel. We were not prepared for the iconic view or being able able to hear the concert performing at the Herodes Atticus open air theatre, outside the Acropolis.

 It was a pleasant surprise. As is often the case, what you see on the news, does not accurately depict everyday life in these countries, particularly from a tourist perspective. Everywhere we went, we experienced graciousness, hospitality and unparalleled service. Both the Greeks and Turks made every effort to speak English where possible. Their nature is to want to help and assist.  We were in Athens while there were peaceful demonstrations in front of government buildings.  We never felt unsafe.  In spite of their economic problems, the Greeks are very united and passionate in their love for their country.

This photo was taken on Istiklal, the well-known pedestrian street in Istabul.

This photo was taken on Istiklal, the well-known pedestrian street in Istabul.

 One particular advantage we were grateful for in our travels, was confirming private transfers and private tours before leaving home.  Arriving at airports and hotels in a foreign country can bring challenges, so it was nice to have someone lead the way, negotiating the shortcuts, all the while, providing commentary along the way.  At busy historic monuments, I knew the guide was worth his weight in gold when he lead us past long line ups, handed us our entrance tickets and escorted us through the venue entrance.

My favourite dream location in Santorini.

My favourite dream location in Santorini.

 At the airport, we were met by someone holding a sign with our name on it.  The transfers were non-stop and drop service.  In each city, the guide ensured our check in went smoothly and that we didn't have any further questions before leaving us.  Upon return to the airport, the guide came in, handling the majority of the luggage, leading us to the check-in ticket counter and accompanying us through the first part of security, to the point where a passport was required.  I actually felt rather 'spoiled' at the 'airport'; those words seem like an oxymoron. Never have I sailed through airport check-in and security with such relaxed ease, I knew my guide had everything under control!!