AFRICA, TRAVEL TIPS

African Safari: Travel Tips

  Here is a quick list of things I wish I knew before my trip. I hope you enjoy South Africa as much as I did!   You need the yellow fever vaccine, and you need to get it at least 10 days before arriving in Africa. (I live in the US, however I am not sure if this is true for other countries as well.) Pack anti-malaria pills. You don’t have to take them, but we ended up taking them just in case. Better safe than sorry. Pack light. You’ll probably be taking a small plane to your safari and they are super strict about the weight of your bag. Check with your airline for their maximum allowance. On the bright side, most safaris have laundry services available. Our lodge provided free laundry, so we washed mid-way through our stay. Wear the right colors. Safari attire consists of neutral colors for a reason. You need to blend in with your surroundings. You don’t want to stand out to the animals, so neutral colors are the way to go. Avoid white because it gets dirty and avoid black because it attracts mosquitos. You passport must have a minimum of 2 blank […]

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AFRICA, SIGHTSEEING

The Rest of our African Safari

Although we had already seen the Big Five, days 3 and 4 of our African safari were not short on excitement. Our third day started with a cheetah sighting, which is a quite rare occurrence in the area. I swear he was modeling for us. These are some of my favorite pictures… Lunch time During every game drive, we stop for a break with snacks and drinks… Amarula in our coffee at 7am!  Our guide was also a great photographer!    After our morning drive, we headed back to our lodge for the mid-day break. First we stopped at the restaurant for brunch. The cutest little monkey was entertaining us while playing in the trees… little did we know that he was manipulating us. So the little monkey would play right by us to get our attention, meanwhile his mom was behind us on our table stealing our lunch. Well it worked… check out mommy monkey with our bread.   Then we headed back to our room to relax. We had several visitors that afternoon. The same elephant as the day before came by while we were laying in bed… Later on a family of warthogs passed by while we were outside. Watching the animals […]

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AFRICA, SIGHTSEEING

The Big Five in 1 Day

It was rainy season at Leopard Hills in South Africa, as we embarked on our first full day of game drives…. throughout the day we would get to witness the Big Five living in their natural habitat. I hoped that we would get to see all five during our stay, but I never imagined that we would see them all in one day. Lucky is an understatement!   THE BIG FIVE If you’re not familiar with the Big Five, it’s a term used for game hunting in Africa, which refers to the animals that are most difficult to hunt and among the most dangerous. Many guests on a safari hope to encounter the Big Five as well, making them the most sought out animals by safari guides. I, like many other guests, was hopeful to see all five. The Big Five consists of the African Lion, the African Leopard, the Cape Buffalo, the African Elephant and the Black or White Rhinoceros. Finding all five of them in one day is extremely difficult any time of year, but especially in rainy season, which is their low season for viewing animals. During dry season the animals are easier to find, since they usually have to go to the watering holes to find water. In […]

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AFRICA, HOTEL REVIEW, SIGHTSEEING

African Safari: Part 1

I figured we should start the year with my favorite trip ever… the safari in South Africa! I had always wanted to go on a safari. I knew that I would enjoy it, but I never imagined just how incredible it could be. Seeing the animals roam free in their natural habitat was unreal. I have never felt so at peace, as I did in South Africa.   THE LODGE Our accommodations were incredible. We stayed at Leopard Hills, a 5-star luxury lodge (it should be more than 5-stars), located in Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, which borders Kruger National Park. Each room is more like a small private cottage with a full living room, beautiful bathroom, outdoor shower, private plunge pool and a hammock. It’s paradise! The entrance Our room at Leopard Hills Beautiful entrance to our bathroom Our bathroom Bathtub overlooking the bush (the door accesses our outdoor shower) Outdoor shower If you want to stay here, book ahead of time. Leopard Hills only has 8 rooms, which allows for a much more personal experience. They provide top notch service, down to the very last detail. You get to know the entire staff during your stay, but the person you will interact with […]

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ASIA, TRAVEL TIPS

Travel Tips: Japan Edition

Japan is an amazing country with tons to see and do. Planning the perfect trip is quite a task and requires a lot of research (especially if you’re a perfectionist like me). Here’s a list of tips I wish someone had shared with me before my trip… If you’re a foreigner, buy the Japan Rail Pass! It provides unlimited access to a lot of the trains, buses and ferries throughout Japan for the amount of days you select, all at a discounted rate. The Japan Rail Pass connects just about all of the main cities. Make sure you buy it at least a week in advance, since it gets mailed directly to your home from the UK. I made the mistake of waiting until the last minute, thinking that you pick it up there… I was so wrong! For more information and to buy your Japan Rail Pass, visit  http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/ Plan side trips. There’s so much to see and do in Japan and most places are easily accessible by train. Take advantage of your Japan Rail Pass and visit other cities without incurring any extra costs. In my opinion, it warrants a side trip if you can see that place in 1 day […]

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EUROPE, HOTEL REVIEW, SIGHTSEEING

Barcelona: Part 2

The second half of our trip to my favorite European city, Barcelona, was even better than the first half (read about the first 2 days here). DAY 3: On the third day we headed straight to Tibidabo. It was quite far from our hotel, so it took a while to get there. We had to take the Metro, then a bus, and finally the Tibidabo Funicular. It’s far, but it was so worth visiting.   The Tibidabo Funicular, basically a rickety old train that take you up to Tibidabo   Tibidabo is a mountain with an amusement park and church on the summit. It is the highest point in the city with incredible sweeping views. They say that on a clear day you can see as far as the island of Ibiza from the Sky Walk (the area around the amusement park with views of the city), unfortunately for us, it was a rather foggy day.   View of Barcelona from the Sky Walk on a foggy day. Our hotel, the Hotel Arts, is one of the 2 really tall building right in the center of the picture. It’s the building on the left.   Tibidabo Amusement Park overlooking Barcelona   Tibidabo Amusement […]

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EUROPE, HOTEL REVIEW, SIGHTSEEING

Barcelona : Part 1

Barcelona is my favorite city in all of Europe! If I had to move away from the US, I would probably end up there. The weather is fantastic, the people are nice, there’s a laid-back vibe, they drink wine with every meal and the food is incredible… What more could you ask for? Barcelona feels like home. I’m sure it helps that I speak fluent Spanish, but for me, this city is perfection. Last March we visited for the first time, spending 4-days there for our anniversary. There are direct flights from Miami to Barcelona so planning a quick trip to Spain is very doable.   On the way to Barcelona   Dinner on the flight DAY 1 We landed in Barcelona early in the morning, but since we had slept most of the 9-hour flight, we were ready to start sight seeing. We stopped by our hotel to drop off our bags and freshen up, then started walking around the nearby neighborhood. We visited the Catedral de Barcelona, the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, the Arc de Triomf and Parc Ciutadella.   Inside Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar   Inside Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar   Catedral de Barcelona   Roaming […]

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HOTEL REVIEW, SIGHTSEEING, SOUTH AMERICA

Machu Picchu

When planning our New Years trip for 2015, my hubby and I decided to avoid the snow and head to the Southern Hemisphere. Our South America adventure included Ecuador (Quito and the Galapagos Islands) and Peru (Lima and the Cusco region). The main reason we decided on South America was that we had been dreaming of visiting Machu Picchu! After a couple of days in Lima, we caught a super short flight to Cusco. Our driver, sent by the hotel’s travel concierge, offered to drive us around Cusco a bit so that we could see the city quickly and we happily agreed. If you plan to visit Cusco, don’t be surprised if you don’t feel well for a little while, or even a few days. Acclimating takes some time, as it is situated at more than 11,000 feet above sea level. After seeing the main areas of Cusco, we headed to our hotel in Urubamba. It’s a beautiful hour-long drive through the countryside. For this part of the trip we stayed at Tambo Del Inka in Urubamba. Everything about this hotel was perfection. We felt like we were in a secluded spa retreat. This hotel is a great choice if you’re planning to visit Machu Picchu. It’s perfectly situated […]

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ASIA, SIGHTSEEING

Side Trip to Hiroshima & Miyajima

On our final day in Japan, we visited Hiroshima and Miyajima. You can visit these places rather quickly and fit them both into one day (since they’re in the same direction) if you’re well prepared. Efficiency is key for a successful side trip, especially for an extra long day like this one. Have your day mapped out, know what you want to see, and exactly how to get to it. You can’t waste much time. I also suggest speaking to the concierge at your hotel before. They can usually provide maps, train timetables and help you create an itinerary for that day. We got an early start on the day and caught the train for a 2-hour ride to Hiroshima. Everything we wanted to see was in the Peace Memorial Park so we took a taxi right from the train station to the park. First we stopped at the Atomic Bomb Dome (also known as the Genbaku Dome). This is the only building still standing after the detonation of the first ever atomic bomb used in a time of war. The detonation was almost directly overhead, which is why this building didn’t crumble. Vertical structures are the strongest, allowing this building to withstand the blast, even though everyone inside […]

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ASIA, SIGHTSEEING

Nara Deer Park

When planning our trip to Japan, I realized that there were several great cities near Kyoto that I also wanted to see. Packing up and switching hotels becomes really time consuming, so side trips are a great option when possible. My rule of thumb is: Can you get there in no more than 2-3 hours? (Remember that it’ll take that long to get back, so anything further than that is just too far.) Can you see that place in just 1 day? If you answered “yes” to both questions, then it definitely warrants a side trip. I love side trips, because it allows you to see the main sites in an additional place that you wouldn’t have visited otherwise. I’m a big proponent of seeing as much as you possibly can in a short time. I usually focus on the best of the best and leave the rest for another time. If you fall in love with a place, you can always plan a trip back in the future. In our case, there were 3 places that we wanted to see, and they met the criteria for a side trip: Nara, Hiroshima and Miyajima. (Hiroshima and Miyajima will be in […]

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