Monday, 28 November 2016

Bonifacio, Corsica - A wonder to behold


One of our best experiences was a day trip from St Teresa di Gallura on the northern tip of Sardinia on a ferry to Corsia, landing in Bonifacio in the extreme south. This was our only foray into France, and left us with a desire to explore Corsica more fully.  Blue Dot Travel's small group tours, now include 8 nights in Corsica.  Your Corsica visit includes the beautiful town of Bonifacio.

Bonifacio is approached between high cliffs of chalk-white limestone that have been sculptured into unusual shapes by the sea.  It's almost like a fjord, as the channel is only 200 metres wide, with a dog-leg hiding the small but vibrant port from view.

The town is dominated by an amazing citadel, high above the port.

A must do in Bonifacio is the King of Aragon stairway.  Legend has it that these were carved by the Aragonese in a single night in 1420 as a surprise attack. The steps however existed before then, probably used by locals to carry water to the citadel from a well that was discovered by monks. – walk down the 187 stairs to the bottom it is well worth the experience. Imagine carrying water up to the top!

Book your trip to Corsica, plus Sardinia and Malta with Blue Dot! Click here.

Travel to Corsica via a short ferry ride from Santa Teresa di Gallura, Sardinia to Bonifacio

Bonifacio atop its Limestone Promontory

Bonifacio Citadel

Escalier du Roi d'Aragon

Kings Aragon Steps

Monday, 21 November 2016

Hornbill Festival, North East India

Dancers celebrating the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland

Located in north-east India and bordering Myanmar (Burma), the state of Nagaland is one of the last frontiers of India and is home to sixteen major Naga tribes - the Ao, Angami, Chang, Konyak, Lotha, Sumi, Chakhesang, Khiamniungan, Dimasa Kachari, Phom, Rengma, Sangtam, Yimchunger, Kuki, Zeme-Liangmai and Pochury plus some smaller sub-tribes. Each tribe is unique and has their own distinct culture, dress, customs and festivals, all of which culminate with the Hornbill Festival every December. 

Lasting a week, the Hornbill Festival is celebrated at the Naga Heritage Village, not far from the state capital of Kohima, and includes performances, traditional arts and crafts, and local cuisine. Launched in 2000, the Hornbill festival (named after the Great Indian Hornbill bird) was started to encourage inter-tribal relations and interaction, and as a means for each tribe celebrate their unique culture and heritage. The festival is all about showcasing Nagaland’s identity as a unique state within India. 

Due to it’s location and geography, Nagaland and it’s inhabitants are quite different to that in the more populated regions of what we traditionally understand as North and South India - in appearance, culture and religion. It is this uniqueness that makes Nagaland such a fascinating area to explore, and for such a festival to allow one to observe each of these tribe’s traditions and distinct identity in one place, is a very special experience.

Nagaland is also a very beautiful region with mountainous terrain and great flora and fauna diversity, with the region also being the one of the last remaining areas where the one-horned rhinoceros inhabits. It is this combination of physical and cultural beauty that really makes this region a standout and one for the traveller who wants to get off the beaten track.

Our Blue Dot Travel small group tours, include this fascinating destination, in fact our group leaves today.   
Visit Nagaland so you can experience the Hornbill Festival in 2017 in real life with Blue Dot! Click here.
Just where is Nagaland within India?

It's all about music, colour and movement

Local women in traditional dress

Beautiful landscape

Tribal men in traditional costume

Traditional dance in traditional costume

More stunning headdresses and colourful costumes
The scenery stretches forever

Some of the costumes are spectacular - and no doubt hard to wear!

Beautiful locals in their traditional dress
Traditional dancing in colourful costumes
The one-horned Rhinoceros
A local market
Everyone's happy it seems!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Botswana - It’s as good as it sounds

Just saying this country makes you feel like you are on an exotic safari! Recently I camped in Botswana with my teenage daughter. It was a never-to-be-repeated daddy/daughter experience. There were about 10 of us in the group including another family from Sweden and others from France and Germany. We all stayed in two safari camps – Moremi and Chobe National Park. Both were amazing in terms of the wildlife and the camp facilities. It wasn’t “glamping” by any stretch of the imagination however, the rawness added to the adventure. 

One night over camp dinner, the group decided to count the wildlife we’d spotted over the past few days. The resulting list included the “who’s who” of African wildlife and is far too long to publish here. What I can say however, is that there were dozens of animals that none of us had ever seen before – let alone in the wild. All our expectations were far exceeded.

We then went on to discuss our favorite “spotting”. Huge elephants up close, leopards, lions, zebra, hippos… the list went on. For me however, it was a heard of giraffes.  Our driver/guide stopped at the side of the road and out from the bushes came about 15 giraffes – of all sizes – one by one in single file. There were old and young adults, teenagers and babies. We were about 20 metres away. They kept their distance from us but weren’t overly concerned by our presence. Giraffes are incredibly graceful - they walk with a forward sway. The young males would stop now and then to thrust their necks at each other, just like teenage boys might throw soft punches in a sign of affection, not aggression. We watched the heard – and they kept an eye on us – for about 20 minutes. Like a campfire or the waves crashing on rocks, it was something that we could have sat and watched for hours. The African wilderness at its best, simply majestic.

I would visit Botswana again without any hesitation. However, I have a tip for anyone thinking about camping in Botswana with their daughter… The showers hold about 10 liters of hot water (boiled over a camp fire). It lasts for about 3 or 4 minutes. If your daughter showers first, give her a strict time limit. Embarrassingly, I had to yell out to my daughter to ask the guys to fill the shower whilst I stood there in the dark, all soaped up and no where to go! There was much laughter from the others!

We loved it so much Blue Dot Travel now offer your Botswana safari as part of our small group tours Africa which includes the Makgadikgadi Pans, the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park. Our trip also includes Namibia, Capetown and Victoria Falls.

Blue Dot trips to Botswana, Namibia, Capetown and Victoria Falls book here with Blue Dot! Click here.
Map of Southern Africa

Up close with a baby elephant after its bath

The wild life is abundant and in close range

Brett & Holly ... cute  hats!

Small ears ... small eyes ... big mouths!

Time to head home late in the day

The tranquil lands provide sanctuary to much wild life

A lioness kicks back and relaxes

Monday, 7 November 2016

Croatia with it's picture perfect coastal towns

View from the fortress on Hvar

By Brett Goulston

Croatia could be described as the “new” Italy for Australian travellers. The people, the pace of life and the food are considered “similar but different”.  If you haven’t visited Croatia, it’s time to do so. There are many things to see and do. Here are a few places to consider, excluding the more popular destinations of Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar. Our small group tours Croatia take you here and 7 of the other Balkan countries.

Start your Croatian experience in the capital Zagreb.  It’s very cosmopolitan with many museums and galleries to explore, abundant restaurants and the main square always has something going on. If you like history, there’s plenty of it and a walking tour is a great way to see it, given its relatively small. 

The UNESCO-listed Plitvice lakes are a must-see. Comprised of 16 lakes of various sizes and heights cascading into each other, the colour of the crystal clear water varies from lake to lake due to the varying levels of minerals and organisms. There are walking tracks around the shores and boats are available to ferry you from lake to lake. Put simply, it’s stunning and your photos may not do justice to the natural beauty. 

Croatia is known for her beautiful Adriatic coast and her islands of which there are hundreds. For a great taste of island life, visit Hvar, an easy day trip from Split by passenger ferry. Take a walk around the old town, up to the fort (for the fitter folks) and around the paths from the marina in both directions. Lunch could be at any one of dozens of great places where you can sit and watch the world go by. 

Finally, Mali Ston (small town) and its neighbour Ston are hidden gems. These small villages are renown for oysters, oysters and local wines and a boat tour to sample the region’s best is a must. Take a walk over the historic Walls of Ston (Croatia’s mini version of China’s Great Wall) built in the 15th century - it’s a fairly simple 20-minute trek from one village to the other to take in the fabulous views.  Croatia holidays should include many of the other Balkan countries

Book your trip to Croatia and the rest of the Balkans with Blue Dot! Click here.

Map of the Balkans

 A sign of a slower and more tranquil pace of life

The beaches and waters are pristine

Old-world methods bring their own charm
Church in Trogir

 Some of the fresh local produce
The quaint village of Mali Ston

Charming local houses from a bygone era abound

The beauty comes in many colours

Caf├ęs on any town's main sqaure offer a great view