Fado reveals the soul of the Portugal!

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Popular in cafes, nightclubs, and restaurants, fado is a unique form of Portuguese music loved for its expressiveness. Its origins date back to the 1820s or earlier. Central to Portuguese culture, and described by the term “saudade,” a longing as a result of a permanent loss with far-reaching consequences.

Often, the musicians sing about the hard realities of everyday living. For that reason, fado is regarded as the spirit of Portuguese music and culture. A feeling of understanding that cultural travelers and other tourists visiting Portugal seek may be difficult to achieve without experiencing live fado performances.

To enjoy the seductive charm of a city like Lisbon you must roam the city’s alleyways. While doing that, take time to slip inside cafes, steamy bars, or restaurants and listen to the soulful fado songs by famous artists like Amalia Rodrigues. Some of her popular songs were Uma Casa Portuguesa, Coimbra, and Foi Deus among others.

Visitors can find numerous fado bars and restaurants along the streets of Alfama, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Lisbon.

Have you ever felt a deep sense of longing for something you love? Fado music evokes such experiences. The songs capture thoughts, emotions, struggles, and the spirit of adventure running through all aspects of Portuguese society. Subtle and soothing tunes express the Portuguese way of life.  Camane, considered to be the best male fado singer among a new generation, continues this tradition while remaking the traditional music of his parent and grandparents for new generations.

Fado bars and restaurants allow you to immerse yourself in the food and music of Portugal.

Frequent cultural visitors to the country always seek out fado performances for various reasons, such as experiencing the destination like a local, a nice evening, and for those who want to check UNESCO sites off their list, the organization rates it as Portugal’s most prominent cultural heritage.

Fado performances provide a pleasant addition to an evening of dinner and drinks. Can you imagine the pleasure of soaking in soulful melodies while enjoying different delicious forms of Portuguese cuisine such as bacalhau, (salted cod), polvo

àlagareiro (boiled octopus with onions, tomatoes, and peppers), or pastel de nata (Portuguese egg custard for dessert? Song albums like Uma Noite de Fados by Camane will appeal to your deepest sentiments.

The lively fado tunes are a trademark of Portugal, dating back to the 1800s in the working-class neighborhoods of Lisbon.  Cobblestone streets,  mazes of alleys, small plazas, and colorful buildings close enough to string clotheslines between and have conversations with your neighbors thru the windows.  Walking these neighborhoods during the day elicits a feeling of charm but also the effort of daily life.  As day turns to night, the locals seek the camaraderie of their friends in nearby bars and restaurants to hear music that conveys the essence of their lives.

To get a bit of understanding of the people of Portugal, an evening of fado is a must!  Otherwise, what would be the point of traveling if you can’t say your eyes were opened a bit during your travels.  The perfect way to do that in Portugal is to lose yourself in the revelry fado music creates!

Known for triggering a wistful yearning for what is gone and a nagging sense of loss, fado music comes in two different styles. The most well-known is named the Lisbon fado. It is drawn from social contexts focusing on unlawfulness and marginality. The second genre

One or more guitars typically accompany fado singers.

is Coimbra style fado. It is linked to the academic traditions of Coimbra University, usually performed on the streets of the city as well as bars and restaurants by performers often in academic robes singing tunes that are more upbeat and cheery.

Listening to fado is the best way to compliment the charming sights you see during day trips. Nothing can heighten your appreciation of the Portuguese more than throwing yourself into the closeness of a fado bar atmosphere. Get in touch with me and I will help you do that!

Pat Ogle-CollinsFado reveals the soul of the Portugal!
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How do you spell controvery in Tasmania – MONA!

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Sex, death, poop and more not-for-the-dinner-table subjects are the inspiration for art at one of Australia’s most controversial museums.  To truly understand what MONA is all about, you might have to drop by. The museum in Hobart, Tasmania, is not your average history or art stop. Constantly evolving, you never know what you might find, as museum curators freely admit. Instead, they give a long list of quirky clues that ends with the story of the peacock who was banished from the museum for attacking blue cars.

So what is the Museum of Old and New Art, MONA, all about?

Aerial view of Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)

Founder David Walsh says he was inspired to build the tourist attraction so he could “bang above his weight.” A comment that leads back to MONA’s sex and death theme that states people are primarily motivated by the drive to have sex and dodge death.

“Cement Truck” by Wim Delvoye

The intense, asthmatic art lover and professional gambler is known for being provocative, controversial, and argumentative. If you are lucky enough to meet this outspoken atheist, your conversation is sure to be fascinatingly colorful. The museum is recognized by many as an extension of his loud and bold personality.

You can expect to feel strong emotions that might include amusement, admiration, disgust, joy or confusion. Evoking extreme and deep reactions seems to be at the heart

of the museum’s existence. Most people come through the doors expecting some shock value while the odd traveler stumbles across the museum and leaves with more than they bargained for. Indeed the best vacations gift you with this kind of memorable experience that might be way out of your comfort zone or totally unexpected.

Here’s a little taste of past exhibitions. We couldn’t want to give you any hint of future ones, as it’s anybody’s wildest guess.

  • Cloaca by Belgium artist Wim Delvoye was a smelly machine that needed to be feed daily and emitted poop
  • A wall of carefully sculptured vaginas by artist Greg Taylor
  • A dizzying yellow room full of black dots by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama

“Cloaca” by Belgium artist Delvoye

Critics are vocal about the museum, its art (including some of Walsh’s personal collection) and all that it represents. Similar to blue cheese or kimchi, visitors either love it or hate it. Do you dare to find out what side you are on? While you might think you are open-minded and capable of appreciating art that is contemporary and thought-provoking, you might find yourself fleeing for the nearest exit. Or you might be inspired and impressed. For sure, your emotions will be triggered and conversations will flow for some time after a trip to MONA.

“20:50” by British artist Richard Wilson plays with optical illusions using oil

Regardless of how much outrage it might garner, MONA is considered a cultural asset to Australia, appearing on the Tasmanian Heritage Register. Walsh is famous in art circles and beyond locally and internationally and has boosted the tourism industry to impressive heights. Annual festivals at MONA, including Dark Mofo that includes a winter nude swim, send tourism numbers through the roof.

The building itself, nestled into a rock, is another talking point and part of the memorable MONA experience. Getting inside involves quite the walk with thoughtful use of space and minimalism to clear the mind before you enter the contemporary-looking museum. Notable features of the architecture are a mirror wall at the entrance and several buildings that are joined by an underground tunnel. The work that went into the design and construction of the museum is massive and Walsh worked closely with

renowned architects to achieve his ever-changing vision. It is a vision that is endless and expected to continue growing in all directions. Once inside, staff hand visitors an iPad entitled “art wank” containing info about each expressive exhibition.

If you love MONA, you can stay the night in one of the luxury dens. We would personally fancy settling down in the Walter Den. Inspired by Walter Burley Griffin, who designed Australia’s capital of Canberra, the MONA website says the accommodation includes “TVs all over the place including the bathroom” and a personal security screen “to avoid visitors you don’t like.”

Contact us soon to arrange your vacation to Tasmania. There is a whole world of fantastic travel experiences waiting in the Australian state, including this not-to-be-missed museum that might make all other museums look dull after you recover from your MONA visit.

A portion of “Grotto” by Randy Polumbo

Pat Ogle-CollinsHow do you spell controvery in Tasmania – MONA!
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The soul of South Africa lies in Soweto!

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Do you want to experience breathtaking wild safaris in the heart of an African national park? Are you looking forward to sunbathing on some of the most exotic beaches in Africa? Is interacting with locals and indulging in their culture and cuisine something that excites you? If the above questions describe your ultimate getaway, pack your bags and make your way to South Africa!

Directional signage on Vilakazi Street in Soweto

For a trip that gives you a total view of South Africa, you need to visit the townships in the vast country. Soweto is the ideal township to include in your itinerary. I know you are thinking why visit an area that holds not-so-good memories for locals and might be unsafe for foreigners. Isn’t this slum tourism? Far from it, many Soweto residents are open to visitors learning about their painful past, understanding their culture, and interacting with them within the township.

The Birthplace of the Anti-Apartheid Movemennt

Located in Johannesburg, Soweto is at the heart of apartheid history in South Africa. In the 1930s, Africans were forced to move from their original homes to the edge of urban areas to separate them from white people that took over their land. The places they moved into developed into townships that were overpopulated and largely impoverished.

Nelson Mandela House

Most attempts to end apartheid were birthed in Soweto, with many political campaigns launched from the township. It was also the battleground between police and school-going children in 1976, resulting in the death of many black children. Many of the famous sights in Soweto are significant in South African history and a testament to their resilience and eventual victory.

Traveling through Soweto is the best way to immerse yourself in the past and present of South Africa. You don’t have to worry about saying and doing the right

thing but focus on learning as much as possible. The people are friendly and openly talk about their experiences during apartheid and post-apartheid. Living with less materially does not dampen their zeal for life, as is evident in their daily activities. Before traveling to the township, read ahead on its history to have everything in context and do your best to respect the residents’ life choices, even if they differ from yours.

The Soweto Experience

So, now you are ready to tour Soweto, but how do you get around? You can choose to ride on a regular tour bus, but for a more immersive excursion, consider cycling, walking, or riding a tuk-tuk. Taking a bike tour is one of the best ways to get an up-close look at famous sights. The locals are also amiable, making your tour a great way to interact with residents in their own space.

Soweto has many “must-see” sights, with many located in Vilakazi Street. The use of sign language to spell out “Vilakazi” using a sculpture of eight large grey hands as you enter the street is eye-catching and welcoming for visitors. You can spend more time than you planned on the street looking at various displays of public street art and memorials celebrating icons of the apartheid struggle. Relax on the benches placed alongside the road allow you to take in the beauty and buzz of the area. The seating is decorated with attention-grabbing mosaics that add authenticity to the precinct.

Hector Pieterson Memorial

The residence of Nelson Mandela on the same street still looks like he still lives there. It was renamed Mandela Family Museum and provides a look into the life and times of the former head of state. Another famous individual that lived in Vilakazi Street is Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu. A visit to the archbishop’s home is an excellent eye-opener on how the religious community got involved in the fight against apartheid.

In the same area is the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, which highlights the involvement of children during the anti-apartheid era. It is a commemorative space built in an urban design to display the past and bring out the heritage of Vilakazi Street. A few blocks away is the site where Hector Pieterson, a student taking part in the riots, was shot and killed.

Orlando Towers, an iconic Soweto landmark

End your trip at the Orlando Towers, a power station constructed after World War II to serve Johannesburg. It served the largest city in South Africa for over fifty years before being decommissioned. The distinctive landmark gets a regular facelift from graphic designers to showcase their skills to locals and tourists. It is also a bungee jumping spot for tourists looking to enjoy an adrenaline rush!

Staying connected

Touring Soweto is the first step towards

discovering another side of South Africa that may not be glamorous but eye-opening. Besides buying local merchandise and dining in restaurants to empower the locals that depend on tourist visits, you can still make a significant impact in several ways, even when back at home. Thankfully, the trip doesn’t have to be the end of your connection with the township.

Speak about your experience with friends and family that may have preconceived notions about Soweto and South Africa. Sadly, the false narratives about the nation have been peddled for decades, and an accurate account of your experience in Soweto is powerful in changing mindsets. Township tourism doesn’t have to be unethical or exploitive when done right.

Speak about your experience with friends and family that may have preconceived notions about Soweto and South Africa. Sadly, the false narratives about the nation have been peddled for decades, and an accurate account of your experience in Soweto is powerful in changing mindsets. Township tourism doesn’t have to be unethical or exploitive when done right.

Research on social causes in the township that may need support and plug into one that tugs at your heartstrings. It is advisable to connect with reputable non-profit organizations that offer educational and job opportunities to Soweto locals. Unemployment is a significant problem in South Africa, and they often appreciate any help towards such causes.

Plan to visit Soweto as a volunteer in the many organizations set up to assist township residents. Volunteering is always encouraged as it helps improve the lives of the locals and their children. If unable to return in person, you can send in your donations and support your favorite charity.

Festival goers in South Africa’s Soweto

Soweto neighborhood

Ultimately, the journey through Soweto is a rewarding experience for a day trip or an extended period. The catch is to strike a balance between awareness of the issues locals face and respectfully choosing to focus on their strengths instead of weaknesses.

If you are keen to start your journey to Soweto on the right footing, you need someone with experience to guide you. I am well versed in matters Soweto and will help you discover a new side of South Africa. Call me!

Pat Ogle-CollinsThe soul of South Africa lies in Soweto!
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Feel like royalty in these gorgeous thermal baths!

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The capital of Hungary, Budapest, has many nicknames. Still, the most prominent one is the City of Spas because of its abundance of historical thermal spas.  For centuries, Hungarians enjoyed the advantages of having natural springs under the country by building thermal baths that increased in popularity quickly for the medicinal benefits of the warm mineral water and social aspects.

Hungarians just followed what other civilizations enjoyed. The Turks, and before them, the Romans,

Locals integrate relaxing in the thermal baths into their day.

built luxurious baths thousands of years before those in the region that is now Hungary. Some of the Turkish baths, like Király and Rudas, still operate in Budapest today.

So, what makes these historical thermal baths worth visiting? Well, like the elegant coffeehouses scattered around Budapest, some of the most beautiful bathhouses warrant visits solely based on the architecture and their stunning interiors.

Gellért Baths and Spa

The Gellért Baths and Spa is one of the most popular bathhouses in Budapest. Located next to the famous Danube River, this bathhouse has an impressive history.  Although it wasn’t built until 1918, the water from Gellért Hill was being used as far back as the 13th century. It now houses the world’s oldest wave pool and features both outdoor and indoor pools to reap the benefits of the mineral-rich water.

Gellért Baths and Spa

Széchenyi Thermal Baths

The design of the baths here is in Art-Nouveau style and is one of the main reasons to visit.  As you enter the mall hall at the Gellért Baths and Spa, you will be immediately transported back to 1918, with stunning cream columns, azure blue tiles lining the walls, as well as beautifully colored glass that illuminates the room on a sunny day.

Each thermal pool in this ten pool building has its own distinct design, showcasing the style of the early 20th century and how it’s still just as beautiful as it was back in 1918.

Széchenyi Thermal Baths

Once you arrive in Budapest, it won’t be long until you learn about the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. Located in the Pest part of the city, it is one of the largest and most popular public baths in Europe.  Similar to the rest of the thermal baths, the architecture and history behind the Széchenyi Thermal Baths entice you to visit. Built between 1909 and 1913, Neo-Baroque and Neo-Renaissance styles dominate the architecture. You’ll notice that even the smallest details of the palace balconies and arches are rich in water metaphors and water allegories.

Like the Gellért Baths, Széchenyi also provides an outdoor and indoor pool of differing temperatures, two saunas, and a steam bath.

If you’re a fan of art history, you cannot miss the Széchenyi Thermal Baths’ beauty.

Rudas Thermal Baths

The Rudas Thermal Baths, built by the Turks in 1550 directly on the Danube, are the oldest and most beautiful of all baths in Budapest.  The Ottoman architecture at this thermal bath is quintessentially Turkish, expressed by marvelous domed ceilings, marble columns and walls, and rooms with a smooth and sleek finish. Red columns support the dome over the main pool, surrounded by four smaller pools of varying temperatures. With the range of pools, you can pick and choose the water temperature in which you wish to luxuriate.

Not only that, but Rudas Thermal Baths are one of the only baths in Budapest that has a drinking hall where you can drink healing water from three springs; Hungária, Attila, and Juventus. The Juventus water is the same water the Turks drank to help with anti-aging, hypertension, and rheumatism.

Rudas Thermal Baths

Lukács Thermal Baths

Unlike most of the other thermal baths in the city, the waters at Lukács Thermal Baths are said to have some of the most effective healing waters that can treat a range of diseases.  The architecture may be simpler compared to the Széchenyi and Gellért. Still, it’s the historical plaques Unlike most of the other thermal baths in the city, the waters at Lukács Thermal Baths are said to have some of the most effective healing waters that can treat a range of diseases.  The architecture may be simpler compared to the Széchenyi and Gellért. Still, it’s the historical plaques

Lukács Thermal Baths

Király Thermal Baths

The 400-year-old Király Thermal Baths, unlike other thermal baths in Budapest, don’t have their own natural water source: its water comes from the Lukács Thermal Bath.  Similar to the Rudas Baths, when you step inside the Király Thermal Baths, you are taken back in time to when the Turks ruled the Buda Castle, hence the stunning Ottoman architecture.

Traditionally Turkish, the dome-shaped ceiling of the Király Thermal Baths provides dim light over the octagonal pool. The bath nor the surrounding building hasn’t been restored for a few decades, making it that much more historically appealing.

The thermal baths of Budapest aren’t just worth a visit because of their warm waters, but the history and the architecturally stunning bathhouses make it impossible to leave off your itinerary.  Dip into Hungarian spa culture and other cultural riches!  Email me today to explore this area of Europe so overlooked by many!

Pat Ogle-CollinsFeel like royalty in these gorgeous thermal baths!
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Strolling Melbourne’s laneways – a total sensory experience!

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Looking for an Aussie destination with character? Melbourne offers a cultural buffet of wonderful choices. Trams chugging through the city center, a vibrant food scene, an awe-inspiring public library, and plenty of historic architecture, including churches and cathedrals amongst the urban landscape create a metropolis always buzzing with activity. In this modern Australian city you will also find Melbourne’s laneways.

The colorful little lanes are famous for bright murals and creative street art that cover a dizzying maze of streets. Pedestrian-only streets mean you can lose yourself in the artwork without watching for cars. There is plenty of pedestrian traffic, though, with many people browsing the boutique shops, local restaurants, and fancy cafes along the way. Fashionably dressed teens bound for school, business people in suits, families shopping, and tourists documenting their travels all move at their own speed through the popular central business district (CBD) instantly recognizable as “Melbs: as the locals affectionately call it.

Melbourne’s culture embodies the laneways, and if you visit a resident of the city they will proudly show you the eye-catching creations while pointing out that street art isn’t graffiti. You will see famous Australian life depicted on the walls with work by local artists covering Aussie life, politics, pop culture, fashion, music, beauty, and love.  Explore almost every theme you can imagine using art on the  Melbournites who can relate to the work and appreciate the bold beauty it beholds.

walls of the lanes to tell a story or message. Perhaps that is why they hold so much meaning for

The history of the lanes goes back to the Victorian era, when horses and carts would clatter along the narrow paths. In the 1990s, the area transformed into a trendy spot for shopping, dining and drinking and street art slowly emerged. Soon the bright surroundings became more popular on a local and international level. The intimate lanes offer a haven where people can absorb the cultural scene, drink coffee, meet friends and

escape, even for a short time, from the bustling city just outside the coziness of the lanes. As you dance down the lanes you will notice a lot of the old architecture is well-preserved, increasing their charm even more.

Meyers Place (formerly Nicholas Lane) is one of the oldest laneways in the city, so a must-visit for true street art fans. Funky eateries and bars line the lanes where you can linger for a while. Lane’s Edge Cafe and Bar is the perfect place for dining outdoors with a laidback vibe. Refuel with dishes paired with local Aussie beer and wine before diving back into the adventures of lane hopping in search of the best mural of the day.

Hardware and Goldie lane features 20th-century warehouses and Degraves Street, named after Hobart merchants Charles and William Degraves, has alfresco dining options for patrons who appreciate the views of the art deco architecture. Hozier Lane near Flinders Street Station is another popular

urban art spot, or you might find yourself rocking out at ACDC Lane. There are so many lanes, and you can rely on your instincts and embark on a bright road of artistic thrills. There is no wrong way for your feet to take you and there’s no predicting what you might

discover. As you weave your way from lane to lane just be sure to take enough photos for invoking memories of this colorful stroll.

Melbourne’s strong coffee culture goes hand-in-hand with the thriving art scene. Rest your tired feet and order a latte at a hip café. Take in the art with the aroma of caffeine and background chatter of socializing coffee lovers for a true Melbourne experience.

Forget about Google maps and get lost in the streets for an inspiring walk that you could probably not make the following day if you tried. Roaming around another day you would notice different details of the artwork adorning the laneway walls. It’s an uplifting place for culture-loving explorers and is free as long as you aren’t tempted to spend at a chic boutique filled with designer garments that are another form of beautiful creative expression.

Enjoy the backstreets decorated with street art by emerging and established talented artists. Watch an emerging work in progress as an artist empties some spray cans. To avoid the crowds arriving early and snap plenty of photos without too many people.

Melbourne’s lanes are a major tourist attraction constantly evolving, with new murals appearing all the time. Embrace the cheery journey as you

Ready to immerse yourself in this outdoor gallery of contemporary art?  Let me design a trip for you that incorporates the laneways and the other wonderful things Melbourne has to offer! walk through a colorful moment in history that might never be the same again.

Pat Ogle-CollinsStrolling Melbourne’s laneways – a total sensory experience!
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Tomāto, tomäto. It makes a difference in South Africa’s Kruger area!

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The beauty and wonder of the Kruger National Park in South Africa are reflected in the visitor numbers that top one million every year. The country’s oldest and biggest national park is home to an abundance of wildlife that shares the vast area. Lions, leopards, elephants, and rhinos are just some of the creatures you might see in this beautiful national park that borders Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Wildlife doesn’t care reserves or parks but you may.

If you are considering heading to Kruger National Park for a safari to see the lions, giraffes, and other amazing wildlife, you might wonder about game reserves, national parks and concessions.  What’s the difference?  It’s all about how you want to experience a safari.

National Park, Reserve or Concession?

National parks, like Kruger National Park, are managed and owned by the government. Individuals or companies own private game reserves. A concession is a lodge, camp or reserve owned by the government and operated by a company.   All have to follow the same rules and regulations set out by the government and local authorities. (Similarly, in East Africa you will find conservancies, equivalent to a private reserves in South Africa, along with national parks.)  The national park, reserves, and concessions form a vital co-existing group that attracts a wide range of travelers worldwide.

Guided safari walks available in private reserves allow you to view wildlife missed when on game drives.

Visiting Kruger National Park is a wildlife experience that is considered one of the best in the world. No wonder millions of people have made the trip boosting the local economy and helping to conserve and preserve the environment and inhabitants of the park. From the park entrance fees that protect the park’s cultural and natural well-being to the jobs it provides, the park is an important asset to South Africa.

To understand Kruger National Park’s major contribution to South Africa, we need to understand the history. It was established in 1898 by conservationist Paul Kruger who wanted wildlife to have a thriving environment to live without being hunted. His legacy can be seen with over 750 species of animals, 1982 species of plants and hundreds of cultural sites within the park.

Difference in Safari Experiences

Now let’s look at how the differences between game reserves, national parks and concessions, can impact your safari experience.

Visitor Numbers

Private game reserves limit the number of travelers allowed to visit at any given time. This prevents stress on the ecosystem and gives people a more realistic safari experience.   National parks don’t have the same restrictions on visitors, so they can be crowded

Bush dinners that can be arranged in private reserves create special memories for romantics or those that just love the outdoors.

with vehicles and people trying to see the wildlife. Also, it’s important to know off-road game viewing isn’t allowed in national parks, so often, you can see more impressive wildlife in reserves where it is permitted.

Visiting Hours

National parks have set opening and closing times and guides need to make sure they have exited the park before the gates close. Private reserves are always open to guests staying within the reserve so tourists have more scheduling flexibility.  Without time limits reserves can offer more options for safari experiences such as walking safaris, longer observation times and exciting night safari drives.

Night drives allow you to see nocturnal animals and those active after their rest during the hottest parts of the day.

Style and Amenities

Relaxing in comfortable accommodation after a long day of safari adventuring in the heat is the perfect end to your day. Accommodation in most of the national parks is nice enough, but there is nothing like the food, amenities and service offered at lodges and camps in private reserves.  Dining by lantern in the bush or sleeping under the stars add special memories in addition to those created by the wildlife during game drives.

Isn’t it Time for a Safari?

I am here to help you decide what safari travel option is best for you and your family and friends. We customize trips with many of our clients reporting back their trip far exceeded their expectations making it truly a trip without equal.

I design South Africa safaris for travelers who enjoy rich and diverse travel experiences with recommendations and suggestions that I hope make this trip of a lifetime the first safari of many. Let’s talk soon so I can answer all your questions about a South African safari and get you dreaming about a trip like no other.

Pat Ogle-CollinsTomāto, tomäto. It makes a difference in South Africa’s Kruger area!
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Boots not required for this Best of New Zealand!

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Known for its diverse landscape, New Zealand’s spectacular scenery makes it the perfect place for exploration of all types of surroundings, from mountains to rivers and even glaciers and natural hot pools by all types of travelers. Spend a day in Tongariro National Park to experience all of these! Established in 1887, Tongariro National Park was the fourth national park

Mt. Raupehu

to be created globally and the first in New Zealand! UNESCO also recognizes the park with dual World Heritage status for both its cultural and natural features.

What makes this national park so unique is its unparalleled scenery. Made up of three volcanoes that dominate the region, Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro, and Mt Ngauruhoe, as well as beech forest, waterfalls, and rivers.  Stepping foot into this park, you’re rewarded with some of New Zealand’s most dramatic landscapes.

A New Zealand Best – the Alpine Crossing!

Located in the center of the North Island, Tongariro National Park is home to one of the best hikes in New Zealand, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  This hike is around 20km and takes between 7-8 hours to complete depending on how fast you choose to walk. This spectacular hike (that isn’t a loop, so arrange organized transport) takes you over the volcano through different terrains, such as springs, lava flows, volcanic rocks, and the famous emerald lakes.

Hiking track, Tongariro National Park

The best time of year to tackle this famous hike is during spring or autumn when the temperatures aren’t too cold or hot. You’ll need to have a relatively high level of fitness to complete this hike and proper hiking boots.

Although this is the most famous activity in Tongariro National Park, it should not discourage anyone from visiting, as there is still a range of activities on offer.

Magnificent scenery awaits in the desert!

When you picture New Zealand, the desert isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, if you plan to drive from Auckland to Tongariro National Park, that’s what you’ll get.

After you leave sub-tropical Auckland, pass the geothermal areas around Rotorua and crystalline Lake Taupo. All you’ll see is a deserted sandy road with nothing in sight until you reach the three volcanoes that make up the Pacific Ocean’s ‘Ring of Fire,’ Mt Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu, and Mt Ngauruhoe.

Love Lord of the Rings? See Mt Doom up close!

If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings series, visiting Mt Ngauruhoe or “Mt Doom” must be on your Tongariro National Park activities list. Standing between Mt Tongariro and Mt Ruapehu, this 2,29m (7,516 ft) mountain is the second tallest in the park and was a big part of the film franchise, drawing in thousands of tourists

Mt. Ngaurahue, also referred to as Mt. Doom from the Lord of the Rings films

every year. However, if you’re not a big Lord of the Rings fan, it’s still an impressive sight to see!

Stunning landscapes and beautiful waterfalls!

As well as spectacular mountain ranges, New Zealand is also home to some pretty impressive waterfalls. Located in Tongariro National Park, Taranaki Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, and you have to see it to believe it.

The falls are found halfway through the 6km loop and tumble 20-meters into a boulder-ringed pool. There are two viewing points, one from the top and one from the base of the falls. While you’re there, you’ll have stunning views of all three mountains that make up Tongariro National Park.

Taranaki Falls, Tongariro National Park

The walk to the falls is one of the easiest and most impressive in the national park as it takes you through beech forest, shrubland, past the Wairere Stream, Cascade Falls, and manuka forest.

Tea overlooking snow-covered mountains!

If you are more of a slow traveler who enjoys the little things, such as high tea

with a sensational view, then be sure to check out the Chateau Tongariro.  From their High Tea menu, you can choose from a range of sandwiches, scones, and treats, as well as your choice of coffee or fresh tea, served to you at a table overlooking the impressive Mt Ngauruhoe. Located within Whakapapa Village, indulging in this high tea needs to be on your list, especially in winter when snow covers Mt Ngauruhoe!

Bike along the Old Coach Road!

Not only are there amazing hikes throughout Tongariro National Park, but there is also a range of biking trails that you can explore.  One of the best ones to add to your itinerary is Old Coach Road. Located at the southern end of Tongariro National Park near Ohakune, this 15km one-way (2hr 20 mins) trail takes you through a mix of terrains, such as forest, railway relics, and rural countryside. Or, if you don’t have a bike, you can also walk this trail, which takes around 41/2 hrs.

Whatever way you choose to tackle this trail, you will be blown away by the sheer beauty of the landscapes you’ll see along the way.  Without a doubt, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike is the park’s most notable visitor draw.  But non-hikers have plenty to see and experience without hiking boots and walking stick.  From bike trails to high tea at Chateau Tongariro, no matter that type of activity you’re into, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this little corner of New Zealand.

Active Mount Raupehu with Chateau Tongariro

So, whether you prefer hiking boots or sneaks, a terrific day awaits you at Tongariro. All you have to do is give me a call!

Pat Ogle-CollinsBoots not required for this Best of New Zealand!
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There’s more than one way to see big game!

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Imagine! A moment when majestic creatures walk towards your jeep only to veer away when their young appear from the bush – breathtaking!

Yet, there are more ways to experience the wilds of Africa than the rear seat of a land rover or overlander. By foot, from the air, or the water, it’s time to explore the wilderness through its various scents, sharp color palettes, and ear-pricking sounds in ways probably never considered.

Traveling by vehicle on safari is the post popular way to see game.

Your Own Two Feet Take You Off Road

Strolling through the bush at the crack of dawn can be a moving experience as all your senses awaken to the environment surrounding you. You can listen to the soft sounds of wildlife that would have been inaudible over the hum of a vehicle’s engine.  You smell the vegetation as you trod over the grass.  Movements catch your eye – from the insect that lights on a branch to the birds overhead, to the giraffe munching on a tree ahead.

Walking in the bush allows you to see small animals and insects as well as big game.

Excited but fearful? Don’t worry, they are completely safe because trained guides accompany you. This type of safari provides a more immersive and intensive experience. You are now in the environment of the animals rather than a vehicle.  Definitely exciting when you come upon a lion or a family of elephants.  While animals are always unpredictable, your guide’s first concern is always evident -the wildlife’s safety, and you, his client.  Listen to their instructions and enjoy the moment!

Walking allows you to appreciate all kinds of species, both plant and animal. In many areas, vehicles must stay on the designated roads, so plants, insects, and small animals only a few feet from you might as well be invisible.  Walking provides close encounters with them while minimizing the impact on their environment.

Walking safaris vary in length from an afternoon activity provided by your lodge to multi-day walks operated by specialized safari operators.  Whatever the length, bush walks like these create special memories.

When the Wildlife Comes to You

Now, picture this. You’re floating down on a peaceful river, gazing at a herd of hippos lazing in the water as you pass about 15 yards away.

Walking safaris can be as short as an afternoon to multiday trips.

Spotting animals is way easier and safer on boat safaris as animals are not typically concerned by nearby boats; wildlife become accustomed to the watercraft, so they don’t get disturbed at the first sight of tourists. It’s an aesthetically pleasing experience— watching exotic frogs as they sit on a wavering reed, listening to the calming birdsong of winged creatures as they wait for the return of their mate, observing the nearby animals splashing around as they have a little fun.  Photographs capture the action from the close to the same perspective as the wildlife being observed.

All wildlife need water so game congregates near rivers and waterholes making them easy to find.

On most bike safaris, you ride between parks and reserves, but you never know when you will see game.

Whether from a canoe or a multi-passenger pontoon type boats, enjoy the quiet as you explore the mighty and the minute on the rivers, marshes and deltas of Africa!

Wheels Go Round and Round in the Bush, too

Visualize pedaling through the bush, adrenaline pumping through your veins as you spot an elephant. Like walking, the cycling safari causes little noise, and  offers you the opportunity to observe plenty of wildlife. On a cycling tour visiting parks, you typically switch your bike for a safari vehicle when it’s time to view the  ‘big five’ animals: lions, buffaloes, rhinos, leopards, and elephants.  On other tours, you may find that you cycle in the morning and use vehicles in the afternoon.

Not the level of the Tour de France?  No worries. The average age of safari cyclists ranges in the 40s and several companies offer e-bikes. One commonality exists on all bike safaris – you burn a fair amount of the calories consumed during those delicious meals served at your lodge or camp!

With a small group of participants, camaraderie develops between participants and the trained guides. Much like the guides on walking safaris, the first priority of cycling safari guides is their guests’ safety so grab a helmet and enjoy the view!

It’s not just zebra, wildebeest and giraffe that gallop across the savannah

Those that love horseback riding – there’s a safari for you too!  You’ll ride where vehicles can’t reach, galloping through the African plains as the giraffe galloping beside you tries to get ahead.

Horseback safaris can also range from a morning outing to a multiple-day trip. You follow the trails made by the wildlife itself, making spotting the animals easier. You can wander and wind through the bush with the hooves of horses providing no more

For those that love horseback riding, could there be any better way to see wildlife?

damage than the wildlife you seek so that you can get closer more easily.   You and your horse become one in the eyes of the animals and, therefore, avoiding encounters with horse & rider is key to survival in their mind.

Like the other safaris, you are accompanied by experienced guides and other staff there to serve and ensure your safety. When on horseback, you will typically spend 4-7 hrs each day exploring the bush. For those that love riding, there may be nothing better!

You Can Even Safari by Air

The mist hovers as you ascend. Tangerine rays of light touch your face as you drift higher on a breeze in absolute silence. The pilot fires the burner of your hot air balloon, and nearby zebra, giraffe, and rhino make nary a move.

An early morning balloon safari allow you to see game from a different perspective when the animals tend to be most active.

Oh, what an enjoyable way to cover distances similar to a vehicle.  While you can’t control the direction, your aerial 360° view provides visibility far further than any ground-based mode used on safari.

Like game drives, you rise before dawn, and the views of the landscape and the wildlife can’t be compared. Plus, after you return to earth, you often enjoy champagne and breakfast in the bush. Amazing!

Kickstart Your Adventure on a Quad Bike Safari

Safer havens where predatory animals don’t roam allow you to explore from the seat of a quad bike. That doesn’t make it any less exciting. Be it dry riversides, empty lakebeds, deserts, or the plains among Africa’s mountain ranges, they all offer wildlife and fantastic scenery! Imagine waiting for giraffes as they cross the path or following a flock of ostriches as they run.

Great for families, quad bikes combine the thrill of exploring your on your own bike with the enchanting beauty of untouched landscapes.

Seeking unique family memories? Nothing can beat watching a giraffe as it gives birth to its young before you head to your elevated camp on your quad bike to sleep out under the stars!

As each safari destination is unique, so too is how you can experience your safari.   I’m an expert in helping you achieve the safari of your dreams. Call me and let me help your safari dream come true!

Safari by quad bike provides a memorable experience for the entire family that will be remembered for years.

Pat Ogle-CollinsThere’s more than one way to see big game!
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Even a Scrooge can’t scowl at glüwein and twinkly stars!

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Walking through a European Christmas market feels like being in a romantic winter wonderland movie. As the aroma of spiced wine mixes with the cool breeze, you will experience a feeling of joy and happiness as you roam a fairytale holiday market filled with festive treats.

Germany, Slovakia, Poland, Belgium, Austria, and Hungary are a few countries that put on a Christmas market that would impress the socks off Santa and all his elves. Every country has a unique market with various winter displays, events, parades, and food.  Picking a favorite one is simply impossible.

Christmas Market in front of Town Hall in Vienna, Austria

Prague’s Christmas Market in its Old Town

Shopfronts are decorated in cheery festive Christmas themes that are so beautiful it’s hard not to stop at each and every one. Historic architecture makes the perfect backdrop to this dreamy annual event. Many stalls line the streets with welcoming cafes and rustic restaurants everywhere, so it is easy to rest when you get weighed down by all your shopping bags.

Christmas mugs, handmade knick-knacks, souvenirs, ornaments, toys, decorations, fabrics, fashion, sweets, and more are just some of the buys you will

want to take home. Christmas decorations are probably one of the most exciting items at the markets because local artisans make beautiful decorative pieces that you will never find anywhere else.

If you are obsessed with Christmas decorations, save a whole section in your suitcase for wooden sleds, nutcracker creations, handprinted trees, sparkly stars, and Santa decorations that are irresistible. Delicate snow globes are not easy to travel with but are worth the effort.

When it comes to Christmas shopping, the European markets have something unique for everyone, even that most hard-to-shop-for person who has everything. Even if you travel to the markets this year during the holidays and delivering your gifts after your trip or even next year, nobody will mind if they get a gorgeous Christmas-inspired gift from Europe.

Nuremberg’s Christmas Market is known for its traditional decorations and ornaments.

Children aren’t the only ones that look forward to the sweet treats at Christmas markets throughout Europe.

Sweet treats are a big part of the European Christmas markets which are loaded with delicious temptations. Indulge in iced sugar cookies, crepes, cake, donuts, chocolate, and candy. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, there’s plenty of other scrumptious options like roasted chestnuts, dumplings, soup, and gingerbread cookies. You might even discover reindeer sausages or Töki pompos (cooked dough with bacon, onion, and cream toppings a favorite in Hungary). Drinks with a dash of spice, peppermint, or something stronger are great to carry around as you roam the markets.

The daytime and nighttime atmospheres at a Christmas market are quite different, so make sure you explore the markets at both times. During the day, there is a busy vibe as everyone shops and enjoys music with festive food and drink. At night the glow of the lights adds a romantic feel, and the pace of life seems to slow down a little. Locals and tourists linger over meals of traditional Christmas fare and soak up the holiday atmosphere that surrounds the whole village or city.

An ice skating rink filled with happy children is a breathtaking sight and the little ones will also love to see puppet shows, Father Christmas, and live Christmas performances with all the classics being played. Even if you don’t have children with you, your inner child will be thrilled to feel a level of excitement about Christmas that you might not have felt since your youth. Every corner seems to be another picturesque scene of festive yuletide cheer.

Nativity sets fill the Aix-en-Provence Christmas Market.

Find the nearest church or cathedral near the market because they are sure to be in the holiday spirit with nativity scenes, twinkling lights, and Christmas carols. Spend time reflecting on the rich history of the traditional Christmas markets that originated in Germany hundreds of years ago.

The market in Munich takes place under the watchful eye of its famous Glockenspiel on Marienplatz in the center of the city.

As the snowflakes fall, it is time to dash indoors for one more hot chocolate, glühwein, or eggnog next to a Christmas tree adorned with pretty fairy lights. Make sure you take plenty of photos and videos to remember this once-in-a-lifetime Christmas holiday experience.

Call me today to discuss what city might be calling your festive soul to visit. While December probably isn’t a month you usually travel, this year can be different.  I can arrange an amazing European

winter vacation, with the highlight being the Christmas markets, faster than a 10-year-old can rip open a gift-wrapped box on Christmas Eve.

Pat Ogle-CollinsEven a Scrooge can’t scowl at glüwein and twinkly stars!
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Small ships lead to magnificent wonders on the Kimberly Coast!

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The Kimberley region in Australia is world-famous for offering some of the most spectacular cruising experiences. Expedition cruises into this remote Western Australian coast are in no way ordinary. Apart from its isolation and an overwhelming sense of tranquility hard to find anywhere else, this region is packed with over 1 billion years of history, splendid natural sceneries, and wonders such as dinosaur footprints over 200 million years old.

Mitchell Falls

Situated on the west side of Kimberley, Broome, an outback beach town is the gateway into this vast coastal area containing a variety of natural marvels that are simply mind-bending. From steep ochre-colored cliffs, unique rock formations, the Mitchell waterfalls splashing down 4 steps to crystal clear lakes, etc., all cruises to Kimberley offer tours and excursions full of intimate views.

Boating at the bottom of King George Falls

Up-Close Encounters with the World’s Greatest Natural Wonders

On any single day, there are multiple cruises with each covering an almost similar itinerary departing from Broome, Darwin, or sometimes Kununurra. Expedition cruising offers extraordinary experiences focusing on the environment and nature-friendly excursions. This form of travel is preferred by most clientele who are interested in where they are going and how they get there as well.

Small ships take guests to remote locations brimming with wildlife and natural wonders that impart intimate experiences. Cruises along the Kimberley coast go where few other ships can. Apart from being able to flexibly respond to things like the weather, the voyages on Kimberley cruises get you to serene beaches and shallow bays.

All cruises get as close as possible to fascinating features on the coast. Smaller crafts usually launched from the mother ship can reach sites deep into the coast, enabling the passengers to observe interesting wildlife and to witness some of the greatest natural wonders in the Kimberley, such as the Horizontal Waterfall.

There is no better way to discover the awe-inspiring gorges, reefs, and coastlines than by ship. The close encounters enhance the sense of adventure for every traveler in

With tides of over 10 meters, the Montgomery Reef emerges with deep crevices, waterfalls and a plethora of marine wildlife left behind.

a uniquely personal way that translates every single moment into an authentic travel experience.

Travelers Rather Than Tourists

While cruising the Kimberly, another key aspect of the voyage is the emphasis on learning. To most expedition cruisers, the opportunity to learn is more important than relaxing by the pool with a drink.

The Gwion Gwion rock art, formerly referred to as the Bradshaw paintings, provide sophisticated depictions of life over 12,000 years ago.

Experts give lectures and briefings about each destination developing passengers’ sense of each place before arrival. Along the way, passengers can then step ashore for exploratory excursions while listening to those with specialized knowledge and expert opinion adding a new dimension to the voyage.

The focus is on travel, not tourism, so cruisers are keenly interested in the native people and their way of life.  And to help the locals preserve the pristine conditions, the Kimberley expedition cruises are

operated in environmentally friendly ways that limit the impact of each visit into a sensitive area so that the destination remains protected.

Helicopters are available on some cruises offering an alternative view of the Kimberly while also providing transportation to Kimberley’s inaccessible and hard-to-reach places. Guests can be whisked over cliff edges, waterfalls, or across remote islands. Helicopters provide easy access to wildlife viewing while ferrying guests to narrow waterways, terrestrial sites, and fishing spots away from the ship.

Ready for a remote adventure to the other side of the world? Call me to assist you in finding the right expedition cruise for you!

Pat Ogle-CollinsSmall ships lead to magnificent wonders on the Kimberly Coast!
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