Lead Mara

Mara Plains, Masai Mara

I’m an island girl at heart but my other favourite kind of holiday has to be a safari vacay.   Having previously experienced a couple of safaris in South Africa and Kenya I really do feel extremely grateful to have just come back from the most incredible  8 days on safari  in Kenya staying at three luxury camps – Mara Plains and Mara Nyika in two conservancies in the Masai Mara and then Ol Donyo in the Chyulu  Hills.

All three being the only Relais & Chateaux camps in Kenya – a real stamp of approval for the amazing experience which you will receive..

 

Mara Plains

A 40 minute flight from Wilson Airport to the landing strip in the 35,000 acre Olare Motorogi conservancy or a leisurely game drive between two of Great Plains luxury lodges in the Masis Mara - Mara Plains and Mara Niyaka.

   

Mara Plains is a 7 room luxury tented suite which includes a private honeymoon tent and a 2 bedroom Mara Plains Jahazi family tent blending the finest in wildlife and the absolute best in safari hospitality.  Fitting in with the eco system this camp is solar powered and sustainable living at its best. Don't worry about wasting water while at Mara Plains as the water is desalinated and distributed back into  the eco system.

 

Suites

We were staying in a one bedroom suite which was incredibly spacious, all open plan offering either a view of the hippos basking in the river or out onto the open plains were you can witness the sun setting.

We were facing the river and from our private terrace we could see the hippos below. But don’t worry as the rangers secure the property 24/7 so you are perfectly safe – enjoy the lions roaring and the hippos grunting from the comfort of your room.

 

On one end of the canvas tent there is a large open bathroom which can be closed off by drawing the curtains – a separate loo, stunning shower with large Arabic door as the back drop and a deep copper free standing bath which sits next to the large window where you can simply relax and take in the views.

 

The two bedroom Jahazi suite is tucked away under a canopy of trees providing ample space, privacy and home comforts. Central living areas flow nicely from the large veranda with two large bedrooms and bathrooms either side.

 

In your wardrobe you will find a yoga mat and work out bands to use at your perusal.

 

Mara Plains offers 24 hour complimentary laundry service to all guests – every evening it was so nice to return back to the room with your laundry neatly folded and a hot water bottle placed in your bed.

 

Grounds

As you arrive at the secluded camp you are warmly greeted by the team while you walk over the wooden floating footbridge above the hippos and crocodiles in the river below – the entrance can’t get more African safari than that!

 

The welcome guest area opens onto the enthralling views of the endless savannah while the beautiful interior which elegantly mixes colonial, Swahili, and Masai traditions, makes you feel instantly comfortable – leather sofas, wooden furniture, brass fitting and wildcat photography on the walls.

 

Cuisine

Being a Relais and Chateaux member the title speaks volumes for the food served. But what you wont expect is the incredibly mouth watering dishes lovingly prepared by Chef Ben with no dietary requirement a restriction to his amazing array of recipes.

With his deep understanding of food and what our bodies require, Chef Ben provides you with all the fuel and nutrients, leaving your mouth watering and eagerly anticipating your next dish.

Lunch is all served as sharing portions

An example of lunch:

Chilled Avocado & mint soup

Spicy baked mountain beef mince with sweet chilli

Roasted roots and vegetables

Leek & onion tart with mozzarella toppings

Middle Eastern Shakshuka with poached quail eggs

Apple, radish & pecans with cranberry and arugula leaves

Cheese board and desert

 

During the day the team will let you know what is for dinner in order for you to choose your three course meal. If you go on an afternoon game drive, dinner will be served anytime from 7.30pm and for late night game drives dinner will be served earlier.

An example of dinner options are:

Starter:

Plant based basil & coconut milk panacota with parmesan

Nori seaweed wraps with vegetable and wasabi sauce

Carrot and ginger soup served with sweet corn fritters

Main Course

Duo of grilled lamb chops and lamb breast with garlic and mint jus with veggies

Pan seared teriyaki wahoo fish with lemon mango salsa with turnip puree, spinach and veggies

Baked stuffed eggplant with yogurt and pomegranate

 

There are many options for kids too. In fact anything your heart desires will be cooked especially for you.

 

I can honestly say the level of cuisine was incredible, nothing was too much and everything you ate was an explosion of flavors. I couldn't praise Chef Ben enough he’s a true master in the kitchen and his love for food is addictive.

 

Dining

With many private areas around the property you can dine in the library, wine cellar, on the terrace or out in the bush. You can also enjoy sitting around the open bonfire for early drinks and nibbles watching the animals in the distance as the sun sets. 

Champagne bush breakfast and lunches can be arranged and one morning we took a full Chef Ben’s picnic out on our drive and found a wonderfully shaded spot under an acacia tree where we enjoyed a large selection of dishes.

 

Wildlife

The Olare Motorogi Conservancy is home to the highest concentration of big cats anyway in Africa and I was grateful to be witness to this.

From the minute we were in the vehicle going to the lodge the wildlife was abundant. And every game drive was an incredible experience. We saw two female leopards with 5 of their cubs, two male cheetahs patiently waiting for their next meal and a pride of female lions with her cubs. The zebra, wilder beast, giraffes, elephants, hyenas and other small animals were abundant.

 

What the conservatory has achieved is pretty incredible as you can watch this untouched wilderness where Maasai herdsmen live in total harmony with nature which is awe-inspiring. This truly unique entity boasts a relationship between conservation and livelihood, as you see cows grazing on one side and on the other lions, hyenas and wildebeest.

 

Experiences

The beauty of where Mara Plains is that its located in a private conservancy which means that the wildlife is abundant, there are minimal safari vehicles as only lodges in the conservancy are permitted in this area and you can get extremely close to the animals.  We literally had a pride of lions lying on the ground around the car and we parked next to the tree where the leopards were taking shade.

 

You can also experience a game drive in the Masai Mara National reserve, which I personally found too busy with other cars and a little too commercial. However driving up a mountain we could see vistas which went on for miles with the Serengeti (Tanzania) to our left and the Masai Mara (Kenya) to our right.

 

As with all three Great Plains Camps guests have the use of a Canon camera with multiple lenses and a pair of binoculars. At the end of your stay all your images will be downloaded on a memory stick.

 

Each tent is given a dedicated guide and vehicle to use during their stay. Our guide, Duncan was incredible and could literally sniff out the animals location. Its mind blowing how these wonderful guides know every single kilometer of the area like the back of their hand.

 

Guests can also enjoy a hot air balloon experience but this does need to be pre booked in advance. Last time I was in the Masai Mara my husband and I enjoyed a hot air balloon early morning which was incredible as we watched the migration from above and then a champagne breakfast.

 

 

Conclusion

Mara Plains does an absolutely brilliant job of combining thoughtful conservation with sustainable luxury. It really is the perfect combination for a mindful traveler who wants to take in the beauty of African wildlife but with a minimal footprint as possible. A safari holiday should show respect to the animals that we are visiting and be cognizant of our role as temporary guests and I really believe Mara Plains delivers on that.

 

Watch my video here:

 

 

The founders and visionaries

 

In collaboration with National Geographic, award winning filmmakers, photographers and conservationists Dereck and Beverly Jouberts have been helping to save wildlife and their habitats for over 30 years.

Mara Plains is owned and run by their company Great Plains Conservation.

 

To find out more visit about the camps which are located in Kenya, Botswana and Kenya and are members of Relais & Chateaux: www.greatplainsconservation.com

 

To understand more about the foundation : https://greatplainsfoundation.com

 

Who are Dereck & Beverly Joubert?: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/explorers/joubert/

 

 

For a bespoke itinerary and exclusive rates contact Unique Family Travels.

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Nykia Lead

Mara Nyika, Masai Mara

I’m an island girl at heart but my other favourite kind of holiday has to be a safari vacay.   Having previously experienced a couple of safaris in South Africa and Kenya I really do feel extremely grateful to have just come back from the most incredible  8 days on safari  in Kenya staying at three luxury camps – Mara Plains and Mara Nyika in two conservancies in the Masai Mara and then Ol Donyo in the Chyulu  Hills.

All three being the only Relais & Chateaux camps in Kenya – a real stamp of approval for the amazing experience which you will receive..

 

Mara Nyika

An hour flight from Wilson Airport to the landing strip in the Naboisho conservancy or a leisurely game drive between two of Great Plains luxury lodges in the Masai Mara - Mara Plains and Mara Niyaka.

  

Mara Nyika tented camp is the newest property by Great Plains and personally designed by the owners Dereck and Beverly. It’s nestled under an umbrella of ancient Acacia trees which create natural shade from the hot African sun.

While the camp is in a valley straddling a narrow stream, the beige colored canvas tents are set up high enough with wooden walkways so you can always enjoy the awe inspiring views out over the bush.

 

Suites

This is a small, cozy camp with only 5 large luxury tents consisting of 3 x one bedroom and 2 x two bedroom family tents.

We were staying in a one bedroom suite which was incredibly spacious - 3 tents were divided into three rooms – a living room with desk, central to the tent is a large bedroom and on the far end is the spacious bathroom. The entire suite has a wooden terrace spreading the width of the tent with a relaxing seating area.

 

Each room is separated by a curtain, providing privacy. The bathroom has the stunning signature Arabic door shower as a back drop and deep copper free standing bath next to the window offering great views of the bush which is regularly visited by many animals from elephants to Zebras.

The two bedroom family suites are exactly the same with the living room in the centre and both bedrooms and bathroom either side. Again a large terrace provides a great outdoor space.

 

The beating heart of the property is located in the middle of the 5 tents reachable by the wooden walk ways and opens up into a large central living/dining area which opens to a large terrace for dining and evening bonfires. Also on the terrace is a separate private dining area equipped with a wine cellar that is stacked with a large selection of wine.

 

What I loved about each of the three Great Plains properties which I stayed at, are the little touches – for example the communal washrooms in the communal/living area are well designed with the door as a curtain (again there is in no concrete used in the camps structure) when occupied you have to place the spear outside. Its sounds basic but its so effective and creative.

 

Cuisine

Being a Relais and Chateaux member the title speaks volumes for the food served. Lunches are always a selection of sharing dishes which include multiple salads and a protein, for example:

Turkey & Zucchini kebabs with sweet chill sauce

Harricot verts with caramelized onions

Wild rice with garden peas

Roasted aubergine with saffron coconut yoghurt

Balsamic roasted veggies

Nyika organic garden salad with roasted seeds

Cheese board and desert.

 

During the day the team will let you know what is on the menu for dinner in order for you to choose your three course meal. If you go on an afternoon game drive, dinner will be served anytime from 7.30pm and for late night game drives dinner will be served earlier.

 

There are many options for kids too. In fact anything your heart desires will be cooked especially for you.

 

I can honestly say the level of cuisine was incredible, always an explosion of flavors with an incredible variety of vast ingredients being used.

 

Dining

With many private areas around the property you can dine in the main living/dining area, wine cellar, on the terrace or out in the bush. You can also enjoy sitting around the open bonfire for early drinks and nibbles watching the animals in the distance as the sun sets. 

Champagne bush breakfast and lunches can be arranged. One morning post our game drive we enjoyed an incredible bush breakfast, were the staff had set up a kitchen and dining table under the trees and served a full English cooked breakfast, a selection of pastries and acai bowls with coffee, juices and champagne.

Another little touch is a portable sink to wash your hands with hot water poured from a jug and a soft towel to dry your hands.

 

Wildlife

The conservancy is just simply incredible as you you can watch this untouched wilderness where Maasai herdsmen live in total harmony with nature which is awe-inspiring. This truly unique entity boasts a relationship between conservation and livelihood, as you see cows grazing on one side and on the other lions, hyenas and wildebeest.

 

Sam our guide was a true gem – as a masai himself he provided us with so much insight in to the masai lifestyle and how their families live. He could literally smell an animal even in the dark he knew exactly where the animals were.

 

One of the most outstanding game drive experiences I’ve ever had was when we were out on a night drive looking for a pride of 20 lions. It was pitch black and Sam turned on his red light, looked in his super bionic binoculars and plains away he said he could see the lions – I have no idea how as we drove for about 15 minutes and then we could hear the roaring as the dominate male was calling out. We parked the vehicle right next to him as he let out another loud roar – the other lions roared too in reply– the sound was electrifying as it vibrated through the ground. It was a little scary but Sam reassured us that the lions could only see the shape of the vehicle as a large box – and not that people are sitting in it an open invitation to dinner!

 

After a while the lions started to walk away looking for dinner. We slowly drove side by side with the lions. As we parked we noticed a poor little Topi that literally walked into the lions den – the lions surrounded it, the poor Topi had no chance and ran for its life straight towards us and unfortunately ran directly into the side of the vehicle – knocking itself out (I know crazy, we felt so bad). The lions walked up to the vehicle as saw the Topi was lying on the floor. The large male saw it and grabbed it and it was still alive walking away on his own with the Topi in his mouth while the rest of the pride watched with envy.

 

Another moment was watching a large full mane domineering male lion mark out his territory – walking miles and then coming across a cheetah who was eating her kill. He knew he could never catch her – shes simply to fast, but he did warn her off with a chase– she really wasn't bothered, however if the other lions were to surround her she would be in serious trouble.

 

Another wonderful sighting was a leopard sitting under a tree with her 4 adorable cubs, we watched them play together chasing each other and snuggling into their mother as she sat keeping guard. One of the cubs was limping and slightly behind the other three, it must have been injured. After watching her for so long, I named her “Hope” as I was so worried she wouldn't be able to keep up with her mother and siblings and be attacked. As we were watching, in the distance the mother saw a topi (like a deer) we watched her analyze the situation, checking out if any other predators were around. As we explored the area further – literally about 500 meters away a male lion was hiding in the bush with a wilder beast he had just caught.

As the lone baby topi lay on the grass, the mother leopard struck, running like the wind to catch her pray – quick and easy she pounced on the topi and carried it still alive back to her babies.

As her 4 cubs tore into the animal the mother kept watch staying alert and not letting her guard down.

It’s sometimes sad to watch these kills but its nature and we can not interfere with nature.

The same night I was informed that the weak limping baby leopard was caught by the lion – he wont eat it – he just kills off his competition.

 

Another favorite moment was when the red African sun was going down, Sam parked the vehicle in a way were we managed to capture the elephants directly in front of the sun – such a beautiful moment.

 

Experiences

The beauty of where Mara Nyika is located in a private conservancy means that the wildlife is abundant, there are minimal safari vehicles as only lodges in the conservancy are permitted in this area and you can get extremely close to the animals.

The terrain is so incredible that you see everything be it high on mountain tops, low in the rocky valleys or out in the open plains.

I felt so lucky to see what we did then when driving back to the lodge early evening I asked Sam if there where any porcupines in Kenya to which 2 large ones ran out of the bush directly in front of our car!!

You cant take moments like this for granted its just luck and the beauty of nature.

 

As with all three Great Plains Camps guests have the use of a Canon camera with multiple lenses and a pair of binoculars. At the end of your stay all your images will be downloaded on a memory stick.

 

 

 Conclusion

Like it’s neighbor, Mara Plains, Mara Nyika does an absolutely brilliant job of combining thoughtful conservation with sustainable luxury. It really is the perfect combination for a mindful traveler who wants to take in the beauty of African wildlife but with a minimal footprint as possible. A safari holiday should show respect to the animals that we are visiting and be cognizant of our role as temporary guests and I really believe Mara Nyika delivers on that.

 

 

The founders and visionaries

 

In collaboration with National Geographic, award winning filmmakers, photographers and conservationists Dereck and Beverly Jouberts have been helping to save wildlife and their habitats for over 30 years.

Mara Nyika is owned and run by their company Great Plains Conservation.

 

To find out more visit about the camps which are located in Kenya, Botswana and Kenya and are members of Relais & Chateaux: www.greatplainsconservation.com

 

To understand more about the foundation : https://greatplainsfoundation.com

 

Who are Dereck & Beverly Joubert?: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/explorers/joubert/

 

 

For a bespoke itinerary and exclusive rates contact Unique Family Travels.

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
LEAD

Ol Donyo Lodge, Kenya

While I’m still an island girl one of my other favorite destinations is going on a safari adventure.   Having previously experienced a couple of safaris in South Africa and Kenya I really do feel extremely grateful to have just come back from the most incredible 8 days on safari in Kenya staying at three luxury camps – Mara Plains and Mara Nyika in two conservancies in the Masai Mara and then Ol Donyo in the Chyulu  Hills.

All three being the only Relais & Chateaux camps in Kenya.

 

Ol Donyo Lodge

 

Ol Donyo Lodge is a 40 minute flight from Nairobi located on 275,000 acres of private land in the heart of the Chyulu Hills in South East Kenya between Tsavo and Amboseli National Park. The vast open plains are home to only one lodge – Ol Donyo which is elevated on the hills providing the most incredible vistas of Mount Kilimanjaro.

 

When we arrived we immediately noticed how the plains were dry compared to being in the mara as they hadn’t had any rain in such a long time.  From the skies the ground looked like sand but with large patches of black which was actually from the ancient lava rock that spewed out of Kilimanjaro 360,000 years ago.

 

Driving through the dense bush there were areas that were extremely lush and green with animals taking shade under the acacia trees.  In the distance, we could see the lodge which sat majestically on the hill top.

 

As well as the terrain being very different from the Masai Mara, so was the lodge as the 7 open air villas are all made of stone, thatch and wood and are solar powered, offering a luxury sustainable living right in the middle of safari country.

 

Once arriving at the lodge the Ol Donyo team provided us with a massively warm welcome. Walking into the main area which is all open you are immediately greeted by the incredible views of the plains and Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.

 

 

Suites

Ol Donyo Lodge has 6 suites and a 2 bedroom villa and no two spaces are of the same design but all have a dramatic view of the African savannah with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. The suites are designed in a traditional African safari style with contemporary elements - dark wood furniture and white sofas. All of the suites have a lounge seating area which is totally open, a private terrace with pool, indoor and outdoor showers a large bathroom with the bath located by the glass doors and a “star-bed” located on the roof.  The rooms all come with a hairdryer, complimentary laundry service and at night a boiling hot water bottle is placed in your bed at turn down service.

I found the rooms very comfortable even when it was hot during the day and cold at night.

As Great Plains properties are all eco friendly, all the water which is used for your shower or bath is desalinated and then re-distributed within the grounds and for the animals.

 

Grounds

Just below the main area is a breathtaking infinity pool, complete with a private lounge and dining area. There is also an open air hide (hidden bunker/blind ) only a few minutes walk from the lodge situated right next to the water hole where you can sit and wait for an up-close experience with the wildlife that come to the waterhole to drink. Elephants would take their time sucking up the water while the zebras and giraffes would wait patiently for their turn. The two wooden hides which are literally 2 meters away from the waterhole offer different views of the animals and make you feel like you are really a fly on the wall in nature. At anyone time the wildlife is abundant so get a drink from the bar and enjoy taking in the experience while sipping on a coffee or cocktail.

 

Ol Donyo Spa

A separate building with two treatment rooms, one for manicures/hair and the other one is a couples treatment room. The large glass windows add to the perfectly relaxed atmosphere.  If you prefer to have your treatment in your room this service is also available.

 

Dining

Dining at Ol Donyo provides many unique experiences be it indoors or al fresco. Within the property you can dine in the wine cellar, library, in the lounge by the open fire or the dining room. There is also a unique private space outdoors where a fire is lit as dinner is served. 

Breakfast and lunch is served out door by the swimming pool or you can enjoy breakfast at a unique spot shaded by the acacia trees out on the open plains. This was such a beautiful experience and created so perfectly. Once you arrive there is a portable sink to wash your hands with hot water and handed a towel to dry. The table is set elegantly, the champagne is on ice, coffee is ready and a selection of juices. The chef is located a few meters away where he will prepare a full cooked breakfast along with a selection of fruit, muesli, pancakes and pastries.

It's the most beautiful way to end your morning game drive and relax in the fresh open air.

 

Cuisine

Being a Relais and Chateaux member the title speaks volumes for the food served. I mentioned the breakfast above, lunch is light and focuses on many different sharing plates. All dietary requirements are noted before arrival so the meals are all catered to suit your needs. From a selection of salads and a meat or vegetarian dish all served with rose wine or your choice of beverage.

An example of a shared lunch would be:

Stuffed chicken meat balls with spiced tomato and basil

Zucchini, corn and ricotta fritters

Wild brown rice salad with mushrooms and raisins

Dressed fennel, snow pea and onions

Red, white cabbage slaw, combined with peppers, ginger in a peanut dressing

Mixed fresh vegetable leaves with gooseberries, almond flakes and poppy seeds.

Mango and berry meringue roulade and a selection of cheese, crackers and dips

 

During the day the team will let you know what is for dinner in order for you to choose your three course meal. If you go on an afternoon game drive, dinner will be served anytime from 7.30pm and for late night game drives dinner will be served earlier.

An example of dinner options are:

Bacon and asparagus crescents with grilled zucchini

Carrot and ginger soup with corn fritters

Duo of grilled lamb chops and roasted lamb breast with garlic, mint jus and veggies

Pan seared teriyaki wahoo fish, with lemon mango salsa with roasted vegetables and turnip puree.

Vegetable and chickpea tagine served with herb couscous

Baked stuffed eggplant served with yogurt and pomegranate.

 

There are many options for kids too. In fact the chef is flexible to cook anything your heart desires.

 

I can honestly say the level of cuisine was incredible, nothing was too much and everything you ate was an explosion of flavors.

 

Wildlife

This untouched wilderness where Maasai herdsmen live in total harmony with nature is awe-inspiring. This truly unique entity boasts a relationship between conservation and livelihood,  as you see cows grazing on one side and on the other lions, hyenas and wildebeest.

 

During our stay we saw many large elephants especially by the water hole, giraffes with their babies, an abundant of zebras, ostrich, hyenas, and a pride of 7 lions.

 

Experiences

Ol Donyo is so unique in the fact that it has many experiences other than game drives because of the large open plains. One of the most incredible things I have ever done on safari was horse riding on the open plains at Ol Donyo. Lana who is Kenyan, is the Equestrian manager and also a polo player runs the stables which has 19 horses mostly brought in from South Africa. The stables are beautiful and enclosed in an arena in order for all riders to have a quick assessment before you go out riding. The minimum requirements are that you must have rode a horse before and have basic control, stop, start and trot. Once approved by Lana depending on your level of skills you can either ride through the thick bush onto the plains or meet on the plains to start your ride.

The absolutely incredible thing about riding a horse in the bush is that you get super close to all the other animals as they don't see you as a threat. The horse can smell if a lion/cheetah is close by and its really down to the rider on how you react but being more experienced is certainly a lot safer.  I didn't see any cats but they were in the area; I felt very comfortable being so close to a giraffe and zebra who basically ignored us and continued with what they were doing. I hadn’t been on a horse for a couple of years, yet my horse Kimbia was so good which added to the enjoyment of being out in the wild of Africa which was not only liberating but also extremely therapeutic.

This is a must do while at Ol Donyo and don't worry if you don't have all the gear with you – after all this is a luxury lodge who have thought of everything and is fully equipped with the most stunning leather riding boots, chaps, helmets and trail saddles.

 

If you want something a little more extreme you can go mountain biking through the plains and up the Chyulu hills. Guided bush walks are also a lot of fun. And if you can’t live without running, there is an experienced runner who will run alongside you – but be careful he is Kenyan so that means he has some serious speed in his legs!!

 

 Conclusion

I would recommend staying at the Ol Donyo Lodge either at the start or end of your Kenyan holiday, as you can really relax, take in the incredible views and enjoy the slower pace of life.

The two bedroom family suites are great for families with older children but sadly the property is not open to children under 10 unless on an exclusive basis.   

Also if you love taking pictures but dont have a professional camera or lenses, then dont worry as every suite at the property is provided with a CANON camera, lenses and binoculars to use during your stay. At the end all your pictures will be uploaded to a memory stick for you to keep.

This is a massive advantage considering the internal flights are very strict on luggage allowanece!

 

Watch my video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOf554NwOwo&t=3s

 

Room Tour: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CUsHbw_jG83/?utm_medium=copy_link

 

Riding in the plains: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CUksCIHo4lG/?utm_medium=copy_link 

 

The NGO, ‘Big Life Foundation’ is a partner of Ol Donyo and Great Plains Conservation, which protects over 2 million hectares of wildlife.

The property is one of the major donors of the Big Life Foundation, annually donating several hundred thousand dollars. Cattle rearing is an essential part of the Maasai way of life, who are shareholders of the land  which is under conservation around ol Donyo Lodge. When predators and cattle mix, it is usually predators like lions that are killed by the Maasai protecting their cattle. This ultimately places the lions on a path to extinction. Richard Bonham, the creator of the Big Life Foundation, realized many years ago that in order to save the wild animals he had to tell the locals how valuable wildlife is for conservation tourism. He also initiated anti-poaching operations. Since then biodiversity breathes easier.

The founders and visionaries

 

In collaboration with National Geographic, award winning filmmakers, photographers and conservationists Dereck and Beverly Jouberts have been helping to save wildlife and their habitats for over 30 years.

Ol Donyo is owned and run by their company Great Plains Conservation.

 

To find out more visit about the camps which are located in Kenya, Botswana and Kenya and are members of Relais & Chateaux: www.greatplainsconservation.com

 

To understand more about the foundation : https://greatplainsfoundation.com

 

Who are Dereck & Beverly Joubert?: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/explorers/joubert/

 

For a bespoke itinerary and exclusive rates contact Unique Family Travels.

A heli pad is also close to the property for guests who are traveling by helicopter.

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Ritz Carlton Lead

Ritz Carlton, Fari Islands

The Ritz Carlton Maldives is located on the Fari Islands, a unique archipelago featuring three luxury private resorts and a marina with Ritz’s neighbors being the Patina Maldives and the soon to open Capella Maldives.

The property had only been open 2 weeks when I arrived so there was a fresh, exciting vibe to the island and I am pleased to say the occupancy was high, which was a great sign that people were looking to savor what the Ritz had to offer.

 

Guests are welcomed to the sounds of a horn - blowing into a shell, which is very inviting as it instantly provides a pleasant mix of warmth and adventure.

I was staying in a one bedroom water villa with a pool which looked straight out into the ocean. The 100 villas on the island provide a modern architecture, with two design shapes square and circular which are in turn inspired by the water and circular movements.

The one bedroom villa is very elegant and sleek with a large bathroom and indoor/outdoor shower. The bath tub is in the main bedroom providing wonderful ocean views. Personally I thought this would have been a great opportunity to include a round bath tub instead of a standard tub which I believe would have linked beautifully with the villa, shape of the pool and natural surroundings and picture perfect.

I really loved the pool space and dining area with steps directly into the sea and hammock. Unfortunately the privacy lacked as my neighbor shouted hello from their pool. I didn't mind this but for a lot of my clients privacy is key.

Most islands in the Maldives have their restaurants situated around the island – however at Ritz Carlton all but one are located on Culinary Island, which is a unique concept located in between the spa side of the island and the activity side of the island – yet all a very quick and easy cycle ride away. The other Ritz restaurants can be found at the chic and elegant Marina Fari Islands which is only a 10 minute boat ride and offers all kinds of cool and social vibes.

The restaurants are as follows:

LA LOCANDA –brings together refreshing Southern Italian flavors

SUMMER PAVILION – this Michelin-starred collaboration offers tapas-style authentic Cantonese cuisine in a lantern-inspired dining pavilion perched over the velvety lagoon.

IWAU – showcases Japanese specialties, including a lively teppanyaki dining experience under the stars.

EAU BAR –sunset is celebrated each evening with a captivating ritual. It's a stunning bar, shisha lounge and offers a gastronomical experience.

BEACH SHACK – the communal pulse of the island perfect for long relaxing lunches.

ARABESQUE – located at Fari Marina

TUM TUM – a glam food truck located in Fari Marina offering scrumptious Asian street food.

THE RITZ-CARLTON SPA

I have to say this is the most impressive designed spa I have recently seen. I’m sure you would have seen the aerial shots of the ring shaped sanctuary which is nestled in the lagoon with the water villas providing the outline.

 The Ritz-Carlton Spa offers nine spa treatment rooms including a spa suite with its own relaxation lounge, a salon and a boutique. Cardinal directions of each treatment room exude powerful energy complemented with healing massages and thoughtfully-selected amenities, offering guests an all encompassing luxurious wellness experience.


The Ritz Kids Club boasts futuristic indoor-outdoor space with playgrounds, napping pods, an area for video games and movies, and a pool with slides and jets. When you enter the front door to the club its like walking into the side of a mountain very similar to the TV characters Telly Tubby’s home - it instantly provides a wow factor and I am certain young visitors to the Ritz will spend many hours here. The Kids Club also provides an activity themed program that is designed for ages 4 to 12, and meshes well with the island's four pillars—land, water, environmental responsibility and local culture. 


A beautiful and signature touch to the islands are the sunset ceremonies. Sounds of the drums beat as the sun starts to set and a circular flame is lit which signifies transitioning from a day full of discoveries into an evening of indulgence and reflection, giving the inspiration to do it all over again.

As many travelers know, visiting a Ritz property is an experience, the brand speaks for itself and many loyal customers can attest to the rigorous high standards maintained year in year out. I can safely say that all of this is now available at a beautiful Maldives location so anyone looking for a Maldivian experience that cuts no corners and gives the full luxurious effect under the watchful eye of a global luxury brand, should start making their bookings. 

Watch the island video here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZRJUMigHeg

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Patina Lead

Patina Maldives, Fari Islands

Patina Maldives Fari Islands is a property I spent all of 2020 eagerly waiting for it’s open having spent time understanding about the island and the brand over Zoom calls with the team during the Covid lockdown and simply being blown away by Maldives newest player.

 

Move forward to July 2021, 2 weeks after it opens and I find myself in Patina Paradise.

Patina Fari Islands is the eco friendly flagship resort for Patina Hotels and Resorts a new luxury lifestyle brand by Capella Hotel Group.

 

This fresh yet sophisticated brand philosophy is inspired by a new generation that encompasses a progressive traveller with an independent mind but who has a deep respect and appreciation for local culture, the local community and is committed to utilizing travel as an extension of giving back.

 

Let me introduce you to the beautifully chic – Tulum meets Maldives- Patina Maldives, Fari Islands which is a 40 minute speed boat transfer from Male.

 

There is so much to love and appreciation about this property that I want to break it down into sections as there’s a lot to highlight:

 

Marina Village and Beach Club

This is the communal and beating heart of the island set in a socially vibrant scene. Outside guests will be able to enjoy the buzz of the island at the beach bar or any of the high end dining options, including chic tuk tuks. Mr and Mrs Rake is the exclusive retail section and one has to experience the incredible James Turrell Pavilion.

 

Villas

I was fortune to stay and experience both a two bedroom beach villa and a 2 bedroom water villa. They are both exactly the same layout just the beach villa opens up onto the beach providing a lot more space for children to run freely.

The villa bedrooms are on either side of a central living room both with sliding doors and their own large bathrooms. The terraces blend the indoor and outdoor space with an outdoor bath, dining area and hammock. All villas at Patina come with a private pool. There is a small kitchen which is close to the entrance and hidden behind a wall. What I personally absolutely loved about the villas was the rustic simple feel of nature reflected by an earthy color palette, dark wood furniture and the dark grey bed sheets contrasting beautifully with floor to ceiling windows and that quintessential Madlives view.

 

All the villas are ran by solar panels on the roof thereby helping the island maintain a minimal carbon footprint.

 

The one bedroom villas are also spacious and perfect for a couple with a young child; they have the same look and feel as the two bedroom villas but do not come with a separate living room however they are extremely generous in size.

 

The Three Bedroom Beach House is on another level. The same as a 2 bedroom downstairs and then the floating staircase takes you to the master bedroom which is the size of the entire ground floor with a large outdoor terrace, an incredible bathroom that has to be experienced and a super large dressing room. The garden is huge – my son would be in his element playing football here. There is also an additional out door seating area by the pool.

 

Footprints

 

Footprints is the kids education inspired activity centre set in beautiful grounds with climbing frames and a splash pool. The indoor activities include a 3D printing and laser cutting technology, cooking classes etc. The children can also enjoy interactive island experiences and marine conservation. Parents will be overjoyed to know that their children can spend countless hours staying busy.

 

 

Flow Spa

When entering Flow Spa you immediately feel the energy flow. Facilities include a watsu pool for passive aquatic therapy. There is also a salt water floating chamber along with multiple treatment rooms. The entire premise of the Flow Spa intelligently merges with Patina’s brand ethos. It’s not your cookie cutter spa, there is something special about this one.

 

Marina Life.

For the experienced Maldives traveller who wish to immerse themselves in the marine life, then you will need to take a boat for 5/10 minutes to spot the turtles and reef sharks by snorkeling. I have clients who have visited and enjoyed an abundance of marine life while others had to go out a little further for the great diving spots. As this is a new island the sea life will start to flourish over time.

 

Dining

With 12 eclectic dining options to choose from you will be in for an unbelievable culinary treat:

ROOTS – their plant-based restaurant

WOK SOCIETY – A Hong Kong social serving up soulful dishes

HELIOS – A Greek kitchen

VELI Bar – The perfect pool side bar with those classical Maldives sunset vibes

BRASA -  A grill from the Patagonian regions of South American

KOEN – Japanese culinary arts with a Scandinavian approach

Farine – Bakery and Café

Food Trucks – Burgers and Ice cream

 

 

 

 

Service

Every villa has a dedicated “Essentialist” to assist them with their every need. Every client of mine was suitably impressed by the expertise, knowledge and gentle caring nature of the ‘Essentialist’ – another testament to Patina raising the game in this ultra competitive market.

 

Overall

Having experienced 12 properties in the Maldives and having a deep understanding of all the luxury resorts within the Maldives, I am super excited for Patina Fari Islands. I personally loved my time on the island as the service was spot on, the food was incredibly tasteful and the vibe was super chic – even the islands sound track is spot on which was curated by the GM, Marco, himself.

 

Next year Capella Fari Islands will open its doors so you will have the choice of three luxury properties to dine at, whichever resort you decide to stay at – Patina Fari Islands, The Ritz Carlton Fari Islands and Capella Fari Islands. 

 

Patina Fari Islands is a definite game changer to the Maldives scene. I really do encourage my readers and clients to go experience it.

 

To watch my video – click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5ECncmC0OI&t=336s

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Soneva Fushi Lead

Soneva Fushi 2021

I was so honored and suitably thrilled to be part of the first Ladies of Luxury Destination round table for TTN Magazine which was hosted at my favorite property in the world – Soneva Fushi in the Maldives.

 

I left behind in Dubai my husband and three young children who were not happy with me at all as the last time as I was at Soneva Fushi we were all together as a family and they too share my love for this incredible Robinson Crusoe island hideaway.

 

Soneva Fushi is located in the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which can be reached by a 40 minute sea plane from Male.

 

2020/21 is a significant year for Discover Soneva and Soneva Fushi as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. The island is so lush it’s a real tropical jungle with bunny rabbits hopping around and a mesmerizing marine life right next to the shore. The lush vegetation also provides total privacy for every beach villa, creating a cocoon of peaceful harmony with nature.

 

There’s so much to talk about at Soneva Fushi with a new Michelin star chef plant based restaurant and 8 brand new water retreats similar to those at their sister property Soneva Jani so with lots to share I will break this down into sections.

 

 

Villa 37

As we were a group of ladies our home was villa 37 which was INCREDIBLE – a 5 bedroom villa complete with an 11m viewing tower – which offers the highest views on the island. A large freshwater swimming pool with slide, a kids pool, multiple sunken seating areas, gym, games room, sauna, steam room, library, TV room, large living room and kitchen. At nearly 20,000 sq feet you can imagine how grand and exquisite it was.

I was in the master bedroom which is on the ground floor with direct access to the pool, comes with an office and the largest indoor/outdoor bathroom you have ever seen with 2 dressings rooms, 2 showers and a bath. For those who know how much I love bathrooms it was certainly bathroom goals achieved!!

On the opposite side to the master bedroom was another bedroom with direct access to the pool. On the next floor were another 3 bedrooms, the games room, gym and TV room and a spiral staircase taking you to the sunken seating area in the viewing tower.

 

As with all villas on the island they offer private access to the beach through the lush greenery. For large families (this villa can sleep 15) this really is a haven with so much to satisfy everyone – you actually never have to leave the villa as everything can be brought to you!

https://soneva.com/villa/5-bedroom-residence-with-pool-villa-37/

 

Having personally experienced a few of the villas at Soneva Fushi, there is so much choice of style, design and size to suit every ones needs. The feel is the same and the larger villas all come with slides.

 

Another favorite which I believe has to be the most luxurious tree house in the world is villa 43 which is centered around an ancient Banyan Tree. At 24,000 square feet this 6 bedroom reserve emerges from the trees with six separate structures rising out of the sand, with the banyan tree in the center. The master bathroom is separate to the master bedroom but only once you see it will you know why – its stunning and a masterpiece. The reserve has two swimming pools – one directly outside the master bedroom and another with slide, a gym, sauna and stream room.

https://soneva.com/villa/sunset-reserve-villa-43/

 

There are also options of 6 and 9 bedrooms – I can’t even begin to describe the size of these!

 

Water Retreats

The newly launched water retreats are one and 2 bedroom and adhere to Soneva’s pioneering sustainability ethos and barefoot luxury.

Accessed by a short curving jetty which is kind of hidden if you didn’t know it was there, these villas are designed to offer total privacy with pool and slide and an upper deck with dining area. I love how the water retreats provide floor to ceiling windows the length of the villa providing the most incredible vistas of the ocean. Again in true Soneva style the attention to detail and design is breath taking leaving you in total awe of how raw sustainable materials can provide such luxury and masterpieces. Soneva are true pioneers of intelligent luxury and it reflects and shines in every aspect of the resort.

Dining:

The newest addition to the island is “Shades of Green”, located in the resort’s organic garden. The concept and menu was created by Danish Chef, Carsten Kyster who really wanted to tap into the global movement that places an emphasis on fresh, organic, and local produce as being important for a healthy lifestyle, while also being a climate conscious choice in keeping with Soneva’s values.

 

The experience at Shades of Green begins with all diners going on a guided tour of the garden to learn about the herbs, vegetables and fruits that are being grown there. Walking around I could smell the aroma of the “lemon basil”. Using all five senses they pick the ingredients to be used in their meal. All diners are encouraged to examine, pick, smell, and taste the herbs, fruits, and vegetables growing in the garden. Along the way they will come across a number of ‘amuse bouche’ hidden amongst the greenery. One of my favorites was a hanging half coconut filled with a mouth watering vegan sauce in a dip.

Once dinner is served you will gather around a fire pit for the first course before being seated at tables beneath the shade of the pergola and fruit trees. The menu features simple yet experimental plant based dishes, blending Maldivian and Southeast Asian cuisines; which are then prepared using Nordic techniques such as smoking, salting, fermenting, and pickling.

This was such a stripped back authentic experience yet extremely tasty and so nice to be dining in an organic garden.

 

Out Of The Blue

 

For those who have attended my Soneva Fushi dinners in Dubai will know of Chef Sobha who runs the kitchen at Out Of The Blue. For lunch or dinner you can dine on Vietnamese, Japanese and Indonesian cuisine while enjoying the open water views. Plus just incase you fancy a dip in between dishes you can enjoy the slide which goes directly into the blue!

 

Out Of The Blue also includes dining options at

So Hot – a robata grill

So Hands On – Sushi counter

Once Upon A Table -  this is a culinary theatre showcasing some of the biggest names in fine dining. Chefs are brought to the island from all over the world – there  is no menu, which allows the creativity and skills of the chef to take centre stage while you are left to experience something truly unique.

So Guilty – this is the chocolate and ice cream room which is open all day so you can literally help yourself when you have a sweet tooth  or for the savory lovers there’s So Cheesy the cheese and wine room which again is open all day where you can help yourself to the most amazing cheeses from around the world.

Fresh In The Garden is a unique location where you can dine high above the trees accessible by a rope bridge and connected to the astrology room which is home to the biggest telescope in the Indian ocean.

 

Breakfast is served at Mihiree Mithaa which is alfresco on the beach with ala carte and serving options. One of my favorite parts of breakfast are the auyavadic shots which are great for liver tonic cleansing, wellbeing, balance, stress, blood purification etc

 

The DEN

 

As someone whose kids have actually spent a week at the DEN I believe its safe to say this is one of the best kids clubs in the world. If you ask my kids they would simply say AMAZING…….. A Child’s DREAM!

 

There are so many activities to enjoy within the DEN such as arts/crafts/cooking/ music/games to the multiple slides in the pool, climbing frames, pirate ship and more. Outside of the DEN the team arrange a lot of interactive activities be it with marine life, sustainability, organic garden etc. Parents can simply enjoy a little alone time while the kids are entertained for hours.

 

Sonu’s Picnic

 

One of the experiences I enjoyed on this trip was lunch on the private island known as Sonu’s picnic.

Guests are taken by boat for about 20 minutes to a private island – just you, the sea and chef! Chef prepares an amazing lunch while you enjoy being isolated on an uninhabitable island for the next few hours. Take your snorkeling gear with you as the marine life is abundant.

 

Soneva are launching Soneva Soul their new Spa destination which will initially be launched at Soneva Jani and then soon at Soneva Fushi – watch this space as the founders of Soneva are also the original founders and brains behind  Six Senses meaning Soneva Soul offers the next level and forward thinking service that will transform a spa experience making this even more of a not to be missed destination – I would not be surprised if people come to this resort simply because they want to experience Soneva Soul.

 

One of my favorite parts of being on the island is simply just cycling around the island through the invigorating jungle  (25 years of fauna)  What Soneva do so well is offer the most simplest experiences with this understated luxury feeling – its simply another level of hospitality that very few can claim to match. The Soneva brand has proven time and time again that it really is the simplest things in life, strip everything back and you can have everything you want in life - space, nature and simple beauty who says eco friendly and sustainable can’ be luxury – Soneva has been living this for the past 2 decades and continue to keep upping their game. True trailblazers – go experience what the pinnacle of luxury travel should be.

 

You can watch my latest video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSVFh5xgNDA&t=55s

 

TNT - Ladies of Luxury travel feature here: http://www.ttnworldwide.com/Article/322841/_Ladies_of_luxury_

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Susona lead

Beautiful Bodrum

We are all looking for that perfect escapism right now yet so many places are off limit, on some kind of travel restriction or there is daily confusion if you can or cannot enter a country based on vaccines and quarantines. It can get complicated. However let me offer you a simple solution: let me introduce you to Beautiful Bodrum.

 

All visitors only need to show a negative PCR test on arrival and don’t have to be vaccinated or quarantined. Fly Dubai flies directly into Bodrum from the UAE and Turkish Airlines via Istanbul so a holiday on the Aegean Sea is well within your reach and seriously good for the soul.

I visited Bodrum to check out the newly opened Susona Bodrum - LXR Hotels and Resorts, which sits on a private peninsular on the edge of the Aegean.

 

Upon arriving you are instantly struck by the beauty of the white villas, with the blue ocean and green mountains in the back ground. There is something about these three colours that makes me feel grounded. And provides you with that Mediterranean escapism.  The Aegean has the perfect climate during summer. Its mildly hot yet has a breeze and isn’t humid.

 

The boutique resort offers 76 rooms in total comprising of suites and villas which are 4,6 and 7 bedrooms all ocean facing with a private pool set in lush gardens. The suites are very generous in size with a modern sleek finish. The villas have large floor to ceiling windows offering the most stunning views of the mountains and sea and open up to bring the outside in with stunning large dining areas where one can enjoy alfresco dining around the pool.

 

The property has a small private pebble family beach with sunbeds and a beach bar. There’s a large jetty to dive off and to enjoy water sports.

 

On the opposite side of the resort is the trendy chic Frankie Beach Club which is open to the public and is the perfect place to chill to cool DJ vibes be it around the pool or in the cabanas on the dedicated jetty.

 

The large open restaurant serves the freshest of Mediterranean cuisine and an array of wines. I have to be honest I fell in love with the food in Bodrum, it was so fresh and I particularly loved breakfast as it was sharing mezza style which is served at Ezi Restaurant or you can request to have it set up at your villa. Enjoy lunch at Frankie Beach Club and dinner at Malva which offers a boho chic style setting and  serves a world of gastronomy with locally sourced products from around the Aegean region.

 

Spa Soul is a must visit for their Turkish hammam and massage treatments. There is also a fitness centre, tennis court and dedicated children’s swimming pool.

 

Susona Bodrum’s location makes it central for so much to see and do around Bodrum.  Ten minutes away is Bodrum Castle and the marina which offers a wide selection of eateries, sightseeing and shopping.

 

What to do in Bodrum:

 

You must have dinner on the waters edge at Melengec for authentic seafood and Mediterranean cuisine. Not only is the food amazing and there is great ambience but the sunset is incredible as its sets over the mountains directly in front of you. You can book a table in the water were you can dip your feet in or on the waters edge.

 

Bodrum Harbor – Take a boat tour from Bodrum Harbor either via super yacht or a traditional sailing boat. Its worth sailing to Orak Island which is the most uninhabited stretch of the peninsula, shimmering stunningly with its crystal blue waters.

 

Bodrum Castle – located in the harbor -walk through history within the ruins.

 

Bitez Beach – The blue flag Bitez Beach is worth a visit. Shielded to the east by a long headland this beach is a scallop shaped bay with gravel sand and shallow warm, transparent water.

 

Dibeklihan Culture Art Village – This beautiful location is slightly off the beaten path but so worth visiting. The historical building and grounds is complete with little artisan stores selling the most incredible pieces of furniture and collectables. There is a beautiful coffee shop that smells divine from cooking fresh bread and dishes in their open kitchen.  It’s such a tranquil experience and a great opportunity to chat to locals and really support their small businesses.

 

Before I finish I have to thank the team at Susona Bodrum especially Funda and Asil, who were the most incredible hosts with the warmest and biggest hearts. I certainly left a little piece of my heart in Bodrum.   

 

I highly recommend a visit to Bodrum as the locals are so warm, the food is incredible, the weather is perfect and you really feel refreshed and grounded – its great for your soul.

 

Watch our video from Susona Bodrum

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H0iM-GPBjg

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9XLQDSZqZc

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoKmzEcyBho

 

 

 

 

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
LEAD

Impressive Istanbul

I really do love my job as a luxury travel curator, designing holidays for people and letting them experience unique resorts around the world. I consider myself extremely fortunate for the amazing opportunities that come my way. I am sure from the outside looking in, I have a very cushy number – however it has taken a lot of hard work over the past 3 years since launching Unique Family Travels not to mention this has been my passion since I was young including going to college to learn more about the tourism industry.

 

So when I was chosen to join a trip with LXR Hotels – Hilton’s Luxury brand, I was beyond excited and incredibly honored. Joining the LXR, Hilton and Conrad team along with 4 other amazing agents, we really did have a wonderful time with the most heart warming hospitality, that has left me reassured that my clients will be looked after to the highest level.

Its been a really long time since I've been on a city break. Even though I have visited Istanbul many times, this was going to be a new experience during covid times.

 

Firstly let me start by reassuring you that Turkey was extremely safe and not busy. Masks are compulsory and there are strict timings that restaurants need to close by.

You need to do a PCR test 72 hours pre traveling and present it at check in along with completing an online form to enter Turkey www.register.health.gov.tr - you must screen shot the bar code to show at the airline check in.

 

We flew business class with Turkish Airlines which was my first time and I am pleased to say the experience was extremely comfortable and spacious. All flights now arrive into Istanbul’s brand new airport which was empty and very quick though passport control.

 

Conrad Bosporus

 

We arrived at Conrad Bosporus to a very warm welcome. Previously when in Istanbul I've stayed on the Bosporus but this property is higher up but only 5 mins walk from the Bosporus yet provides  the most incredible views of the city showcasing Asia side and many of the bridges.

 

My suite had an incredibly large window in the living room and bedroom which really showcased the view in its full glory. The suits was very spacious with a separate living room with the coffee table full of welcome edibles – slightly dangerous with my sweet tooth. And a personalized bath robe was laid out on the bed.

 

The hotel is very grand with a large winding staircase in the lobby and has a glorious ballroom with separate entrance– perfect for weddings with a large outdoor terrace for pre functions. Additional to the gym and swimming pool there’s also two tennis courts and a huge spa and hammam.

 

I had the most amazing hammam in the Turkish spa which I can only describe myself as floating on a soap bubble while my hair was being washed and my skin was being rubbed down – total bliss – highly recommend.

 

The hotel offers many dining options, ranging from the Mediterranean-style Manzara Restaurant to the Summit Bar and Terrace, which offers skyline views from its perch on the 14th floor.

 

Excursions

 

Bosporus Cruise

You can either book a private yacht or enjoy the bustling ferry, whichever boat you take a cruise on the Bosporus is a must.  Enjoy a thriving city crossing two continents – Europe and Asia enjoying Istanbul from a different perspective should be top of your list.

 

Ortakoy Mosque located on the edge of the Bosporus in a busy neighborhood, popular with art galleries, nightlife, bars, restaurants.

Hagia Sophia has been standing for more than 1400 years. It served as an Orthodox Cathedral until 1453 until Ottoman Sultan Mehmed 11 (who conquered Istanbul) and now it has been converted into a mosque.

During the conversion, the Sultan covered the religious symbols rather than removing them, so today visitors can witness a unique monument that straddles time and religion.

 

Topkapi Palace Museum (located next to Hagia Sophia)

This Palace served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Sultans.

 

Topkapi Palace and Harem (Topkapi Saray) are likely to have more colourful stories than most of the world’s museums put together.

Libidinous sultans, ambitious courtiers, beautiful concubines and scheming eunuchs lived and worked between 15th and 19th centuries when it was the court of the Ottoman Empire.

A visit to the palace’s opulent pavilions, jewel-filled treasury and sprawling Harem gives a fascinating glimpse into their lives.

 

If you enjoy being slap bang in the historical area I highly recommend Hagia Sophia Mansions which is located between Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace down a cobbled street. These stunning suites which are beautifully designed and perfectly located for tourists to explore the area also offer a private spa and fitness area.

 

Sofia Terrace restaurant has Hagia Sophia as your back drop or you can enjoy a fine dining experience at Sarnic Restaurant which is a couple of steps away. This extraordinary building was built over 1000 years ago and is supported by six stone pillars and high domes in the ceiling.

 

Remember to also visit:

 

The Blue Mosque – One of the most famous and iconic destinations for tourists in Istanbul which is commonly referred to as the Blue Mosque. It was built in 1616 and has over 20,000 handmade ceramic titles.

 

Grand Bazaar - is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world built in 1461, stretching over 70 streets and consisting of over 4000 shops!

 

Next stop Bodrum

 

Click this link to find out more:

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Lead Conrad

Conrad Rangali Island

I have just returned from 5 days at the stunning yet unassuming Conrad Rangali Island, Maldives.

 

I had heard a lot about this property over the years but I went with no expectations at all as every time I visit the Maldives I always go with an open mind. Yes every resort is stunning as its surrounded by crystal blue ocean and white powdery beaches so they are all beautiful, however some resorts can hook you on service, dining options, a unique selling point, great marine life and house reefs, dive sites and of course the rooms. I am going to break my review down into segments as I honestly believe The Conrad Maldives offers all this and more – there’s no surprise that most of its guests are repeaters as they have the instant feeling of being back at home every time they step on the island.

NOT ONE BUT TWO ISLANDS

 

Just a 30 minute sea plane from Male International Airport, you arrive at Conrad Rangali, Maldives jetty which connects to two islands. Rangalifinolhu Island is more for families and is the heart of the resort or you can stay in the adult only hideaway on Rangali Island.

 

Rangalifinolhu is home to a mix of water villas and beach villas, the spa, the shopping boulevard, dive centre and water sports centre plus a mixture of the dining experiences. Plus you will find a large swimming pool next to the beach.

 

Rangali Island is more of a quieter island, home to just water villas, a couple of restaurants and bars plus the infinity pool. This would be a perfect island to host a small wedding with 50 rooms you could even take it privately. This island will now close until the 1st November as all the water villas are being renovated and they are building a new over water spa which is going to add an exciting new element to a fantastic location.

 

To get from one island to another you can take the Dhoni boat, which takes a couple of minutes otherwise simply enjoy the walk. One day I went via paddleboard, which was fun!!

 

 

VILLAS

 

Rangalifinolhu Island offers 1 and 2 bedroom water villas with and without a private swimming pool. The two bedrooms are very spacious with a large bathroom in the centre separating the rooms and a living area. The beach villas are available in 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms.

The deluxe 1 bedroom villa is stunning and extremely spacious for a family with young children. They include a large outdoor relaxing area with day bed and rattan swing plus an outdoor shower which is accessible from the bathroom..

The bathroom includes all modern amenities such as a powerful rain shower and an intelligent toilet!!!  From the bedroom you can access the pool and private beach.

 

You can watch the room tour here: https://youtu.be/_oJgAt2PgVM

 

The 2 bedroom beach villa is the same layout except in place of the relaxing area by the out door shower, this has been designed into another bedroom– again great for families but not ideal for 2 couples. They also have interconnecting beach villas too.

 

As I mentioned before, Rangali Island will actually be closed until  1st November as all the water villas are being renovated. I have seen the mock up rooms and they are lovely and will offer 1 and 2 bedroom villas with and without pool. There will also be 2 three bedroom water villas with pools that are very spacious and private as they sit on the edge of a private jetty.

 

 

THE MURAKA – The world’s first undersea residence

 

This has to be the most modern and unique 3 bedroom, two level luxury residence in the world, let alone the Maldives! One of the bedrooms is submerged under the sea offering the best seat to watch your own underwater theater and a truly unique visual experience.

 

As you walk down the jetty towards The Muraka which is located out into the sea away from the island this incredible modern white building starts to take form.

 

As you enter its open plan with floor to ceiling windows around the entire back of the residence. The living space with a large dining area and kitchen bar brings the out doors in with sliding doors which open up onto a large deck with a huge comfortable seating area, infinity swimming pool and lots of space to jump directly into the ocean.

On the first floor is a king bedroom with an incredibly large bathroom with a stunning bath perfectly placed to offer the most delightful views of the ocean. There’s a twin bedroom perfect for kids, a gym and for large families traveling with staff there’s a separate wing for them to relax and feel comfortable.

 

To get to the master bedroom you can take the spiral staircase or the elevator which takes you below sea level. Once the lift doors open you walk directly into the master bedroom which provides 180 degree curved acrylic dome from floor to ceiling windows offering the most incredible front row seat to an under water theatre.

As I lay on the bed I was in awe of what was in front of me. The small sharks and schools of fish would swim past along with the odd large fish who looked like he was staring right at you.

At the far end of the roof there are two comfortable chairs facing outwards and the opposite end of the room is a walk in wardrobe and a wash room with double sinks, complete with Aesop products. Being in this room there’s wasn’t one moment that you don’t have a view of the marine life, it’s truly an incredible experience.  The hardest decision to make while staying in The Muraka is which seat to sit on and what view to admire.

 

You can watch my room tour here: https://youtu.be/jG-eglLPus0

 

 

DINING DELIGHTS

 

For the size of this island there is so much choice for dining along with unique experiences. There are 12 world class restaurants all serving totally different cuisines, from an authentic Chinese restaurant by acclaimed chef Jeremy Leung, an underground wine cellar, an underwater restaurant, Teppanyaki table on the beach and more.  I’m not one for dining at the same restaurant every night , so this really is a foodies paradise.  You also have a choice of two breakfast restaurants to also shake things up!

 

ITHAA underwater restaurant. A fine dining experience 5 meters under the sea with 180 degree panoramic views. Relax with a glass in hand as you watch the marine life swimming past you as the sunlight reflects on the coral.

 

Lunch is a 4 course fine dining delight and dinner is 6 courses all being specially designed to leave you feeling light and satisfied.  It’s a small restaurant approx. 14 people at a time and you can book it exclusively for breakfast/lunch and dinner.

Chef cooked us a wonderful array of dishes for lunch – mine were all served without fish and shell fish:

 

Dill infused salmon

Beet, caper mayo, pistachio

 

Foie gras touchon

Pecan granola, poached rhubarb, fried shallots

 

Miso & truffle marinated black cod OR Wagyu beef

Green pea, edamame bean, snow pea, crisp noodles, onion sauce

 

Yuzu set mousse

Passion fruit, pineapple and butter milk

 

 

UFAA BY JEREMY LEUNG

Ufaa is an innovative Chinese culinary concept by celebrity chef Jeremy Leung that showcases authentic experiences which highlight the iconic flavours from the distinctive cultures and provinces across China. The restaurant presents various dining options including fresh hand- made noodles and dim sum, premium hotpot with Chef Leung’s signature broth and top quality produce.

MANDHOO SPA RESTAURANT

This was one of my favorites as it sits on stilts in the lagoon, this open-air over-water restaurant is the best kept dining secret on the island. The menu has been specially prepared to energize, nourish, detoxify, relax and fortify the body utilizing organic produce, some grown on the island grounds and imported from around the world. The chefs cooking techniques pay special attention to specific tastes, temperature, level of moisture and density as they all affect the mind and body in different ways.

THE WINE CELLAR

Located two meters underground and featuring up to 20,000 bottles of wine and up to1,400 labels – the most in the Maldives, The Wine Cellar is the setting for degustation dinners hosted by the island’s head chef and chief sommelier, who skillfully match a five-course menu with up to eight hand-picked wines. 12 guests sit at the purposely-designed table with the chief sommelier and are guided on an interactive journey through the old and new world wine regions, presented on personal video screens. The menu changes each time, allowing chef to show- case the best seasonal ingredients available.

THE CHEESE & WINE BAR

Home to over 100 of the world’s best cheeses which have been carefully selected by the Cheese Master, The Cheese and Wine Bar, is the Maldives’ one and only purposely designed cheese and wine bar. The Cheese and Wine Bar plays host to informal wine and cheese tastings as well as regular fondue and tapas evenings. Guests will feel the subtle texture of black volcanic sand imported from New Zealand between their toes as they are welcomed, whether for a cheese platter for dinner or simply a glass of wine, before or after dinner.

VILU Restaurant and Bar

Vilu Restaurant is dedicated to the art of food and wine pairing. Located on the edge of the lagoon, Vilu is an open air restaurant that showcases the resort’s extensive wine selection that has been expertly matched to the contemporary Mediterranean inspired cuisine on offer.

KOKO GRILL  

Located on the beach, Koko Grill Restaurant is an intimate and lively dining experience. Watch flames dance on the open teppenkayi grill as chef prepares up to 10 courses of Japanese cuisine under the stars.

RANGALI BAR

              Sits on the edge of the main pool, the sand-floored bar provides extensive lunch and dinner menus alongside contemporary cocktails, regular live music and events. Open for lunch and dinner from 10 am until late.

THE QUIET ZONE

An open-air tented lounge on the beach, located on Rangali Island. For adults only, The Quiet Zone features comfy daybeds, a fully stocked bar and a lunch and dinner men

ATOLL MARKET

             The resort’s only buffet restaurant with eight show kitchens featuring Asian, Italian, Japanese, Indian, a Grill, the Deli, a bakery and desserts, Atoll market provides a culinary tour of the world under one roof. Open for breakfast and dinner.

LOBSTERS AND CHAMPAGNE ON THE BEACH

Enjoy an unforgettable occasion with a bountiful seafood feast featuring lobsters and shell fish caught off the resort’s shores, accompanied by Champagne and served in an idyllic beach setting. Advance reservations are essential.

SUNSET BAR AND GRILL

Set on stilts 50-metres out to sea above a coral reef, the open-air restaurant showcases the country’s fresh seafood and imported meats prepared simply alongside a carefully crafted wine list.

 

 

MARINE LIFE

 

I have been to the Maldives 8 times and never have I seen so many Manta Rays so close by. Every evening they would come swimming close to the jetty as they are attracted by the lights. They would elegantly glide through the water turning upside down with their mouths wide open to feed on plankton. I watched in awe of how majestic and giant these creatures are.

Another amazing creature you can also spot close to the resort is the Whale Shark the largest fish in the ocean. The whale shark which is a shark not a whale is easy to spot not just from its size but also as part of its body is covered in white spots. They are totally harmless hence why snorkelers and divers can swim next to them as they swim slowly opening their large mouth to feed on plankton.  

Boat trips are available every day in order to swim with the whale sharks. We went out one morning and unfortunately for me, we didn’t see any, which I was gutted about as at many other resorts in the Maldives people can wait for hours to see these beautiful creatures and here they are so close to us but that day they must have been swimming too deep for us to find. I will be going back to the resort to try my luck next time. However we did see many spinner dolphins putting on a display spinning next to the boat even the babies were performing.

There are also 42 dive sites close to the resort so dive lovers have enough options to keep them busy for weeks.

Along with the underwater restaurant and The Muraka private residence were you can watch sting rays and black tip sharks darting past the windows this island is the closest I have got to seeing so much marine life without getting wet.

 

The team on the island are very protective of the sea life around the resort and with good reason. They are always on hand to answer any questions and they politely ask people to refrain from trying to feed the Manta Rays and other sea life.

 

 

THE SPA RETREAT

 

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is home to two unique spa experiences, The Spa Retreat on Rangalifinolhu Island and The Over-Water Spa on Rangali Island.

100 meters off of the tip of Rangalifinolhu Island, The Spa Retreat offers a holistic and locally inspired experience which is aimed at relaxing the mind, body and soul.  

The overwater spa on Rangali Island comprises of four thatched-roof treatment rooms set on stilts over the Indian Ocean. Three of these treatment rooms have glass floors, providing entrancing views of the coral reef below, whilst a secluded serenity deck with open-air Jacuzzi provides the perfect finale to the spa rituals on offer.

 

MAJAA Explorers Hub

 

Majaa Explorers Hub offers children a fun filled entertainment schedule packed with activities and themed daily programs. Little explorer favorites include the Pirate Cruises, Coral Education and Little Chef Workshops.

They are also developing a teenagers clubs for days when you just need to be out of the sun and chill.

Kids aged 10+ can learn how to snorkel and dive with their experienced PADI accredited dive team.

The island offers every water sport you can think of and all non motorized activities like paddle boarding, kayaking and pedalos are complimentary.

SERVICE

I have to be honest I haven’t been to a resort in the Maldives where the service wasn’t excellent and the staff were not polite and friendly. I spent a lot of time with the management team and I was surprised how all staff addressed each other by their names – that’s a lot of peoples names to remember!!

 

ROUND UP

If you’re a diver this is the resort for you!

If you’re a foodie this is the culinary experience you have been waiting for!

 

 

The Conrad Maldives website is currently being updated, so don’t let it put you off as it gives a false reflection of the property, have a look at my photos below and visit their Instagram page @conrad_maldives

 

Before arriving on the island why not download the MARUHABA App which includes all the restaurants menus, island map, activities etc. See the QR code below.

 

Maldives’ regulars who have not tried the Conrad need to put this resort next on their list while for Maldives newbies this resort is literally the best way to experience all the different wonders that make Maldives truly magical! 

Watch our full video on this link: https://youtu.be/uDnpKpGo6G0

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
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About Us

As an avid traveler, pre and post my three children, and a lover of boutique hotels, I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively, stay at unique properties and take adventures off the beaten track.

I've been lucky to see and enjoy so much that I think now is the perfect time to share my travel experiences, so I have created Unique Family Travel - a company where my team and I can develop bespoke, wonderful and unique travel experiences for you and your family. I can guarantee our experiences aren't available on the likes of large booking websites as we take you on a tailored journey which caters to your specific needs.

Each destination and journey should be a timeless memory, created for you and your family and captured in fantastic memories to keep forever. We can help with this simply because that's how I would do it for myself, my family and friends!

Do get in touch with us, drop us a line and lets get you going on your next amazing, unique travel experience.

Happy Travels

Love Dani

PS. All photos on this site are taken by me, mostly on my iphone :)

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