Atlantis LEAD

Atlantis The Palm, Dubai

Staying at Atlantis The Palm with my three children was such a special treat from start to finish, so for this review I thought it would be good for my 10 year old daughter Amara, to share the experience through her eyes.

Atlantis you were so much fun and we were beyond spoilt! Thank you for the wonderful hospitality!!

 

 

I recently came back from an unforgettable stay at Atlantis, The Palm. a place that I will never forget and will certainty be back for another incredible stay . Who knew, that right outside my doorstep was a staycation that towers above all the rest providing non stop entertainment and many surprises.

 

Atlantis on the heart of the palm has surely amazed me, from the underwater suite which we stayed in to all the incredible experiences – it was filled with so many adventures and was so much fun.

 

 

Only a fifteen-minute drive from my house in Dubai, allows you to escape in the magic of Atlantis.

Rooms:

 

The underwater suite has 3 luxurious floors, picturesque views and completed with a fancy lift. You enter on the 3rd floor then make your way down to the first either by the 50 stairs or via the lift.

 

As you enter the underwater suite, you can feel the soft thick carpet under your feet and overlook the colossal floor to ceiling glass window. The entry is also garnished with some elegant decorations.

 

The second floor includes a small kitchen, a bathroom [with an automatic toilet] and a massive living room where you can watch TV or all the above the water activities such as shark feeding.

 

Now, if the second floor impressed you then the ground floor will certainly get your attention. There is a kid’s room with a unique and comfy bed, a dressing room that includes a hidden emergency exit to the Imperial Lounge. Then the wow factor is the master bedroom complete with an incredibly view of the huge 10 feet tall aquarium with over 250 species of fish and 65,000 marine creatures . It was such a magical experience to be staying in an underwater room, watching the entire incredible marine-life cinema and waking up every morning to such a magical view.   

 

The master bathroom also provides the wonderful view of the aquarium with a perfectly placed bathtub to soak in so you can watch and admire the rays and sharks.

 

As a family we were all entertained in the suite – I enjoyed sitting by the window and drawing the fish while my sister soaked in the bath and my brother had so much fun in the lift and playing hide and seek!

 

As we are a big family we also had a connecting double room on the 3rd floor, keeping the door open just made the suite even bigger with direct access to the suite lift.

 

Entertainment:

 

There are a bunch of activities to do at Atlantis like the thrilling Aquaventure water park which opens everyday at 9am to 6:30. Plus hanging out in the pool with many sports activities or simply chilling on the sun-kissed beach. Inside the hotel they have a restaurant called Wave House, which has a bowling alley and arcades!

 

And if you would rather stay indoors you can relax at the spa, work out in the gym or just chat and eat at the many restaurants along with the Imperial Club, which is the VIP club, and access comes with the Underwater suite along with a dedicated butler for all your needs. The Imperial Club also offers check in services and complimentary food and drink. I would eat breakfast there in the morning, then in the afternoon enjoy their cookies and then for afternoon tea they would offer amazing milkshakes with cotton candy and cucumber sandwiches – just yummy!

 

 

Aquaventure:

 

The water park of Atlantis is full of adventure. There are 3 main towers filled with exciting rides. Some of the towers contain world record slides such as the worlds longest family ride, the tallest vertical drop in the Middle East, the worlds tallest slide and finally the world longest duet slide; and for younger children there are countless baby/young kid slide areas.

We would get to the park between 9am and 9:30 so all the good rides wouldn’t have any queues then leave the park at around 12:30 once finishing with all the rides.

 

Through out the park, there where little shops selling chilled drinks, summer treats, like ice cream , snow cones , lemonade etc .

 

Well done Atlantis as they provide water soaks so you can roam around the park without burning your feet or slipping!!!

 

Some of my favorite rides where “Leap of Faith” which we did so many times- it takes you down a vertical drop which is so high, if you can manage to keep your eyes open you will get to see the sharks in the tank around you.

 

Another ride I enjoyed was “Black Out” which is actually the tallest vertical drop in the Middle East its also known as the scarier sister of  Leap of Faith.

There are also many family rides some are really scary while others are buckets of fun.

Another really fun ride is called “Shock Wave” where you need to be prepared for all the ups and downs while getting splashed then totally soaked in between, also this is the longest family ride in the world.

I enjoyed the “Zoomerango” too although this one was very scary as you go down a massive drop leaving you in terrier when its over.

Finally, I want to tell you about Immortal Falls which is perfect for cooling down as you can jump from high levels into the small pool – so exciting? If your not feeling brave enough to do all the rides then you can relax around one of the parks pools where they host entertainment shows and games or simply grab a inflatable ring and roam around the lazy river that takes you all around the park. Speaking about the lazy river, some of the smaller rides end directly in the river.

 

The main hotel has two swimming pools. One of the pool had a water polo and basket ball net which kept us busy, then we went to the private Imperial Beach where we buried our dad in the sand!

 

Dining:

 

My parents let us chose where we wanted to eat dinner every night. As much as my mum and dad wanted to go to the Michelin star restaurants such as Hakkasan and Ossiano, we wanted to try somewhere which was more for kids.

 

There are two very nice dinner places at Atlantis starting with ‘Bread Street Kitchen’ owned by Gordon Ramsey who is a world famous chef and has a very entertaining TV show. The food was incredible and while we waited for the food a magician came over and amazed us with many tricks and the most confusing one was when he asked me to think of a very random thing and type it into Google on my mums phone. I wrote lava heart, he asked me to look at him and then surprisingly he guessed the exact same word! Leaving us shocked and confused trying to guess how he did that!

 

I also enjoyed ‘Wave House’, which had an arcade, and a play area in it, we played games and earned tokens then bought sweets with the tickets. The kids soft play area looked like a lot of fun too. One of the best things about the Wave House is that it has its own bowling alley!  Seriously, I could spend hours at the Wave House. The food was so good. Overall, we had such a great time, thanks to our room butler for organizing this for us!

 

To sum up mine and my siblings experience of staying at Atlantis in one sentence would be ……… A truly magical and unforgettable stay.

 

Download the Atlantis The Palm App for all your needs during your stay!

 

Underwater Suite Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiEUrt_9NK0&t=76s

To book your stay please contact:

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Chedi Lead

The Chedi Montenegro

I have just returned from a wonderful week in Montenegro, a petite country in the south-east of Europe, next to Croatia, sitting on the Adriatic Sea and having an intoxicating vibrant Mediterranean energy. A destination which I believe is very underrated and a place where I will certainly revisit on multiple occasions for its beauty and adventure.

 

This country on the southern Adriatic coast never ceases to amaze, from its natural beauty of green forest covered mountains, sun-kissed beaches, clear lakes and many island beauties to its cozy towns filled with ancient history and architecture.

 

Ideally I would recommended renting a car so as you can explore all the wonderful regions which I will break down below, but first let me share my experience staying at The Chedi located in the upscale Lustica Bay marina village.

 

The hotel overlooks a man-made marina at the bottom of a series of serpentine bends, in a secluded bay.

The village has taken inspiration from the vernacular architecture of local villages and offers luxury homes and apartments to rent and buy – great for a summer apartment.

 

As you walk into the large lobby of the hotel you are warmly greeted by the friendly staff who are quick to welcome you and share information about the area.

 

There are 111 rooms in 10 different categories. Some provide a forestry mountain backdrop while the sea view rooms have nice balconies to relax and watch the marina in full action.

All the rooms offer a palette of aquamarine, grey and white providing a Mediterranean vibe letting in a lot of light with the floor to ceiling windows.

The hotel has an infinity pool and a private pebbly beach with sun loungers and pontoons for easy access to the water, which is next to the hotel and a 10 minute walk away is their sandy private beach.

You can enjoy water sports such as paddle-boarding, jet skiing and of course boat trips which can take you around Montenegro for tours.

 

In addition to the outdoor infinity pool there’s another one in the spa along with a sauna a fitness centre.

 

Dining

The hotel offers 4 different restaurants, in the lobby is a bar and cake counter along with the all day Mediterranean dining called The Restaurant.  The Spot is another location where hotel guest can also enjoy breakfast and is on the marina walk.

My favourite was ROK Beach Lounge which is 3 mins walk from the hotel on the beach with a rustic “Hamptons” vibe. During the day the menu is light bites and then in the evening it offers an Asian menu.

 

Marina Dining

There is a large selection of restaurants all providing a verity of cuisine at great prices and not forgetting the lovely light house restaurant which is a walk around the Marina promenade.

 

Entertainment

There is a kids club for the younger children and when the older kids need a little time out of the sun they have a gaming centre with a golf simulator. There’s an outdoor cinema for Chedi movie nights!

 

 

What I loved about the Chedi Resort was the beautiful location around the marina which is perfect for families to enjoy everything on its doorstep from hiking, the beach, to the great selection of restaurants and bars to just relax and enjoy long evenings out doors.

 

Regions of Montenegro

 

Tivat known for its state-of-the-art luxury marina Porto Montenegro (owned by The Investment Corporation of Dubai, main investment arm of the Government of Dubai) offers a great marina lifestyle with designer boutiques, great restaurants and the marina club which offers sailing and is also home to Buddha Bar.

 

Bay of Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest natural harbor in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Here you will see lots of cruise liners coming in to the harbor. Book a private boat tour to explore nearby attractions such as Our Lady of the Rocks, St George Island, the Blue Caves (amazing clear ocean perfect for swimming) and explore the submarine tunnels.

 

Old Kotor you can walk around the old piazzas and through the narrow streets you will spot the famous walls which is a trademark of the town. The walk will take you approx. 1 hour and provide stunning views.

 

Perast is located in the Bay of Kotor and for me my favorite region as its so picturesque with lots of lovely eateries on the waters edge. Its just one kilometre end-to-end, but what makes Perast truly unique is that the town has kept its traditional appearance, meaning there’s no modern architecture and all the buildings are built in the traditional stone style with Baroque Palaces and churches. The stone palaces and church belfries are interspersed with palm trees, vivid greenery and bright purple bougainvillea flowers that climb up over terraces and shade courtyards. It’s almost like the town has been frozen in time, its so pretty and a great place to enjoy lunch or dinner.

 

While in Perast, right opposite you will see the two most famous islands - Saint George Island a Benedictine monastery, and the other, Our Lady of the Rocks, which is a Catholic church and museum that attracts thousands of visitors. If you want to do a quick tour of both of the islands you can take a boat across.

Although it’s become a busy tourist destination, Perast’s charm is undeniable and a visit to, or stay in, this historic town is a must when you visit the Bay of Kotor. 

Cetinje is the spiritual capital of Montenegro and home to the Royal Castle, museums and many monasteries including Cetinje Monastery. 35 minutes past Cetinie is Budva Rivera famous for its beautiful beaches, great restaurants and a fun nightlife.

While in Budva Riviera make sure you visit the unique island Sveti Stefan which used to be a hotel – its so beautiful. Sveti Stefan is a signature postcard moment of Montenegro and a must see.

 

Bar is the largest coastal town in Montenegro. Enjoy the area and then make your way to the old town of Bar which preserves the spirit of old Turkish towns, paved with stone.

 

Head south towards Ulcinj down the coastal road and head towards the old town. Here you will hear tales about the pirates and Cervantes, a prisoner of the dungeon. Walk around Ada Bojana the place where the River Bojana meets the sea and stop for lunch at one of the many wonderful restaurants offering gastronomic experiences.

 

Take the old road to Ostros the picturesque route to Podgorica the capital of Montenegro. Drive along the shore of Lake Skadar which is the largest lake in the Balkans and visit the scenic town of Virpazar.

 

There are lots of ways you can experience Skadar Lake’s beauty and culture. From the national park’s gateway town of Virpazar you can take a relaxing boat cruise to see the wildlife and islands, or explore on your own in a kayak or hike up the trails and stumble on ruined fortresses.

 

Durmitor National Park is one of the most beautiful National Parks in this part of Europe. Among over 18 glacial lakes called mountain eyes, the Black Lake takes the prime. Whichever option you go with, you will experience Montenegro’s wild beauty. Visit two beautiful areas: Biogradska Gora on the north east or Durmitor on the north of the country. Biogradska Gora is an untouched forest with trees over five-hundred-years old, large mountain slopes and glacier lakes at over 1800 meters, and an easily accessible lake at the very entrance to the Park.

Again this is a great location for kayaking, zip lining, hiking and horse riding.

One of the deepest canyons in Europe is Tara River which snakes between sky- high mountains,. Here you can explore canyons, dive off cliffs into spectacular waterfalls and ride the thrilling rapids. This is where you can enjoy incredible moments  surrounded in nature and then raise your adrenaline even further as you cascade down some ferocious white water rafting.

This area is also called the Tear of Europe because the water is so pure you can literally drink it!

If you want to take it slow, enjoy the more rustic side of Montenegro and visit Lustica peninsular its such a pretty raw area that's recently built a stunning new marina and housing development. There is one hotel in this area, read the review here:

For more information on Montenegro, exclusive hotel rates and a detailed family itinerary contact Unique Family Travels.

TOP TIPS:

* If you are visiting Croatia/Montenegro add a few extra days to your trip and visit Montenegro/Croatia - it's an easy border crossing from Dubrovnik.  International airlines that don't land in Montenegro will land in Croatia.

* If you are renting a car – keep swimwear with you at all times as the coastal road is so inviting to simply pull over, enjoy a beach hut bite to eat and have a dip in the ocean.

*From Dubai - FlyDubai fly direct to Montenegro during late June/July/August and early September. Vaccinated visitors only require showing their vaccination report. UAE Nationals do not require visas to enter.

To book your stay please contact:

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
11

One & Only Montenegro

I have just returned from a wonderful week in Montenegro, a petite country in the south-east of Europe, next to Croatia, sitting on the Adriatic Sea and having an intoxicating vibrant Mediterranean energy. A destination which I believe is very underrated and a place where I will certainly revisit on multiple occasions for its beauty and adventure.

 

This country on the southern Adriatic coast never ceases to amaze, from its natural beauty of green forest covered mountains, sun-kissed beaches, clear lakes and many island beauties to its cozy towns filled with ancient history and architecture.

 

Ideally I would recommended renting a car so as you can explore all the wonderful regions which I will break down below, but first let me share my experience at the beautiful luxury resort One & Only Portonovi located in the Herceg Novi region at the entrance of Boka Bay on Montenegro’s Adriatic Sea.

 

Fifteen minutes drive from Tivat airport and you arrive at the ferry crossing for a 10 minute ocean crossing. Its such a lovely way to be introduced to Montenegro with the stunning fjord like mountain range and the picturesque coast line.

 

The One & Only Portonovi is the first location of this reputable brand in Europe and its located on the waters edge in the glamorous new Portonovi Marina. Surrounded by the ocean and rugged mountains with a large beautiful white sandy beach and pretty grounds lush in lavender and agapanthus flowers, the setting for this resort starts lulling you into that luxury-tinted peaceful feeling.

 

The property provides a modern Venetian architecture with many room categories in different buildings which all offer either beach front or Boka Bay views. We stayed in the Panoramic Bayview Room with sweeping views of Boka Bay and Tapasake Club which is their Japanese restaurant around the adult pool – a daily beehive of activity with a DJ usually playing cool vibes and a selection of beds and amazing cabanas scattered around the pool with easy access into the sea.

 

Rooms

The large open plan rooms are beautifully designed with the signature One & Only finish and come with a large balcony. I have to say the bathroom is simply stunning - a lounge chair is located in the middle of the bathroom, two sinks, his and her wardrobes, separate shower and a bath come day bed under the huge window – a perfect relaxing area overlooking the ocean. If spending time in the bathroom is your thing then this is the prefect location for that!

 

The rooms are a very generous size but the suites take comfort to another level – huge, elegant and available in a 2 bedroom which are perfect for families. If you want to have a private pool then there are two Mediterranean style villas which offer a 2 and 3 bedrooms . With arched hallways and cool stone floors exuding Montenegrin style, while the lush outdoor living area draws you out to enjoy your private pool and inviting garden on the edge of Boka Bay.

 

For larger families I would recommend the Signature Villas which are located slightly away from the main hotel but have buggy access. These villas are all duplex with 3,4 and 5 bedrooms and have a private beach, private jetty, large gardens with a pool and come with butler service. I could see my family settling in quiet nicely to the modern yet elegant villas and spending the entire summer relaxed with easy access to visit all the regions within Montenegro.

 

Dining

The two headline restaurants are beachside Sabia, from Michelin Starred Italian hero Giorgio Locatelli, and Tapasake Club, from ex-Nobu Chef Yannick Bayjoo. This kind of pedigree speaks for itself and delivers exactly based on that kind of level.

 

La Veranda is set within the gardens and serves all day dining and where breakfast is served. If you fancy dinner out of the hotel one evening then a 5 minutes walk to Portonovi Marina you will find many dining spots to chose from.

 

The food in Montenegro was amazing – if you love seafood then you certainly will not be disappointed!

 

Entertainment

There is an excellent all day kids club, a buzzing climbing activity centre along with a long list of indoor activities as well as the requisite water sports such as kayaks, SUPs, water polo and beach volleyball; there is also an expansive infinity pool to lounge around and three fresh water pools located next to the sandy beach. You can also take a One & Only boat from their jetty to explore the hidden gems such as the submarine caves and the blue caves.

 

 

Chenot Espace Medical Spa

This is a destination in its own right and perfect to visit any month of the year. The impressive Chenot Espace spa combines Chinese medicine and Western technology. It runs intensive multi-day detox programs, supervised by doctors and nutritionists, tailored to individual guest's requirements. Treatments include bio-energy, hydrotherapy, cryotherapy, ozone therapy and hydro-colon flushes. There's a modern gym with the best equipment and personal trainers, and the most beautiful indoor pool I’ve ever seen. Combined with the relaxing ambiance and great cuisine I would come again just for the spa.

 

One & Only Portonovi is a stunning property that has everything you need and more. It's an ideal place to simply relax, inhale the fresh sea breeze air and explore the magic of Montenegro.

 

Regions of Montenegro

 

Tivat known for its state-of-the-art luxury marina Porto Montenegro (owned by The Investment Corporation of Dubai, main investment arm of the Government of Dubai) offers a great marina lifestyle with designer boutiques, great restaurants and the marina club which offers sailing and is also home to Buddha Bar.

 

Bay of Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest natural harbor in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Here you will see lots of cruise liners coming in to the harbor. Book a private boat tour to explore nearby attractions such as Our Lady of the Rocks, St George Island, the Blue Caves (amazing clear ocean perfect for swimming) and explore the submarine tunnels.

 

Old Kotor you can walk around the old piazzas and through the narrow streets you will spot the famous walls which is a trademark of the town. The walk will take you approx. 1 hour and provide stunning views.

 

Perast is located in the Bay of Kotor and for me my favorite region as its so picturesque with lots of lovely eateries on the waters edge. Its just one kilometre end-to-end, but what makes Perast truly unique is that the town has kept its traditional appearance, meaning there’s no modern architecture and all the buildings are built in the traditional stone style with Baroque Palaces and churches. The stone palaces and church belfries are interspersed with palm trees, vivid greenery and bright purple bougainvillea flowers that climb up over terraces and shade courtyards. It’s almost like the town has been frozen in time, its so pretty and a great place to enjoy lunch or dinner.

 

While in Perast, right opposite you will see the two most famous islands - Saint George Island a Benedictine monastery, and the other, Our Lady of the Rocks, which is a Catholic church and museum that attracts thousands of visitors. If you want to do a quick tour of both of the islands you can take a boat across.

Although it’s become a busy tourist destination, Perast’s charm is undeniable and a visit to, or stay in, this historic town is a must when you visit the Bay of Kotor. 

Cetinje is the spiritual capital of Montenegro and home to the Royal Castle, museums and many monasteries including Cetinje Monastery. 35 minutes past Cetinie is Budva Rivera famous for its beautiful beaches, great restaurants and a fun nightlife.

While in Budva Riviera make sure you visit the unique island Sveti Stefan which used to be a hotel – its so beautiful. Sveti Stefan is a signature postcard moment of Montenegro and a must see.

 

Bar is the largest coastal town in Montenegro. Enjoy the area and then make your way to the old town of Bar which preserves the spirit of old Turkish towns, paved with stone.

 

Head south towards Ulcinj down the coastal road and head towards the old town. Here you will hear tales about the pirates and Cervantes, a prisoner of the dungeon. Walk around Ada Bojana the place where the River Bojana meets the sea and stop for lunch at one of the many wonderful restaurants offering gastronomic experiences.

 

Take the old road to Ostros the picturesque route to Podgorica the capital of Montenegro. Drive along the shore of Lake Skadar which is the largest lake in the Balkans and visit the scenic town of Virpazar.

 

There are lots of ways you can experience Skadar Lake’s beauty and culture. From the national park’s gateway town of Virpazar you can take a relaxing boat cruise to see the wildlife and islands, or explore on your own in a kayak or hike up the trails and stumble on ruined fortresses.

 

Durmitor National Park is one of the most beautiful National Parks in this part of Europe. Among over 18 glacial lakes called mountain eyes, the Black Lake takes the prime. Whichever option you go with, you will experience Montenegro’s wild beauty. Visit two beautiful areas: Biogradska Gora on the north east or Durmitor on the north of the country. Biogradska Gora is an untouched forest with trees over five-hundred-years old, large mountain slopes and glacier lakes at over 1800 meters, and an easily accessible lake at the very entrance to the Park.

Again this is a great location for kayaking, zip lining, hiking and horse riding.

One of the deepest canyons in Europe is Tara River which snakes between sky- high mountains,. Here you can explore canyons, dive off cliffs into spectacular waterfalls and ride the thrilling rapids. This is where you can enjoy incredible moments  surrounded in nature and then raise your adrenaline even further as you cascade down some ferocious white water rafting.

This area is also called the Tear of Europe because the water is so pure you can literally drink it!

If you want to take it slow, enjoy the more rustic side of Montenegro and visit Lustica peninsular its such a pretty raw area that's recently built a stunning new marina and housing development. There is one hotel in this area, read the review here:

For more information on Montenegro, exclusive hotel rates and a detailed family itinerary contact Unique Family Travels.

TOP TIPS:

* If you are visiting Croatia/Montenegro add a few extra days to your trip and visit Montenegro/Croatia - it's an easy border crossing from Dubrovnik.  International airlines that don't land in Montenegro will land in Croatia.

* If you are renting a car – keep swimwear with you at all times as the coastal road is so inviting to simply pull over, enjoy a beach hut bite to eat and have a dip in the ocean.

*From Dubai - FlyDubai fly direct to Montenegro during late June/July/August and early September. Vaccinated visitors only require showing their vaccination report. UAE Nationals do not require visas to enter.

To book your stay please contact:

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Belmond Caruso

Belmond Caruso Ravello

Luxury comes in all sorts of forms but to me luxury defines the meaning of space/freedom and time, living and connecting in the moment wanting for nothing, yet having that feeling of escapism and being in an environment that you don't have everyday.

A short drive from Positano on the coast yet up the mountain face on a very windy mountain road takes you to the historical region of Ravello. I have to be honest I didn't know what to expect from Ravello apart from it being a slowly pace of life – there was only one reason I wanted to go and that was to experience the famous Belmond Caruso.

 

If your not aware of the brand Belmond, let me give you a little insight;

In 1976 Belmond opened the doors to the legendary Cipriani, a Belmond Hotel in Venice. In 1982 the brand started taking people on the famous Venice Simplon – Orient Express. In 2019 Belmond joined the LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton – reinforcing their place among the leaders in luxury.

For over 40 years Belmond has followed its pioneering spirit and passion for authenticity to uncover and create some of the world greats travel adventures in stunning destinations across the globe.

 

I personally have a list as long as my arm of Belmond experiences I want to do, yet having stayed in the Belmond Splendido in Portofino in 2018 my love for this exquisite brand grows with love and respect.

 

 

Perched high above the hilltop town of Ravello, over 1000 feet above sea level, overlooking the Bay of Salerno, it is one of Amalfi’s most romantic boltholes. It began life as an 11th-century palazzo, and its location is matched by the traditional Italianate charm of the décor.

 

The Belmond Hotel Caruso offers guests exceptional views over the Amalfi Coast and the Mediterranean. A masterpiece in its design is the hotel’s infinity pool, where guests will feel as if they are floating above the azure ocean, almost as if they were closer to the sky than the sea.

 

Reflecting the splendour of ages past, throughout the property there is evidence of its ancient charm, from the tiny-baroque style chapel, the hanging gardens, the vaulted terrace, its plush furnishings to its fresco-covered ceilings.

 

Once you arrive in the square right outside the door of the hotel you get out of your car and instantly feel like you’re in a classic movie - sans the vintage car and more realistically my Fiat Panda!

With the door man dressed impeccably as he rushes to assist you, my mums jaw drops to the ground as enters the building as she loves history and is crazy about antiques. Greeted by the team and handed a refreshing drink the breeze from the patio doors gets our attention and there right in front of us in the beautiful view…

 

The Property

We start with a tour of the property, with the chic designer boutique in the lobby with the celling as the masterpiece to the vintage lift which took us to the first floor. Here you will find the dining area with a large private dining room and a bar which offers the wonderful views. Theres also a glass cabinet which has all the original papers and artifacts from back in the day when the palace was owned by a sailor.

 

 

The pool

Hands down the most beautiful infinity pool in all of the Amalfi! The pool offers so many different back drops from the Ravello mountain range to the Mediterranean. You will not stop taking pictures – or should I say – I didn't stop taking pictures! The gardens are lovely, you can enjoy a quiet corner of the gardens to relax and admire the view.

 

 

Dining

You must try the pizza at the pool restaurant it’s something else.

Dinner is strictly reservation only and offers a fine dining service.

Every morning we had breakfast on our terrace as the view was so beautiful. The perfect arch was covered in pretty wisteria flowers and directly in front of us was the village on the cliff face and the med coast line - Utterly picture perfect.

 

Room

We had a junior suite with a balcony that offers picture postcard views of the ocean and coast line. You can also have the same room type with a garden. The interiors are elegant and refined and to match with the style of the hotel - TVs are fitted within mirrors and the safety box is hidden behind art – so regal like! The natural rock protrudes through the walls and celling offering a natural feeling.

 

The signature Margarita Villa is set back on the grounds of the hotel yet offers private access and comes with butler service. Entering via the beautiful garden (which soon will have a private pool)

This is the perfect villa for a family with 2 bedrooms spread across two floors with both bedrooms having two bathrooms and the downstairs bedroom is attached to a large living room.

The villa has an over sized roof top area which offers utter relaxation and views for miles.

Villa Margarita has been a celebrity favorite over the years offering utter privacy yet all the bells and whistles of the incredible Belmond Experience.

 

Service

Well what would you expect from a Belmond property – nothing less than exquisite manners served from every member of staff.

 

Ravello Town

From the entrance of the hotel you walk through the allyway into the narrow paths, where beautiful stores can be found and entrances to public gardens. Keep walking down wide steps and your greeted by the beautiful picturesque square with people eating and walking around. Coming from Positano the square was more calm and relaxed and gave a feel of tranquility.

 

While in Ravello you must have Pannis for lunch at Ii Panino in Piazza duomo - the yummiest panini sandwiches with every filling you could imagine. You know the bread is perfect when there is no bloating!

 

Design your custom made leather Sandals in 10 minutes for 60 Euro in any color from a tiny boutique in Piazza Duomo.

You will find lots of ceramic stores in Ravello - Pascal Ceramiche d’Arte is considered one of the top ceramics producers in Ravello, with so many beautiful pieces that can easily be shipped home for you.

 

Wander through the Villa Rufolo and beautiful gardens - Built in the 13th century, in its heyday the Villa Rufulo was one of the largest villas on the Amalfi Coast. Over time the villa fell into ruin. In the 19th century, it was bought by Sir Francis Neville Reid, a botanist from Scotland, who renovated what was left of the villa and brought its gardens back to life.

Ravello’s cathedral was built in the 11th century, but it has been renovated many times since. It has a simple white facade, and faces out onto Ravello’s main square, the Piazza Duomo or the Piazza Vescovado.

 

 

Room Tour - https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cda6y86ofJH/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

 

To book your stay please contact:

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
LEAD casa

Casa Angelina You Were Magical

 On our Italian road trip we were also staying on the world famous Amalfi coast - this was actually going to be my first time in this picturesque area and I had so much to see but I was equally excited about where I was going to be staying as the hotels I had been invited to see had always been on my ‘must visit’ list.

 

Only an hour from Naples airport and 3.5 hours from PUGLIA we arrived at the popular coastal road.

Driving into the Amalfi Coast everyone told me to be careful on the narrow windy roads and they were right!

The coast line is so pretty but the roads are so narrow and some of the drivers go so fast that your heart misses a beat multiple times - plus those scooter drivers have no fear darting in and out of traffic - makes the driving in Dubai seem super safe and rather slow!

I was following google maps and it tells me the hotel is coming up on my right but all I see is a small road with a stunning bronze sculpture of two people at the entrance. I take a sharp right, drive down the steep path towards the ocean and there in front of me we are greeted by the hotel staff… welcome to Casa Angelina!

Casa Angelina is a Leading Hotels of the World property, which to be honest is all one needs to know because it certainly lives up to that lofty billing. Tucked away in Praiano on the Amalfi coast this is a little hidden gem that is simply hard to describe. Not only does it provide awe-inspiring views of Positano right in front of you and only 10 mins drive from the hotel but also views of the island of Capri, it makes you think you’ve found paradise on earth.

 

The hotel has modern aesthetics with white washed contemporary design, clean lines and oozes elegance and breathtaking boldness as it cascades down many levels of a rock face while having as a canvas the brilliant, shimmering blue of the Mediterranean.

 

In the lobby area is a grand piano, a cocktail bar and white sofas with lots of cushions of thick bouncy cushions that are complete with large coffee table books on Italy which simply invites you to relax with an aperitif and enjoy the incredible view right in front of you gazing the large windows.

 

All around the property including outdoors you will find part of the hotel owners private collection of stunning glass sculptures made from Murano glass which provides that pop of color against the vivid beauty of the surrounding area.

 

Each level of the hotel offers something so unique from the roof top dining, beautiful well manicured gardens, a swimming pool and deck area complete with lemon trees, the well-being floor which has the spa, gym and indoor swimming pool and then the basement of the property provides direct beach access … well 250 steps down to the beach called One Fire Beach.

 

All the guest rooms and the fine dining restaurant can be found on the higher floors in order to provide you with front row seats of the most spectacular views of Positano and Capri.

 

Rooms

The property has a selection of rooms types all with wonderful ocean views and the stunning all white ascetic is extremely comfortable and fresh. With crisp white sheets and array of pillows the bed is surely inviting!

We had a terrace room which offers just that - a 30’square meter terrace with sun loungers and a dining area - perfect for people who enjoy sun bathing and taking in the incredible views.

The room comes with all modern amenities - Bang & Olfson TV, iPad, docking station and touch screen lighting. I can always tell a great room by the hair dryer brand each room has and on this Italian road trip I have been pleasantly surprised by the excellent choices. Casa Angelina had a Dyson hair dryer!

 

Service

I am a sucker for excellent service and being in the hospitality industry I don’t believe there’s any excuse for any type of divergence.

The staff at Casa Angelina went above and beyond to provide a high level of service to every guest. From their warm hospitality, great knowledge, nothing was too much; their approach was world class and their genuine happiness to assist right filtered through the entire team.

 

Dining

Breakfast and dinner is served on the roof top.

Table reservations are mandatory - in fact most of The Amalfi Coast is table reservation so book in advance to avoid disappointment

 

Location

The world famous Positano is located only 10 minutes away from Praiano and the hotel offers a complimentary shuttle service via their fleet of Mercedes cars.

Personally I preferred not staying in Positano as it’s so busy and Casa Angelina offers a more chic experience away from tourists and set in such beautiful grounds. You get the best of both worlds, the bustle of beautiful Positano and the elegant luxury of Casa Angelina.

 

It’s the little things!

Once we checked out of the hotel we got into our hire car and noticed that it had be cleaned inside and out with fresh water for our drive - a beautiful touch!

 

Prior to arrival at Casa Angeline you will receive an email for your preferences in order to make your stay more comfortable. You can chose from a range of pillows along with your choice of skin care range - Jo Malone, L’ Occitane.  

 

A couple of my top tips while visiting Positano.

 

Away from the crowds yet over looking Positano as you sit on the roadside is Bruno’s – perfect for a yummy pasta – very reasonably priced and very authentic.

 

Positano is famous for its lemons so you cant visit and not have a lemon ice cream or lemon slush. You will find the stands all through the winding streets down to the beach

 

Buy a pair of leather custom made sandals or handbag – add a cute strap

 

Take a boat to Capri. You can book a private boat at the hotel. Don’t go on the ferry it’s super packed. I didn’t manage to go to Capri this time but I will next time! Casa Angelina also has their own boat which can be booked in advance for day charters. If you charter a boat be sure to experience the famous Blue Grotto or the thermal baths on the island of Ischia

 

If you fancy a day on the beach in amongst the vibrant town of Positano then go to the instagramable  Spiaggia Grand Beach – rent chairs and umbrella’s for Euro 25 per day.

 

If you love hiking then you must try The Path of the Gods!  Its an easy hike around 7km, but will take some time, the views are sure to wow you!

 

Rent a scooter – right next door to Casa Angelina is a church where there is a small scooter rental store. Be careful drivers can be crazy but if off season im sure its pretty amazing to ride right down the coast or up to Ravello.

 

Watch the sunset while having drinks at Franco’s - opens at 4pm daily and only serves drinks; its a cute spot all blue and white interior with a large lemon tree as the centre piece with views of the ocean.

The aperol spritz was amazing!

 

Thank you Casa Angelina for such a beautiful stay along with the surprise birthday cake and champagne to celebrate my mum!! Just another wonderful touch and impeccable service!

 

Room Tour - https://www.instagram.com/reel/CdP_qOoIWVz/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

 

To book your stay please contact:

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
LEAD

Masseria Torre Maizza PUGLIA

 

I had heard a lot about PUGLIA which is known as the Tuscany of the south, famous for its olive trees, beautiful villages and stunning sandy beaches.

 

Having never experienced this part of italy before it was hard for me to recommend PUGLIA as a destination to my clients - I was always slightly hesitant on what people can do while there and exactly where to stay. Now that I’ve been I have more of an understanding which I am delighted to share with you.

 

Flying in from the UAE gets you into Naples. From the airport it’s a 3 hour drive down the autoastrada (motorway) across the country to the Apuglia Region, which is where PUGLIA is located. From the UK or Europe you can fly directly into Bari or Brindisi.

 

We rented a car from Naples airport via Sicily By Car hire which was pretty straight forward - booking online, collecting and returning the car back, hassle free.

 

The drive is a little boring as the scenery doesn’t change much but the autoastrada has no speed limit so just bomb your way down.

Masseria Torre Maizza

We were staying at one of Roccofortes properties, Masseria Torre Maizza which is in the Farsano area. This was a hotel I really wanted to experience as its recieved such wonderful reviews and it ticked every box for a luxury stay.

I would suggest while in PUGLIA you find an area to make as your base and take day trips everywhere from your base location. Make sure your hotel has things to do so you can spend lazy days at the hotel and still be close enough to enjoy day trips.

 

Let me introduce you to Masseria Torre Maizza, an authentic Puglian hideaway - a beautiful renovated farm house which has been standing from the 16th century. The white washed Masseria was designed by Olga Polizzi, who included traditional Pugliese arts and crafts with contemporary Italian design.

 

As you enter the main gate into the grounds you are instantly welcomed by so many olive trees which are over 1000 years old and cover the entire property grounds. The fresh breeze in the air makes it difficult not to notice the scent of jasmine from the gardens.

 

It’s a boutique family friendly property with most of the rooms having swimming pools. There’s also a large communal pool. For golf lovers there’s an 9 hole golf course and only 6k drive away is Bambu Beach the hotel’s private sandy beach club with complimentary shuttle service.

 

Rooms

We had a beautifully designed junior suite in a natural colour palate with a lounge area and opens up into a lovely garden with heated pool and views over looking the olive trees.

 

Not every room comes with a private pool but they all have lovely small gardens to relax in and enjoy the views - some over looking the golf course. The two bedroom suites all have their own swimming pools which are lovely and spacious - perfect for families. I would opt for the Torre Suite which is the top floor of the tower, very private.

 

You may laugh but traveling the world, I can always spot the little extras and great hotels win extra points for having a good hair dryer and at Masseria they had a GHD hair dryer!

 

 

Dining

Breakfast and dinner was served in the same restaurant which is indoors/ outdoors and over looks the main swimming pool.

Breakfast is served at your table with a tower of cheese and cold cuts, buratta and salmon, basket of bread and croissants along with fruit. From the menu you can choose any choice of eggs, pancakes etc

For dinner a reservation should be made.

 

Spa

The Roccos Forte signature spa uses products from Irene Fortes luxury skin care brand.

 

Service

You can’t expect anything else from a Roccoforte hotel, their attention to detail is unparalleled and their service is of the highest quality. With the global hospitality industry recovering from Covid and service standards being affected globally, the fact that Masseria did not miss a beat is a testament in itself to the Roccoforte brand.

 

As a luxury travel curator which supports sustainability, Masseria Torre Maizaa keep sustainable practices at the forefront of their services. The water is recycled which keeps the golf course green and most of the food served is grown on the property.

 

This is a hotel which exquisitely blends local heritage and surroundings with contemporary luxury and unparalleled service.

 

Day trips while in Puglia

 

Top of your list should be Alberobello.

 

Alberobello, a UNESCO site is home to the typical trulli houses -  pretty limestone dwellings which are remarkable examples of corbelled dry-stone construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. These structures, date from as early as the mid-14th century.  You will notice that symbols have been painted on the houses roofs, these are primitive, religious or zodiac symbols in order to protect the property.

There are many cute places for lunch and some great fashion boutiques. Only 25 mins drive from Masseria Torre Maizaa it's a great way to spend the day.

 

Ostuni

Known as the White City, this is a charming example of Mediterranean architecture.

Ostuni boasts a wonderful medieval village, rich with alleys and whitewashed houses, in a maze of streets which recalls an Arab Kasbah. Take a stroll in the old town centre, called “la terra” (the land) to distinguish it from the more recent “marina”: it offers picturesque spots amid the alleys, sloping stairs, courtyards and small squares, where whitewashed houses and the cathedral appear, embellished with shops & restaurants. It will feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

 

Polignano a Mare

A charming becah town set on the cliffs and overlooks the Adriatic Sea. The ocean is clear blue but it does get busy in the summer so go early. Its not a sandy beach so wear shoes and dont forget to watch out for the locals cliff diving! Do wander the streets and check out the cute restaurants and bars!

 

Monopoli

Is a charming fishing town that feels very Italian – a more slower pace more locals than tourists.

 

Lecce

The grand dame of Puglia, is a dazzling city all dolled up in baroque embellishments. The buildings of the city are built in local limestone, lathered with joyous ornate carvings and adornments done with such exuberance that it gives the city a sense of gaiety. Lecce is extravagant, even flamboyant. It is the cultural capital of Puglia, with so many monuments, churches, palaces, and museums that it has been given the nickname, “The Florence of the South.” With its elegant city center and vibrant feel, it’s impossible not to love Lecce.

 

Room Tour - https://www.instagram.com/reel/CdH40MQo_lO/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

 

To book your Puglia  experience, please contact:

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
LEAD

Big Five In RWANDA

Our journeys change lives….That’s the brand line for Wilderness Safaris and they are totally right!

 

 

Magashi Camp (Wilderness Safari’s newest Rwanda masterpiece)

Magashi Camp is situated in the productive and phenomenally diverse north-eastern corner of Akagera National Park, overlooking scenic Lake Rwanyakazinga. Akagera comprises some of the most scenic savannah in East Africa – open plains, woodlands, lakes, swamp and grassy low mountains – and is home to one of Africa’s highest hippo densities, large crocodiles, as well as the rare sitatunga and almost 500 species of birds. Teeming with plains game, Akagera also boasts a healthy population of lion which were introduced by African Parks in 2015 after a 20-year absence; black rhino were reintroduced in 2017. Magashi – the only exclusive-use area in Akagera – also harbors a good density of leopard.

Wilderness Safaris’s core purpose in Akagera is to help conserve Rwanda’s last protected savannah ecosystem, and regenerate species like black rhino and the rare and elusive shoebill. 

Due to the sheer acreage of Akagera National Park, game drives can turn into big adventures with the distance being covered in all types of terrains. Like any safari experience it can boil down to luck if you spot the Big 5 but Akagera offers a huge possibility, with elephants strolling by your camp, hippos in the lake in front of your tent, the big cats and buffaloes roaming across the savannah.

During one of our game drives we unexpectedly came across two leopards playing and most likely mating in some of the rockiest terrain possible. The male ran off but the female was not in the least affected, in fact she was very confident and playful and even put on a little show for us, posturing and posing, which is actually very rare for a leopard to act this way. Even Bosco, our game drive guide and ranger of over 20 years of experience was totally flabbergasted by the audacity of the female leopard. Nature will never cease to amaze.

One day after our boat safari we came back to land and spotted two female lions relaxing in the tree. I’ve seen lions on many safaris but never relaxing in a tree. They looked like they were literally balancing on the branches and one wrong move and they would fall down. They chilled on the branches for a while and we also waited patiently as we knew when the sun went down they would be on the move again in the cooler temperature of the night. It was fascinating as we essentially went into “lion time”, animals have a totally different rhythm to life in the wild and it can be very therapeutic for us ‘hurried’ humans.

 

Once our stay at Magashi had ended we were on our drive back to the main gate and the team radio came through with the announcement that approx. 50 elephants had come to visit the camp. Again, Mother Nature does not care about our human schedules!

 

The Camp

What I really loved about Magashi was the fact you could enjoy a boat or land safari. On arrival we were driven from the main gate on an hours drive and then we hopped on the boat with refreshments heading to the camp

Our welcome to the property was by boat with the staff all signing from the jetty.

The jetty leads up to the main dining, a living area, pass the pool and the boma (fire pit)

Magashi has 6 tents either side of their central dining area. They are all one bedrooms and spread along a 1km wooden bridge that snakes through the entire property. All the tents face the lake which provides the most incredible views of the mountain range. Be it lying in bed or sitting on your terrace you have a great view of the hippos basking in the sun or bobbing their heads out of the water.

The rooms are spacious with a large bathroom. As they are tents we left the canvas cover off the zipped doors facing the terrace so we could listen to the sounds of nature in the night. This can be noisy with the sounds of lions or hippos but its totally safe and so incredible to listen to while you drift off to sleep or when you wake up in the morning.

The camp is an all inclusive with private cars so game drives can be done at any time that suits you. After a long morning game drive, we would have lunch then sit by the pool, get ready again for a sunset boat cruise. The cruise is great to enjoy sitting on the top deck of the small motor boat as you get to see wildlife you wouldn't normally get close to by land. I’m not a fan of crocs but you would see them lying on the waters edge with a bloat (group) of hippos close by. You can even crack open a bottle of wine and enjoy the journey before heading back to camp for dinner. Rwanda truly at its most magnificent.

 

Guide

Our guide was called Bosco from Zambia, he was so amazing to chat to with a wealth of knowledge about Africa and wildlife. Having worked with Wilderness Safaris for many years he’s worked all around Africa specially Zambia. I would recommend him to all my clients; he adds that level of originality and authenticity that makes the trip even more special.

 

 

RwandAir

I have to say my experience with Rwandair was pretty amazing.  We flew business class which is really affordable, very comfortable, fully reclinable seats, the latest movies on touch screen and excellent service.

Flights direct to Kigali only 5 hours from Dubai. The absolute best way to start your Rwanda adventure.

 

Rwanda

From the remains and ruins of a brutal civil war and the horrific genocide of over 800,000 human beings, rises a new country. Rwanda is not only a symbol of hope for Africa but a shining example for the world - when peace, tolerance, forgiveness, respect for rule of law and compassion and dignity for your fellow human being become cornerstones for a vibrant, growing and creative new community.

This was all on display as I traversed through the raw, natural beauty of Rwanda. Rwandans are exceptional people. They wear the lesson of the genocide with care and understanding, using the pain and suffering of those frightful days to keep striving towards a better society. It shows in the gentle words they speak and the love they show through their smiles.

The energy is palpable. You can feel that this is a country on the move, they have found the right path and they’re not looking back.

 

 

Rwanda Conclusion

From the jungles in the north, the bush in the east and the lakes in the west, it is easy to see why Rwanda is fast becoming a new tourism favorite. The rawness of the natural beauty combined with the vibrancy of a new community is intoxicating. Whether you are on game drives spotting lions and leopards, making that ‘bucket-list visit to the famous mountain gorillas, or just taking in the incredible natural vistas of mountains, jungles, savannahs and bush, Rwanda has so much to offer. As those American ladies we met at Bisate, who literally make annual pilgrimages to the gorillas, can attest, one visit to Rwanda is simply not enough.

 

 

Watch my Bisate video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_45bG_gH_sc&t=121s

 

Watch my Gorilla Trekking video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPx2D4I1Y58&t=3s

 

Read my experience trekking the Mountain Gorillas:  http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2022/04/08/gorilla-trekking-rwanda/

 

 

To book your  bucket list experience, please contact:

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Lead Gorilla image

Gorilla Trekking RWANDA

 

Trekking with the gorillas has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I was supposed to go pre-covid so this was really an eagerly awaited trip.

Having sent many clients to see the gorillas in Rwanda, I thought I knew what to expect but in reality the experience was more than I could have ever imagined!

 

A towering, gentle giant of a man, Edward, was our guide for my journey of a lifetime. I was finally on the way to meeting the gorillas. In our initial meeting, Edward explained in his gentle voice, the initial parameters of what we were about to experience. We were guests of the gorillas and we needed to act accordingly. An understanding of the protocols was important – no sudden movements, no touching no matter how close they got, a respect for their space, no staring and those special guttering noises we needed to practice - verbal signs that showed the gorillas that we come in peace.

The plan was to trek into the mountains for approximately 90 minutes and meet a gorilla family that they called Amahoro Family, (meaning peace) which had 21 members. The excitement was palpable as we started the trek. First we walked parallel to a long wall, made with help from the WWF, that separated the Volcano National Park and its inhabitants (gorillas, monkeys, elephants, buffaloes) from the village people that inhabited the other side – a vivid reminder of how human beings, no matter how basic, were still continuing to encroach into the homes of our fellow earth dwellers. After about 30 minutes we reached a bridge and made a hard right straight into the jungle. The atmosphere changed. We were tracking gorillas now. The environment also changed dramatically. We were deep into jungle/forest territory. The mud was thick, the trails were tricky, the altitude was gripping. It was starting to dawn on us that for us to experience the joy of seeing gorillas we first had to work for it. Now I understood why our main guide Edward had a team of 6 porters and guides with us. The one with the rifle always led the convoy. The rest of the porters and guides gently guided us through the terrain. One of the porters was actually called Gentle. He was my rock as the physical aspect of the trek, along with the altitude, started to challenge me.

After an hour we reached our final meeting point. Here Edward was liaising with the trackers who had left much earlier in the morning to actually find the exact physical location of the gorillas. Gorillas are always on the move and they never sleep in the same spot so trackers have to literally track them down every day from where they had made their nest the night before. Most of these trackers are actually ex-poachers who have been rehabilitated by the Rwandan government and taught that killing them is not the solution to their survival, instead, becoming guides and helping gorilla tourism is a much more sustainable, prosperous and meaningful way to live.

Our trackers had found our gorilla family but we had a problem. They were situated in a crater in the mountains, meaning it would be very difficult to access them.

Reluctantly Edward resorted to Plan B – trek back to where we started and then go deep into the jungle in a different direction and find another gorilla family.

This was turning into an endurance event. Needless to say my ultramarathon loving husband was now in his element. I, on the other hand, was starting to wilt with the relentless intensity of altitude hiking and sickness. But there was no way I was opting out. This was my dream – we were going to see gorillas no matter what.

The trek continued. The terrain got harder. The trekking became more difficult. It was almost like the gorillas were seeing how badly we wanted our moment with them. They kept moving and we kept tracking. After what seemed hours and just after we had navigated a giant ant hill that had all of us scampering, we got word that we were very close, about 100 meters away but we had to climb, almost vertically to get there. A final challenge before the promised land.

8,000 feet up I was weak, dehydrated, legs shaking and then… I finally saw them. A giant silverback male, a couple of females and a few babies. All around me. I started crying. It was an unbelievable moment.

We were now in front of the Umubano Family which had 14 members, 2 silverbacks, 6 females and 4 babies with the youngest only 1 year old.

The rawness, the beauty, the gorillas. It was something else, it was truly magical.

Just as our hour with the gorillas was ending, the male got up and decided to walk straight towards me and Akbar. We slowly got out of the way, and as he passed us almost brushing against us, he grunted. Edward translated, the gorilla had said, “its ok…”

For a few precious moments we had been guests in their home and they had accepted us.

A powerful and beautiful moment that I will cherish forever. This experience will be forever sketched in my memory and heart. It had no longer become a ‘gorilla trek’ for me. It had became a pilgrimage to seek and find the best humanity, our humanity and their humanity (which is basically the same), had to offer. A huge thank you to my porter Gentle who held my hand throughout the 8 hour experience, rubbing my back when I vomited and providing me with the strength I needed.

This is Africa, this is rawness, beauty and nature!

 

 

Location: Volcanoes National Park

Bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, but primarily in Rwanda, and set high on the jungle-covered slopes of the volcanic Virunga Mountains, the Volcanoes National Park is best known as a sanctuary for the region’s rare mountain gorillas. A three hour drive to the nearest town, Musanze from Kigali the capital -where you will initially fly into. We can also arrange helicopters which is a much shorter 30 minute transfer direct to your hotel.

 

The Gorillas

People have asked me if the gorillas are tagged, the answer is simply NO. Gorillas in Rwanda are left to roam freely in the wild alongside elephants, buffalo and many other animals in the jungle.

In 1963 when the legendary Dian Fossy starting her Gorilla conservation program, the Mountain Gorillas were nearly extinct with only 200, but now due to the incredible work the conservation does in her name and the support from the community and government to date in Rwanda there are now 1,050 gorillas. Still a long way to go but its heartening to see that when there is focused determination and inspiration, humans can learn to preserve this earth that we inhabit.

 

The Experience

You can chose the experience you would like – a short hike or a medium hike all within 1-3 hours in order to find the gorilla family which you have been assigned to. Once with the gorillas, as per government law in order to preserve the well being of the gorillas, it's a one hour experience up close and personal.

 

 

The Cost

Only 96 permits are issued a day at a cost of $1500 per person which includes your guides and porters. Please don't think this is expensive as the money really does go back into conservation and the local communities in order to keep these incredible mammals alive and out of harm. The government introduced an extensive educational campaign about the importance of the gorillas and the countries conservation, with education the poachers who are now guides and porters learnt that keeping the gorillas alive for tourism would support their families and earn them more money. Spending 8 hours with these people and I saw how wonderfully kind and caring they were. Many times they thanked us for visiting Rwanda.   

 

Please note children under 15 are not permitted to visit the gorillas.

 

How to plan your gorilla trek

Unique Family Travels works with Thousand Hills in Rwanda who will assist you with all your transport logistics, issue your gorilla permit and arrange a covid test which needs to be taken the day before. Masks must be worn when you are with the gorillas.

You must have your car and driver with you to take you to the gorilla briefing where you will meet your guide. Once the briefing is done you will drive to the nearest point of the mountains to start your trek. Our trek basically started from outside our hotel – Bisate Lodge.

 

Prep for your trek.

The night before your trek you will receive a little briefing on what to expect the next day and arrange your wake up call.

The morning of the trek you will have breakfast and you will be given gators to wear over your shoes and trousers.  You will also be given a pair of gloves and before the walk a wooden hiking stick.

Your hotel will also provide you snacks/lunch and water.

 

What to wear.

The weather during our trek was amazing, warm but not hot and only rained for 10 mins so my little travel rain mac came in handy. Wear light clothes and light safari colours. Good walking boots is a must, pack a thin scarf as its good to have around your neck incase like us you walk through thick jungle where the ants are. Have a hat or cap too. Sanitizer, wet wipes and tissues (ask the hotel for paper bags and remember to put everything back in your bag once done!)

 

Please do have cash with you in order to tip everyone involved in your experience. The porters and trekkers are from the local village and this is their income and how they support their families. Once you meet them, you will have so much respect for the work they do and just how much they have supported you during the experience. 

 

How to get to Rwanda

We flew with the national airline Rwandair and I have to say the service and comfort was excellent. The business class cabins are very comfy with full incline seats.

Business class fares are also very reasonably priced so if this is your bucket list holiday then splurge a little.

Unique Family Travels will arrange your meet and greet so it's a smooth transit through the airport into the waiting lounge as on arrival you will need to have an antigen test and a PCR test. Your results will then be emailed to you.

 

The Ellen Degeneres Campus of the Dian Fossy Gorilla Fund

The campus only just opened at the end of Feb 2022 and is a must visit. It’s located near the many entrances of the Volcanoes National Park.

I didn't understand the connection between Ellen and Dian Fossy but then I learnt that Ellen had always been inspired by Dian’s conservation work with the gorillas and had visited Rwanda many times. For her 60th birthday her wife Portia de Rossi funded the campus along with other donors which was honored in her name.

 

It's a wonderful, interactive centre which not only educates you on the life and legacy of Dian Fossy but also gorillas behavior, how to track the gorilla movement, what happens when 2 gorilla families cross paths! And learn which famous gorilla has the same personality as you. Mine was most like Digits…

 

Dian Fossy’s favourite Silverback was named Digit who she met in 1967 and over the years developed a special bond with him, referring to him as her “beloved Digit” His name was given to him as his middle finger was twisted. When Digit was killed by poachers in 1977, Dian’s grief was extreme. In his memory she founded the Digit Fund to raise funds for the protection of gorillas. In 1985 after Dian was murdered by suspected smugglers/poachers, she was buried next to her beloved Digit.

 

The Campus is also a wonderful way to educate children about gorillas in Rwanda and for them to understand that Gorillas still need a lot of protection.

Do watch this video to understand and appreciate just how much this campus means to the people and the protection of mountain gorillas: https://youtu.be/Ac2uYXtAnlI 

 

Rwanda Conclusion

 

From the remains and ruins of a brutal civil war and the horrific genocide of over 800,000 human beings, rises a new country. Rwanda is not only a symbol of hope for Africa but a shining example for the world - when peace, tolerance, forgiveness, respect for rule of law and compassion and dignity for your fellow human being become cornerstones for a vibrant, growing and creative new community.

This was all on display as I traversed through the raw, natural beauty of Rwanda. Rwandans are exceptional people. They wear the lesson of the genocide with care and understanding, using the pain and suffering of those frightful days to keep striving towards a better society. It shows in the gentle words they speak and the love they show through their smiles.

The energy is palpable. You can feel that this is a country on the move, they have found the right path and they’re not looking back.

 

 

From the jungles in the north, the bush in the east and the lakes in the west, it is easy to see why Rwanda is fast becoming a new tourism favorite. The rawness of the natural beauty combined with the vibrancy of a new community is intoxicating. Wether you are on game drives spotting lions and leopards, making that ‘bucket-list visit to the famous mountain gorillas, or just taking in the incredible natural vistas of mountains, jungles, savannahs and bush, Rwanda has so much to offer. As those American ladies we met at Bisate, who literally make annual pilgrimages to the gorillas, can attest, one visit to Rwanda is simply not enough.

 

Watch my video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPx2D4I1Y58&t=3s

 

Read about Bisate Lodge here: 

https://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2022/04/08/bisate-lodge-by-wilderness-safaris-rwanda/ 

 

To book your “gorilla” bucket list experience, please contact:

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
LEAD

Bisate Lodge RWANDA

Have you ever come across a property and instantly falling in love?  Five years ago while planning a client’s trip to Rwanda I stumbled upon Bisate Lodge by Wilderness Safaris. Bisate is built by the local community, its elegantly perched on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park in the North West Of Rwanda and it offers a type of sustainable and eco-luxury that is truly the next level.

 

Until arriving at Bisate there had only been two other properties that had made me emotional once I saw it for myself and now I can add Bisate as the third.

 

Driving down the bumpy road past the local village you finally see Bisate Lodge nestled in the mountain and its even more incredible than in pictures. Bisate is a real life version of nests built into the gorgeous green mountain. Pictures simply don’t do it justice.

Welcomed by the wonderful staff and their warm African singing, we walked up the winding steps which take you up to the property and even through it via the wine cellar/private dining room, stopping mid way at the dining and living area, and then continuing to the highest room, room 6 at the very top.

 

There are only 6 luxurious en suite forest villas and each one of them are so beautifully designed, each elevating above one another and offering the most dramatic vista views that provide a diffenet picture depending on the time of day. The mornings are misty and open up into the picturesque beauty of the mountains where the mountain gorillas can be found.

 

Managed by husband and wife duo – Ally and Jason, this is a property you instantly fall in love with. So many aspects of this impeccable hotel come with that ubiquitous ‘wow’ which to a seasoned hospitality insider like myself is a ‘wow’ onto itself.  But it’s true because Bistate very elegantly adopts an extremely high level of top-end luxury yet purposely keeping very true to its environmental principals and passionately reflecting the culture of rural Rwanda, including its surrounding local villages.

 

From outside our room – room 6, is where the nature trail starts which can take about 45 minutes to enjoy and a guide can accompany you on request. Obviously my husband had to try it out the minute we arrived and twice the morning after our gorilla hike and in record time (17 minutes!), which he’s very modest about!, and that includes asking Patience (another beautiful member of Ally and Jason’s team) to make it a point to share with all future guests!!

 

The Suite

Six conically shaped thatched forest huts blend traditional and modern interiors providing comfort and warmth while making the most of the scenic views. Each 91 square meter room consists of a generous yet intimate combination of bedroom, reception space and large bathroom with a central bath tub, all warmed by a fireplace that divides the bathroom and bedroom along with breathtaking views out across your private deck facing the Volcanoes Mountain range.

 

The mini bar is stocked with every drink you desire, with a large choice of coffee and tea along with a cutting board with lemon and ginger – just what you need while sitting by the open fire.

 

The rooms provide an intoxicating mix - an earthly, nature feel yet oozing luxury, sophistication and elegance. The little touches are very sweet such as the wooden gorilla at each door way – lay on its side for Do Not Disturb!

 

Dining

Given the intimate nature of Bisate, there is only one ‘nest’ that acts as the common area, holding the bar and restaurant and on the lower floor, a wine cellar that can also host movie nights and private intimate dinners. Holding true to its roots, Bisate’s food menu is a ‘farm-to-table’ dream. Even the simple Margherita pizza delivered to the room was simply divine.

 

Bisate Give Back

As a company I have always loved and admired and wanted to focus on sustainable luxury properties that showcase the best in luxury while giving back to their environment (ie) a very well thought out conservation policy that has a meaningful and consistent impact on our planet, starting in their own back yard. Bisate does just that. Each guest contributes to Bisate’s biodiversity conservation and local community projects including a far-reaching impact on an iconic Critically Endangered species: the mountain gorilla.

 

Bisate’s giving back is endless and while at the property, talking to the staff from the gardener to the dining staff – everyone is local, from the neighboring villages. The gardener was in fact involved in physically building Bisate which took 8 months. He is from one of the local villages and proud of his 10 minute commute! While sitting on your room balcony you can hear the singing and laughter of the villages nearby, who are proud to welcome tourists to see the gorillas and share their admiration for Bisate.

 

Planting a Tree

To date Bisate has planted over 60,000 trees in order to preserve conservation and offer food to the local wildlife.

A simple yet beautiful touch is that every guest can plant and name their tree, and given a certificate with the tree coordinates so as you can monitor the growth of the tree. Ally told us that during Covid, guests would request her to send pictures of their tree to monitor the growth since they last visited the property. Not only does this have a positive feedback on the environment but also means that every Bisate guest has a little piece of their heart on the land.

This to me is what luxury is all about. I say it time and time again as I really believe luxury is about living freely in wide open spaces and having time to be in the moment.  We can never get time back and how we spend our time is not only a privilege but a luxury.

 

Kwanda Lounge

It would be hard for me to name check many properties that offer a day lounge for guests who arrive early for check in or leave late , quite like the Kwanda Lounge.

Just below the entrance to Bisate, closer to the villages, meaning we could hear very clearly the Sunday church service in full swing and set in a stunning organic garden designed by the same local gardener mentioned above, Kwanda Lounge is less a day lounge and more of a monument to the brilliant history of this part of Rwanda, including the gorillas and Dian Fossy’s legacy. But along with its tribute to the past, Kwanda Lounge also offers a wonderful window to the future, showcasing Bistae’s partnership with the neighboring schools and their student scholarships- as I said, this is the new type of luxury guests can expect, their tourism dollars having an immediate impact on the local environment and community. Relax in the living room around the open fire, a full dining area and also private rooms to relax in with full showers and amenities.

 

Bisate Conclusion

The greatest compliment I can give Bisate is that I can talk about it forever and keep writing and writing..

It truly is a very special place.

But it needs to be experienced for yourself. My words or my pictures can never replicate the memories I made, from meeting a gorilla family and fulfilling a long life dream to soaking my very tired legs from the gorilla trek in a heavenly hot bath, then sitting by the fire in my room with a organic bowl of warm soup.

True heaven – in this small part of Rwanda.

 

Rwanda Conclusion

From the remains and ruins of a brutal civil war and the horrific genocide of over 800,000 human beings, rises a new country. Rwanda is not only a symbol of hope for Africa but a shining example for the world - when peace, tolerance, forgiveness, respect for rule of law and compassion and dignity for your fellow human being become cornerstones for a vibrant, growing and creative new community.

This was all on display as I traversed through the raw, natural beauty of Rwanda. Rwandans are exceptional people. They wear the lesson of the genocide with care and understanding, using the pain and suffering of those frightful days to keep striving towards a better society. It shows in the gentle words they speak and the love they show through their smiles.

The energy is palpable. You can feel that this is a country on the move, they have found the right path and they’re not looking back.

 

 

From the jungles in the north, the bush in the east and the lakes in the west, it is easy to see why Rwanda is fast becoming a new tourism favorite. The rawness of the natural beauty combined with the vibrancy of a new community is intoxicating. Wether you are on game drives spotting lions and leopards, making that ‘bucket-list visit to the famous mountain gorillas, or just taking in the incredible natural vistas of mountains, jungles, savannahs and bush, Rwanda has so much to offer. As those American ladies we met at Bisate, who literally make annual pilgrimages to the gorillas, can attest, one visit to Rwanda is simply not enough.

 

Watch my Bisate video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_45bG_gH_sc&t=121s

 

Watch my Gorilla Trekking video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPx2D4I1Y58&t=3s

 

Read my experience trekking the Mountain Gorillas:  http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2022/04/08/gorilla-trekking-rwanda/

 

Read about Magashi Camp, by Wilderness Safari's in the Agagera National Park, where we saw the BIG 5

 

To book your  bucket list experience, please contact:

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
dani-footer

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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