A follow up to our August 8 posting. Make sure you read that one too!
Today I’m writing about 3 more stunning locations: Bunaken, Peucang, and Wakatobi. You can find tours to these islands as well as others on our Tours to Asia page.
With 17,000 islands, it is quite difficult to find the perfect beach getaway in Indonesia. Sulawesi with its surrounding islands and mini-archipelagos offers without doubt some of the country’s finest beaches. Bunaken is a small island of just 8 km², located north-west of Manado, the largest city in the north of Sulawesi. You can get to Manado from Jakarta or Denpasar via Makassar. A ferry connects Bunaken with Manado and takes about one hour.
The island is famous for its clear water and large marine biodiversity, hence making it another perfect place for diving and snorkelling. Rest assured you can stretch your legs on the beach and sipping on a fresh coconut without the company of many tourists. A must see for those seeking a unique experience.
Pecang Island is part of the Ujung Kulon National Park, located just off the shores of western Java. It is relatively easy to reach if you enter Indonesia from its main hubs Jakarta or Bali, as you can conveniently travel overland by bus from the capital or the Island of Gods via Yogykarta and Jakarta. The island is an ideal place to stay if you are en route to Mount Krakatau. Crystal clear turquoise water invites you to jump in or to do a relaxing stroll on the beach. The beach has a direct border with its jungle forest. Don’t be surprised if you see curious monkeys running around or wild deer.
Wakatobi can be considered as one of Indonesia’s hidden gems: these picturesque islands are located south of Sulawesi and comprises of the four main islands, Wangi Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko and a number of smaller ones. In order to get there you can fly to Makassar and get a connecting flight to Wangi Wangi or a direct flight from Denpasar to Tamia. Leave your footprints behind in the white sandy beach, relax under the shadow of coconut trees or go for diving and snorkelling. If you want to explore the other islands, you can hop onto one of the fast boats with regular schedule, connecting the main islands.
Let’s face it, spending money on a sleeping location can be a big waste. Think about it. You spend good money, settle in, close your eyes, and hopefully don’t remember a thing.
Here are 4 cheap alternatives to hostels and hotels that offer a different experience.
SwapMyCityPad.com – This site allows you to swap your own flat/apartment or house with other like-minding people for a weekend or longer.
VivaStreet.co.uk - Going to the UK? check out this site for options. Includes B&Bs.
CouchSurfing.org - Not only a cheap place to sleep, but lots of local knowledge about what to do, what to see, and hidden gems.
CampingInMyGarden.com Have your camping gear? Then check out this site. Microcamping and private gardens!
We’re starting a new series called Off the Beaten Path. Our first post in the series will cover 3 amazing locations in Indonesia. Please see our Tour Reviews section for more information about tour operators and schedules.
Note: All prices in the posting are subject to change and/or be included in tour packages. Double check!
Raja Ampat is an archipelago located at the north-west tip of Papua, the Indonesian part of the world’s second largest island, New Guinea. It comprises of more than 1500 islands and is widely regarded as one of the last real remaining paradises on earth. Why? Due to its isolation, it has been so far untouched from mass tourism. Visitors are rewarded with the sheer beauty of nature; even if you’re not a birdwatcher you will love to see plenty of unique bird species in all shapes and sizes calling only Papua their home. You can stroll around the islands with its small hills without seeing any other tourists. Oh, and the underwater world: the turquoise colored water automatically hypnotizes you! Jump in and snorkel or dive – the magical blend of corals and colorful fishes will surely take your breath away…
How to get there: from Jakarta via Makassar (Sulawesi) to Sorong (Papua) with Lion Air, Merpati, Sriwijaya Air and Express Air.
Fees: 500.000 IDR per person per year, usually to pay at the airport in Sorong. It is more considered as local area tax, in order to preserve the area.
Komodo National Park
Komodo Island is world-wide known for its monitor lizards, the closest living relatives to the dinosaurs. It’s a thrilling experience to see the Komodo dragons in their natural habitat- there are nearly 6000 lizards living across the three islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar, among a number of smaller ones. The area was declared as UNESCO world heritage site in 1991. What else can you do and see? One of the lesser known things is that the park is not only home to the before mentioned lizards, but also to a number of other animals such as wild horses, wild pigs, civets and macaques and reptiles such as cobras and vipers. Further, there are fantastic areas for diving around – how about some carpet sharks or manta rays?
How to get there: by ferries from Sumbawa, but mainly from Labuanbajo, Flores. In order to reach Flores, you can conveniently fly in from Denpasar (Bali) or Jakarta.
Fees: Entrance fee: 20.000 IDR; Camera: 50.000 IDR; Video camera: 150.000 IDR; Ranger: 80.000 IDR (per group); Local area tax: 50.000 IDR
Mount Krakatau or Anak Krakatau is an active volcano, sandwiched between two of Indonesia’s major islands, Sumatra and Java. It parent volcano exploded in 1883 and was one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions in history. Anak Krakatau -“Child of Krakatau “-was eventually formed beneath Mount Krakatau years later. The island has black sand beach half around the island, while the other half is virtually inaccessible as lava flows down into the ocean. Climbing up the volcano doesn’t take much time, but can be quite exhausting. Once you reached the highest accessible point, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view over the surrounding islands.
Don’t miss out one of the highlights: the mystical yet spectacular view at night of floating lava!
How to get there: by ferries from Sumatra and Java. If you take an organized tour, buses will usually depart from Jakarta (Java) or Bandar Lampung (Sumatra). A Conversation Site Entry Permit (Surat Ijin Masuk Kawasan Konservasi/SIMAKSI) needs to be obtained prior.
Fees: Official Rangers/Guides: 250.000 IDR. Berthing fee: 200.000 IDR per boat.
Food-based tourism is on the rise, and eating the best in-season local ingredients are often a big highlight of a destination. When looking for top places to visit based on seafood dishes, it is no secret that coastal cities are generally the highlight. Seafood lovers should be sure to check out the following 5 destinations to experience some of the best meals to ever come out of the ocean.
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
It is no secret to foodies that the historical city of Boston is one of the top seafood destinations in the Unites States. The cold waters of the North Atlantic produce some of the best clams, oysters and cod to be found anywhere. The oldest restaurant in the country is located here and still serves up delicious oysters to locals and tourists alike.
Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada
Moving up the Atlantic coast to the Canadian province of Nova Scotia will allow travelers to experience some of the freshest sea scallops around. The scallop business is serious up in these parts and prices are competitive for top quality dishes compared to other regions where scallops are not so abundant.
Even though Madrid is not a coastal city, as the nation’s capital and home of the Spanish royal family, the city has amazingly good seafood dishes. The national dish of paella is best represented here, with top quality seafood imported from other regions of the country. Due to this, it is said that Madrid tops all Spanish cities for the quality of its seafood.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
The whole Caribbean is full of top-notch seafood but the Cayman Islands has the culinary expertise of world-class chefs to prepare the dishes. As a major financial center, the capital city hosts some of the biggest power players in the world who expect only the best.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Located on the Gulf of Tonkin in the northern part of the South China Sea, Halong Bay is an idyllic setting with numerous options for locally sourced seafood. The Vietnamese tradition of fresh ingredients and light, healthy cooking styles is especially evident in this fish-rich region.
Chocolate lovers have plenty of options for sampling tasty new treats when traveling. Many locations throughout the world offer new and interesting chocolate creations. If you seek a new chocolate paradise, consider a visit to one of the following locations that we consider to be off the beaten path. You may discover your love of chocolate all over again from the beginning.
1. Broc, Switzerland
Mason Cailler operates as one of the oldest chocolate factories in the world in Broc, Switzerland. Sample a delicious offering from their testing room on a guided tour of the factory. The tour takes about 90 minutes, and it’s a great place to learn about the creation of traditional Swiss chocolate. The whole family should be fascinated by what they see, smell, and hear at the factory. Some local shops sell the chocolates that the factory produces. Be sure to stop in this Swiss village for one of the greatest chocolate experiences in your life.
2. New York City
It should be little surprise that Manhattan boasts some of the best chocolate in the world. Stop in at the Magnolia Bakery for some unmatched chocolate cakes. The cupcakes here attract cocoa connoisseurs from all over the world. After you’re done there, take a trip to Max Brenner. The hot cocoa is said to be simply stunning on a cold day. People buy it even in the heat of summer for its rich, complex taste. New York City’s streets carry aromas of tasty chocolate treats for all to enjoy.
3. Tabasco, Mexico
Tabasco, Mexico rightfully claims itself as the birth place of chocolate. The local shops combine hot cocoa with chili peppers, cinnamon, and milk. You will love the unique flavors on display for your choice of tastes. You should try all the different combinations used to accent the natural, chocolaty goodness in Tabasco. The local shop owners go to great lengths to try new concoctions. You might stumble upon a new chocolate treat that sticks with you for the rest of your life. Mexico’s premiere chocolate town welcomes all visitors with amazing offerings.
Amazing sights and scenery await people that take the dive into the cool waters of the Caribbean. You should definitely prepare to have your mind blown by what you may encounter. Consider visiting these five Caribbean diving and snorkeling sites for some unforgettable fun and excitement.
Sting Ray City, Grand Cayman Island
If you’ve ever dreamed of feeding sting rays with your own hands, then Sting Ray City welcomes you with open arms. This location, known all over the world, entices visitors to swim and snorkel with Sting Rays. The friendly sting rays gladly put on a show for all to see and enjoy. The delightful journey will produce lasting memories for you and your family.
Walker’s Cay at Nassau, Bahamas
At Nassau, Bahamas visitors get up close and personal with reef sharks. Those who dream of adventure will find their calling here. The Caribbean reef shark is one of the friendliest sharks you will ever meet. Your dive guide will help you to feed the shark and interact with it in an amazing way. Your diving itinerary must include a stop at Walker’s Cay in order to be complete.
The Duane at Key Largo, Florida
Many people dream of exploring a sunken ship. This dream becomes a reality at Key Largo. The Duane, a huge ship purposely sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard as an artificial reef, is home to many different colors of corals and sponges. The marine life remains on the sunken ship, especially on the railings. You will get to explore the ship and all of its surroundings during an exciting dive.
Green Outhouse Wall at Roatan, Honduras
Roatan, one of the islands of Honduras, encourages visitors with plenty of great diving activities. A canyon with brain coral, sea fans, and more inspires awe in all divers. An increasing number of tropical fish make their way to the area, and sea turtles are becoming more common. This site is a rare treat to behold.
Cow and Calf Rocks at the U.S. Virgin Islands
The biggest attraction here is the natural arches you can swim through. The ledges attached to the reef depict stunning beauty that can’t be found anywhere else. You never know when you may stumble upon some truly fascinating marine wildlife. There is plenty to see at this particular diving site, and your whole family should find something they enjoy.
The Caribbean houses many of the best diving sites in the world. The five sites listed here are some of the best, but there are also others that you could explore.
Ecotourism welcomes you to see the natural wonders of the earth that have remained largely untouched by human hands. At present, these destinations are usually much more affordable than typical mass consumer tourism sites. However, the popularity of Ecotourism is on the rise, we suggest experiencing some of the top Ecotourism destinations now, before they start to change to accommodate the masses. Check out these five particular locations if you are interested in learning more about ecotourism.
Located off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands house numerous protected species of animals and sections of lands. The Ecuadorian government made all of the islands into a National Park, except for the areas where people already inhabited the lands. Some of the most impressive sights here include the Marine iguana, Galapagos sea lions, and the blue-footed booby. This preserved land is a real treat for visitors. You won’t believe all the cool photo opportunities until you arrive.
An important scientific community, the New Economics Foundation, recently named Costa Rica the greenest country on earth. 25 percent of the country’s land mass is protected, with several National Parks scattered in various areas. One of those parks, Corcovado National Park, is known all over the world for its rich biodiversity. You can find red-eyed tree frogs, rare butterflies, and hundreds of other rare species. They remain undisturbed in their natural habitats, which makes them a joy to see for ecotourism enthusiasts.
If marine ecology is your thing, then you should book a trip to Maldives for your next ecotourism vacation. Maldives waters are famous for coral reef systems that produce awe-inspiring colors. You can also find tremendous species of fish along the coast, with about 110 types of fish swimming in the cool waters. You can also see large populations of crabs, shrimp, mollusks, and more. If you love the water, this will be one ecotourism trip you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Kenya is known as one of the most diverse countries for biology in Africa and in the entire world. It’s easy to see why. The lush rain forests of the Kakamega Forest Reserves entice visitors to spend a few days exploring the vast wilderness. If you’ve never been to a rain forest, you are in for a stunning surprise. Animals and plants of many colors, shapes, and sizes await your discovery.
If you’ve been longing to go to India, now is your chance to see some amazing plants and animals. Rajamala National Park is home to the endangered mountain goats in India. You can also find nearly 25 percent of the entire country’s plant species there. This area has been called “God’s Own Country.” It’s easy to see why this name was earned once you visit.
We’re chatting with Sarah Field, destination manager and ex-tour leader at Tucan Travel about two new Eastern Europe tours that have been launched for the 2014 Europe summer. She speaks about her research trip to Romania to develop the award-winning Transylvania Tale tour – a two week tour from Budapest to Istanbul exploring citadels, fortified churches and Dracula’s castle – and her recent trip to the Baltic cities of Tallinn, Vilnius and Riga and how the area surprised her.
What gave you the idea to develop the Transylvania Tale?
The tour is part of a longer trip that starts all the way up in Russia, so passengers have the option to join the full two-month expedition or smaller sections. The last section from Budapest to Istanbul didn’t really do the area justice, so it was decided to lengthen the tour and explore more of Romania and give people the chance to see something a little bit different. The new tour also includes more time in Bulgaria, specifically Plovdiv which is home to a vast Roman amphitheatre.
What are your impressions of Romania as a travel destination?
My first impression of the place is that there is so little English spoken. People are very friendly and welcoming, but they speak little or no English and there are generally no English menus. There is a lot of sign language that goes on! The locals are not yet used to foreign visitors; it’s refreshing when compared to the very well-visited Western European countries.
What are your recommendations to travellers to Romania?
Romanians are unlikely to approach you and are fairly reserved, but if you make an effort to approach them they are generally very helpful and kind. If you can, it is very useful to learn some words in Romanian and also have a few food words written down to help decipher menus.
Did anything surprise you about Romania?
The cities were lovely; I was half expecting bleak ex-communist places but they were very pretty. Brasov is an attractive city with gothic and renaissance buildings and churches. Sighisoara really is the most beautiful medieval city. On the tour, we have arranged to stay inside the citadel where you have a view down into the rest of the town and the river. From Sighisoara you can take a trip out to Viscri which is one of the world’s best preserved medieval villages. Also, the fortified churches at Viscri and Prejmer were like nothing I had seen anywhere in the world. They are churches with space for the village to go inside and live during a siege. The one in Prejmer is huge and the walls surrounding the church are hollow as people would live inside them during times of war.
What were your highlights of the Baltic Capitals?
The highlight for me was Estonia. Tallinn has stunning medieval cobbled streets and is quite small for a capital city. The old town of Tallinn is just how you’d imagine a medieval city to be with parts of the old walls intact and a main square lined with cafes and shops. It also has one of the most famous medieval-style restaurants called Olde Hansa. This restaurant uses traditional medieval recipes and everything is prepared in an authentic medieval way. You eat by candlelight and the ambience is like nothing I’ve experienced elsewhere.
After Tallinn, I would probably say my next highlight was the KGB museum in Vilnius which is an included excursion on the tour. This place really affected me. One of the reasons was the local guide – he fought against the communists and was involved in the final shootout in the very building where the KGB museum is housed. His parents were also part of the resistance and his son is studying history to ensure what happened in the area never happens again. The building itself is an old office block with cells underneath it where political prisoners were taken for torture. It was in the middle of the city right under everyone’s noses and they would monitor people that walked outside the building. Even walking on the street outside too often could implicate you, such was the level of their suspicion and paranoia.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Travel with an open mind. These places are amazing and completely distinct to other European countries, so go and enjoy them for what they are before the tourists move in. Don’t think just because they were once behind the iron curtain that there’s nothing but communist concrete here. Their history is so much older than that and is truly beautiful.
When I traveled through Europe I made friends with fellow traveler Marty, a local Eastern European spending her time showing travelers her homeland, and doing a really good job at it:-) Martina and I have always kept in touch, and when I heard that she and fellow traveler Rach had started a travel website based around food tours, I was extremely excited. I know first hand that these girls are true foodies, and have a special talent for seeking out the best places to find authentic local food in any city.
Very Hungry Nomads is the name of their website, and between them Marty and Rach have traveled to around 100 countries! Needless to say, their worldwide food knowledge is very extensive.
Meet Marty and Rach:
‘We believe that cooking and eating in a foreign country is truest way to its soul. We know that food brings people together, and even if you can’t speak the local language, everyone is understood when food is present; a smile, a nod and a rub of the tummy is all you need to show your appreciation of a good meal.’
Very Hungry Nomads was created to help travelers leave behind the tourist traps when it comes to food, and get involved with authentic food experiences offered by locals. The website offers an easy search function, with tours ranging from cooking classes in Thailand, tapas tours in Spain, wine tasting in France, and so much more.
Marty and Rach have personally sourced the vendors they work with, and make a point to focus on small, independent businesses around the World, so you are supporting the “little guys” when you book a tour them.
‘It truly gives us the greatest satisfaction to support local people who chose to follow their passion for food and turn it into a thriving business.’
So, if you are interested in indulging in authentic local cuisine next time you travel, make sure you check out Very Hungry Nomads to enhance your trip with an unforgettable food experience. After all, who wouldn’t want to sample the best chocolates in France, learn to cook a curry in India, or be shown the best street-eats by a local in Shanghai!
There are plenty of great destinations for people who want to taste local quality beer when they travel. If you are a traveler whose priority is to taste the local brews, almost all destinations worldwide offer a tasty local beer to keep you satisfied, so listing just 5 cities is difficult, but we have chosen 5 of our favorites:
Let’s start with the obvious! Munich is known all over the world as a haven for beer lovers, and it’s easy to see why. Thousands of people from around the world gather each year for Oktoberfest, which is a celebration of all things barely, hops, and water. Many breweries in Germany still believe that these are the only three ingredients necessary for a tasty brew, and it’s hard to argue against that point. Beer lovers definitely should make a trip to Munich at least once in their lives, and if you can manage to get the timing right, a visit during Oktoberfest is an amazing experience for a beer lover.
Even though the city isn’t the best value for your money in general terms, there is plenty of tasty and very affordable beer to be found. The local bars and vendors try to supply beer that is similar to western tastes, but you should indulge in the local offerings while you’re in the area. You may be surprised at how full and deep the flavors are in local Japanese beers. You can even get beer out of the vending machines located in the streets, and no identification is required. The unique vending machine experience is the main reason Tokyo made this list!
Known all over the world as the exporter of Guinness, Dublin is a paradise on earth for beer lovers. There are literally hundreds of pubs located in the city offering special beers exclusive to those pubs. The beer may be a bit pricey, but you will get your fill in the midst of hundreds of happy locals. Drinking beer is one of the biggest pastimes of Irish people. They are proud of the flavors of their brews, and they will boast about the quality of their local pubs, and always be happy to make a recommendation for the next pub you should visit.
Sao Paolo, Brazil
South America has its own zest when it comes to beer. Sao Paolo in Brazil combines the flare of South American culture with beer that bursts with flavor. The dance clubs are packed with people enjoying local brews while dancing the night away. You will definitely experience some nights to remember, especially if you love to indulge in a little partying while experiencing the local brew.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
North America has become renowned for their micro brews over the past 10 years, and Grand Rapids hosts a festival every year where people can go to over 50 restaurants and breweries. The chefs specialize in dishes infused with craft beer made from the local breweries. You can also take cheap tours of some of the finest breweries in Grand Rapids. There are certain craft beers located here that you would never be able to taste at other locations, so it is well worth the trip.
It’s easy to find good beer in many places throughout the world. Beer is an item that many cultures have in common regardless of their differences. The best part is trying beer from a new culture and appreciating their interpretation of what a good beer should be.