Mauritius; The star and key of the Indian Ocean

 

Mauritius is one of those once in a lifetime destinations. A honeymoon spot for many or just an extraordinarily luxurious holiday that creates memories to last a lifetime. We were lucky enough to win a trip to the star and key of the Indian Ocean through the #BeachLife photo competition with Stylist Magazine and Veranda Resorts. If this blog teaches you anything please let it be that yes, people really do win those incredible holiday competitions you see on the TV and in magazines, just give it a go!

mauritius-17

Flying with Air France we were not looking forward to the 12-hour flight that awaited us but it turned out to be one of our most comfortable flights ever with a whole row to ourselves… each! We were able to sleep the full journey and arrive in the country we had been dreaming about ever since we got THAT tweet from Stylist Magazine.

We had never been to Africa before and although this wasn’t mainland Africa, we still didn’t know what to expect. Arriving in September it was pleasantly warm and we set off on our journey to the very north of the island. With the island being a mere 2040km² we drove the full length of the island within an hour, picking up some insightful information from our driver with the usual taxi chat. Did you know Mauritius’ biggest export is Prince’s tuna? Neither did we but we were more interested in the local rum which was to come later!

mauritius-8
Veranda Pointe Aux Biches was absolutely incredible. We have had a number of discussions since returning whether this was our best holiday ever and the hotel was definitely a major factor. The reception immediately set the tone with a sand and wooden theme almost forcing you to relax. Upon arriving the first thing you are asked to do is take your shoes off and immerse your feet under three water spouts representing peace, love and happiness. This might be a bit cringe for some but what a fantastic change to arriving and being asked for your booking details and credit card before so much as a hello!

We were toured through the hotel which was the most wonderful and peaceful setting we have ever encountered on holiday. The hotel has two pools, bars, restaurants , a spa, plenty of activities to get involved in, a private beach and the most welcoming staff you will ever meet. Being based in the Privilege room, we were free to eat at either of the two restaurants which offered very different but equally delicious food and impeccable service. The Sandy Lane village bar, pool and restaurant were for adults only, all-inclusive customers but really, you would have the holiday of a lifetime in any room in. We were free to roam to any part of resort and that’s exactly what we did, spreading our time between the Sandy Lane and Foot-Loose areas.

Our room was filled with complementary coffee, tea, fruit, snacks, coke and beer which were all replenished everyday. The towels were shaped into different animals each time you went back to your room and the view of the balcony was so perfect you could have a good time without even leaving the room.

mauritius-14

Although it wasn’t the height of summer, we couldn’t resist swimming in the pools and sea. We also made the effort to take out some of the free to use water sport equipment laid on by the hotel such as windsurf boards and kayaks. The Pina Coladas flowed all day, everyday and we soon found the coconut rum to be our drink of choice. A few nights ended with us being slightly more flamboyant that usual thanks to a few too many cocktails but if you can’t get carried away on holiday you may as well stay at home!

The Senses restaurant was a buffet style setup with fresh grilled steak, fish and chicken with an everlasting spread of supplements to go with it. The vegetable gratin was one of the most heavenly things we have ever had and for us to pick out the vegetable as our favourite item you know it was good! The all-you-can-eat style meant you could spend hours eating and chatting as the night wore on with the the cocktails still flowing freely.

Although we loved the buffet area, the Sandy Lane restaurant was on another level. Michelin style service was matched by scenic views made for memorable moments. The restaurant continued with the sand theme as you felt your toes settle into the sand as your listen to the waves crashing beneath the stars of the sky.

The food was impeccable with a different five course meal served up each night. From succulent steak to freshly caught fish brought in from the sea just a few metres away, this was a real fine dining experience. Deserts ranged from coconut emblazoned crème brulee to hand made profiteroles fit for a king. The food at Veranda Resorts was something we are sure we will never experience again, and that is a very upsetting thought!

maurtitius-7

Wanting to see more of the country, we did venture out of the resort as we visited the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden and L’ Aventure du Sucre. The botanical gardens were a beauty and we recommend taking a picnic with you as it is a great place to explore where you can spend hours losing yourself within the exotic plants and giant tortoises. The sugar cane factory is great if you are keen on finding out more about the heritage of this incredible little island. It is more than just a sugar factory and explanation of processes, it also tells you about the people of the country, their customs, values and their beliefs.

We visited Trou aux Biches on a few occasions and thoroughly enjoyed taking some time away from the resort to see the real Mauritian people as we walked through small villages and chatted with the locals. The beach itself was yet another breathtaking setting but the same could be said about most of Mauritius. We also took a Veranda catamaran cruise to Bernaches Islet where we enjoyed a BBQ to conquer all BBQ’s, and spent a few hours taking in the perfection of Mauritius.

image1-1
On our last day we rented out some bikes to ride out to the sugar cane fields. Cycling through the winding roads and listening to the roar of the waves beside us, we made it to the fields which were a bit further out the way than they had seemed in the car! The long ride was well worth it though as we settled down and explored the fields that could have lasted forever if we only had our eyes to judge it by.

Mauritius has become that holiday that will never be beaten. That luxury break that cannot be topped and that memory that will never be lost.

mauritius-15

Advertisements

The Asian Circle

IMG_1607

KHTravels are working with The Asian Circle on a mission to support vulnerable women in India and South Asia. We are honoured to be assisting with their social media campaign raising awareness of the fantastic work that they carry out daily. Please help spread the word and follow them on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram!

asian-circle

The Asian Circle is working together with Oxfam in the tribal Adivasi communities in North East India to challenge the social acceptance of sexual and domestic violence against women. Oxfam is helping the government, police and judiciary to apply the laws that protect women. This includes setting up support centres in police stations to provide shelter, legal advice, counselling and launching a state-wide campaign to raise awareness of and change attitudes towards violence against women.

Around the world, 35% of women and girls suffer physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a day dedicated to raise public awareness about this and other appalling statistics and that is what we’re doing!

Summer ’17

The summer holidays are well underway and the children are used to their new daily routines without school, breakfast is a also a little later now which we must admit we’re enjoying and there’s lots of spring cleaning going on in the bedrooms!

The days seem a lot longer and we’re trying to think of different activities we can do each day to keep the kids entertained. Something we hadn’t thought of until now was downloading a film on our IPad. We bought some popcorn and arranged two screenings of our makeshift movie day, one for the girls and one for the boys. “Happy Feet” was our film of choice and first up was the boys. As they all crowded round to watch the small screen they were super excited for an English cartoon movie, we couldn’t believe how they all managed to slot themselves into positions to be able to see. We were buried in amongst them and after just 15 minutes we were literally melting due to the heat. We didn’t dare move though as the boys were all so comfortable and enjoying the film, laughing so much their stomachs were hurting!

IMG_0470

As always the girls were a lot more organised and balanced the iPad on a chair that they could all sit around to see. Their reactions to the film was much different to the boys and they loved the cute baby penguins and love story going on, some tears were even shed at the emotional scenes! Next time we return to Our Home we will come equipped with more movies for them, we really enjoy giving them some new experiences, and when it’s 40 degrees outside with no water, there’s not much else for them to do!

IMG_0530

The hot topic for this week was the upcoming “Tour” to Kannur Beach. We decided to take the kids on a day trip to the beach and hired a big tourist bus for the 7th April. Leading up to the day they couldn’t stop planning, from what they were going to wear, what time they were waking up and who they were going to sit next to on the bus. When it finally came around the day itself was incredible, we made the most beautiful memories and being many of the kids’ first time to the beach it was also really emotional.

IMG_1627

The next big day, 10th April, soon approached which was when the children were getting their exam results and I think we were more anxious than them! We woke up early that morning and went down to the school and were greeted with The BEST news ever. The longs days teaching and evenings spent on one to one homework classes have paid off as every single child at Our Home Community passed their exams and are moving up to their next year studying. Previously children have been held back one if not two years for not passing their exams. Surya was particularly overjoyed having been one of the children held back, he has now finished with the highest marks in his class! The smiles say it all and we’re so proud of all of the girls and boys for working so hard with us.

IMG_0587

This week Our Home had a group of German volunteers visiting and unfortunately this meant we had to vacate our little bedroom so they could all stay together. However, this did mean that we could stay in a local hotel only a short walk away from Our Home and to be honest the AC and warm water was a welcome change! We also used the opportunity to give the boys and girls some little day trips and took a few of them each day during our stay to explore the hotel grounds, order some french fries, fresh juice and relax in a different environment for a few hours.

As our time at Our Home is coming to an end we’re making the most of every single second with the children. Its been another two weeks that have flown passed, filled with emotion, joy, day trips and certainly one of the best school summer holidays for us too!

IMG_0568

Happy HOLIdays

The last two weeks have been as jam packed as the others, however the school holidays have now started and we are all enjoying some time to relax, especially as the temperature is rising by the day!

IMG_0384Last weekend we had the opportunity to experience something new and very unique. There was a local movie premiere being held in the town close us, Kalpetta. Chacko and Avi, who run the Our Home, are good friends with one of the main actors so he very kindly donated tickets to all of the children. ‘Take Off’ was a Malayalam film but we were able to understand the storyline with a little help from the older boys. It was far from your typical Bollywood movie and instead focussed on real life ISIS events when a group of Indian nurses working in Iraq were stranded in the war torn city of Mosure. It was a very touching storyline that we thoroughly enjoyed, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it does well as it’s being shown exclusively in Kerala at the moment but it has the potential to go big in India! Our first ever movie premiere was brilliant and we even got to meet some of the actors. A memory both us and the children will never forget.

IMG_0391

The onsite school has closed for summer now and the children all had mixed emotions. Some are excited but others are sad at the thought of not seeing their friends for two months. The last day at school was a busy one, the Science Exhibition was held as it had been postponed from its earlier date. They were all so enthusiastic to show us their inventions and we couldn’t believe some of the masterpieces the kids from local villages had created. Our favourites included real electric fans made from cardboard, batteries and tiny motors and clay volcanos complete with lava and dinosaur models! There were also awards to be given out from the sports and art days held earlier in the year and we were delighted to be asked to present these to the kids. It was a great atmosphere as all of the winners collected their medals and trophies.

We missed Holi Festival due to the exams so to celebrate the end of the school year we bought some powder paints to play with on the first day of the summer holidays. It was just as we expected having seen many photos of Holi Festival and the amount of colour was overwhelming. We ran about chasing each other with the paint for a good couple of hours and it was so fun! It was a really good activity to get both the girls and boys involved in and we were like big kids too. We got some incredible photos of the children playing and this day is such a special memory that will stay with us forever.

IMG_0369

Throughout India there is still a huge amount of work to be done before women will be considered equal to men. Having worked with the Asian Circle we want to do everything we can to work towards equality for women and girls of this country. An estimated three million girls are out of school in India and it’s shocking statistics like this that need to change. At Our Home the girls are treated exactly the same as the boys and they all receive the same education, Chacko and Avi are such an inspiration in the work they do with these children and we wanted to enhance that. We spent a day with the girls simply chatting about how important their education is, what they wanted to do when they grew up and motivating them that if they put their mind to it they can achieve anything their heart desires!

IMG_0451

Our meal this week meant an early start as we decided to change it up a bit and cook breakfast. We opted for omelette with plenty of chilli and onion served with bread bread, sweetened of course as we can’t find regular bread anywhere. This dish was an improvement on our attempt at sweet chilli noodles, and the children loved the taste … as did we!

All in all it’s been two weeks filled with a good meal, lots of laughter, celebrations and our first Indian movie premiere! There’s always something unexpected in store and that’s what we love about India.

IMG_0183

Mumbai Tours

 

Our first experience of a Mumbai tour was in 2015 when we booked to visit the slums to see exactly where some of the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ scenes were filmed. Although incredibly sad to see, the tour itself was a great insight into the slum life for millions of Mumbai’s citizens and certainly opened our eyes.

IMG_0161

Last month we returned to the Bollywood city and got in touch with Magical Mumbai. Wanting to explore the crazy city further, we booked ourselves onto a walking market tour. Our guide, Sam, was a young student from the slums working four jobs to pay for his education, he had an insane passion for life. Not only was he an interesting and informative guide but we really got along with him and now have a new friend in Mumbai.

IMG_0160

Having visited Mumbai before we thought we had seen it all but clearly not! The market tour visited the Crawford, Mangaldas, Kalbadevi St and CST markets and each was so different from the next. If you’re an animal lover you won’t enjoy the pet section at Crawford market but the rest of the day was fantastic, with plenty of photo opportunities, especially with Sam being an aspiring photographer! This tour is great value for money at just 800 rupees per person.

We enjoyed ourselves so much so that we organised a car city tour for the next day where we teamed up with Sam once again. If you’ve already seen a bit of Mumbai you can skip the obvious stops like the Gateway to India and get straight to the good stuff!

IMG_0162

Sassoon dock was incredible and being one of the oldest docks in Mumbai we highly recommend you pay this place a visit. The people are engrossed in their work, throwing buckets of fish from the boats to the dock three metres above to unloading truck loads of ice. However, we recommend you leave your flip flops behind if you’re visiting the docks unless you want fish guts between your toes!

IMG_0159

Dhobi Ghat was another of our highlights. The whole community works together to wash and dry millions of clothes from across the city everyday. All the machines on site are made by the people, for the people, from giant tumble dryers to heavy duty washing machines. A birds eye view of Dhobi Ghat would reflect a rainbow of colour, just as most of India but there is a method to the madness here.

Other stops on the tour included Victoria Train Station, Marine Drive and the Oval Cricket Ground where cricket was first introduced to India. The entire city tour cost 3000 rupees for two people, a luxurious AC car, our fantastic guide and some great memories!

Magical Mumbai Tours made our time in the ‘Hollywood of India’ unforgettable, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us or them if you’re visiting and have any questions!

IMG_0158

Backyard Cinema

Whilst travelling the world, would you believe one of the things we really enjoyed doing was checking out each country’s cinemas. Every single one we visited, from Oz to the Philippines and India, were SO much better than British cinemas. Tickets at less than a quarter of our price, a huge range of snacks all less than £1 and the quality of the  cinemas themselves were second to none.

When we returned home we were not looking forward to paying way over the odds at Vue, or sitting in a hot, stinky room at Premiere. So, when we discovered Backyard Cinema, we were overjoyed! With tickets starting from £16.50  you’re not only seeing a film, but you’re getting a fantastic experience too. The first time we visited we saw Jurassic World in an exclusive jungle themed set up, venturing deep through the jungle before taking our seats in comfy beanbags!

More recently we saw Home Alone in their Winter Night Garden extravaganza, and the set it self was like being in a movie; fairy lights, Christmas woodland, themed cocktails and blankets to snuggle with and get in the festive mood!

If you’re travelling in London we can’t recommend you visit this place enough. We’re super excited to see what ideas they come up with next! You can check out all of the packages and film screenings they offer here.

3

Features

We love writing about our travels, whether that’s engaging our readers with tales of our adventures or helping out with travel advice from past experiences. Getting involved with other blog sites is something we’re hugely passionate about. Please see below a few blogs we have featured with:

If you’d like us to write a blog or article for you, please get in touch here!

 

 

Natural History Museum Ice Rink

It’s pretty hard to beat Christmas in London and with it being our home city we’re trying a range of different festive activities to recommend to you guys, starting with ice skating at the Natural History Museum venue.

5The outside entrance to the NHM has been transformed into a winter wonderland, sponsored by Swarovski you can imagine how beautiful and glistening it is. The actual ice rink has a great view of the museum and is of a good size, leaving you with plenty of space to skate together… or fall to the floor depending on your skills! The main thing is, it isn’t so packed that you can’t move – which is the problem with a lot of London rinks this time of year.

A cute bonus is the Swarovski skate cam, located on the rink you can pose for a Christmas photo in the stunning setting and collect a print out for free after or download it online. Perfect for H who is a sucker for souvenirs, and we’re sure many of you are too! After your skate relax in the upstairs café with a hot drink and snack whilst overlooking the magical view.

Our only negative comment is that it’s recommended you get there 40 mins prior to your booking time, so we rushed straight from work to arrive early and were given our skates pretty much immediately and were then left waiting around. However, we can expect the closer to Christmas it gets the busier the rink becomes – so take this as you will!

We would totally recommend this Christmas ice skating experience. Reasonably priced, fab atmosphere in truly iconic surroundings- the perfect Christmas date night!

Price: Adults from £12.95

Availability: Open until 8th December

Tickets: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/ice-rink.html

Elephant Nature Park

There are many opportunities to visit elephant sanctuaries whilst backpacking throughout Thailand and Asia, but we must start with a very serious matter. Do not just go to the cheapest one with the best salesman, please do your research and select an organisation that really does support the endangered Asian Elephant. So many places describe a safe haven for elephants but they are chained, beaten and abused into submission. If you are offered an elephant ride or see an elephant in chains please avoid it at all costs as this is a clear indication of an illegitimate sanctuary.  If all you’re after from an experience with elephants is a new profile picture and you don’t care how you get it then you are not welcome here!

IMG_1477

Elephant Nature Park is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre in Northern Thailand and our time there was one of the most memorable days from our travelling adventure (we know we say that a lot!) We started the day with some background information about the organisation and were told story after story of how many of the elephants were now blind, severely injured or bearing scars from previous owners. Elephants are giants of the mammal kingdom but are such gentle and playful creatures. The stories brought a tear to your eyes, half in sadness but half in joy that these elephants finally got to live their lives in a world without chains and abuse.

Being as big as they are, there was only ever going to be one thing to start with; feeding! Standing on a platform nearly three metres high, we were surround by tens of elephants! Their muscular trunks reached up through the barrier to grab everything from melons to bananas. The first time you come into contact with these magnificent creatures, you realise something. They are alive! This may sound silly but they really are alive and it’s magical, you sense their emotions, their moods and best of all … they sense you.

IMG_1487

Moving on we explored the enormous grounds of the sanctuary and we were delighted to see that each and every elephant was free to roam as it pleased. No forced feeding sessions, no blockades, just freedom. We came across a pair of elephants in their 80s first, a real pair of golden oldies. They were just being themselves, no showing off with tricks and definitely no riding, just a bit of back scratching on the nearest tree trunk.

IMG_1499

Now, we have all seen the video of the two baby elephants playing in the pool, however, we had no idea just how much fun these gorgeous animals had in the water. With the larger elephants soaking up the midday sun in the river, large lumps starting appearing in the water … There were five adorable, younger elephants splashing and rolling around! It was an incredible sight and watching these elephants grow safely and happily is truly something special.

5

There was a show of real collectiveness too as a few dogs turned up and decided that they wanted to join in on the fun. The dogs were eyeing up one of the younger elephants and the baby started yelping for help. The ground started trembling and another slightly larger baby elephant stomped over out of nowhere, blowing its trunk and the dogs soon scarpered.  It was so funny and cute to watch and after the drama, the elephants returned to their day of eating, back scratching and relaxing.

IMG_1508

The best part of the day came towards the end. With the sun setting, some of the larger elephants moved into the shallower river and continued to eat their array of fresh fruit. We stripped down into our swimwear and joined the elephants in the river and bathed them in the dimming Thai sunlight.

Whether you’re an animal person or not, we implore you to see reason and open your eyes when travelling abroad. If something is too good to be true, it invariably is. You get what you pay for in life and if you spend a little more, you can get the experience of a lifetime without adding to the misery of  these incredible, endangered animals which are subject to the horrifying tourist trade and temple rituals.

An elephant never forgets … 

IMG_1493