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Travellers’ Good Buys Compiled By John Rozentals

March 24, 2018 Travel Deals No Comments Email Email

Geraldton, on Western Australia’s Coral Coast, will host some of Australia’s best storytelling talent at the 13th Big Sky Readers and Writers Festival from May 25-27.

Heading the line-up in Geraldton will be beloved Australian cartoonist, painter, writer, philosopher and poet Michael Leunig, who will be presenting the free festival plenary conversation, sharing how he sees the world a little differently following a near-fatal farming accident.

Guest author Shokoofeh Azar has just been named in the shortlist for Australia’s coveted Stella literary award. An Iranian refugee, her first novel The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, was one of only six selected for the prize, which will be announced on April 12.

Additional festival highlights include:

— Absolutely Flawless – a Clown’s Odyssey – laugh till you cry hearing the story of an extreme introvert who overcame awkwardness to become a performer in Cirque de Soleil, performed by actor, comedian, storyteller and clown Allan Girod.

— On the Top, rooftop literary event – serving up tapas, drinks, live music and entertaining readings from three award-winning writers under the stars.

— Literary High Tea, on the Terrace at Café Fleur in stunning heritage surrounds while enjoying tasty nibbles and readings from three of our writers.

Phone 08 9956 6659 or visit or

 Queensland Outback … obviously a pretty big space.

There’s more than one way to see the Queensland Outback. It’s obviously a pretty big space.

I’ve just spent four days in places such as Barcaldine, Ilfracombe, Longreach and Winton, but further north and quite a ways west is Mount Isa, where nearby Lake Moondarra is favourite spot for barramundi fishers.

From August 9-12, Mt Isa will host its annual rodeo, complete with country dress-ups, a floats parade, steer wrestling, bareback riding and lassoing — not to mention 26,000 spectators devouring 16,000 buckets of hot chips.

It certainly provides a different side to the Australia that city folk are used to.

There are a couple of ways to get to Mt Isa. One is to take the simple way and fly in.

The other is to rent a car in Townsville and drive just over 900 clicks through places such as Hughenden, Julia Creek and Cloncurry.

That drive should end with a couple of cold ales.


 The Simpson Desert … more than half the size of Victoria.

Camping under the stars in the middle of arguably Australia’s most famous desert, journeying over rolling sand dunes, and the visiting the iconic Birdsville Hotel — these are just some of the highlights of a Simpson Desert tour this August offered by Tri State Safaris.

Savings of up to $2100 and a solo supplement of 4 per cent are now being offered for bookings made by April 30 for the 12-day ‘Simpson Desert Adventure’, which is priced from $7277 per person twin-share in a fully equipped Tri State Safari 4WD vehicle.

A BYO-4WD option is priced from $4200 per person ($2100 for a second person).

Features include the vast, salty expanse of Lake Eyre — the lowest point in Australia — the remote outback hamlets of William Creek, Innamincka and Oodnadatta, the opal mining town of Cooper Pedy where guests will stay in an underground motel, the three-state meeting points of Poepell Corner and Cameron’s Corner, the famous pub and camel pies of Birdsville and the ever-stretching, rolling dunes of the Simpson Desert.

Phone 1300 688 225 or visit

Tali Wiru … fine dining based on an Indigenous gastronomic journey.

Voyages Ayers Rock Resort’s exclusive evening dining experience in the desert, Tali Wiru (meaning ‘beautiful dune’ in the local Pitjantjatjara language), recommences for its fifth season on March 26.

The open-air gastronomic experience offers a magical evening of fine dining based on an Indigenous gastronomic journey on a remote sand dune overlooking Uluru and the distant domes of Kata Tjuta.

Guests enjoy champagne and canapés at sunset accompanied by the sounds of a digeridoo, followed by a four-course table d’hote menu with matched premium Australian wines.

A storyteller shares tales of Indigenous culture and the southern night sky and the evening ends with a port, cognac or native-wattleseed-infused hot chocolate around the campfire.

Tali Wiru is priced at $360 per person, which is fully inclusive of return hotel transport, full menu, matched wines and entertainment.

Phone 1300 134 044 or visit

The Torres Strait archipelago … a range of very different cultures.

Ahoy Buccaneers will offer another five sailings to the remote and rarely visited Torres Strait Islands in 2019, with a 10 per cent saving available for bookings made on new cruises by April 30 this year.

The five new sailings will explore the southern, emerald islands of the Torres Strait archipelago as well as Cape York – the most northern tip of Australia.

Scattered across a 150-kilometre stretch of ocean between Cape York and Papua New Guinea, the Torres Strait archipelago is home to stunning blue waters as well as dugongs, dolphins, giant marlin and sea turtles.

The Torres Strait reefs provide plenty of opportunities for fishing, snorkelling, fishing and just marvelling at the beauty of nature.

With the earlybird discount, the adventure is available from $2520 per person (including for solos) in a swag on the deck of Oceanic and from $3150 per person twin-share in a cabin.

Fares include meals, shore excursions and transfers during the cruise. Flights to Horn Island are additional.

Phone 08 9193 7650 or visit

 APT’s Le Soleal … small enough to venture right into the heart of remote destinations.

Offering attractions ranging from calving glaciers, snow-capped peaks and sparkling lakes, to First Nations culture, roaming brown bears and fairytale cities, APT invites guests to explore Canada and Alaska in 2019 by booking before 17 May this year to secure pre-release prices and deals such as its companion-fly-free offer.

The company’s portfolio includes, for instance, the 27-day ‘Sparkling Rockies & Alaska Expedition Cruise’, which is priced from $26,295 per person twin-share and is centred on a cruise on board the luxurious Le Soleal, small enough to venture right into the heart of remote destinations where larger vessels cannot reach, using a fleet of Zodiacs to get closer to natural wonders like Tracy Arm Fjord and the twin Sawyer Glaciers.

Travel is made easy with the new Travel Concierge app, which features a GPS system with interactive maps highlighting points of interest to tailor guests’ experiences.

Phone 1300 196 420 or visit

MSC Armonia in Havana … its seven-night program regularly includes two days in the Cuban capital.

From 10 December MSC Armonia will add Miami to its seven-night itinerary in Cuba and the Caribbean, and will homeport there alongside MSC Divina and MSC Seaside.

The seven-night MSC program regularly includes two days in Havana.

Miami is often referred to as the world’s leading cruise port, with modern passenger-terminal facilities, great accommodation options and outstanding end-to-end logistics and supply-chain infrastructure.

Also, having Miami as homeport will give MSC guests an opportunity to add a pre- or post-cruise option in US Cities such as New York and Orlando.

The new seven-night itinerary includes Montego Bay (Jamaica), Georgetown (Cayman Islands), Cozumel (Mexico) as well as Havana and Miami.


Pangolin Khwai Camp … accommodation is in spacious Meru-style tents boasting plenty of creature comforts.

Pangolin Photo Safaris’ new Khwai Camp opened this month with its first guests enjoying a luxury stay deep in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

Pangolin Khwai Camp sits on the 200,000-hectare Khwai Private Reserve, located on one of the Delta’s northern fingers and providing easy access to arid northern landscapes as well as bushland dotted with waterholes to the south.

The landscape sustains all the animals you expect in these ecosystems, with an abundance of giraffes, buffalos, elephants, antelopes, hippos, leopards, lions and cheetahs. as well as over 500 bird species.

The property accommodates 12 people, with guests staying in spacious Meru-style tents boasting creature comforts including an ensuite bathroom and private deck framing views across the floodplain.

At the camp’s heart is the open-plan lounge providing space to drink, dine and debrief after game drives.

This photo-centric camp caters to snappers of all abilities and offers a dedicated area for editing and presentations, with plenty of outlets for charging batteries, a screen for sharing images, and a big table where laptops and camera gear can rest while working.



 The iconic Indian Pacific … one of the world’s longest train journeys.

Cruise Express is offering a complimentary business-class flight to New Zealand and a free daytrip to Rottnest Island, near Perth, to guests booking a new rail-and-sail holiday across Australia and the Tasman.

The ‘Southern Serenity’ package combines a 14-night, all-inclusive cruise, luxury hotels and a journey across Australia aboard the iconic Indian Pacific train, one of the world’s longest rail trips.

The business-class flight from Sydney to Auckland on February 4, 2019, and a night at the harbourside Hilton Auckland will set the tone for the red-carpet holiday.

The next day, guests will board the five-star Crystal Serenity for a 14-night voyage west to Perth, with ports of call including Sydney, Hobart, Kangaroo Island, Adelaide, Albany and Busselton.

Beverages, specialty dining, wi-fi and gratuities are included.

The indulgence continues with four nights at Perth’s Crown Metropol Hotel and a complimentary daytrip to Rottnest Island, a reserve known for beautiful beaches and bays, and its abundant wildlife.

Then it’s a journey back to Sydney aboard the famous Indian Pacific train in the top-tier, Platinum Class, including gourmet meals, excursions, complimentary beverages and double-bed cabins.

The 22-night package is priced from $12,990 per person twin-share.

Phone 1300 766 537 or visit

Swimming with whales in Tonga … one of life’s most memorable adventures. Image: Grant Thomas.

The whale-watch season is just over the horizon and to mark the annual migration, Majestic Whale Encounters is offering savings on two of its all-inclusive whale-swim tours this September in Tonga, where the whales nurse their calves in the warm waters before returning to Antarctica.

A record whale season is expected in Tonga this year and both the seven-night and eight-night tours aim to make the most of this, incorporating stays and whale swims at an eco-resort in Tonga as well as kayaking, snorkelling and stand-up paddle boarding.

After arriving in Tonga, guests will fly to Ha’apai Island, where breakfast, dinner and lunch are included for all nights as well activities such as kayaking, snorkelling on the reef just in front of the bungalows, stand-up paddle boarding, bike riding and bushwalking.

The whale-watching boat will depart each day from the front of the resort. Guests will have the opportunity to spend four days swimming with the majestic mammals.

Both packages include accommodation (including a night on arrival near Tonga’s international airport), local inter-island flights, all main meals, transfers and four memorable days of swimming with whales.

The two September ‘Eco-Whale Swim’ tours are available from $3900 per person twin-share in luxury wooden fales if booked by April 30, a saving of $400 per couple. Flights to Tonga are extra.

Phone 0405 594 253 or visit

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