KQ’s new Msafiri Gold Card offers a fast-track route to some of the world’s greatest destinations. We make some suggestions for your dream trip…
“Atangaye na jua hujuwa,” runs the famous Kiswahili proverb – “He who wanders around by day a lot, learns a lot.” It’s hard to disagree. The urge to explore the world and the many natural and man-made wonders in it is fundamental to human nature. The only question is how. Connecting Africa and the world beyond, the KQ network encompasses numerous world-class destinations and attractions including the stupendous Victoria Falls and the legendary wildebeest migration as well as three of Europe’s most historic capitals and the contemporary mega-city of Dubai. So if you’re wondering how you can make the most of the travel opportunities on offer, check out the new KQ Msafiri Gold Credit Card (www.kqmsafiri.com), a co-branded Visa card brought to you by Kenya Airways and Barclays Bank. Cardholders can pay for flights using the card and also earn KQ Msafiri Miles for all purchases made on it, which can then be redeemed for a host of travel rewards. So sign up for your card and open the door into a world of possibilities.
I’m dreaming of… a pampering break
Relax, unwind and enjoy some well-earned me-time at delicious Diani, Kenya’s premier coastal destination for those in search of a little pampering and pleasure. Within easy striking distance of Mombasa, Diani combines a healthy splash of cosmopolitan coastal chic with a pinch of back-to-nature barefoot simplicity. The broad beach stretches for miles down the coast, with endless palms standing sentry behind and the wide white sand shelving gently into a perfectly turquoise sea. Sign up for a reviving treatment at a resort spa and then sample some of the delicious food available along the beach – Swahili, Indian and European – anything from freshly cut coconuts to sumptuous seafood.
KQ flies to Mombasa www.kenya-airways.com
Afrochic Diani Beach
Intimate ten-room boutique hotel right on the beach with perfect Indian Ocean views, spacious pool and stylish African-influenced rooms. www.elewanacollection.com From around US$350 for a double room.
Leopard Beach Resort, Diani Beach
Attractive resort in a gorgeous setting amid lush, monkey-filled grounds above the beach. The fine in-house Uzuri spa is a particular bonus. www.leopardbeachresort.com From around US$200 for a double room.
I’m dreaming of… a shopping extravaganza
It’s the place that dreamt up the world’s first shopping festival, the city that built the planet’s largest shopping mall and the destination with more mega-retail complexes than you can shake a wallet full of credit cards at. Dubai does a number of things well, and shopping is most definitely one of them.
Dedicated shoppers usually head to the gargantuan Dubai Mall. Branches of the famous Bloomingdales and Galeries Lafayette kick things off, followed by the enormous array of upmarket boutiques in Fashion Avenue. Then explore Shoe Level District, a haven of designer footwear and interior design as gorgeously camp as a film set from Zoolander. A sprawling Arabian-style souk full of perfumes and opulent jewellery sits next door, and if (heaven forbid) you get sick of shopping, in-mall attractions include an Olympic-sized ice rink, state-of-the-art aquarium, a huge waterfall complete with fibreglass divers and the beautifully preserved (and entirely genuine) skeleton of a 150-million-year-old diplodocus.
And that’s only the start. Make a day of it – in fact, make a week of it. The giant Mall of the Emirates is another retail stunner. Another must-see is the wacky Ibn Battuta Mall, lavishly styled after the various countries visited by the famous Moroccan traveller. But don’t forget to explore the old-fashioned souks of Deira, including the famous Gold Souk and the nearby Spice Souk, fragrant with frankincense, rose petals, dried lemons and more.
KQ flies to Dubai www.kenya-airways.com
The Palace, Downtown Dubai
Opulent, Arabian-themed hotel in the heart of the new city, facing the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain and just a couple of minutes walk from Dubai Mall. www.theaddress.com Around US$500 for a double room.
Ahmedia Guest House, Deira
Attractive lodgings in a beautiful traditional courtyard house just metres from the Gold Souk. www.heritagedubaihotels.com Around US$95 for a double room.
STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA
I’m dreaming of… a food and drink break
Stunningly situated 50km east of Cape Town in a giant bowl at the foot of the Great Drakenstein and Stellenbosch mountains, Stellenbosch is one of South Africa’s oldest and most beautiful towns: a perfectly preserved showcase of Cape Dutch architecture and old-time colonial style.
For many visitors, however, the real attraction is wine. Along with the nearby Paarl and Franschhoek valleys, Stellenbosch forms the Cape Winelands, the largest of South Africa’s wine-producing regions thanks to its Mediterranean climate, with hot dry summers and cool wet winters perfectly suited to viticulture. Top local vintages include the signature South African pinotage alongside smooth Shirazes and more complex Bordeaux blends.
First established in 1971, the world-renowned Stellenbosch Wine Route now links around 150 vineyards and estates, all with tasting rooms, while many also host excellent restaurants and accommodation, offering a combination of fine wines, upmarket dining and stunning scenery that’s hard to beat.
KQ flies to Johannesburg and codeshares to Cape Town with Kulula.com
Coopmanhuijs Boutique Hotel, Stellenbosch
Beautiful boutique hotel right in the heart of Stellenbosch occupying a historic building built in 1713 and complete with classy restaurant and spa. www.coopmanhuijs.co.za Around US$100 for a double room.
Diemersfontein Wine and Country Estate, Wellington
A great choice if you want to stay on a working farm and winery, located in a gorgeous old villa in the town of Wellington, around 35km north of Stellenbosch. www.diemersfontein.co.za Around US$75 for a double room.
LONDON, PARIS, AMSTERDAM
I’m dreaming of… a European tour
Three of the continent’s most memorable capitals, London, Paris and Amsterdam have everything the traveller could want from a European tour, serving up a positive smorgasbord of iconic landmarks, historic monuments, sylvan parks and more cultural, culinary and retail attractions than you could ever get to the bottom of.
Much of the fun of a combined tour is in the contrasts. From the elegantly homogeneous boulevards and squares of Paris and the watery canal-scapes of Amsterdam, through to the richly historic jumble of central London.
If you want to explore beyond the tourist highlights of museums, palaces and art galleries you’ll find three of the world’s most profoundly multicultural metropolises as well. The trio of capitals once ruled over three of the world’s great empires, and have now been subtly colonised in their turn, with a fascinating array of Asian, Caribbean and African ethnic enclaves and counter-cultural diversions, from the famous Indian restaurants of Brick Lane through to the assorted shops, bakeries and cafés of Belleville, with its eclectic cast of Chinese, Algerians and Vietnamese.
KQ flies to London, Paris and Amsterdam www.kenya-airways.com
Amba Hotel, Charing Cross, London
One of London’s famous old railway hotels, combining contemporary luxury with a dash of Victorian style, and in a brilliantly central location. www.amba-hotel.com Around US$300 for a double room.
Maison Souquet Rue de Bruxelles, Paris
A memorable Parisian hideaway in the famous suburb of Pigalle. Brimful of atmosphere and sporting seductive, Second Empire-inspired interiors with more than a hint of bordello-style decadence. www.maisonsouquet.com Around US$400 for a double room.
The Toren, Keizersgracht, Amsterdam
Beautiful boutique hotel occupying a pair of seventeenth-century houses overloooking the Keizersgracht canal. This little gem boasts super-friendly service and some of the city’s most sumptuous interior designs. www.thetoren.nl Around US$250 for a double room.
I’m dreaming of… a barefoot beach holiday
A scatter of over a hundred vivid green islands lost in the middle of an ocean of intense blue – the Seychelles are physically small but loom large in many travellers’ imaginations as the ultimate Indian Ocean paradise. Some believe they are as close to heaven on earth as you can realistically hope to get.
It’s the Seychelles’ legendary beaches that are the headline attraction – quintessential Robinson Crusoe castaway fantasies, with picture-perfect strips of gorgeous white sand, backed by toppling coconut palms and lapped by crystal-clear waters perfect for swimming. You’ll also find world-class snorkelling and diving (with plentiful marine life to match, from hawksbill turtles to majestic whale sharks). Water trips are many and varied from glass-bottomed boats to buccaneering yacht charters allowing you to crisscross between some of the archipelago’s remoter and largely deserted smaller islands.
There’s much more to the Seychelles than just sand and sea, however. Miniature mountains buried under a thick canopy of lush tropical forest rise dramatically out of the interior of the larger islands, offering memorable forest walks (as well as ziplining and abseiling for adrenaline junkies), while the Seychelles’ reputation as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean is everywhere apparent, from the coco de mer forests and black parrots of the Vallée de Mai on Praslin through to the giant Aldabra tortoises that roam freely about the island of Curieuse. Make time for the capital Victoria, too, a vibrant crucible of creole life at its colourful best, with food, music and streetlife to match.
KQ flies to Victoria www.kenya-airways.com
Constance Ephélia Mahé
One of the more affordable of the Seychelles’ luxury resorts, overlooking a pair of stunning beaches off the west coast of Mahé island. www.constancehotels.com Around US$450 for a double room.
Pension Hibiscus La Digue
On sleepy La Digue island, this trim little family guesthouse offers comfortable and hospitable lodgings very close to the spectacular beach at Anse Source d’Argent, and at eminently affordable rates. www.hibiscusladigue.com Around US$100 for a double room.
I’m dreaming of… a city break
One of the world’s tallest, brightest, busiest and densest cities, Hong Kong has superlatives in spades. Few cities crackle with similar energy – arriving in Hong Kong is probably the nearest you can safely get to plugging yourself directly into the mains and flipping the switch. Business is the city’s heartbeat, but it’s also crammed with memorable sights and experiences offering a unique blend of the ultra-modern and the deeply traditional, and of the internationalist and cosmopolitan alongside much that is quintessentially Chinese.
Iconic images of Hong Kong usually show its stupendous highrise skyline and huge harbour. The best places to get this view are from the spectacular Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, or from aboard the legendary Star Ferry. For the ultimate view, take the famous old Peak Tramway that climbs at an unfeasibly steep gradient to the summit of the Peak.
Away from the harbour, explore a slice of traditional Hong Kong in the no-frills Temple Street Night Market with its raucous stallholders and wandering Chinese opera troupes, and visit the colourful Wong Tai Sin Temple, where the air is thick with smoke from thousands of burning incense sticks. Also be sure to ride the ferry out to beautiful Lantau Island, home to the gigantic Tian Tan Buddha, a seated bronze colossus rising over 25m high.
KQ flies to Hong Kong www.kenya-airways.com
The Peninsula, Salisbury Road, Kowloon
The Peninsula is one of the city’s most famous hotels (rivalled only by the Mandarin Oriental across the harbour). It opened in 1928 and still offers peerless levels of luxury in the very heart of the city. www.hongkong.peninsula.com Around US$500 for a double room.
The Mira, Nathan Road, Kowloon
This sleek, modern hotel is one of the city’s best bargains, with chic modern rooms plus a cool spa and good in-house eating and drinking options. www.themirahotel.com Around US$200 for a double room.
SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
I’m dreaming of… a safari
Think of a safari and you may be thinking of the Serengeti. The name alone conjures up a host of iconic images: endless savanna dotted with flat-topped acacias; lounging lions and graceful giraffes silhouetted against vast horizons; and, most memorably of all, the astonishing herds of migrating wildebeest and other animals crossing the plains and plunging through the waters of the Mara and Grumeti rivers while fearsome predators swarm on all sides.
The Serengeti plains are host to the largest remaining unaltered animal migration in the world where over one million wildebeest plus hundreds of thousands of other ungulates take part in a 1000km annual circular trek spanning the two adjacent countries of Kenya and Tanzania. The figures alone are astonishing: around three million animals can be found in the park during the migration, including around two million wildebeest, around 900,000 Thomson’s gazelle and 300,000 zebra. All the Big Five can be spotted here too, including an estimated four thousand lion, a thousand leopard and the rare black rhino, as well as myriad other creatures – everything from hyrax and hyena to cheetah and giraffe – plus more than five hundred types of bird. It’s also more varied than you might think, with habitats ranging from the swampy western corridor with its crocodiles and hippos through to the hills around Seronera, whose wooded uplands offer some of the park’s best year-round wildlife viewing.
KQ flies to Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro www.kenya-airways.com
Mbalageti Camp, Western Corridor
Attractive tented lodge, with superb plains views – and significantly less expensive than many upmarket Serengeti options. www.mbalageti.com from around US$400.
Seronera Wildlife Lodge, Seronera
This large, comfortable hotel right on the migration route lacks the wilderness atmosphere and Out of Africa romance of smaller lodges but scores highly for its excellent location and very affordable rates. www.serengetinationalpark.com/entries/seronera-wildlife-lodge Around US$225 for a double room.
I’m dreaming of… adventure
Be swept away by the majestic Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall, created by the broad Zambezi River as it cascades over a hundred-metre-high cliff in a sheer wall of water. Twice as high and double the width of Niagara, the falls are one of the planet’s greatest natural sound-and-light shows, with the ceaseless crashing and churning of water below and the shifting ‘smoke’ of water vapour above, often producing magical rainbow effects. Given favourable conditions, the rare night-time ‘lunar rainbow’ is one of Africa’s most extraordinary sights.
Visiting the falls also provides adventurous types with an adrenaline-charging range of activities. The white-water rafting along the Zambezi is some of the world’s finest, featuring rapids including ‘The Terminator’ and ‘The Washing Machine’. You can also try arguably the planet’s most spectacular bungee jump – 111m of pure exhilaration, plunging off the bridge linking Zambia and Zimbabwe directly facing the falls. Other adventure activities include abseiling, ziplining and ‘gorge-swinging’, while helicopter and microlight flights also offer privileged views of the cascades.
KQ flies to Livingstone, Zambia www.kenya-airways.com
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Zambezi National Park
Upmarket lodge, in a lofty location overlooking Zambezi National Park with sweeping views and good game-viewing at a nearby waterhole. www.victoria-falls-safari-lodge.com Around US$425 for a double room.
Zigzag Town Lodge, Livingstone
Excellent budget accommodation on the edge of Livingstone, with comfy rooms plus pool and restaurant. www.zigzagzambia.com Around US$75 for a double room.