As Bill Bryson once said, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that it’s never been easier to reach all the many thousands of extraordinary places dotted around the planet – and the bad news is that there’s no way you’ll ever find the time to visit them all. So if you’re wondering where on earth to make for next, we’ve selected five of our favourite once-in-a-lifetime trips from the hundreds of places across the KQ network. There’s plenty to get the imagination going – whether you fancy an ultimate safari in Kenya’s Masai Mara or an urban safari through the equally exotic bazaars of Hanoi or Bangkok, or whether you’ve a yen to see the Victoria Falls or the equally neck-cricking futuristic skyscrapers of Dubai. All are served by regular KQ flights and are featured in assorted packages offered by KQ Holidays.
The majestic outline of a herd of elephant marching serenely across endless plains of acacia-studded savannah. Teetering giraffe outlined against huge horizons and the muted backdrop of distant mountains. A pride of lion basking beneath an enormous sunlit sky. Few sights anywhere in the world are as spell-binding as the wildlife and landscapes of the great African reserves – an essential experience that everyone should enjoy once (or, ideally, more often) in a lifetime. And where better to head than the legendary national parks of Kenya, from the iconic Masai Mara through to the flamingo-filled lakes of
the spectacular Great Rift Valley and the amazing Amboseli at the foot of the imposing Kilimanjaro?
See and do
• Lake Naivasha Only a short drive out of Nairobi but a world away from the capital’s hustle and hassle, Lake Naivasha sits serenely in the heart of the Rift Valley, surrounded by flower farms bursting with colour. It’s home to hippo, giraffe, zebra and eye-catching flocks of pink flamingoes.
• Amboseli National Park Ever-popular national park, famous for its herds of elephant wandering majestically across the landscape at the foot of Africa’s highest peak.
• Lake Nakuru National Park Explore the shores of one of Kenya’s most beautiful lakes, fringed with acacia forests and the domain of rhino, baboon and the park’s famous tree-climbing lions.
• Masai Mara National Reserve Kenya’s most iconic reserve, the world-famous grasslands of the Masai Mara, is the realm of vast herds of plains game, as well as the mighty predators, including lion, leopard and cheetah, that feed on them. It’s also the scene of the legendary annual wildebeest migration between the Masai Mara and the adjacent Serengeti in Tanzania – one of the natural world’s most extraordinary spectacles.
KQ Holidays offer a selection of Kenya safari packages departing from Nairobi. The four-night Kenya Highlights package (from US$1720 per person) includes Lakes Nakuru and Naivasha, plus the Masai Mara National Reserve, while the five-night Rift Safari (from US$2000 per person) takes in the Masai Mara, Naivasha and Amboseli National Park. The Simba Safari (from US$3680 per person) combines Nakuru and Amboseli in Kenya with the world-famous Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks in Tanzania, plus a visit to the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater.
Good to know
Kenya boasts no less than twenty-three national parks, fifteen national reserves and seven marine parks and reserves – over a tenth of the country’s land area. These include some of the oldest in existence, created following the landmark international conference on African wildlife in London in 1900.
The beating heart of modern Southeast Asia, Bangkok is one of the world’s most thrilling cities, packed with streets that never sleep, shops that never shut and some of the world’s most legendary nightlife. There’s plenty of old Asia to explore here as well, with time-warped temples, backstreet canals and traditional wooden houses squirrelled away between the skyscrapers. Shoppers, too, will find plenty to enjoy in the city’s vibrant markets and malls, while foodies will be in seventh heaven thanks to the city’s superb street food, often claimed to be the world’s finest and featuring anything from spicy noodles to deep-fried bugs.
See and do
• Grand Palace and Wat Pho Explore Bangkok’s spectacular royal residence and attached temple, an eye-popping extravaganza of glittering golden stupas, needle-thin spires, lavish glass mosaics and multicoloured statues. Then head to the adjacent Wat Pho, with its memorably surreal reclining Buddha, sporting a huge gilded body some 15m high and no less than 46m long.
• Chinatown Famous for its gold and jewellery, this fascinating tangle of bustling alleyways, temples and shophouses is one of the city’s most authentically old-fashioned and unspoilt areas. Busy by day and borderline manic after dark, when locals pile in for cheap eats at the innumerable foodstalls and restaurants.
• Wat Traimit Unremarkable from the outside, Wat Traimit houses one of Bangkok’s most precious treasures, nothing less than the world’s largest Buddha statue made entirely out of gold. Security is surprisingly light considering, although given that the statue stands more than 3m tall and weighs over five-and-a-half tonnes, it seems unlikely that any wannabe robbers would succeed in making off with it in a hurry.
• Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Go for a boat ride through the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Yes, nowadays the tourists generally outnumber the locals, but it’s still a fun and irresistibly photogenic place to get a taste of traditional Thai-style shopping-on-water, with hundreds of rustic wooden boats laden with all sorts of food, fruit and other produce cruising the narrow canals.
Kenya Airways offers daily flights to Bangkok, and KQ Holidays offers various hotel and tour packages in Bangkok. A four-day/three-night package (including accommodation plus a half-day city tour to Wat Pho, Wat Traimit and Chinatown, and another half-day visit to the famous Damnoen Saduak Floating Market) starts at US$216 per person, staying
at the 4-star Furama Silom, or US$258 per person with accommodation at the luxurious 5-star Royal Orchid Sheraton.
Good to know
The city’s official name is the longest of any in the world, the jaw-breaking: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. It’s generally known as Bangkok to foreigners, and most locals, very sensibly, refer to it simply as ‘Krung Thep’.
Often claimed to be the world’s fastest-growing city, Dubai has skyrocketed up out of the desert sands in little more than two decades to become one of the world’s essential travel destinations. Headlining the city’s spectacular array of attractions are the immense Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) and the unmistakable, sail-shaped Burj al Arab, while other record-breaking must-sees include the Middle East’s largest artificial ski slope, the vast palm-shaped Palm Jumeirah man-made island and some of the biggest malls on the planet – not to mention a stunning array of swanky restaurants, cool boutiques and chic beach hang-outs. And be sure to visit the old city for a taste of Dubai’s past, complete with mudbrick fort, traditional wind-towered houses and wooden dhows sailing serenely down the beautiful Creek, lined with soaring minarets and bustling bazaars.
See and do
• Afternoon tea in the Burj al Arab Indulge in a sumptuous high tea at the sail-shaped, 7-star, Burj al Arab hotel. Choose between a table in the supercool Sahn Eddar lounge at the foot of the spectacular atrium (the tallest in the world) or one in the Skyview Bar at the summit of the building, with sweeping views over the Dubaian coast.
• Old Dubai Explore the bustling souqs and old-style Emirati architecture of old Dubai – highlights include the city’s famous Gold Souq, the wind-towered Iranian-style houses of Bastakiya and the coral- and mud-brick mansions of Shindagha. Finish by hopping on a traditional wooden dhow for a ride across or along the breezy Creek, with marvellous views of the city’s eclectic skyline of traditional minarets and futuristic skyscrapers en route.
• Burj Khalifa Observation Deck Ride the world’s fastest lift up to the observation deck of the planet’s tallest building, half a kilometre up in the sky, with extraordinary views of contemporary Dubai laid out far below like some kind of surreal architect’s drawing.
• Sunset safari Head out into the desert on one of the city’s ever-popular sunset safaris, starting with an exhilarating hour’s ‘dune-bashing’ – careering up and down the desert drifts in a four-wheel-drive – with maybe a spot of quadbiking or sand skiing thrown in. This is followed by an evening of belly dancing, shisha smoking, camel riding and henna painting at a nearby camp.
KQ flies directly to Dubai daily, while KQ Holidays (www.kqholidays.com) regularly offers packages to hotels around the city – check the website for the latest deals. Current offers include three- to five-night packages (from US$1069 per person) to see the Kenya team in action at the annual Dubai Sevens tournament, one of the leading events on the international rugby calendar.
Good to know
Dubai is now far and away the tallest city on the planet, with no less than twenty of the world’s top 100 highest buildings being found in the city. Notable buildings include the Burj Khalifa (828m) and iconic Burj al Arab (321m), as well as the stunning Emirates Towers (309m) and the towers of the JW Marriott Marquis (355m), the world’s highest hotel.
A compelling blend of Parisian elegance and Asian exuberance, Hanoi is one of the region’s most underrated destinations – always colourful, often loud, but never dull. The city’s eclectic roster of attractions ranges from antique temples and time-warped colonial streetscapes through to hectic Vietnamese markets and hip contemporary boutiques, with a varied range of activities to match. Take a sedate ride in an old-style cyclo through the French Quarter, sample the city’s inimitable street food, visit the sepulchral Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum or join the locals for dawn Tai Chi on the shores of Hoan Kiem lake.
See and do
• Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Pay your respects to the father of modern Vietnam at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, with endless crowds of reverential locals filing through for a brief glimpse of the perfectly preserved body of ‘Uncle Ho’ – kept immaculate thanks to annual trips to Moscow for its yearly makeover at the hands of expert Russian embalmers.
• Old Quarter Dive into the colourful melée that is Hanoi’s Old Quarter, a sensory overload of shops, signs, scooters and street food guaranteed to raise the pulse of even the most seasoned Asia hand.
• Hoan Kiem Lake Surrounded by parkland, this serene, tree-shrouded lake is central Hanoi’s most idyllic retreat, busy from dawn till dusk with joggers, couples, hawkers, chess players and Tai Chi enthusiasts. Sights include the striking red lacquered Huc Bridge leading to the picturesque Ngoc Son Temple, and the eye-catching three-storey Thap Rua (Tortoise Tower), de facto symbol of the city.
• Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre Visit Hanoi’s most famous puppetry venue. Water puppets were first devised for village shows in the flooded paddy fields of northern Vietnam and haven’t changed much since, with performers standing waist-deep in water and manipulating their puppets from behind a bamboo screen, with accompanying music from a traditional Vietnamese orchestra.
KQ flies direct to Hanoi three times a week, while KQ Holidays offers various hotel packages to the city, including special one-night deals along with three-night stays with city tour included. Featured hotels include the swanky Hotel de l’Opera, and the intimate Church Boutique Hotel, one of the city’s few authentic boutique residences.
Good to know
Hanoi is a must visit for extreme foodies thanks to its many strange culinary offerings. These include all sorts of unusual meats (snake, dog, deer, turtle and mouse), assorted insects, ant eggs and snails alongside even weirder delicacies such as balut (fertilised duck eggs, complete with miniature embryo) or the still-beating heart of a cobra served in a glass of rice wine.
5 Victoria Falls
Be swept away by the astonishing Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall, as the two-kilometre-wide Zambezi River tumbles over the edge of a hundred-metre-high gorge in a sheer wall of unbroken water. Twice as high and double the width of Niagara and shooting out an estimated 23 million gallons of water every minute, the Falls are like a never-ending natural sound-and-light display, played out to the ceaselesss crashing of water and with the shifting ‘smoke’ of water vapour often producing magical rainbow effects; or even, given favourable conditions, the rare night-time lunar rainbow, one of Africa’s strangest and most elusive natural sights.
See and do
• Adventure activities Visiting the Falls isn’t necessarily just about standing and staring at the jaw-dropping spectacle. Real have-a-go-heros can try their hands at a range of activities, including white water rafting, bungee jumping, abseiling and gorge swinging, while helicopter and microlight flights also offer privileged views of the cascades.
• Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park Straddling the Zambian side of the Falls, the small Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park offers superb views of the cataracts. The walk over the vertiginous footbridge to the rocky outpost known as ‘Knife Edge’ is particularly spectacular. The park also offers the chance to see abundant wildlife, including hippo, giraffe, elephant and crocodile.
• Livingstone Take time to enjoy laid-back Livingstone. Named after the great Victorian explorer, the town preserves something of its old colonial character and is also home to the country’s best museum and a string of enjoyable markets.
• Zambezi River Cruises Livingstone is also a good jumping-off point for memorable cruises along the Upper Zambezi. Sunset cruises are particularly popular aboard one of Livingstone’s old colonial-style vessels, with a cocktail conveniently to hand.
KQ has direct flights three times a week to Livingstone, close to the Falls. Alternatively, it’s possible to reach the Falls travelling from Harare in Zimbabwe, served by direct KQ flights five times weekly. KQ Holidays also often has special hotel offers and packages available to Livingstone – check the website (www.kqholidays.com) for the latest deals.
Good to know
Famous Victorian missionary and explorer David Livingstone is thought to have been the first European to see the Falls, back in 1855, from the spot now known as Livingstone Island. Livingstone promptly named them in honour of the then British monarch, although the Falls’ far more apt and local name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, or ‘The Smoke That Thunders’, is also still commonly used.