Posts Tagged ‘Scuba diving’

Tell someone you’re heading to the Cayman Islands chances are

the first thing they’ll think of are the offshore bank accounts.

Often overlooked as a holiday destination in favour of better known Caribbean islands, the Caymans offer so much more than tax breaks and are a great place to

sunworship and relax in style.

Consisting of three islands Grand CaymanLittle Cayman and Cayman Brac, Grand and Little are the best choices for holidaymakers.

The islands are located 480 miles south of Miami, with Grand being the hub for trans-atlantic flights.

Base yourself at the five star Ritz Carlton on Grand Cayman which overlooks the powder white sands of Seven Mile Beach.

Rooms are luxurious and staff are uber-friendly. Opt for an ocean-facing room to enjoy sunsets from the comfort of your own balcony.

On Seven Mile Beach sun worshippers can laze all day on loungers admiring the views while adrenaline junkies can try their hand at windsurfing or other watersports.

When you need a break from the sun head to Georgetown for some retail therapy. With no sales tax you can pick up great deals on luxury items including perfume and cameras. Jewellery shops line the strip and

drip with glittering diamonds,

emeralds and rubies.

Sometimes shops can become crowded with cruise ship passengers so hang back in a bar until they disappear for a more peaceful shopping experience.

Rackham’s restaurant which is set on an open-air pier and is where the island hipsters head for a casual drink is highly recommended. It’s good for a cold beer, great conversation with a sea breeze to boot. Also don’t forget to look down – schools of tarpon fish dart beneath the pier.

Just a short half an hour flight away is Little Cayman, which is home to more birds and iguanas than human residents.

With only a couple of places to stay and pristine beach as far as the eye it’s a real Robinson Crusoe island where you can get away from it all. Stay at The Southern Cross Club for

barefoot luxury:

stunning beach, delicious buffet food with a mix of jerk-style traditional Carribbean dishes and modern American and the option to dine al fresco on the beach under the light of

romantic tiki torches. Divine

With only a couple of bars

on the islands

it’s no city clubbing experience

but if you want to shake your moves then the Hungry Iguana (known as the Iggy) is the most happening place on the island and serves dangerously tasty chocolate cake shooters.

Both Grand and Little Cayman are as famed for

what you’ll find under the water…

as they are for their beaches.

With some of the best reefs in the Carribbean, the water is warm, clear and home to some amazing marine life

including sharks, rays and friendly Nassau grouper.

Scuba diving

or snorkelling is a must do, we warn you –

you won’t want to have to come up for air.

Originally published in Stilorama magazine.

© Ianthe Butt

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Like moths to a flame thousands of holiday makers, myself included, are drawn to visit

Thailand’s stunning beaches.

 Known as the Land of Smiles, this South-East Asian gem is home to a host of 

paradise islands

 where everyone from the budget gap-year traveller to the luxury lover can find something to suit their taste.

Party animals…

should book the first boat to Koh Phangan to partake in a night of fluorescent face (and body!) painting and dancing on the beach till dawn at the Haad Rin’s famous Full Moon Party.

If you are looking for more of a spiritual experience then head away from Haad Rin to one of the island’s many eco-retreats offering an A-Z of holistic experiences;  ashtanga yoga through chakra and detox all the way to vegetarian cooking classes.

Would-be underwater adventurers who want to explore the ocean by day and party by night must visit Koh Tao.  Translated as ‘Turtle island’ Koh Tao is a diving mecca with plenty of sweeping coral gardens where you can swim through shoals of shimmering fish and hunt for tiny, brightly coloured nudibranchs clinging to the corals. If coming face-to-face with the largest fish in the sea, the elusive and majestic whale shark,

is your goal then I recommend visiting in March-April and heading to the dive sites at Chumphorn Pinnacle and Sail Rock (sadly, sightings are never guaranteed).

Koh Phi Phi, used for the film adaptation of Alex Garland’s The Beach is tourist central with a buzzing nightlife and even more travellers than locals.

Day trip by longtail boat and visit the famous Maya Bay Beach as trod by Di Caprio et al,

spy on leopard sharks

and turtles

while snorkelling or simply enjoy a delicious plate of tamarind-tossed pad thai noodles sprinkled with peanuts while you watch the sunset.  

Escape the crowds and retreat to the Northern tip of the island to hip Zeavola resort’s teakwood villas and indulge in a virgin coconut oil massage or delectable coffee and spice body scrub at their on-site spa. 

Koh Lanta is the couple’s choice, a little quieter and more remote than some of the other islands it’s the perfect place to get to know the locals and sample a range of delicious Thai cuisine at a different beachfront restaurant every night.

Romantics will delight…

as gently flickering sky lanterns glow, floating up into the night sky, while waves lap on the often deserted pristine beaches.  Learn to cook your own spring rolls, spicy curries and traditional papaya salads at Time for Lime cooking school on Klong Dao beach, that way you can always cook up a reminder of your fabulous Thai experience once back at home. 

Don’t rush

to visit too many islands –relax and settle into Thai time, extended hours and lazy days. I have no doubt these charming islands will

enchant you back for a second (third or fourth) time… as they have me.

Originally published in Stilorama magazine. 

© Ianthe Butt 2011

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For once I can’t complain about the English weather- yesterday it was hotter than the Sahara. While I was attempting to revise for a  Media Law exam (read: using  textbook as a pillow) in my sun-drenched back garden I found myself thinking of Asia (you’ll soon learn this is a fairly regular occurrence)  and thought it was time for a trip down memory lane.

As I’m enjoying a four day weekend, here are my top 4  of where and why you should  make for Malaysian Borneo:

1. Get wet diving Sipadan

Sipadan is synonymous with world-class diving. When visited by Cousteau in the seventies while on board the Calypso the legendary diver and his team spent six months exploring its amazing underwater walls and fabulous reefs. Your mask will be obscured by the shoals of glittering fish as turtles with moss encrusted shells skull by and eye you nonchalantly.

Beautiful white sand beaches too.

2. Travel by longboat to Belaga

Watching the world go by while lazing in a longboat as your pass villages and wildlife drinking at the water’s edge has to be one of the best ways to do slow travel. Getting to Belaga is a bit of a mission which requires several changes along the way but a simple charming town that’s well worth the effort to visit.

3. Rainforest treks

Get off the beaten track by arranging a trek into the wilderness from the small town of Belaga. Walk over slippery trails past waterfalls and stay out overnight in the forest accompanied by those friendly locals which the guidebooks always talk about. In Belaga’s case this is entirely representative – so many smiles.

4. Crazy bugs

This might put some people off but I love the fact that there are all manner of weird and colourful bugs to be found in Borneo. These ones were taken in Gunung Mulu National Park home of great trekking and plenty of mosquitoes. Bring plenty of insect repellant!

© Ianthe Butt 2011

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