Vegas on a Budget, or what to do there if you don’t Gamble?

Vegas on a Budget, or what to do there if you don’t Gamble?

I’m not a gambler, so when I had to go to Las Vegas for CES this January, I had to do some serious research on how to spend my free time out there. Turns out, there’s plenty to do! Here are my findings and tips I gathered from locals on what to do in Vegas if you don’t gamble. Or if you lost all your money.

1 / Explore The Hotels

Las Vegas Hotels are unlike anything I have ever seen. They are not just a place where you lodge during your stay. Nor are they  a place where simply you dine, party, gamble, shop, or go to the spa. Las Vegas Hotels are a Production. There’s no other word for it. They are massive, impressive, and are done with so much attention to detail, they fill you with wonder at what man can do with enough money and creative liberty.

Each hotel has it’s own character and feel, so exploring them is an experience in itself. You never know what discoveries you will make…

Price: Free

2/ Watch the Bellagio Fountain Show

No, this is not a sponsored post. I just think it’s one of those iconic and really impressive things that you absolutely must do when you’re in Las Vegas. They run every 20 minutes and every time it’s to a different tune. Stand on the side of the Bellagio Hotel to get the stunning views of the strip and the local Eiffel Tower.

Price: Free

3 / Ride a Gondola

Always wanted to take a romantic trip down a canal in Venice while the gondolier serenades you and your lover? Well you can do that right at the Venetian in Las Vegas for just $29! Step back in time and surrender to the romance of a serenade being a total tourist as you float along the Grand Canal that runs through one of Las Vegas’ most renowned resorts. Float beneath bridges, beside cafes, under balconies, and through the vibrant Venetian streetscape. You can choose between the outdoor or indoor ride, and if you’re really into it, you can even get pro tips on how to become a Gondolier. The daily program, limited to nine participants, shares the “ins and outs” of piloting a gondola. Upon completion, you will receive a gondola hat and t-shirt, a souvenir photo and a degree certificate from Gondola University. It’s like a parody of itself. So bad that it’s good.

Price:

Shared Gondola (Seats Four): $29.00 per person
Private Gondola (For Two):$116.00

4/ See at least one Show

As you probably already know Vegas is one huge, elaborate and extraordinary expensive production. So when in Vegas, seeing an actual show is a must! With so many to chose from, all you have to do is decide which one.

I am a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil, so of course, I went to see “O” (from the french eau ) –  the aquatic show inspired by the “infinity and elegance of water’s pure form”. A group of 150 stage technicians assist in the production of the show, the cast of which consists of 85 performers: international acrobats, synchronized swimmers, and divers. I sat in the 3rd row (splash zone) and spent most of the show catching my breath and emitting pathetic squeals as the performers launched themselves into the 1.5-million gallon pool that transforms into to a stage at the drop of a hat. Worth every penny.

Tip: Check this website for special offers and discounts. Also, some theaters will do discounts if you book at least 7 days in advance, so check their websites if you’re booking ahead of your trip.

Price: from $60

 

4 / Visit the Art Galleries

There is art everywhere you look in Las Vegas. For example there’s a casual $28 million statue of Popeye by Jeff Koons standing in one of the hallways at the Wynn. Check out the famous Bellagio Gallery Fine Art, where you can gain new knowledge of different techniques. There is also the Peter Lik Fine Art Gallery, which has locations around the city (including a new one at Caesars). The gallery carries photographs by Peter Lik himself and works from artists all over the world, like Dale Chihuly, Richard MacDonald and Brett Wesley.

If you’re feeling adventurous and have wheels, why not venture off the Strip and into the desert to check out Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains? These neon rock installations measure 30- to 35-feet high and are particularly beautiful at dusk (or dawn). A little longer drive is the ghost town of Rhyolite, which has a unique collection of outdoor sculptures.

Price: Free

5 / Eat in one of the Food Courts

Like everything else in Vegas, even a food court is not your average dining experience. While it may not seem very glamorous at first, it’s a fun and ironically, authentic way to dine in Vegas without blowing the bank.

While exploring the Venetian, I stumbled upon a place called Lobster Me and couldn’t resist the temptation. Their menu has everything lobster – from rolls, to sandwiches, bisques and lobster mac & cheese.

Quick, cheap and cheerful.

Oh and also much tastier than the $40 pasta I had in one of the “real” hotel restaurants.

Bon apps!

6 / Head Downtown!

Sadly, most people never make it off the Strip when they come to Vegas, which is understandable, given all that’s on offer.  But Downtown is the original Vegas and while it underwent a significant renovation, it still retains that old charm. It is also where all the locals go out. I was actually lucky to befriend one local who took me out and gave me a tour of the place. But that’s a story for another day…

 

Have you been to Vegas? What’s your favourite thing to do out there outside of the casinos? Let me know in the comments!

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5 Ways this Hotel is the Perfect Romantic Getaway

5 Ways this Hotel is the Perfect Romantic Getaway

Romantic getaways come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, I recommend checking out the Kyrenia Palace Boutique Hotel in the Northern Cyprus. It’s within easy reach across the border in Nicosia, or with a flight to Ercan International Airport which connects to most European cities. The hotel is in a great location to explore Kyrenia and beyond, and provides great value for a boutique stay.

1/ The design

 

What happens when an antiques collector decides he wants to open a boutique hotel? Magic. Kyrenia Palace Boutique Hotel is a whimsical collection of antique furniture, paintings and artifacts from around the world. There are wooden chairs, or rather thrones, from India. A huge L-shaped Dorchester couch sits in one corner of the reception, and a Baroque sitting area from France gleams in another. Each room is unique by design and name. We stayed in Jasmine – a suite on the upper floor, overlooking the stunning hotel courtyard. It has a very sultry and regal feel to it, with all the beautifully carved furniture, large windows and heavy drapery to block out the bright sunshine. It’s the perfect place to find yourself if you’re looking for inspiration or privacy.

2/ The Service

 

Kyrenia Palace Boutique Hotel is run by a small team, hand-picked by the owner. This allows the hotel to maintain a sense of familiarity and ease. The team is very friendly and helpful around the clock. Even when they are busy, they find the time to chat to guests, making sure you’re not wanting anything and provide you with recommendations on where to visit, eat and relax. It almost feels like you are staying at a friend’s house, instead of a hotel, adding to the feel of intimacy and comfort of the stay.

 

3/ The Location

 

The location of Kyrenia Palace Hotel couldn’t be more perfect. It’s right by the Kyrenia Harbour, about a 2 minute walk, but secluded enough to be quiet and peaceful at night. It’s perfect if you want to explore the town by foot. All the bars and restaurants around the harbour are within 5 minutes reach and in the opposite direction, you have the town centre with its bustling shops and markets. The Kyrenia Castle is within walking distance, as is the oldest mosque in Cyprus that neighbours with the hotel. Note the mosque still operates, so you will be getting a free wake-up call with the morning call to prayer just before dawn.

4/ The Food

 

The Kyrenia Palace restaurant is set in the stunning stone courtyard and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is included and goes on until 11 in the morning. The spread comprises of local and imported cheeses and meats, fresh fruits and vegetables and daily specials of eggs and freshly baked pastries. It’s all super fresh and delicious. For lunch and dinner, you can order à la carte and there is a good choice of local delicacies, fresh seafood and grilled meats. The restaurant is very popular in the evening, with hotel guests and visitors from outside, so it’s worth asking the front desk to save you a spot.

5/ The Value

 

Kyrenia Palace Hotel provides excellent value for the location, service and the overall experience of the stay. There are many big hotels in Kyrenia, around the same price point, but in my humble opinion, they are too big to offer the intimate and indulging experience of Kyrenia Palace Boutique. I always preferred the quirky and unique over the standard global chain. If you’re looking for a memorable getaway in the North of Cyprus, this is a gem!


Kyrenia Palace Boutique Hotel room with breakfast starting at 100 EUR per night.

For reservations, contact Murad on +90 533 875 7000 or visit their website.


Visit Kyrenia in the north of Cyprus in 360°

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Benguerra and Beyond

Benguerra and Beyond

An exquisite piece of paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean, &Beyond Benguerra Island is a unique beach holiday destination perfect for a romantic getaway. It is situated on the second largest island in the stunning Bazaruto Archipelago, offering some of the world’s most pristine beaches and a sense of wilderness in a sophisticated setting. It is no wonder it is frequently featured on the pages of Condé Nast Traveller and Vanity Fair.

 

AndBeyond Beach in front of the lodge

AndBeyond Benguerra Lodge

Benguerra Lodge first opened as a fishing camp some 30 years ago and slowly evolved into something approaching sophistication, yielding to the the demand of fishermen’s wives and girlfriends who objected to roughing it up in such a idyllic setting. Recently, the lodge was sold to a South African consortium, which cleverly engaged AndBeyond to create the ultimate romantic getaway. The result is a classy but unpretentious beach retreat that stands apart in the company of other resorts overburdened with cliché tokens of luxury.

AndBeyond Benguerra is laid out in a simple safari-camp configuration with a thatched main lodge fronted by a cheerful beach bar carved out of a traditional fisherman’s dhow. The resort is constructed in such a way that its guests, 32 at full capacity, feel like they are the only ones on the whole island. Each suite is hidden in the canopy of indigenous casuarina pine forest, with a private pool, an outdoor shower, and loungers offering front row seats onto the sensational sunsets over the Indian Ocean. The interiors are colonial chique and the rooms is cool and shady thanks to the wooden shutters that keep out the bouncing light of the sand and sea. It’s couples paradise.

Inside Casa Familia villa

Outside Casa Familia villa

Room service

Front row seats onto the sunset

Lunch by the plunge pool

Benguerra Activities

The lodge prides itself in its impeccable service, and staff take the time to get to know every visitor without exception. In the evening we head down to the beach where a restaurant has sprung on the water front, lit by a countless lanterns and complete with a butler for every table. We enjoy cocktails by the dhow bar and meet Erik, the activities manager. He tells us about the recent dugong sightings and anecdotes of living on the island.

The Indian Ocean here is fabulously warm and rich in marine life, with plentiful manta rays and whale sharks, schools of dolphins and loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles. The Bazaruto National Park is also home to about 200 dugongs, Africa’s last sustainable population of the big grey mammals thought to have given rise to the myth of the mermaid. Here at AndBeyond Benguerra, you will have the chance to go diving and snorkeling with these majestic creatures.

Map of Bazaruto Archipellago

Dhow Bar

Playing mermaid

Sunset

Among its activities, the lodge offers ocean safaris, diving and fishing excursion, as well as horse riding and traditional dhow cruises. It is even possible to arrange a romantic castaway picnic on Ponta Dundo, one of the most historically interesting islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago, with signs of occupation dating back to the beginning of the Iron Age (about 200-300 AD). But more on that later…

Ponta Dundo

 

After a day out exploring the natural beauty of Bazaruto Archipellago in the African sun, it’s a real pleasure to dissolve in the comfort of the suite. As I prepare a bath, any memories of the real world dissolve like salts. As night falls, we’re swallowed by the thick, velvety cloak of the starry sky and the incessant buzz of cicadas.

Bathtime

Book your stay on Benguerra Island.

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Where the Wild Things Are Pt.2

Where the Wild Things Are Pt.2

Bush Legends

 

The Greater Honey Guide is a small bird living in sub-Saharan Africa that is said to guide people to wild honey. The tradition advises that when the bird guides you to the bees’ nest, you must share some honey and larva with your it, otherwise next time he will lead you to a black mamba. On our morning walk through the savanna, our brilliant guide Denis showered us with bush know-how and folklore on the vast number of species living on the Pafuri concession.

What fascinated me the most are the baobab trees. They can live for up to 5,000 years, reach up to 30 meters in height and up to an enormous 50 metres in circumference. They are made 80% out of water and actually shrink during drought. Baobab trees provide shelter, food and water for both animals and humans. Their bark can be turned into rope and clothing, the seeds can be used to make cosmetic oils, the leaves are edible and the fruit pulp is extraordinarily rich in nutrients. They say that when God created the world, he thought it wasn’t beautiful enough, so he made the baobab.

Fever Tree Forest

 

Another morning, we head to the Fever Tree Forest. On our way there, Denis manoeuvres around a fallen tree on the ground. “Although it would make sense to remove it and clear the road, we keep it there as it forms a microcosm for insects,” he explains. There is a great respect for the natural order of things at Pafuri safari camp. Restoring the balance of the land is a philosophy that permeates everything and everyone here.

At the forest, Denis tells us the story of how Fever Trees got their name. When the settlers arrived, they unknowingly contracted malaria, and blamed their high fever on the trees, whose bark is covered in a lime green pollen that burns lightly on the skin. He also pointed out the wild basil and explained that it can be used for cooking but also as a mosquito repellent. As the long sunbeams streamed through the Fever trees, we made our way to the nearest estuary where we had our coffee (spiked with Amarula) watching alligators going for their morning swim.

Against the Odds

 

The introduction of significant species and partnering with the Makuleke people in sustainable ecotourism marked the beginning of  restoration of ecological integrity of the Pafuri area. Unfortunately, in spite of the efforts to protect the land and its species, there are still many casualties of poaching and loss of habitat. While we were lucky to see a lion and 4 cheetahs (out of the remaining population of 9,000), their sightings are becoming less and less frequent. Even vultures are now endangered because they are eating elephant meat poisoned by poachers. Understanding the precarious destinies of these animals, made me feel even luckier to have seen them in the wild. It seems despite the collective efforts, and all the hard work being done, greed and ignorance are yet to be beaten.

 

Visit the Pafuri camp in Virtual Reality and join us on an an afternoon safari to see elephants!

Although we did not get to see any rhinos, we did hear the persistent mating call of the legendary Pel’s Fishing Owl as we enjoyed our last dinner at the camp. As night fell, the plains buzzed with nocturnal life and we retreated into the comfort of our tent, with a new sense of awe and wonder at the wild.

Yes, that is the view from our tent. You should see it real life!

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Benguerra and Beyond

An exquisite piece of paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean, &Beyond Benguerra Island is a unique beach holiday destination perfect for a romantic getaway. It is situated on the second largest island in the stunning Bazaruto Archipelago, offering some of the...

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Where the Wild Things Are Pt.2

Bush Legends   The Greater Honey Guide is a small bird living in sub-Saharan Africa that is said to guide people to wild honey. The tradition advises that when the bird guides you to the bees’ nest, you must share some honey and larva with your it, otherwise next time...

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Where the Wild Things Are Pt. 1

Where the Wild Things Are Pt. 1

Pafuri ReturnAfrica Camp

 

The Pafuri camp is unique in many ways. Set between the Limpopo and the Luvuvhu rivers, along South Africa’s northeastern frontier with Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the concession attracts masses of wildlife. While comprising only about 1% of the Kruger National Park’s actual area, it is said to contain more than three quarters of Kruger’s biodiversity. In winter, there are herds of elephants, zebras, buffalos, hippos and graceful nyalas (their brown and white stripes earned them their name, which means onion). Aside from the big boys of African safari, you also have the chance to see nearly half of bird species living in South Africa. People from all over the country come here hoping to catch a glimpse the illusive Pel’s fishing owl – a large, copper-winged bird that feeds nocturnally on fish and frogs snatched from the surface of lakes and rivers.

Land of the Makuleke

 

Secondly, what makes the camp so special is its fascinating history. Until their removal by the apartheid government in 1969, the Makuleke people lived here in scattered villages. This is the area that was to become – following the ejection of the people – the Pafuri region of the Kruger Park. After a three-decade struggle during which they suffered severe hardship, the Makulekes regained ownership of the land. However, they decided not to resettle. Instead, they left it as a contract park within the wider Kruger system. Due to its proximity to Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the area had been heavily poached by the time the Makuleke people received the land back. Recent anti-poaching efforts and re-introduction of game have resulted in significant increases in the number of animals. Today, they are relying on eco-tourism to remedy the negative effects and restore the natural balance of the land. RETURNAfrica, the camp’s management company, works in partnership with the local communities and helps the commercial running of the camp and its activities. Part of any visit to Pafuri is learning more about the rich traditions and culture of the Makuleke people and their land.

Safari Glamping

 

The camp is as a collection of 19 luxury tents set along the banks of Luvuvhu river. There are seven ‘family tents’ that sleep up to four persons, making this a 52-bed camp. The tents are smart, with wooden floors, four-poster beds, an inside and outside shower and your own front porch offering gorgeous views over the stream.

On our first afternoon at the camp, we watched a dozen elephants drinking and bathing, right in front of our tent.

Visit the Pafuri Camp in Virtual Reality and join us on an afternoon safari

Safari Days

 

The days at Pafuri camp are very organised. There is a wake up call for coffee before the morning safari, then a return to the camp for brunch. After, you have a few hours of free time, when you can enjoy the communal area, Wi-Fi (there is no phone signal in the camp otherwise) and the swimming pool. After a light snack at 3pm, there is an afternoon game drive. While this is the main agenda, the rangers are always on the look out for any surprise visitors. In the evening, as we were about to tuck into our bottle of red by the fire, there was an invitation to go for a night drive to see a young male lion, roaming not too far from the camp…

 

 

To be continued…

Have you seen these?

Benguerra and Beyond

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read more

Where the Wild Things Are Pt.2

Bush Legends   The Greater Honey Guide is a small bird living in sub-Saharan Africa that is said to guide people to wild honey. The tradition advises that when the bird guides you to the bees’ nest, you must share some honey and larva with your it, otherwise next time...

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My Bazaruto Fairy tale

My Bazaruto Fairy tale

Bazaruto Archipelago

 

Bazaruto Archipelago is a gem of the Indian Ocean that consists of five islands; Bazaruto, Benguera, Magaruque, Santa Carolina and Bangue. They lie about 20 km offshore, between Vilankulo in the south and Inhassoro in the northwest. Since 1971, the archipelago has been protected as a national park and is managed by the National Directorate for Conservation Areas of the Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Bazaruto, the largest of the island in the archipelago, is home to Anantara Bazaruto Resort, a world class luxury retreat, complete with a spa, tennis courts and a variety of activities, from horseback riding to snorkeling in the crystal clear ocean. The thing with big hotels, is that often they feel, well, big. Anantara hotel on Bazaruto Island is not one of those. From the moment you set foot onto the warm, soft sand, to the moment your boat takes you back to the real world, you feel that you are in a fairy tale that’s been written just for you.

Arriving in Anantara

Anantara’s 44 luxury villas, built from local materials, are nestled in the coastal jungle, in perfect harmony with their environment. As our boat gets closer to the shore, I start making out the thatched roofs peaking through the treetops. By the water, there is a congregation of brightly-dressed locals who appear to be waiting for our arrival. Upon reaching the shoreline, we are greeted with traditional song and dance, like long-awaited visitors. Unable to resist their energy, I join in the dance.  While I twirl to the beat of the drum and their song, someone from the welcome team is handing out cool hand-towels and glasses of fresh melon juice. I stop to enjoy the welcome drink. While I catch my breath, Thomas, our butler, loads our suitcases onto a golf cart.

 

Villa with Dreamy Views

We whizz our way past the reception, past the perfectly landscaped grounds, towards our Deluxe Sea view pool villa; 250 square metres of luxury hideaway with jaw-dropping views. As Thomas gives us the grand tour of the master suite, I stand absorbed by the shimmer of the ocean beyond the terrace. Turquoise and flat, it seems almost too beautiful to be real. “If you need anything at all, please dial 0.” Thomas advises. How could I ever need anything else, I wonder to myself.

Once I am able to bring my focus back into the room, I notice the exquisite setting. A four-poster king size bed in the centre of the bedroom and a curved standalone bathtub in the corner. The shower is linked to another outdoor shower. Everything faces the ocean. Outside, on the decked terrace, we have sun loungers and a plunge pool.

Snorkeling in Paradise

 

In the afternoon, we go snorkeling out on Neptune’s Nursery – a reef off the coast of Santa Carolina, affectionately dubbed Paradise Island.

When I jump in the water and open my eyes, I scream with delight, amazed by the diversity of marine life in front of me: clown trigger fish, box fish, angel fish, parrot fish, trumpet fish, gorgeous anemones and corals all in front of me, all at once.

The reef is a testimony to marine conservation and the hard work put in by the Bazaruto park administration and lodges to protect the local environment. It’s truly inspiring.

Silky Sunsets

 

We head back to the hotel for sunset and watch the sun go down from our terrace. There is a sailing boat slowly making its way back to the harbour as the sun dips into the ocean, leaving just a soft glow at the edge of the darkening sky.

Fine Dining

 

For dinner, we head to Club Naval where we were treated to another delectable dinning experience in a truly romantic setting. Soft candlelight bounces off the silver and dances in my glass of chilled South African rosé as I drink in the atmosphere. The starry sky, the whisper of the ocean, the soft tap of shoes on the polished wooden floors, the smell of grilled seafood drifting from the kitchen.

We start with ceviche of crab followed by a selection of grilled skewers – tiger prawns, chicken and prime steak. The very best produce, prepared to perfection. Chef George, a tall South African man with a warm smile and a solid handshake, comes over and chats to the guests, taking well-deserved compliments on the dinner.

After dinner, we sit on our terrace for a while, admiring the milky way and spotting constellations. The stars are so clear and close, you think they might start falling out of the sky right into your hands.

Day of Activities

 

The next the morning, we have a busy schedule – horseback riding followed by dune boarding.

We explore the nearby village and beachfront on horseback. Beautiful and well trained, the horses are an absolute pleasure to ride. We even get to dip our feet in the water!

After a short break, we drive out onto the dunes to try out dune boarding. I embrace my inner child and slide down into the valley, no hands, yelling to my hearts content. While the boarding is fun, the dunes are the real show-stoppers.

The smooth curves of white sand sit in stark contrast with the bright blue sky. In the distance you can see the whiskers of sand in the turquoises waters surrounding Punto Dundo. It is a wilderness that makes you want to run, dance and jump like no one’s looking.

We head back to the hotel before lunch, to freshen up after a busy morning and pack before we head to our next destination. As we gather our things, I feel a sadness coming over me. Like Cinderella before the stroke of midnight, I savour the last few hours in the magical world of Anantara.

When we board our boat back to reality, the same band that welcomed us breaks out into a melancholic song in Xitsonga, the local dialect, which translates to “When will they be back?” Brimming with emotions, I wonder the same, as our boat gains speed and the waving figures get smaller and smaller.

Soon, I hope.

Booking.com

Have you seen these?

Benguerra and Beyond

An exquisite piece of paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean, &Beyond Benguerra Island is a unique beach holiday destination perfect for a romantic getaway. It is situated on the second largest island in the stunning Bazaruto Archipelago, offering some of the...

read more

Where the Wild Things Are Pt.2

Bush Legends   The Greater Honey Guide is a small bird living in sub-Saharan Africa that is said to guide people to wild honey. The tradition advises that when the bird guides you to the bees’ nest, you must share some honey and larva with your it, otherwise next time...

read more

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