New York back after Sandy but travellers should confirm

Downtown yet to dry

It's business as usual for most of New York's hotels and cultural attractions after hurricane Sandy. The city's tourism body, NYC and Company, says 95 per cent of the city's hotels are open to guests but has urged travellers to confirm bookings.

All Broadway shows have reopened, along with the Bronx Zoo and Carnegie Hall. The popular Highline, an elevated public park built on the site of a former freight rail line on Manhattan's West Side, will limit its opening hours from 8am to 5pm.


Namibian nomads

In what could be described as a sensible boys' and girls' own adventure, the Classic Safari Company has added self-drive safaris into Namibia and Botswana - with back-up vehicle, two-way radio and satellite phone - to its bespoke itineraries.

Trip leader Mike Boyd, who has operated Self Drive Safaris in southern Africa for three years, says the trips included remote parts of north-west Namibia adjacent to the Skeleton Coast following tracks through desert-scapes and volcanic craters with the chance to see game, including elephants and lions.

"Everyone drives as if they are doing the journey on their own but we tag along as support if anyone gets stuck," Boyd says. "You will never drive in another vehicle's dust.

"We drive along river beds and mountain tracks and we rarely see another vehicle. If it's a difficult few kilometres, people can stop. There's no pressure; we don't drive in a row of 15 vehicles."

The trips, from 13 to 21 days, include a visit to Etosha Game Park, Sossusvlei - home of the highest freestanding dunes in the world - and Puros in the far north, where people can visit Himba villages.

Boyd, who grew up in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and has been based in Australia since the 1980s, says four-wheel-driving experience is helpful and a liking for camping essential.

"It is very much a do-it-yourself trip where you drive yourself, set up camp [in rooftop tents on the vehicle] and prepare your own meals."

A 13-day trip costs from $6000 a person.


The tribulations of being a girl

A day in the lives of six girls from countries including Cambodia, Afghanistan and the US is captured in a new documentary I Am a Girl.

The feature-length movie by Rebecca Barry examines gender inequity across the globe, with the girls filmed from dawn to dusk.

"The cold, hard reality is that if you are born a girl in this world today, in every measurable way you will be at a disadvantage," Barry says.

Funded by organisations including Intrepid Travel and Plan International, the movie will be in cinemas in the new year.


Meet at Uluru

The conference set now has an ancient desert site for gatherings, with the Uluru Meeting Place at Ayers Rock Resort opening this week by the federal Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson.

It's part of a $30 million rejuvenation at the resort, owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation, which also includes the renovation of the 231-room Sails in the Desert Hotel. There are two ballrooms, one seating 420, the other 300. Guided stargazing and dot-painting classes by indigenous guides are among resort activities.

Since Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia took over management of the resort in May 2011, indigenous employment has risen from two to more than 170, 30 per cent of whom are local Anangu people.

Flights to the resort operate twice daily from Sydney with Virgin Australia and Qantas and daily from Cairns and Alice Springs, connecting with Melbourne and Adelaide flights.


Walk this way

Digitally disinclined walkers who want to explore NSW - from the Manly to North Head trail to the Blue Mountains - can use the hard-copy maps in a new 32-card compilation, Walks in Nature.

Robust enough to survive a backpack, each card contains map information and food refuelling stops for the walks, which are all within two hours of the city.

Walks in Nature (Explore Australia, $24.95). See

Marimekko flying high

Finnish design house Marimekko will add its touch to Finnair from next year with textiles and tableware laid out in all aircraft.

A Marimekko design will also be added to the exterior livery of one aircraft. An Airbus A340 featuring designer Maija Isola's Unikko floral print from 1964 already flies between Helsinki and Asia.

The airline has daily code-share flights from Sydney with Qantas and Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.


Send news items to