My fiance and I are honeymooning in the vineyard area out of Cape Town next March and are casting around for ideas on somewhere fabulous to spend another week before flying home to Sydney. A safari perhaps? Unique accommodation of some sort would also be lovely. What experiences shouldn't we miss while we are there?
- E. Sutherland, West Pymble.
Africa's spectacular wildlife draws most visitors to this part of the continent, although March is not the perfect time for a safari. This is the end of the rainy season and water levels and grass are high, which makes it more difficult for safari vehicles to get around, and animals are dispersed and harder to spot.
Despite all that, the chance to see Africa's wildlife in its natural habitat is irresistible and my pick is Kruger National Park.
At the top right-hand corner of South Africa, this is Africa's largest national park. It has more animal species than any other African wildlife park, including lion, elephant, buffalo, cheetah, leopard, hippo, baboon and the only viable rhino population on the continent.
A lot of old Africa hands disparage Kruger because it is so popular that the game-viewing experience can be a mass event, but for first-time visitors in March, it's a safe bet.
You can either join a guided tour or pick up a hire car and drive yourself. The roads are excellent and this is a very practical option, although you don't want to step out of your vehicle too often.
Kruger also has a great choice of accommodation, from "rest camps", which offer simple lodgings, to self-catering bush camps and luxury lodges set in their own private domain, such as Singita.
You can fly from Cape Town to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport at Nelspruit, close to the southern border of the park, and either join a guided tour there or pick up a hire car.
The first passage to India is best with a tour
My wife and I are planning a three-week holiday to India and Nepal between October and February. We would like to take in all the must-see sights but we want to avoid huge crowds if possible. We are in our 50s but we want to travel independently. In order to gain real-life experience, we are thinking of using local public transport. Would you suggest an itinerary or helpful websites, bearing in mind our middle-range budget?
- S. Tam, Berala.
October and November are perfect for visiting north-west India, including Delhi, the desert state of Rajasthan, the city of Agra and the holy cities of Varanasi, Rishikesh and Amritsar. This region has some of India's leading sights, such as the Taj Mahal, the pink city of Jaipur, the desert cities of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, and pilgrimage sites.
In Nepal, the major attractions are the temples and cities in the Kathmandu Valley. The other big drawcard is trekking - the peak season is October and November. The popular trails become crowded at this time but you can still walk at low altitudes below 3500 metres right through December and January, minus the hordes. A short trek of about five days through the valleys below the Annapurna range would be ideal.
If this is a first-time visit, I strongly recommend a tour. India is a full-frontal assault on the senses that leaves many visitors feeling shell-shocked and exhausted.
A good choice for help constructing a tour tailor-made to your needs and budget would be Ram World Travels, based in Sydney. Adventure tour operators include World Expeditions, Peregrine Adventures and Intrepid Travel.
Take the booking as read
To fit in with a tour we are doing through Burma next year, we have booked two nights' accommodation at the Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake in Yangon online through Agoda. We have received acknowledgement from Agoda but really, we do not know much about it. Do you know if it can be relied on? We emailed the hotel seeking to confirm our booking, but no response.
- B. Bricknell, Kuraby, Qld.
Agoda is one of several internet online hotel reservation systems, and it operates mostly in the Asia-Pacific region.
It has been around since the late 1990s, and it's hard to find anything on the internet that would suggest Agoda is not reliable or trustworthy. Feedback from those who have booked rooms using its services is positive, and I do not believe you have any reason to worry.
The fact that you have not had confirmation from the hotel itself is not unusual or surprising. Confirmation from Agoda itself should be sufficient reassurance, but if you are still worried, try phoning the hotel's reservation department on +95 1 544 500.
US history on DC's doorstep
My husband and I thought it would be a good idea to stop over in Washington DC before our Caribbean cruise out of Miami. We have booked four nights' accommodation in a hotel, as we intend taking some tours of Washington DC during our stay. After that, we will still have six nights left for touring. I cannot find any tours from Washington DC except the usual day tours. Have you any suggestions?
- H. Jones, Castle Hill.
Trafalgar has several escorted bus tours that might be what you're looking for.
Trails of Liberty turns the spotlight on the colonial period of American history, while the Historic Highlights takes in some of the sites associated with the War of Independence and the American Civil War. Globus has a similar tour, America's Historic East. Each of these begins and ends in Washington DC, which would suit you, but each is eight days, and neither Trafalgar nor Globus offers any shorter tours in this region. This means you would need to amend the four-night booking you have already made but, provided you give the hotel plenty of notice, you should be able to avoid cancellation charges.
Since all of these tours spend the first couple of days touring Washington DC, you won't miss out on the sights of the national capital.
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