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The Travel Butlers Blog

Raising Money for Malawi – Update From Conor Dickson

Conor Dickson - November 6, 2014

On Saturday 25th October my I set off to cycle to Eastbourne as part of my fundraising for Malawi next year. I chose this destination as the mileage, via cycle paths, was almost the same distance as the width of Lake Malawi. It was certainly a challenge! The start of the journey was great; my dad and I set off on the Forest Way to Groombridge full of spirits and relieved the weather was on our side.

Cycle-1That part was accomplished with ease and we were still feeling fresh, which was just as well when we had only covered a fraction of the journey. The next part of the journey took us on to more bridleways than smooth cycle paths and certainly made for a more difficult, hilly and tiring ride. It was with relief that we arrived at Heathfield and after stopping for some well needed refreshments we headed off on the lovely, smooth, quiet, Cuckoo Trail. It was a much easier ride for the next 14 miles and soon we were approaching Hampden Park in Eastbourne. Leaving the cuckoo trail behind, we cycled the last couple of miles to the seafront where we were met by Mum and the promise of fish and chips.

Cycle-2Thank you to the many staff at school who have sponsored me, as well as the staff and Partners at Place Campbell & Co Accountants, Karen and Alison at Acorn Recruitment and Paul and Tracey at Travel Butlers, African Safari holiday specialists. To date this ride has raised over £350 which is amazing.

 

Ebola Outbreak: Should I Cancel My Trip To Africa?

PaulCampbell - October 31, 2014

Following the very moving Ebola appeal that was aired on all major TV channels in the UK last night, we have been contacted by a number of clients asking the same questions: should I cancel my trip to Africa? It is easy to understand the worry and distress that the Ebola coverage is causing in the UK, however Africa is huge and the whole of Southern and East Africa is literally thousands of miles away from the outbreak and all the countries that we book for our clients are considered safe from the disease.

To put this into context, the outbreak in West Africa is over 3500 miles away from Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, and over 3,000 miles from Botswana and Namibia – London is about 3000 miles from the affected area, so many of these places are further from the centre of the outbreak than the UK.

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Whilst the situation in West Africa is very serious, the disease is not airborne and does not spread quickly or easily – a fact that can be confirmed when we consider that the outbreak remains contained in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.  Of course, it is true that it did extend briefly into Nigeria, however the country responded quickly to the challenge of containing the disease and safely treating those suffering from it, and  Nigeria was declared free from Ebola on the 20th of October.

In fact in terms of the geographic spread of the disease, the situation has not changed much since early August.  Our thoughts and prayers remain with all those currently fighting the the outbreak in West Africa, however Southern and East Africa are a very long way from the outbreak and are completely unaffected at present.

So is it still safe to travel to Africa or should you consider cancelling your trip? We would suggest that if you are travelling to Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, or any of the other countries in Southern or East Africa, you can consider these as safe from Ebola as anywhere else in the world might be.

A Private Slice of Tropical Paradise

TraceyCampbell - October 27, 2014

We were asked whether we wanted to include one night on Denis Island, as part of our recent educational trip to the Seychelles in August. I think it took me less of a second to say yes please! Who would not say yes to the idea of spending one night on your very own private island in the middle of the Indian Ocean? It is not something I get to do every day, I will admit!

Our night to Denis Island was scheduled towards the end of our week in Seychelles, on the Thursday. We waited in anticipation at Mahe Airport for our flight to arrive, and I spent a pleasant 40 minutes trying to work out who, out of the assembly of passengers waiting there, looked as if they were off to the same idyllic Robinson Crusoe island as I was. When we eventually boarded the small light aircraft, there were just 7 of us on the flight. Already off to an exclusive start, I thought!

The flight takes a mere 30 minutes. The pilot approached the island, and you flies over it, before banking back and heading down towards the grassy runway and his landing. From the air, the runway stretches right across the island, and the closer you get, you find your feet starting work imaginary brake pedals as it looks just too short for the plane to be able to stop! But the pilot is a pro, he has obviously done this many times before, and after a very smooth landing, the plane turned around well before the end of the runway and coasted back towards the welcome committee of staff waiting for their new guests.

We were greeted and whisked off to the main lodge by golf buggy, where we were warmly welcomed with a cold drink, and the offer of a late breakfast if we wanted it, as we had arrived right at the tail end of the breakfast serving. We declined, as we were eager to just get to our room and relax a bit before lunch.

Back on the golf buggy again, and less than a minute later we were pulling up in the sand round the side of our cottage. We walked around the side, and you just felt any stress and strain immediately drain from you. The cottage was beautiful – a huge bedroom, and an en-suite bathroom completely open to a tiny garden area. A verandah with 2 chairs were just begging for us to sit in them, but we were too excited about running up the tiny sandy slope and onto ‘our’ beach. And what a beach it was. Whichever way you looked you just saw white sand, lapped by the blue Indian Ocean. It really was the stuff that dreams are made of. So the sun loungers under the shade of a palm tree won the battle for our attention, and for half an hour we stretched out there just listening… to nothing. Just the sound of the ocean.

Then there was a shout from the cottage, and our welcome ‘masseur’ had arrived to give us each our complimentary 30 minute massage. Thankfully, my husband didn’t want to leave the sun lounger, so I persuaded the masseur to give me a full hour instead, which she happily did. Lying on the verandah, I was treated to a head to toe full body massage. Never again will a massage at the gym spa be the same, listening to ocean music being piped through the speaker, when I have had ‘the real thing’. It was amazing.

It was then time to go up for lunch at the main lodge. We walked back, holding our sandals as this is what you do on your private island – walk around barefoot? I did put my sandals on when I went into the restaurant, but I probably didn’t need to be so formal – but I am British, after all.

Lunch was a buffet style affair – my husband opted for fresh sushi, I went for a healthy buffet salad plus grilled freshly caught fish. And then home-made ice cream for pudding. And this was a light lunch? I was starting to think that after more food like this, I may need to book an extra seat on the plane back for the extra weight I was undoubtedly about to pile on.

Our afternoon was spent in the company of Andre, the resident guide, who took us on a full tour of the island, about 2 hours. We saw the farm animals and where the furniture is made – this island is truly self-sufficient. We explored forests and beach coves and found wild bird nests. We learnt so much about the island and its wildlife in those 2 hours, my head was reeling with all the new knowledge it was trying to keep in!

Then it was back to our cottage to get changed into suitable attire for the obligatory dip in the ocean. Running again up and over the sandy slope, we just did not stop until we were in the ocean – ok, I admit, it was only about a 2 second run – we were on holiday, after all, you don’t want to exert yourself too much. I couldn’t have run further anyway if I had wanted to – the ocean literally is ‘just there’.

Then it was time to retire back to the sunloungers. Clutching our room delivery of 4 very cold beers, we settled in with our cameras for the next 90 minutes to watch the sun set. So peaceful. Just us and the setting sun and a few birds flying around. Not another person in sight. You really do start to believe that this is your very own private island, and you are the only people that exist on it.

Dinner was lovely, a 5 course affair which was delicious as to be expected. We laughed with the waiters, we said hi to other guests, and it was amazing to think that everything on our plates was from this very small island.

Then it was back to the cottage again, and this time, the verandah got our attention for about an hour, while we sat and just reflected on what it would be like to live here forever, and I even started working out the logistics of getting my cat flown out. I think Denis Island has that effect on you – after only a few short hours, you feel as if you have been there for ages, and you just do not want to leave.

The morning came too quickly, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, then it was back to the airstrip for our flight back to the main island of Mahe. To say I was sad to say goodbye was an understatement, and I had been on the island for less than 24 hours. If you stay there longer, it must feel as if you are leaving a part of yourself there. Probably a bit of your heart. It is an easy place to fall totally in love with.

Inspire Worldwide: Support For UK Student Travelling to Malawi To Do Volunteering Work

PaulCampbell - October 8, 2014

Given the long association that we at Travel Butlers have had with Southern Africa, we were delighted to hear that Conor Dickson, the nephew of Paul Campbell of Travel Butlers, is going to Malwai next year to do some volunteer work with Inspire Worldwide.

The aim of the project is to work closely with rural and township communities in Malawi to help develop and improve living conditions for Malawian children and their families.  The volunteers, including 14 year old Conor, will be providing support to communities in the rural areas surrounding Blantyre in Malawi, and helping them renovate a crumbling feeding and community centre which currently provides the orphaned children with their one meal each day.

As with all trips of this nature, the volunteers need to raise funds to cover the cost of their own transport and living expenses, in addition to raising money to donate to the local charities in order to fund the work they will undertake.

conorConor’s target is £2700, and so far he has raised money through cake sales, a raffle and car boot sale, as well as earning money from family and friends for car washing, gardening etc. But he still needs to raise another £1000, and as Conor says “Now it’s time for me to quite literally ‘get on my bike’ and cycle the width of Lake Malawi, approximately 46miles. I will do this by cycling from my home to Eastbourne (41.5 miles on the cycle paths) and then along the seafront to cover the additional miles. This will take place on Saturday 25th October.”

Conor continues “I am hoping the local press will cover my story and I will be sure to promote any businesses and organisations that are kind enough to sponsor me.  I would also be happy to discuss the trip with a upon my return next year, as I’m sure there will many experiences to share. ”

We think this is a fantastic cause, and Paul Campbell of Travel Butlers adds, “School trips were certainly not like this in my day! I am very proud of the generous and adventurous spirit that Conor shows in doing this amazing trip, and we are delighted to sponsor him to help him on his way. I know that any other donations that our friends in the industry are able to make would be greatly appreciated, and please get in touch with me or your usual contact at Travel Butlers if you would be interested in making a donation or sponsoring Conor in any way.”

conor2

Seven reasons to get stranded on the Seychelles

PaulCampbell - October 2, 2014

The islands of the Seychelles are little slices of heaven on earth. Scattered throughout the remote reaches of the Indian Ocean, they’re the place to live out all of your desert island daydreams. The beaches really do take the tropical biscuit, but there’s so much more to the Seychelles than their silky white shores. Scratch beneath their perfect sandy surface and you’ll find fascinating culture, untamed jungle, endangered wildlife and the world’s sexiest nut!La-Digue

There are hundreds of reasons to hop on the next plane to the Seychelles, but, to keep it simple, we’ve whittled it down to seven. So, here you have it, whether your are looking to go island hopping or include these magical islands as part of a safari and beach holiday, here are seven reasons why you’ll be in seventh heaven in the Seychelles:

1. MIND-BOGGLINGLY BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
You won’t be sorry to be stranded in the Seychelles. The beaches are more perfect than you can possibly imagine, with powdered ivory sands sliding into crystal clear waters and coconut palms rustling in the warm breeze. Dotted across the coastline of every tiny island, you’ll find sun-kissed coves giving way to blue lagoons and pastel pink boulders hugging the edges of the beach. A handful of these pure shores are rated amongst the most beautiful beaches in the entire world. Step off the plane and you’ll soon see why.

Boy & Coco de Mer_Raymond Sahuquet2. JAW-DROPPING JUNGLE TRAILS
The castaway beaches and impossibly clear waters may get all the press, but these spellbinding islands have far more in store. If you peek behind the curtain of swaying coconut palms, you’ll find sprawling jungles bursting with strange, scented blooms. In the Vallée de Mai National Park on peaceful Praslin Island, you’ll find mist forests filled with coco de mer, the world’s heaviest (and sexiest) nut, shaped like a lady’s pelvis. You’ll also stumble across Jellyfish trees, tumbling vanilla vines, rare orchids, carnivorous pitcher plants and more. It really is paradise untamed.

3. WEIRD AND WONDERFUL WILDLIFE
In addition to the bizarre flora, the jungle-rich interiors of the Seychelles are home to some fantastical fauna. The Aldebra giant tortoise, one of the largest in the world, plods across these islands, with a whoppingly long neck that measures up to a metre. Incredibly, these tortoises can live for over a century and each one weighs up to 500 pounds. At the other end of the scale, the Seychelles are also home to the Soogloassid frog, which may well be the smallest in the world.

Not only this, but the birdlife is bountiful, with 250 species twittering in the jungle canopy. Some of the rarest birds in the world nest here, amongst them the Seychelles paradise flycatcher, the Seychelles black parrot, the Seychelles bulbul and the fruit pigeon. You’ll also find the sunbird, the Aldabra drongo and the Seychelles fody on these shores. If you’re a twitcher, you’re in for a treat.

Snapper Seychelles_Tony Baskeyfield4. A MATCHLESS MARINE WORLD
The land-dwelling wildlife of the Seychelles is certainly eye-popping, but the underwater world is equally as astounding. You can swim with wild dolphins, snorkel through coral reefs amongst hawksbill sea turtles and dive into sea caves filled with gorgonian fans and sleeping nurse sharks.

There are over 2,000 different species of fish swanning about in the translucent waters of the Seychelles, including parrotfish, angelfish, pufferfish and moray eels. And, when you need a break from exploring the world beneath the waves, you can wash up on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches for a cocktail or two. Bliss.

5. MAGICAL MULTICULTURE
The Seychelles is a magical melting pot when it comes to culture. With a mottled history of slavery, piracy and spice traders, the Seychellois people have ancestry drawn from all four corners of the earth. It’s fascinating stuff. First French, then British and now Creole, the islands are a colourful collage of international influences. Troublemakers from the British were sent here in exile, pirates hid their bounty in these jungles, spice traders stopped here between India and Africa and Europeans settled here to restart their lives in a peaceful paradise. The diversity, and especially the harmony, is inspiring.

6. FANTASTIC FUSION CUISINE
With such a rich cultural patchwork, it’s no surprise that the Seychellois cuisine is deliciously diverse. A mix of spicy, fruity, tangy and fresh flavours, it is sure to take your tastebuds on a wild ride. There are coconut curries, vibrant green papaya salads, giant crab soups and an overwhelming choice of fruit chutneys. Fresh fish is served in a thousand different ways – grilled with garlic, curried, poached in Creole sauce or spiced and baked in a banana leaf. There are also some startling delicacies on the menu, such as Rousettes (fruit bats), shark chutney and Seychelles beef (sea turtle).

7. THE SUN-KISSED SIMPLE LIFE
The Seychelles really is the place to let time slow down and get back to some serious basics. It’s all about nature and nurture, so just succumb to the magic. soak up the sunshine and snooze in the shade of a coconut palm. Many of the islands, La Digue, for example, have few roads or none at all. Luggage is ferried about my horse and cart while the locals get around on bicycles. The Seychelles is the perfect place to switch off the iPad, get lost offline and take a much-needed break from modern life. It’s rare, barefoot bliss that is harder and harder to find in our hectic world. So enjoy it.

IMG28 Anse Source d'Argent

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