Asia, Countries, Europe, Sport

Anyone for Raducanu and Maldives

So where has Britain’s sporting darling gone… well, anyone for Raducanu and Maldives?

Emma I think it would be right to say can do with some time out of the spotlight.

And that is what last year’s US Open tennis winner is getting with her engagement in the Indian Ocean atolls.

Emm-meet and greet

Oh OK then: Emma’s invitation

Emma will share her skills and pro tips with guests at Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences on Baa Atoll from 25 October -2 November.

Emma will give a 60-minute tennis clinic at the resort’s jungle-clad, US Open-standard tennis courts.

She will also attend a meet-and-greet and just like any other 19-year-old is excited about going out to the teardrop isles.

She said: ‘I’m delighted to discover the Maldives for the first time. I will have an amazing time there.’

Kings and queens of court

Off Pat: Rafter is a fan

Baa Atoll has become something of a magnet for the cream of tennis.

With former World No. 1s Angelique Kerber and Pat Rafter and Olympic gold medallist Sasha Zverev and Davis Cup winner Viktor Troicki all gracing its courts.

And those of us who have been out to the Maldives have always been mighty glad to have an alternative to water sports.

Because as enjoyable as they are, if like me you weren’t born with a snorkel in your mouth scuba diving doesn’t come naturally.

Howzat!

Lounging around: In Kuramathi

And you’ll be glad for a game of football or cricket with the staff as I did in Kuramathi.

And cool down later in your own infinity pool.

All of which should appeal to the jet set tennis player.

Something of which I got to know when we signed up for a Judy Murray masterclass in Quinta do Lago in Portugal.

Ace

Bandanaman is coming: Emma

And that’s the beauty of it for us and the scrutinised tennis star, here’s an escape from the humdrum of home.

Anyone for Raducanu and Maldives… I know I am.

 

Asia, Countries, Sustainable Tourism

Turtles within touching distance

They’ve been flirting with me the heroes in the half shell but here’s a tail (sorry) of turtles within touching distance from my old Maldives stomping ground.

And when I say stomping I mean when I got pooped off the shore of Kandolhu and had to stand for a breather.
Noooooo! It’ll cut your feet but worse than that, it’ll kill the coral.
My snorkelling skills have improved since then until I got within touching distance of the turtles off Bridgetown, Barbados, last week.

Turtle fans: In the Maldives

They’d surely be proud of me out in the Maldives.

And perhaps with a little work off my homestead in North Berwick, Scotland, I could get on a very important expedition.

What the doctor ordered.

Dr Stephanie Kohnk is the lead scientist for the Olive Ridley Project and author of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Maldives National Red List Assessment on the Hawksbill Sea Turtle,

And she is heading up a pioneering genetic research expedition to study the local Maldivian hawksbill sea turtle population.

Shadow snorkelling

Jump on board: Close and personal

Guests at Patina Maldives, Fari Islands, can shadow the Doc on a unique snorkelling expedition.

They will be given a morning guided tour of the research vessel.

And they will reveal the painstaking planning and specialist equipment involved in frontline marine biological research.

Guests will get in on the first stage of the expedition on a turtle snorkelling trip led by Dr Köhnk.

Adopt a turtle

Goggles on: And hit the sea

And to further support this pioneering research and conservation initiative they can adopt turtles included in the study.

Adoptees will be able to name their turtle.

And they will receive future re-sighting alerts.

And enjoy priority access to updates and insights from the project.

As part of the joint venture ‘Oceans First’ ethos from 1 June, a sea turtle biologist will be stationed on-island at Patina Maldives.

They will act as a guest educator; overseeing rescue efforts for any sea turtles that become entangled in so-called ghost gear in the area.

And they will support ongoing photo identification and population monitoring in North Male Atoll.

It is only home to the second largest turtle database in the country.

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts

I recognise them: Patina

The Patina Maldives team, along with its Fari Islands neighbours, also contributes to the ongoing removal of ghost gear from the ocean.

And that provides Olive Ridley Project with valuable data.

That can be used to trace the origins of discarded or abandoned fishing equipment.

And also help tackle the problem at source.

Because we all need our heroes in a half shell under the sea, our turtles within touching distance.

Countries, Europe, Flying

Turkish Airlines’ 12-hour flit

You pack the box in and pull down the car boot but the glass smashes… this house mover should have asked Ilker Ayci, mastermind of Turkish Airlines’ 12-hour flit.

If you’re in the middle of a house move and wondering how you’ll get it all done in time then check out National Geographic’s documentary which showed this week.

And see how TA moved 5,000 workers and 47,300 tons of materials (that’s 33 football pitches) from Atatürk Airport to Istanbul Airport in 2019 in half a day.

Mega relocation

In there somewhere: At Turkish Airlines H

The national flag carrier paused all flights for 12 hours for the ‘Mega Relocation’.

Throw in 12,000 parcel and some 1,000 vehicles and what you have amounts to a military exercise.

I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying TA’s hospitality both at Ataturk and Istanbul Airports.

And had the privilege of being invited behind the scenes at TA HQ and even got to fly a plane myself.

The pilot episode

The simulator gave me the chance to fly in over the Hudson at JFK Airport in New York.

And to witness the rescue operation complete with slide and ice pool where the staff learn the drills.

In truth, if you’d been on my plane and had me as your pilot you’d have needed to know how to slide and plunge.

As I overshot the runway and skidded off it.

It’s always best to leave it to the experts.

TA is the business

Boy Racer: In Turkish Airlines Business Class

And TA is the world’s fourth largest flight network and flies to 315 international destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

And that makes it the largest mainline carrier in the world by number of passenger destinations.

Anyone who has flown with TA will have enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

I’m driving this: In TA Business Class

And particularly if you’ve treated yourself to their world-beating Business Class with its Flying Chef and sleeping booths.

You’ll appreciate it if you happen to be en route to one of their long-haul dream destinations like Kuramathi in the Maldives.

The layovers of layovers

Playing my tune: TA Business Class

And the airport layovers to beat all layovers.

The Turkish Airlines Business Lounge where you can drive on the range (I’m safer there), the model fast cars, go the cinema, have a nap and massage.

And eat, drink and be merry.

And to think they did all this on Turkish Airlines’ 12-hour flit.

America, Asia, Countries

Treat her with caviar

You do some strange things on the eve of surrendering the single life (no, not that) but I wanted to treat her with caviar.

Thing was that this was out in the sticks and so the first taste of Beluga would have to wait.

For when mes amis would invite me to the French Embassy in Dublin.

I ended up becoming as much a fixture as Le Tricolore outside the Fitzwilliam Lane maison.

Truth is there are other French delicacies I’d prefer and I’m still exploring them.

Wear your caviar

Now unless you’re a sloppy eater (guilty!) you’d never let a bubble of caviar slip from your mouth.

Only rubbing it onto your skin is actually good for you.

And better still if a masseuse with sensual hands is rubbing it into you.

And while my shoulders are tensing up at my desk didn’t this survey drop into my inbox from wellness specialists CFAH.

Maldives masseuse

Wham hammam thanks palm: In the Maldives

The Maldives are all about luxury so it shouldn’t surprise you if such a masseuse is on hand.

And there is at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort.

Where for $750, you can indulge in a three-hour treatment, the Caviar Journey, that uses anti-ageing properties of caviar extract.

Feel the wrinkles, spots and scars fall off.

It involves an exfoliation, a magnesium massage and a lavender bath.

With champagne and caviar, of course.

But still not as dear as…

Chilled: Abu Dhabi

 

Yes, even Caviar in the Maldives isn’t the most luxurious treatment out there (though it’d do for me).

Because Abu Dhabi is offering A Day of Gold, which was, of course, featured at the World Spa Awards.

For $1,150 you can experience a luxurious gold Hammam and the spa’s signature Palance Massage.

And once hammamed then Goddamn… you’ll be back.

The Fabu Dhabi treat includes a small lunch (only small?) before you get indulged in a 24-Carat Gold Radiance Facial and a Bastien Pedicure.  

Or this Beverly Thrill

Be at one with nature: In Beverly Hills

 

And in the land that time forgot Californians think nothing of splashing the cash to hang on to their youth.

The Peninsula Spa Beverly Hills offers a 120-minute long high tech facial for $1,500 (costing you $12.50 a minute).

This facial is described as a six-in-one treatment that uses cutting edge technology to ‘enhance’ and ‘enrich’ the skin.

It aims to stimulate and tone your inner skin to reveal it’s inner glow.

Because once you’re out with the beautiful people… 

Dubai high

Ya dancer: Dubai

But the spa of spas is at the Talise Ottoman Spa at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray in Dubai.

Where for $6,800 you’ll get a 24-Karat Gold Mask.

The treatment also includes an argan oil massage and a luxury skin softening milk bath.

It’ll leave you looking radiant with a natural glow. 

Tip top treatments

All tip top treatments I think you’d agree.

And just a word with one very close to my heart a masseuse remember to tip the ones with the magic fingers.

 

Countries, Culture, Europe

Flying turtles to the Canaries

And let’s not be shellfish here that someone else is getting abroad, that Aer Lingus is flying turtles to the Canaries.

No lateral flow tests, no 72-hour PCR test, no passenger locator forms…

Well, this turtle is Canarian.

Julius Caesar (stay with me here) has been kicking his stubby feet in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, for the best part of a year and a half.

The loggerhead sea turtle washed ashore in 2019.

Hail Caesar

Crate expectations: JC gets the deluxe treatment

Julius Caesar, thus named by the Donegal family who found him because of his fighting spirit, has been recuperating in Down.

At the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry where they have put the poor fella back together again.

JC was just three months old when he was swept along the current (and who hasn’t been there).

And he was carried along the Gulf Stream to Co. Donegal.

Donegal diver

Just the ticket: And it’s Turtle luxury on Aer Lingus

The poor wee thing was underweight, just under a few hundred grammes, and suffering from hypothermia.

So it was just as well that it was Donegal where he was found.

Because Ireland’s most northern county boasts the warmest people in the world.

OK I’m biased as my Dear Old Mum and her people are daughter and sons of the sod.

The Ulster folk are famous for their hospitality as anyone who has enjoyed their ‘wee’ Ulster Fry will testify.

Turtle’s Ulster Fry

Turtle loving care: And the crew is besotted

So it’s no surprise Donegal’s fellow Ulsterians filled JC up.

Those pounds piled up on a diet of fish mixture, squid and gel.

Just a thought here but I might just have been a turtle in a previous life.

As I’ve got on famously with them in Barbados and in the Maldives.

Well, after 20 months being pampered in Ireland the day finally came today for JC to head home to the Canaries.

And when you travel from Ireland you need to promote the national airline carrier.

And of course Aer Lingus was only too happy to fly JC on the EI 782 to veterinarian Pascual Calabuig at the Tarifa Wildlife Recovery Centre on Gran Canaria.

Turtle on board

It’ll take longer: The swim back to the Canaries

JC’s minder Portia Simpson is going along for the company.

Our turtle, now weighing 25kg, is protected in a specially designed waterproof crate.

I can only say the best things about Aer Lingus’s flight experience… and the same can be said for turtles.

JC is not the first turtle that Aer Lingus has repatriated.

Another rogue loggerhead turtle, Leona, was found in Co. Clare in 2013 and transported to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria by Aer Lingus in December 2014.

This is your pilot speaking

Next time I’m flying: And i’ll choose Aer Lingus

Pilot Captain Peter Lumsden introduced the VIP to the passengers.

‘It is our pleasure to welcome aboard a very special passenger today and to ensure the safe transportation of JC the Turtle to Gran Canaria.

‘Keeping the turtle’s temperature above 19 degrees is critical to his wellbeing and he requires regular monitoring and shell lubrication so placing him in the aircraft hold was not an option.

‘Like all of us on the flight today, I’m sure he is looking forward to the warmer climate upon landing.’

Turtle minder

And so say all of me. The Canaries are a pleasure any time of the year, but especially in the late summer after a year in cold storage.

So the next time Portia needs a hand, then I’d be happy to fly turtles to the Canaries.

 

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Deals, Sport

Umpire seat in the Maldives

Back in the day hotels with tennis courts were exotic… now we expect them, and a tennis pro coach with you in the umpire seat in the Maldives.

Some Maldives islands are, in truth, little bigger than tennis courts.

Best thing in small packages

King of the court: Maldives

On Kandolhu there are 30 villas, four a la carte restaurants, a bar, beach dining experiences as well as in-villa options.

And an oceanbank of coral to gurgle in and gawp at the fishes and the turtles.

At 200m x 150m though understandably they couldn’t quite fit in a tennis court.

Courting popularity

Fun and games: Football and cricket

There are though on neighbouring big sister island Kuramathi, though it’ll be more leisurely club tennis than all-action Rafael Nadal rallies.

As I can vouch for, having raced after the younger, fitter Sri Lankan staff on my Atoll Tale adventure.

Life’s a pitch: And it’s hot, hot, hot

On their football pitches and cricket grounds.

While couples and leisure-seekers amble around Maldives islands in their flip-flops those of a sporty nature are indulged too.

And the good news for those who drown in shallow water is that tennis is an option.

With real-life tennis professionals.

Slamming professionals

Anyone for tennis: And much mote besides

Such as Davis Cup winner Viktor Troicki

Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences welcomes the Serbian champion who won the cup with somebody you might have heard of, Novak Djokovic.

For a two-week residence for mid-term, October 26-November 6.

Viktor follows in the tennis shoe steps of some big-hitters.

Pooling your talents

Newly crowned Olympic champion Alexander Zverev and bro Mischa.

Awesome Aussie Pat Rafter and most recently Russian pro.

And former world No.1 Angelique Kerber.

Judy’s protegé

Keeeeep dancin’: With Judy Murray in Portugal

Now don’t be mistaken into thinking you get things any easier with a female coach think again.

As I know only too well from my fumblings under the tutelage of Judy Murray in Quinta do Lago.

 

Abercrombie & Kent offers seven nights from £4336pps.

Price includes B&B, flights and transfers. Based on travel between October 26-November 6.

And you in the umpire seat in the Maldives.

 

America, Asia, Countries, Culture

Holidos and don’ts suitcases

And I am indebted to my friend and Travel mover and shaker, French-based Irishman, Michael Collins for sparking me to revisit an old series, Holidos and don’ts.

Michael flagged up that at his local supermarché the aisles selling suitcases and headrests are interdit, or blocked.

Mad hatters: And when I used to take a full suitcase to America

Which beggars the question: how essential are suitcases?

And who doesn’t have one anyway?

Nothing to see here

As all Travel professionals do I like to take advice from seasoned pros, like doyen and Americanophile JP Thomson, erstwhile of the Sunday World.

JP always packs a half-full suitcase to leave space for what you take home.

Half full

Irish Travel professionals, nay all Irish people, love few things better than hitting the shops after they get off the plane.

Possibly the afternoon after they hit the bars.

Anyone got scissors?

And so when our Irelando party hit Aaawlando, and they set aside a couple of hours at a shopping mall, it was like the Olympics 100m final.

Needless to say they all returned with half the mall in their bags, while I bought a tee-shirt.

New suitcase

The fact is though that shopping in America is great value.

Irish and Scots on tour in Orlando

So why not take the opportunity to update your wardrobe and send the outdated clothes you’re standing up in to the charity shop.

The same applies, of course, if you go on a sun holiday.

Pack light

So that the members of my party who took full suitcases to the Maldives found they only needed their swimwear and summer clothes.

Who needs a suitcase? The Maldives

Some of us, of course, found that all you need on dry land is a sarong and flip-flops.

While we’ll not talk about those women who took heels.

And make it snazzy

And in the last instance why not just go out with hand luggage, or better still a rucksack that doubles as a wheelie?

Here’s to hitting the airport again

And buy a suitcase when you’re out in a country where, Zut Alors!, they don’t stop you buying suitcases from their supermarchés.

And for more Holidos and don’ts advice here’s a reminder of how we roll from where we last rocked up… Bergamo.

America, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

The travel pack – the birds of the world

Does anyone else here feel like Burt Lancaster in the Birdman of Alcatraz? Oh, to be that little birdie with his freedom.

So let’s take wing and celebrate our feathered friends around the world.

The Spoonbill

Scoop of the day. www.algarve-birdwatching.com

Rio Formosa, Quinta do Lago, Algarve: And anyone who didn’t think that God has a sense of humour hasn’t paid attention to how he made us all.

For every pink flamingo there’s a Spoonbill.

I found these fancy snouted fellas in the Via Formosa in Quinta do Lago in the Algarve…

Their bills, of course, are purpose-built to scoop up all that pond life to give them fuel for the skies.

Yes, Pink Flamingoes

In the pink: In Busch Gardens

Pink Flamingoes, Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, Florida: And for those Fiftysomethings among us the opening shots for the Florida soap Flamingo Road made us fall in love with these birds

Yes, and Morgan Fairchild, to be fair.

I got up close with a flamingo out in SeaWorld and again he is a reminder of God’s Grandeur.

Heron good things about you

You’ll have a long wingspan then

Herons, Kuramathi, The Maldives: And you know when a bird has her eye on you.

She even came into the pool with me every morning.

Kuramathi is a bird-watcher’s dream, big, small, skinny, plump, and every colour.

And as bird-watching is a stationary pastime isn’t it a relief that you don’t have to freeze your whatsits off either?

Caribbean wood doves and mockingbirds

The West Indies: Rihanna, my wood dove used to join me in my hot tub in Barbados of a morning… and leave a mess in the bedroom.

I would forgive Rihanna anything though.

The West Indians take their nature very seriously, just as seriously as their rum and their music.

And Ean The Birdman of Tobago will show you around his Adventure Eco Villas where the birdies will twirl and tweet around your head.

You can stay too and awake to birdsong.

And not forgetting the Duck

Ducks everywhere: Whether they’re the rubber ones in your bath at Hastings Hotels in Northern Ireland (or in mine).

Or with The Donald in Epcot in Florida or in Anaheim.

Following the Duckmaster and the quackers down to the fountain in the hotel lobby in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.

MEET YOU WITH YOUR BINOS

Asia, Countries, Flying, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy days and Songdays Alice and Maldives Wonderland

I can’t remember what I sang, it was probably Elvis’s Heartbreak Hotel, and I recollect going back up a couple of times.

In my excuse I was on my umpteenth Strawberry Daiquiri.

I do remember though our host Brian McCarthy owning the small stage with a kickass version of My Own Personal Jesus.

Barry (left), an effing legend

But what I remember most about our karaoke night in the Maldives was the contribution of someone who didn’t even take the stage.

A round with Alice

Barry Coughlan (that’s pronounced like the punctuation mark he would remind us) always had something to say.

Usually with an ‘f’ in it.

Island of refuge: The Maldives

Thankfully for Barry there was a song made just for him… Smokie’s Living Next Door to Alice.

Or more precisely he preferred the version by Dutch novelty act Gonpie.

With the Scary One not there and me on my worst behaviour I didn’t hesitate joining in with Barry on the chorus.

Seaplanes over Asia

It is a bit of a hike to get there… three planes, two continents, but an adventure all the same.

Any excuse

That’ll be a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul and then onto Male, the main hub for the teardrop islands.

Before you take a seaplane with a barefoot pilot to Kuramathi where your Atoll adventure really begins.

And lots of bubbles too

I had to check a couple of times on the UK’ exempt list and Ireland’s green list to see that we’re not allowed to go there yet.

I’m sure Barry will have a thing or two to say about that!

Africa, America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries

Where social distancing does not apply

They are the birds, bees and animals for whom social distancing does not apply.

The pppppppenguins I met in Sea World in Busch Gardens https://seaworld.com/orlando/ huddled together.

For warmth obviously.

And none of their handlers will need P—–PE.

So the tables have turned and now the animals run free and we’re cooped up.

So randomly here’s a celebration of all’s God’s creatures who have a place in my choir around the world.

Pppp-priceless

Hello pppp-al

Penguins in Orlando: And a tale of the handler who takes his penguin home with him.

And shared the story with us of the double take from the gas attendant when he saw the penguin in the passenger sear.

Pussycat, pussycat

Tiger queen: As every second person watches Tiger King a peak into these big cats in their natural environment.

In the Eastern Cape of South Africa… https://www.visiteasterncape.co.za.

Where Iain and his rangers at Camdeboo National Park https://www.sanparks.org/parks/camdeboo/ led us on a game drive.

And we got to see new mum Thandie with her cubs nestling under a tree… from a safe distance.

To thrill a mockingbird

Mockingbirds in Tobago: It’s feeding time at Ean Mackay’s bird sanctuary in Tobago in the Caribbean https://adventure-ecovillas.com/inthepress.htm.

While these chirpy fellas are also the perfect breakfast guests. See https://www.visittobago.gov.tt and Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago.

Cheeky monkeys

What must they think of us?

Bajan green monkeys: Another breakfast guest, and these guys will climb from tree to tree around your Club Barbados billet https://www.theclubbarbados.com.

Steer away, of course, from the unscrupulous hucksters who try to push you into getting a photo with one… they mistreat them.

Stick with the Barbados Tourism Board who will keep you right with ethical itineraries https://www.visitbarbados.org. And also visit https://www.sandals.co.uk/sandals-barbados/ and https://www.eleganthotels.com/turtle-beach.

And Mother Turtle

Smile, you’re on camera

When you’ve got the expanse of the seas you’d imagine you have little problem getting social distancing.

Alas, the turtles’ greatest enemy is not each other.

But humans and the waste, the plastic we dispose of which fills up their living space.

Thankfully, we have Mother Turtle, Vanessa, a German inlander and her poster turtle Selma to showcase her beloved Kuramathi.

Vanessa and Bandanaman

In the Maldives where Island Marketing and Turkish Airlines will give you a holiday.

Which combines pleasure and respect for the natural world.

See https://island-marketing.business.site, www.turkishairlines.com and https://www.kuramathi.com.

And a word from a doctor

Now before we all locked down the film Dolittle, starring Robert Downey Jnr, reprises the story of how a doctor talked to the animals.

If only the animals could tell him how to lick this virus and how us humans could live more safely and with them.