Africa; My Bags are Packed

After Thanksgiving, I will be departing for South Africa and Zimbabwe, with our Preferred Partner Africa Inscribed, putting my countries-visited-tally at nearly 60.

They say that Africa changes your life. I'm so excited to see why that is!

Photo Credit: Gavin Ford of Africa Inscribed Gavin Ford needs no introduction and after 28 years in the industry, has earned the reputation as one of the most well respected safari guides in Africa. He shared the 2002 Conde Naste “Best Guide” award and regularly features as one of Africa’s top guides in international travel magazines. In 2006, he was a finalist in the Paul Morrison Wanderlust Guide of the Year competition as well.

Photo Credit: Gavin Ford of Africa Inscribed

Gavin Ford needs no introduction and after 28 years in the industry, has earned the reputation as one of the most well respected safari guides in Africa. He shared the 2002 Conde Naste “Best Guide” award and regularly features as one of Africa’s top guides in international travel magazines. In 2006, he was a finalist in the Paul Morrison Wanderlust Guide of the Year competition as well.

South Africa: "This vast country is undoubtedly one of the most culturally and geographically diverse places on earth. Fondly known by locals as the 'Rainbow Nation', South Africa has 11 official languages and its multicultural inhabitants are influenced by a fascinating mix of African, Asian and European cultures. Spend your days: discovering the gourmet restaurants, impressive art and nightlife scenes and fine beaches of Cape Town; enjoying a typical local braai (barbecue) in the Soweto township; browsing the bustling Indian markets in Durban; or sampling some of the world’s finest wines at the myriad wine estates dotted around the picturesque Cape Winelands. Due to its rich and turbulent history there are plenty of historical attractions to explore including the Zululand battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and Robben Island, just off the coast of Cape Town. Above all else, South Africa’s attraction lies in its remarkably untamed wilderness with its astonishing range of wildlife roaming freely across massive unfenced game reserves such as the world famous Kruger National Park. With all of this variety on offer, it is little wonder that South Africa has fast become Africa’s most popular tourist destination." -Africa Inscribed

Lion Sands Private Game Reserve CHALKLEY TREEHOUSE in Kruger Photo Credit: Lion Sands Private Game Reserve

Lion Sands Private Game Reserve CHALKLEY TREEHOUSE in Kruger

Photo Credit: Lion Sands Private Game Reserve

A secure and lavish platform under the stars, the treehouse has all the 5-star comforts, but affords an experience as wild as the animals that roam beneath it. Guests are taken to the treehouse at sunset, where drinks and a scrumptious picnic dinner await.

Photo Credit: Gavin Ford of Africa Inscribed

Photo Credit: Gavin Ford of Africa Inscribed

"At more than 2 million hectares the Kruger National Park is one of the world’s largest game reserves and a truly remarkable destination. Because of its exceptional size you can experience amazing diversity – from the scenery and ecosystems to the correspondingly amazing array of animals, trees and birds. A trip to the Kruger National Park is an unforgettable and potentially life changing experience." - Africa Inscribed

andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge; Photo Credit Africa Inscribed

andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge; Photo Credit Africa Inscribed

andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge is situated in Ngala Private Game Reserve, which shares an unfenced boundary with the world-renowned Kruger National Park, South Africa’s largest wildlife sanctuary and one of the biggest game reserves in the world. A spectacular diversity of wildlife moves through this immense wilderness, including breeding herds of elephant, leopard, spotted hyena, giraffe, large buffalo herds and white rhino. With its name meaning lion in Shangaan, the local language, Ngala lives up to its promise, supporting several large prides of these powerful cats. African wild dog can also be spotted moving through the reserve.

Photo Credit: Gavin Ford of Africa Inscribed

Photo Credit: Gavin Ford of Africa Inscribed

Photo Credit: Gavin Ford of Africa Inscribed

Photo Credit: Gavin Ford of Africa Inscribed

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Photo Credit: Gavin Ford of Africa Inscribed

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Photo Credit: Gavin Ford of Africa Inscribed

Zimbabwe: "This incredible country has a wealth of wildlife destinations despite years of political unrest and instability. A number of outstanding national parks like Hwange, Mana Pools, Matusadona and Ghona re zhou, are accessible and the wildlife is prolific and rewarding. Safari camps are good quality and vary from mobile camps to permanent lodges. The great Zambezi River has Victoria Falls and the famous lake Kariba both of which are major wildlife arenas for travelers to this wonderful country. Travel through the country to wildlife areas is safe and rewarding." -Africa Inscribed

Photo Credit: Gavin Ford of Africa Inscribed

Photo Credit: Gavin Ford of Africa Inscribed

The Elephant Camp is nestled on a ridge between the Masuwe River and the Zambezi gorges, giving guests an uninterrupted view of the breath-taking spray that swells above the Victoria Falls rainforest. Set against a backdrop of indigenous teak woodland, the imaginative use of eco-friendly canvas tents allows this unique camp to live in harmony with the surrounding environment.

Let's get you to Africa. I'll work with Dylan Harris of Africa Inscribed to make sure you have that life-changing trip of a lifetime! His savvy in the industry is unquestionable, and together with 17 years of diverse experience in the hospitality and Tourism industry and his endless product knowledge, he can only enrich your African journey. Dylan’s love for people and all things African, as well as his keen business sense, guarantees Africa Inscribed guests leave Africa after having enjoyed a World class experience. 

With our unique itinerary planning and management, you will experience the art of seamless and stress-free travel. Giving you the comfort to travel confidently: Kristen Meckem Travel. Contact me here.

Picture Yourself Here; Australia!

It's a great time for us to start planning your trip to Australia. If you travel in our fall or winter, you will be there for their spring or summer. This is a wonderful time of year to visit! 

The Byron at Byron Resort & Spa (photo credit The Byron)

The Byron at Byron Resort & Spa (photo credit The Byron)

BYRON BAY: THE BYRON AT BYRON RESORT & SPA

Byron Bay is bordered on one side by beautiful coastline and the other by magnificent rainforests and is ideally positioned as a centre for relaxation and activity. Situated at the easternmost point in Australia, this stylish coastal village enjoys a subtropical climate with clean air, crystal clear water and pristine beaches. In today’s hectic world it also offers a chance to escape from the mundane and immerse yourself in wellness activities such as yoga and meditation or simply chill out on the beach. Those wanting to experience the natural surroundings can partake in activities such as kayaking with the dolphins, snorkelling and scuba diving or head inland to discover world heritage national parks and lush rainforests. While the adventurous can try tandem skydiving, horse riding along the beach, hang gliding or windsurfing. Surfing is also popular and the beaches in Byron Bay offer some excellent options, even for beginners.

Making body scrubs at Spell

Making body scrubs at Spell

The local cuisine is superb and cafes, bistros and award winning restaurants abound. The retail experience is uniquely Byron, with local artisans, and crafts people supported in a diverse range of outlets alongside internationally renowned brands. You can browse the local markets or visit one of the surrounding villages, such as Bangalow, which has a sophisticated yet rustic vibe. The area truly does offer something for everyone from great surf to peaceful rainforests and luxury experiences to spiritual development.

A quick helicopter ride takes you to Orpheus Island Resort

A quick helicopter ride takes you to Orpheus Island Resort

GREAT BARRIER REEF: ORPHEUS ISLAND RESORT

There’s a reason the Great Barrier Reef appears on so many bucket lists. This immense natural phenomenon – so colossal it can be seen from outer space – is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. From getting up close and personal with the abundant marine life to taking in spectacular views of the reef by air, the list of incredible experiences to be had in this area is almost endless. The palm-fringed Whitsunday Islands are an ideal base station – although they’re so marvellous in themselves you may find it difficult to leave!

PORT DOUGLAS: THALA BEACH NATURE RESERVE

A sleepy fishing village in the 60s, Port Douglas has evolved into a sophisticated modern town, and a more serene alternative to nearby Cairns for exploring the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. Hailed as a scuba-diving and snorkelling paradise, this resort destination on the Coral Sea in North Queensland offers miles of pristine palm-lined beaches, and plenty of shopping, wining and dining experiences. A short distance out of town, Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation and Mossman Gorge are not to be missed.

The rooftop bar. (photo credit Mayfair Hotel)

The rooftop bar. (photo credit Mayfair Hotel)

ADELAIDE: MAYFAIR HOTEL

Once known as the ‘City of Churches’, Adelaide is today better recognized for its sophistication, charm and cosmopolitan feel. South Australia’s capital is a hub of festivals and art galleries. It enjoys a vibrant night life and live-music scene plus there’s plenty of shopping (including gorgeous opals) to be done, and gastronomic delights to be enjoyed. Pop into the Art Gallery of South Australia to view indigenous art, or the South Australian Museum devoted to natural history, take an amble in the Adelaide Botanic Garden, or if you’re up for a hike, find out about the trails on the Mount Lofty Ranges.

The Sky House at Lifetime Private Retreats (photo credit Pedro O'connor of Epic Private Journeys) My relationships with award-winning suppliers will ensure that you have a trip of a lifetime.

The Sky House at Lifetime Private Retreats (photo credit Pedro O'connor of Epic Private Journeys) My relationships with award-winning suppliers will ensure that you have a trip of a lifetime.

KANGAROO ISLAND: LIFE TIME PRIVATE RETREATS

Kangaroo Island, just 16 km off the South Australia's southern coast, is one of Australia's most enchanting natural wilderness destinations.

Specializing in hand crafted luxury accommodation, Life Time Private Retreats offers four spectacular holiday houses – The Sky House, The Cliff House, The Settlers Homestead and Sheoaks where you have the option to stay at the House Only Accommodation or the all-inclusive House and Dining package. 

Each of the private houses are nestled in stunning coastal locations of natural beauty and have been lovingly renovated by three generations of the Holden and Hannaford family whose origins have evolved from leading restaurants, special events and entertaining.

Southern Ocean Lodge

Southern Ocean Lodge

SOUTHERN OCEAN LODGE: KANGAROO ISLAND

Southern Ocean Lodge is a luxury lodge, offering a unique and exclusive travel experience on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Floating atop a secluded cliff on a rugged stretch of coast, the lodge commands spectacular views of the wild Southern Ocean and pristine Kangaroo Island wilderness. Sensitive, intimate and sophisticated, Southern Ocean Lodge is a sanctuary of refined comfort and luxury. It's location, stunning views, contemporary environmental design, locally sourced food and beverages, personalized interpretative activities and modern wellness spa ensures a memorable experience.

The view from the Park Hyatt Sydney

The view from the Park Hyatt Sydney

PARK HYATT SYDNEY: SYDNEY

Seated majestically on one of the world’s most beautiful harbors, Park Hyatt Sydney perfectly personifies contemporary harborside luxury with its coveted location between the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge. Reminiscent of an exclusive harbor-side residence, Park Hyatt Sydney offers intimate surroundings with architecture, art and design that reflect the Australian landscape. Highlights include 155 spacious guestrooms and luxurious suites with contemporary interiors and floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to private balconies, 24-hour butler service and a day spa with rooftop pool and sundeck. For a truly memorable Australian stay, Park Hyatt Sydney is an ideal choice.

Let's get you over to Australia, one of the world's greatest destinations. As an Aussie Specialist, I'll make sure you are in the best of hands. Reach out to me here.

"You Make Getting to Australia Seem So Easy!"

Having my smartphone in my hand when I travel allows you to experience the world with me. It captures extraordinary moments and let's me show that world to you. 

Kisses from Harvey the Koala at Ballarat Wildlife Park

Kisses from Harvey the Koala at Ballarat Wildlife Park

One of my lovely clients wrote, "You make getting to Australia seem so easy!" 

Here are my Top Five reasons it doesn't just look easy: it is easy. Plus some eye candy for you to see more of what makes Australia so special. 

Jackalope: The Mornington Peninsula's new boutique luxury art hotel. A destination showcase, with serious design cred, in Victoria's coastal wine region.

Jackalope: The Mornington Peninsula's new boutique luxury art hotel. A destination showcase, with serious design cred, in Victoria's coastal wine region.

1.  The international dateline makes it seem like a big deal. But it's not. It's 12 hours from LA to Italy. It's 14 hours from LA to Australia. One of the ad campaigns said something along the lines of "two movies, two meals and a nap." Time off is a good thing. How often can you watch two movies guilt-free? Enjoy the moment. 

"I wanna hold your ha-aa-aand. I wanna hold your hand." photo by Olya Kiriukhina at Ballarat Wildlife Park

"I wanna hold your ha-aa-aand. I wanna hold your hand." photo by Olya Kiriukhina at Ballarat Wildlife Park

2. The exchange rate. One US dollar buys about Australian 1.30. Your dollar goes far. 

The Great Ocean Road by helicopter. 

The Great Ocean Road by helicopter. 

3. If you were to place a map of Australia on top of a map of the United States, you would see they are about the same size. Would you go see all of the US in one trip? You don't need to pressure yourself to make Australia a one-time destination. You're not trying to do everything at once. It doesn't have to be a trip of a lifetime. You will go back. Forty-two percent of visitors who see Australia go back in five years. 

Patrick the Wombat. You can be one of his 55,364 followers on Facebook here.

Patrick the Wombat. You can be one of his 55,364 followers on Facebook here.

London Bridge on the Great Ocean Road. 

London Bridge on the Great Ocean Road. 

4. The value of a connected travel advisor. When you and I talk, I will learn the vision of your trip. You don't need to feel overwhelmed. That is why you have me. Then I will book your trip with your combination of the outback, food & wine, Great Barrier Reef, wildlife, & islands.

  • My colleagues are global Australian ambassadors. 
  • My suppliers are award-winning destination experts. 
  • I am a certified Australia Specialist. 

That means you will be in wonderful, caring hands from start to finish, and you will be VIP'd every step of the way. 

The spectacular 40-minute ferry trip between Sorrento and Queenscliff links Victoria’s most magnificent coastal regions together.

The spectacular 40-minute ferry trip between Sorrento and Queenscliff links Victoria’s most magnificent coastal regions together.

By helicopter is a fabulous way to see the Great Ocean Road. This darling person next to me is the Marketing Manager of Visit Victoria. Working closely with Carolyn helps me to give you an enhanced experience. 

By helicopter is a fabulous way to see the Great Ocean Road. This darling person next to me is the Marketing Manager of Visit Victoria. Working closely with Carolyn helps me to give you an enhanced experience. 

5. It's not necessarily a dream destination. It's an accessible destination. It's a tangible experience. It doesn't have to be on a pedestal. Just go. 

Gorgeous Great Ocean Road

Gorgeous Great Ocean Road

A friendly kookaburra at the Lake House in Daylesford

A friendly kookaburra at the Lake House in Daylesford

Let's get you over to Australia, Mate. Time to slip some prawn on the barbie, and collect some memories. You can reach me here.

Lake House Daylesford

Usually I will post about a special property after I have visited. But the Lake House Daylesford has stolen my heart before I have even arrived. I'm counting the days until I arrive at this iconic Daylesford Hotel, boasting one of the best Day Spas in Daylesford, a 2 Chef Hat Restaurant, & an outstanding cellar. Only 80 minutes from Melbourne. 

Words are not needed...this post is a visual journey. All photo credit goes to the Lake House Daylesford.

Lakehouse.jpg
For my clients who have a honeymoon in their future... Australia is a magical destination.

For my clients who have a honeymoon in their future... Australia is a magical destination.

Let's get you to Melbourne and then the shores of beautiful Lake Daylesford. Life is meant to be lived well. 

Smitten: a Guest Post by Nora Sheils of Bridal Bliss Event Planning

As a visual person who appreciates design, my path tends to cross with others who have the same love. I was leafing through a copy of Oregon Bride Magazine, watching the sun rise from my suite at the gorgeous Allison Inn & Spa, and I noticed some beautiful wedding design. The woman with the vision turned out to be Nora Sheils of Bridal Bliss, and here she is today as a guest on my blog.  

They say the happiest girls are the prettiest. How would you like to work with these gorgeous girls? Photo credit: Mosca Studio

They say the happiest girls are the prettiest. How would you like to work with these gorgeous girls? Photo credit: Mosca Studio

Bridal Bliss specializes in creating fabulous weddings from start to finish with an intrinsic attention to detail. They have gained a strong reputation in the Northwest wedding industry, rising through the ranks as one of Bend, Portland, and Seattle’s top event planning firms, as innovative coordinators, willing to go the extra mile to ensure that every event is unique and exceptional. 

See a video of Nora here; you are just going to love her. Photo credit: Falcusan Photography

See a video of Nora here; you are just going to love her. Photo credit: Falcusan Photography

At the helm is the extraordinary Nora Sheils. Nora's savvy leadership has guided her team to earn several awards as well as national and international recognition. Nora's attention to details, strict standard for quality, fun enthusiasm, and comforting demeanor put her clients at ease and have catapulted her as a leader in the wedding industry. She loves weddings, and it shows!

When I asked Nora if she would like to be a guest on my blog, she pointed out how important it is to use a Luxury Travel Advisor when it’s time to plan the Honeymoon

From Nora: "Not too long ago (or so it feels), I was a bride myself, thinking and planning all the details for my big day. About three months into planning, I realized I had completely forgotten to start planning the honeymoon. Sure I had dreamed about going away to a beach and doing absolutely nothing. But when I realized I needed to actually begin researching, it kind of became something I was dreading. The last thing that I wanted to do was spend more time planning something. I wanted the honeymoon to be our sweet escape, maybe even a little surprise."

"I ended up hiring a travel advisor to help with the planning and it was hands down the best decision. It took all the work and worry out of travel. It was such a relief to know that this part was being handled by professionals and they were looking after every detail. Pretty much the exact same reason you hire a wedding planner! Leave it to the professionals, enjoy the process and have fun!" 

Photo Credit: Bethany F Photography

Photo Credit: Bethany F Photography

"On our honeymoon we had the opportunity to relax, unplug and escape. It was the best. All of our transportation, accommodations and activities were well thought out. Outside of being a totally stress-free experience we received great deals and discounts along the way. When people ask me what's the one thing I learned when planning my own wedding - I tell them, hire a wedding planner and a travel advisor (not kidding). Weddings and honeymoons are two of the best things in life and they both happen within the same time. So don't stress about the details - let someone execute your vision!"

Bridal Bliss offers Full Service Wedding PlanningPartial PlanningDay-Of Wedding coordination and special event planning in the Portland, Central Oregon and Seattle areas.  Their goal is to make wedding planning a fun and low-stress experience.  They listen to your  needs and ideas, offer creative suggestions and bring your dream wedding to life. 

Photo Credit: Bethany F Photography

Photo Credit: Bethany F Photography

 

Bridal Bliss has received national recognition for both Portland and Seattle via Bride’s MagazineWedding Wire & Wedding Industry Experts as a top planning firm.  Their team has also won Oregon Bride Magazine’s Best-Of awards ten separate years, and was recently named Portland’s Best Wedding Planner of 2016, for the seventh consecutive year. Bridal Bliss continues to be constant fixture in several print, online and TV media outlets

Let Bridal Bliss bring your dream wedding, and Kristen Meckem Travel bring your dream honeymoon, to life. Then you can enjoy all of the magical and beautiful moments, and... the living happily ever after.