17 shk 2007

Surfing Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast

Surfing Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast
by: Mike McDougall

The Pacific coast of Costa Rica is fast becoming one of the hippest spots on the backpack merry-go-round. It’s a surfer’s paradise in Central America’s most laid-back holiday spot. Areas such as the Nicoya peninsula and Dominical further to the south are the real hotspots where the beaches are sublime and trees and rocks tumble down the meet the fine, white sand – Costa Rica has a reputation for its magnificent flora and fauna and there’s nothing to be disappointed about on that score here. Pelicans and frigate birds wheel overhead as the booming calls of howler monkeys resound from the nearby rainforests. For those not satisfied by the ocean alone there are also numerous hikes in the region and due to Costa Rica’s relatively small size you are never far away from the eco-tourism centres further inland.

Sticking out like a spare limb into the temperate waters of the Pacific, Nicoya has a myriad of unspoiled beaches where the breakers roll in consistently offering great surfing for all levels of ability whether you’re a pale rookie paddling out for the first time or a sun-gnarled veteran. It is this variety that makes the area perfect for one of the world’s fastest growing sports and the region has had a fantastic reputation in the worldwide surfing community. A few years ago villages such as Santa Teresa were no more than a few fishing huts clustered together but with the boom of tourism in the area numerous services are now provided by locals offering the dusty streets a ramshackle charm – a perfect setting for the laid-back surfers and the ever-growing community of young visitors. For those just wishing to hang out then there a numerous beach restaurants and beer shacks where laid back tunes and chilled cerveza set the tone for the after hours entertainment.

Further to the South lies Dominical, probably Costa Rica’s most famous surfing grounds. It’s slightly less isolated than the Nicoya region offering easy access to the surrounding national parks and also the nation’s capital, San José. The area is famed for its “surf camps” where surfing, accommodation food and activities are all included in the package and is a great way for beginners to get into the sport and even for experienced surfers who get the chance for tips from local instructors. The region has begun to develop but by no means to the extent that we are used to in big European resorts, eco-lodges are the typical accommodation here and the focus is on preserving an area of immense natural beauty. Whether surfing Dominical’s famous breaks or just chilling on the beach you’ll find the area is as close to paradise as you’re likely to get in Costa Rica.

It’s also worth noting that it’s not just surfing that’s on the activities list on Costa Rica’s pacific coast, the whole area is a huge aquatic playground; waters teeming with fish and other life mean great scuba diving and yes, you guessed it, great fishing with many local boats taking tourists out on the hunt for tuna, wahoo, marlin and other big game.

There are even language schools opening to cater for the influx of young travellers (see http://www.babylon-idiomas.com/ for an excellent example of this) – no longer solely the domain of evening classes in the UK, learning a second language these days is all about cultural immersion. The message is “why not learn Spanish whilst you’re learning to surf or dive?” and with much of Central and South America now more open to tourism there’s no better time to learn the skills to make yourself understood whilst enjoying the more obvious pursuits open to travellers.

About The Author

Mike McDougall has five years experience working as a travel writer and marketeer. He is currenlty working to provide additional content for Babylon Idiomas, a Spanish language school with an excellent presence in Spain and Latin America.

This work is licensed by a creative commons licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/uk/


7 shk 2007

Best Hotels in Kenya and East Africa: Simply the Serena Group of Hotels

Best Hotels in Kenya and East Africa: Simply the Serena Group of Hotels
by: Robert Muhoho

In keeping with the Serena philosophy of harmony with the environment, each property demonstrates an ethnic design making full use of local materials that blend with the immediate surroundings. The attention to detail and commitment to hygiene, using only the highest standards of produce is legendary across East Africa.

Serena hotels have also been eco-tourism pioneers for many years and have initiated important environmental programmes to protect wildlife, communities and fragile habitats. Their philosophy that tourism should offer a distinctive experience of the country visited rather than simply an experience in a country, is their firm ethos.

The Nairobi Serena Hotel

There are seven Serena properties in Kenya-the first is their city flagship, the Nairobi Serena, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World organisation, located on the edge of the city in a tropical garden setting, but only a few minutes from the town centre.

The Mombasa Serena Beach Hotel

The second is their coast flagship, the Mombasa Serena Beach Hotel, a member of Club Best Hotels of the World organisation, situated along Shanzu Beach on the North Coast. Since September 2003, the property now offers a brand new state-of-the-art conference facility built in the luxurious grounds of the hotel, capable of holding up to 140 delegates.

Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge

Moving to more traditional safari lodges and hotels and camps, the third property, the Amboseli Serena safari Lodge, nestles in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro, hidden beneath a grove of a giant Acacia trees set beside a gentle flowing natural spring.

Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge

The fourth property, the Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge, is located on a ridge that commands magnificent sweeping views of the Chyulu Hills at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro whilst the fifth property, the Mara Serena Safari Lodge, is perched on the saddle of a hill commanding one of the most spectacular views imaginable across the vast plains, forests and rivers that make up the Maasai Mara, one of the worlds richest wildlife sanctuaries.

Serena Mountain Lodge, Nyeri

The sixth Serena property, the Serena Mountain Lodge, Nyeri, is located 2,194 meters high up on the slopes of Mt. Kenya, surrounded by a dense rainforest that comes alive at dusk with a myriad of sounds that make the African bush so special and exhilarating.

Samburu Serena Safari Lodge

The last Kenyan Property, the Samburu Serena Safari Lodge, is located right in the centre of the Samburu Game Reserve, a Semi-arid, open savannah plain broken by small rugged hills in Kenya’ Northern province.

Tanzania Lodges

Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge

Similarly, there are five properties in Tanzania- the first; Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge is located on the Great Rift Valley Escarpment with a fantastic view over Lake Manyara and the Valley below.

Ngorongoro Serena safari Lodge

The second, the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, is perched high on the rim of the breath taking Ngorongoro Crater.

Kirawira Camp:

The third, Kirawira Camp, recently awarded membership of the much coveted Small luxury Hotels in the World accreditation, is situated in the Western Serengeti.

Serena Mountain Village

The fourth, The Serena Mountain Village, nestles in the heart of a coffee plantation on the shores of Lake Duluti near Arusha.

Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge

The fifth, the Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge, inspired by the traditional African Village based on individual thatched huts, set high on a hill with 3600 views out over the Serengeti savannah.
Like the Kenyan Properties, all were designed to blend in with their natural surroundings and constructed using local materials and labour.

Zanzibar Serena Inn
Moving away from the mainland, the Zanzibar Serena Inn, located at the Heart of the Old Stone Town comprises of two restored sea-front buildings, one dating back to the 18th Century and the other colonial building to the 19th century.

The Serena Inn also comprises the Mangapwani Serena Beach Club and Restaurant, famous for it’s freshly caught local sea food, located on the North West Coast of the Island and just a short drive by courtesy bus or boat journey. Serena Inn guests are able to enjoy all the facilities of a luxury beach club in exclusive private surroundings.

Hotel Polana-Mozambique

The group recently acquired two further properties; the hotel Polana in Mozambique, overlooking the Bay of Maputo, now restored to its former colonial glory.

Kampala Serena Hotel

And the very latest, the Kampala Serena Hotel which represents a US$18M investment for extensive refurbishment of the former Nile Hotel, opened in September 2005.

Serena Hotels East Africa; keeper of high standards and unique designs

When the Serena group was established in the mid-70s, by the Aga Khan Fund for Development, the aim was simple but challenging, to become the leading hotel group in East Africa. Today, this aim has become a reality and Serena Hotels are recognized both locally and internationally as clear market leaders, offering the highest standards of service and properties of unique design set in prime locations through out each region.

In addition to its East African portfolio, the Serena Group owns properties in Pakistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

About The Author
Robert is a tour consultant in Kenya and has planned business and vacation safaris for over 10,000 tourists in the East African region. He is a tour operation- major and involved in National tourism policy development in Kenya.

For more information please visit:
East Africa Safari


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