The Sambadrome Parade at Rio Carnival

I am hot, sweaty and with aching feet but with a huge smile on my face from ear to ear that won’t go away. I’ve just taken part in the Sambadrome parade at Rio Carnival which can only be described as the best experience of my life! I have been lucky enough to attend Rio Carnival for the last 4 years and absolutely adore the city which in my opinion is the most beautiful in the world. Aside from carnival the city has so much to offer the visitor and its natural landscapes have recently been declared a World Heritage area by UNESCO.  The views from the top of Corcovado Mountain or Sugar Loaf Mountain are simply sublime with the rolling hills mixing with forests, the city and beaches for as far as the eye can see. The beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema are world renowned, on both of which you could spend a day just strolling along and people watching. Beach volleyball in Rio isn’t just an Olympic sport…it’s a way of life!


Carnival – Bespoke Brazil

During Carnival the city changes dramatically with the arrival of an estimated extra 2 million visitors and the whole of Rio stops work to party with family and friends. In 2014 there were over 600 blocos (street parties) which take place over a 5 day period in various parts of the city. These are often localised community events through to the outlandish large blocos such as the Banda de Ipanema which attracts over a million revellers. Everyone is welcome though and neighbourhoods come alive and residents dress up in all manner of weird, wonderful and irreverent costumes with many men dressing up as women. Alcohol is abundant, the music is loud and the dancing is infectious!


Carnival – Bespoke Brazil

Whilst Carnival is a celebration, it is also a competition. Rio’s top 12 samba schools battle it out on the Sunday and Monday night in the Sambadrome, a purpose built parade area which holds up to 80,000 spectators. The Sambadrome is a 700 metre long runway with stands either side along which the Samba schools parade in vast numbers. Each samba school has between 65 and 82 minutes to get roughly 5,000 dancers, drummers and enormous floats from the start to the finish line in a style, rhythm and harmony which will score the most points with the judges. Watching the Sambadrome parades is an incredible sight as the noise and colour is overwhelming. The parades begin at 9pm and finish anytime between 5am and 6am with most people doing their best to stay until the end. As each parade goes past the crowds get to their feet, singing, dancing and cheering on their favourite samba school!


Carnival – Bespoke Brazil

Rio Carnival

Rio Carnival – Bespoke Brazil

Although watching the parades is a fabulous experience, dressing up and taking part in the parade is something else! That’s exactly what I had the chance to do a couple of years ago as an honorary member for the night of the União da Ilha Samba School… and it is a night I’ll never forget. Each year every samba school chooses a different theme for the parade and for União da Ilha it was Darwinism. This led to me being in a section of the parade with about 80 others, all dressed as peacocks, parading behind a 20 foot high tortoise! The costumes were delivered to my hotel and we headed for the Sambadrome.  We travelled to central station via the metro which is an experience in itself but squeezing into crammed carriages in a large costume is a lot of fun when everyone is in a party mood. On arrival at the Sambadrome we were kept in a holding area and shown what to do which involved some simple samba moves and the importance of keeping in line with the dancers to your side and in front.

Peacock Costume

Peacock Costume – Simon from Bespoke Brazil

As we entered the arena my overriding memory was of a wall of light and a cacophony of sound from 80,000 people which increased the further along we went. All the crowds were singing, chanting and taking photos of us whilst the sweat was pouring off me as I focused on my footwork. As I crossed the finished line I had been dancing non-stop for 40 minutes and didn’t want to stop. Everyone was cheering and hugging each other in jubilation and the constant buzz continued as we headed to find a bar still wearing the costume which I got to keep. I have travelled all over the world but this, without doubt, was the best experience of my life!

Sambadrome parade

Sambadrome parade – Bespoke Brazil

Simon Williams is the founder of Bespoke Brazil, a UK based specialist tour operator which creates tailor-made holidays to Brazil and are Rio carnival specialists. They will be at the Fair in November on stand E23.
Bespoke Brazil has recently launched a luxury holiday to Rio Carnival. It offers you the chance to experience Rio Carnival in style featuring luxury ocean front accommodation at the iconic Copacabana Palace, private guided tours of Rio’s famous sights as well as experiencing the vast street parties. The trip includes fantastic front row seats at the Sambadrome parade plus the chance to actually take part in the parade itself, a real once in a lifetime bucket list experience. After the excitement of Rio de Janeiro you can fly to the awe inspiring Iguassu Falls where you will stay in luxury at the Hotel Das Cataratas, the only hotel located inside the Brazilian national park allowing 24 hour access to the falls and enjoy a day trip to the Argentinean side of the falls with an exhilarating ride on a speedboat for a close up view! End your stay in the stylish beach tranquility of Buzios at the stunning Insolito Boutique Resort, regularly voted as Brazil’s best beach hotel. If you only visit Brazil once in your lifetime, do it at carnival time! Rio Carnival takes place from 13th – 17th February 2015.

Luxury Travel in Brazil


Sugar Loaf - Journey Latin America

Sugar Loaf – Journey Latin America

, as the World Cup host nation has been brought to the forefront of every traveller’s mind this summer, further intensified by the hotly anticipated Olympic Games which will take place in 2016. So, now is the time to explore this enchanting country of white-sand beaches, pristine rainforests and lively samba-infused metropolises, in style.

Don’t be fooled by South America’s backpacker image: the finer things in life are extremely well represented here, none more so than in Brazil. These days Brazil offers a wide choice of top-end accommodation, including a number of truly superlative properties, enhanced by their Latin character.

Christ the Redeemer - Journey Latin America

Christ the Redeemer – Journey Latin America

Begin in the exhilarating city of Rio de Janeiro taking in the iconic Christ the Redeemer Statue and Sugar Loaf Mountain, before jetting to the world renowned Iguazú Falls, which unlike other waterfalls divides into 275 cataracts crashing over a precipice in dense tropical jungle. Then follow David Beckham into the Amazon – staying in a luxurious forest retreat experiencing the rainforest with private guided jungle interpretations walks, piranha fishing, Indian village visits or night-time river trips.

Salvador Bahia - Journey Latin America

Salvador Bahia – Journey Latin America

From here, on to colonial Salvador da Bahia, the African heartbeat of Brazil, where music explodes on every street corner and the local cuisine fuses African, Portuguese and native Brazilian dishes. Transfer to Praia do Forte, a low key yet charming upmarket resort on the undeveloped palm-fringed coast to reach your final destination, one that is full of rest and relaxation.

Copocabana Beach - Journey Latin America

Copocabana Beach – Journey Latin America

Journey Latin America specialises in tailor-made and superior small group tours to all of Central and South America with over 30 years of experience, they offer practical advice based on personal experience. Venture to this unique land – characterised by its melting pot of cultures to the staggering scale of its natural phenomena – on their Luxury Brazil holiday. Enjoy the impressive highlights of Brazil and rest assured you’ll be well looked after with private transfers and staying in smart, sophisticated accommodation offering top notch services.


Our Own Taste of Paradise

Here’s a sneak peek into a holiday to the Seychelles from a customer of Ponders Travel… it really does sound like the adventure of a lifetime!

Seychelles Beach

Seychelles Beach

Day 1. On arrival at the Seychelles airport we are met by our representative who provides us with cool towels and ice water before showing us our exciting week’s itinerary. After a half hour journey though towns and villages and some great views along the way, we arrive at our hotel, The Constance Ephelia Seychelles. The facilities are endless, ranging from children’s clubs to a wide selection of restaurants. There is a tortoise park that is home to the giant tortoise, the eldest being a mere 119 years old! Water sports are included and there are many beautiful white sandy beaches to enjoy. There is even a nature trail and you can zip wire through the tropical trees, not for the faint hearted but a great experience!

Following our departure from the hotel we decide to treat ourselves to a helicopter ride over the Seychelles Islands, this was remarkable! We had just 15 minutes to enjoy the diversity of this lush destination, its many beautiful beaches, rugged landscapes and tropical trees covering the many hills! A must do activity! We then head to the port and the Pegasus yacht, which is our home for the next week for the “Garden of Eden Cruise”.

The yacht has a lounge area with plenty of sofas for all to relax and a bar that leads into the dining room. There is an outside area on the main deck with loungers on the top deck and a spa with a range of treatments available throughout your journey. I did make use of the spa, and have to say the massages were excellent!

We set sail on our first adventure and are left with our first perfect view, a little island just off Mahe called St Anne where we can take advantage of a swim. Here we are moored for the night.

The Boat

The Boat

Day 2. We leave St Anne and reach Curieuse at 9am, the island lies about 1 mile from Praslin and is just 2 miles long. The island is a marine park and only a few live here, it is home to 259 giant tortoises! We arrive by zodiac straight onto the beach which in itself is an exciting experience! We have a while to enjoy the tortoise park at leisure then take an hours guided walking tour from one side of the island to the other following our first of many nature trails. We walk through extensive swamps that are home to eight different species of Mangrove and arrive at a beach with time for a swim before our first beach BBQ.

The Trek

The Trek

Day 3. We set sail to Cousin, a small granitic island that is a nature reserve protected by Seychelles law. The island is a bird haven and as we arrive by sea we already see so many exotic birds flying overhead. We then take an hours guided walk around the island and see so many birds, nesting, resting and flying. The Seychelles Magpie Robin, Seychelles Warbler, Madagascar Cody red male and brown female, Madagascar Turtle Dove Fody, White Tailed Tropicbird and Fairy Tern, to name but a few. We are taken back to our yacht for lunch and we sail to the island of Anse Lazio, it has clear pure waters that are perfect for snorkelling. After dinner the staff show us how to fish off the back of the ship, my husband caught a Bat Fish about 8kilos in weight!

The Scenery

The Scenery

Day 4. We visit the island of Aride. Here we are taken around the island to enjoy the fascinating wildlife in what I can only describe as tropical island paradise! We see truly amazing trees such as the Banyan tree (I even took a swing from one of the branches to prove their strength – Jane from Tarzan had nothing on me!). The Seychelles Magpie Robin appeared to be fairly tame and allowed us to get very close. A very beautiful island and the closest I can imagine to paradise you can get, the beach and the sea on this day of our cruise was my favourite! After lunch we took a short cruise to St Pierre, a tiny island with no beach but a snorkelling dream! Later we set sail again, this time to Baie Ste Anne jetty, we spend the night docked in the bay at Praslin. Here were the first shops we saw all week so we had the opportunity to stock up on sun cream and souvenirs!

The Scenery

The Scenery

Day 5. We have our breakfast, then take a trip to Vallee de Mai, a UNESCO world heritage site. For an hour we walk through what feels like a tropical jungle as we spot black parrots, tree frogs, many geckos, lizards and spiders. A fantastic view was gained by a step walk through the trees. We then set sail for Felicity island where we snorkel seeing a huge abundance of tropical fish including Emperor Angelfish, Sergeant Major, Powder Blue Surgeonfish, Moorish Idol, Sixbar Wrasse, Checkerboard Wrasse, African Coris, blue-green Chromic, Trumpet Fish and Redfin Butterfly Fish.

The Sea Life

The Sea Life

Day 6. we take a tender to La Digue, the biggest port we have seen since we left Mahe but a cute little place alive with locals and tourists alike. We are taken to a vanilla plantation and also shown some interesting facts about the importance of coconuts to the island. We have fun ride on an ox-cart and then are given several hours to wonder and enjoy the beautiful beaches, these beaches are considered to be the most photographed beaches in the world! The back drop of tropical plantations, trees, sand and the granite rock is very striking! Whilst paddling in the sea we are greeted by several tropical Coloured Batfish, as we had a packed lunch from the boat we fed them, what a surreal moment to stand in the sea feeding beautiful fish! Again we were surprised at how tame they were and fed them by hand, just fantastic! We went to a few souvenir shops before heading back to sail to Moyenne Island.



Day 7. After a nice lazy breakfast we take a little time to enjoy the views from all around the yacht. Seeing the mainland of Mahe in the distance is almost sad as we realise this is our last full day on the cruise. A day to enjoy walking round the island, the beach and do some snorkelling again. Our last night on board was super! We enjoyed the Captain’s dinner and a great local duo sang for us. We made many good friends on board and were sad to be leaving them.

This is an adventure of some of the most beautiful beaches and islands that I have seen so far in the world.. We fell in love with the boat, the crew, the destinations and the way of life offered on board. Anyone wanting to know more should vist Ponders Travel, stand B7, at the Fair.

Southeast Asia’s Best Luxury Properties for Honeymooners

Southeast Asia is well-known for its exquisite properties. Combine this with picture-postcard beaches, a wonderfully welcoming culture and a cuisine known all over the world, it comes as no surprise that so many honeymooning couples choose to spend a few weeks here.

Here are Audley Travel’s top five most luxurious and romantic properties for honeymooners in Southeast Asia:

El Nido, the Philippines

For those looking for total seclusion after their wedding you can’t go far wrong with El Nido Pangulasian Island in the Philippines. Known as ‘the island of the sun’, El Nido is an opulent hideaway in the heart of a protected marine reserve.

Imagine drinking cocktails as you watch the sun set on the horizon, or enjoying a luxury picnic on a desert island – these are the sorts of things that can be arranged for you at El Nido.

pool at El Nido Pangulasian

pool at El Nido Pangulasian

Tugu Lombok, Indonesia

Rise early to witness an unforgettable sunrise over the mighty Mount Rinjani during a stay at Tugu Lombok. Situated on the pristine white sands of the northwest coast, it is the Villa Puri Dadap Medah that will ignite the interest of honeymoon couples, with a private spa, plunge pool and private rooftop for a romantic dinner under the moonlight. Private dining can also be arranged in an ancient temple, on a traditional dragon boat or in a secluded corner of the beach, while rooftop yoga and meditation are held by the towers of a temple.

This is a truly special property that would make a fabulous addition to any honeymoon in Indonesia.

Bale Kokok Pletok Restaurant, Tugu Lombok, Sire Beach

Bale Kokok Pletok Restaurant, Tugu Lombok, Sire Beach

Kura Kura
, Indonesia

For the more active honeymoon couple, look no further than Kura Kura, a property set on a tiny island in the Karimunjawa Archipelago, off the coast of Java. Kura Kura means ‘turtle’ in Bahasa Indonesia and it’s no wonder the property was given this name; the diving and snorkeling opportunities here are delightful!

By day kayak around the magnificent shoreline or explore uninhabited islands, and by night enjoy a real castaway experience on Krakal, a tiny neighbouring island where it is possible to spend the night with just your loved one for company.

ocean sunset at Kura Kura Resort

ocean sunset at Kura Kura Resort

The Scarlet, Singapore

The Scarlet has been converted from former Chinese shop houses and this quirky accommodation is arguably the best boutique property in Singapore; it’s certainly one of our favourites!

Rooms range from intimate deluxe rooms to premium suites, with all being individually and theatrically styled with rich, luscious fabrics and unique furnishings.

The rooftop restaurant is the perfect spot to enjoy a sundowner and sample the tasty and creative Mediterranean cuisine, before heading to the stylish bars of Ann Siang Hill.

Passion Suite at The Scarlet Singapore

Passion Suite at The Scarlet Singapore

Soneva Kiri, Koh Kood, Thailand

Soneva Kiri is a Six Senses property – a chain of hotels long associated with understated luxury underlain by environmental sensitivity. The accommodation is situated on the beautiful island of Koh Kood away from the usual tourist traps of Thailand, where it’s possible to dine on the beach, in your private villa or in the famous tree pod suspended in the air.

There are 42 pool villas and one eco suite here, all set in 41 hectares and each with their own private infinity pool.

Dining Pod at Soneva Kiri

Dining Pod at Soneva Kiri

Audley Travel is an award-winning tour operator that specialises in tailor-made trips to over 80 countries around the world. Established in 1996, they cover North America, South and Central America, Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Africa, Australasia, the Polar Regions and Russia. Their specialists are at the very heart of our business. Using their extensive, first-hand knowledge, they build itineraries that match your individual interests, budget, pace and accommodation preferences to create unique travel experiences, so you are not tied to the set itinerary of a group. This allows you to explore at your own speed, with their specialists’ knowledge always at your disposal.

Hotels Vs Luxury Villas

A lot of people are now finding that hotels are far too impersonal for their vacations so are looking for more unique and quirky properties instead. Of course, you may not get room service, but you do get an amazing home for the week with plenty of space for friends and family. So it’s no wonder people are preferring this to the standard hotel choices now.

Allissa Marks rented a villa for her wedding in the South of France, and said it made the day even more magical. And what could be more romantic than being married under the summer sunshine, in a French Chateau, surrounded by all your friends and family? “It was even more magical having our friends and family stay with us for the whole week. It meant the celebration didn’t end! We had a chateau that catered for more than 20 people… so we had all our guests stay with us for a few days after the ceremony too. Our friends still talk about how wonderful it was, even now”

With all this in mind Oliver’s Travels is the luxury brand with the homely touch and personal feel that the luxury market has been waiting for. The fair marks a momentous occasion for the business, because now all their properties are available in one place – making the booking process easier and more enjoyable than it’s ever been. You can browse for that gorgeous French Chateau where you and your friends can be sipping wine in a vineyard as the sun goes down… Or you can take a look at the beautiful, breath-taking Caribbean villas that lead right onto the sea front.

Imagine a holiday where you pay less than a hotel, but can wake up in your own luxury, private villa surrounded by friends or family – with a beautiful swimming pool and stunning views. That’s the reality of holidaying in villas instead of hotels, many people find they prefer it as soon as they make the change.

After booking his first holiday in a French Chateau, founder Oliver realised just how amazingly good value these private villa accommodation choices could be – so decided to set up his own business to support chateau owners, and encourage people to ditch the hotels, and opt for something a bit more special and unique instead. Finding the perfect property is really important, because it shapes your holiday and your enjoyment of it. For some people, they want an intimate hideaway – such as a cottage in Scotland or a beautiful mountain apartment over looking the ocean in Italy, for others they want a huge villa where the kids can run wild – and the adults can relax. The range and sheer variety is something Oliver is especially proud of for his properties, as their books range from stately homes full of history and tales to tell, to French castles, and even beach side havens in the Caribbean. The properties are unique, quirky and never ordinary. Something that is reflected across the entire brand.

The Most Luxurious Train in the World

Established exhibitor of The Luxury Travel Fair, Rovos Rail, invited one of their recent customers to share his experience with us on travelling with them across South Africa.


The moment you arrive at the dedicated Rovos Rail station in the South African capital, Pretoria, you feel as if you’ve stepped into an old world that has been surpassed by the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. A magnificent working steam locomotive welcomes you on the platform along with the exceptional staff of Rovos Rail, who pride themselves on making sure the trip is an unforgettable experience.

The train is beautifully decorated with dark wood features throughout, the rooms have fully retractable windows and blinds, which allow you to take in the breath-taking rolling South African landscape from the comforts of your suite.  All additional comforts are only a phone call away to your personal butler!

  rovos 1

Meals in the dining cart are an absolute highlight with beautiful Edwardian décor, exceptional service, award- winning wines paired with delicious dishes that highlight South African produce. The formal dress attire for dinner adda to the experience and really lends itself to the romance and charm of the beautiful dining car.  After dinner, the Observation car with its balcony is perfect for after-dinner drinks, which are accompanied by fascinating stories of the train told by the fantastic train manager, Joe.  He has been with the company for over 20 years and his passion for the company is a true representation of this proudly South African product.

 rovos 2
The experience on Rovos Rail is not limited to just the train itself, the off-train excursions are catered around what areas have to offer.  From climbing into open-air game viewing vehicles and spending the next couple of hours ticking off the Big 5 in the Nambiti Private Game Reserve, to visiting historical sites such as Nelson Mandela’s capture site and the Anglo Boer war sites. The excursions are a perfect way to catch a glimpse into the history of this beautiful country as well as witnessing the rich wildlife it has to offer.


After spending a couple nights on the train, it’s easy to see why Rovos Rail has claimed and owned the slogan of “The Most Luxurious Train In The World”.  There truly is no better way to experience the sheer grandeur of South Africa’s landscape than on this magnificent train.


An Expedition to the Tribes of Remote Brazil

Kaxinawa (6)

Bespoke Brazil, who are exhibiting at this year’s Luxury Travel Fair, have launched an expedition to visit the tribes of the Kaxinawá of western Brazil. Here they tell us about this exciting itinerary for those looking to really get off the beaten track in an area few tourists have visited.

Clients will experience a remote area of Brazil, unknown to the majority of the western world and gain an insight to The Kaxinawá tribe or Huni Kui, meaning True People, who inhabit the Amazon forest close to the Peruvian border in the state of Acre, in western Brazil. The trip takes in 7 villages in two indigenous lands; the Kaxinawa of the Tarauacá River and the Kaxinawa of Jordão River.

Kaxinawa (15)

The Kaxinawá are a tribe of 5550 people who pride themselves on their strong cultural identity, while maintaining contact with the “white people” who they first encountered in the late nineteenth century. Still much of their culture is secretive such as their knowledge of language, painting, art and traditional medicine. Children learn to speak Portuguese when they are about 11 years old and the official language spoken between the Kaxinawá is hãtxa kui.

“If you are looking to get away from it all then this itinerary offers an exciting insight in to one of the more remote tribes of Amazonia”, says Bespoke Brazil director, Simon Williams. “Don’t expect a high degree of luxury on the trip though”, says Simon, “during the expedition you will sleep and stay in the local homes of the Kaxinawá in hammocks where all meals are provided by them.”


The Kaxinawá have a strong influence from the Inca Kingdom due to its proximity to Peru, especially on clothes and body paintings with geometric shapes known as Kenes. The Indians of Acre had a peaceful relationship with the Incas and would trade with the Indians of the Andes, where medicinal plants were exchanged for salt and other products from the highlands.

Kaxinawa (5)

Due to the remote area in which the Kaxinawá live a light aircraft flight is required to reach the small town of Jordão from where you can board boats to reach the tribal villages. The expedition can be done at any time during the year however the best time is between May and November when water levels are higher in the rivers.

Kaxinawa (14)

To discuss this breath-taking trip and many more to this beautiful part of the world, please visit Bespoke Brazil at the Fair.

Kaxinawa (3)

Kaxinawa (9)