Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Walled Cities of Spain

Throughout history, large walls surrounded many cities to protect their citizens and leaders from siege and attack. Sadly, most of these city walls have gone either torn down by attackers, removed by cities to allow expansion or simply taken apart to provide building materials for more useful buildings.

Spain has an impressive number of cities whose complete (or near-complete) city walls (or muralla) are so significant, well preserved and impressive that they merit UNESCO World Heritage listing. All are rich in history with four of the five can be easily visited as day trips from Madrid.

Ávila (Avila)

Not that far from Madrid, the city of Ávila is impressively located perched on a high plain that rears sharply from the arid treeless surrounds. With a domination of churches, monasteries, convents and basilicas under the name of the ascetic Saint Teresa (whose mummified hands are in one of the churches), the pious city was subjected to battles for centuries between the Muslims and the Christians. The 12th century construction of 2.5 kilometres of superbly maintained walls, 88 towers and 9 gates eased the battles and today the exterior makes for a superb walk. At night the elegant crenellations add a regal imposing look to the city while three parts of the walls can be walked for a closer look.


Near Ávila, Segovia is an enchanting small honey-coloured city strategically perched on a rocky outcrop and encased in an 11th century wall. With history dripping around every corner of its narrow lanes, its undoubted highlights include a towering double-arched Roman aqueduct that cuts through the city, a cavernous cathedral and the fairytale Alcazar (and the world’s oldest existing industrial plant with the 1583 Mint). The Alcazar is an evocative 900 year old royal palace that emerges majestically from a rocky crag, its long narrow shape, sheer sides and witches-hat roofs being the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s residence.


Immortalised by El Greco and a former capital city, Toledo is a treasure trove of medieval buildings and cultural sights. Dating back to Roman times and ideally sited for fortification with a loop in the river protecting three sides and two imposing walls protecting the fourth, the city is jam-packed in a maze of streets with places of worship for Christians, Jews and Muslims, highlighting its wars and battles over past centuries. Toledo makes for a superb one day trip from Madrid walking the labyrinthine laneways soaking the medieval charm of so many historic structures.


Just east of Madrid and encased by deep gorges on three sides, Cuenca was purpose built for fortification. More famous than its city walls are its exceptional hanging houses (las casas colgadas) grimly clinging to the cliff sides, their balconies protruding into fresh air and highly unsuited for those uncomfortable with heights. One excellent example now serves as the Abstract Arts Museum.


In the very north-west of Spain and surrounded by over two kilometres of Roman walls built in the third and fourth centuries (yes, over 1700 years old), it is the only complete Roman wall anywhere in the world. With the wall being six metres thick and with a twenty metre wide moat around the walls, Lugo was near impregnable. Eighty-five towers rise out of the wall giving vantage points in every direction to give the city warning of any pending attack.

While there are a number of examples of walled cities throughout Europe, north Africa and Asia, Spain has an impressive concentration of them, each making for a superb one-day visit. Other Spanish cities including Girona and Badajoz also boast well preserved city walls. While all the cities have sprawled well beyond their medieval bounds, it is a chance to imagine the importance that these walls bought in protecting the city and the efforts that leaders went to maintain the city against the constant threat of attack.

Photo Credits: Avila Night, Avila Walls, Toledo, Cuenca, Lugo

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cyprus: Clubs, Countryside or Castles?

guest post by Ricky Durrance

There are many so called gateways in the world. Countries where influences from different cultural and social worlds mix together to create a unique experience for visitors. For instance, Turkey is often referred to as the gateway to the East – and perhaps the gateway to the West if you approach it from the opposite direction. However, for a true experience of extremes, Cyprus has few equals. One night you could be anywhere in Western Europe, dancing to the best music in the best clubs. The next you could be on the north coast, exploring a truly beautiful and idyllic scene, full of green fields and ancient castles. Whatever takes your fancy, just book into a Cyprus hotel and fill your boots!

Cyprus Clubs

Ask any twenty something in the UK where the best place to go to for fun, clubs and partying is and the majority will say Cyprus, or, more likely, Ayia Napa. Tens of thousands of people head to the party capital of the world every year for one thing and one thing only –world famous Cyprus clubs. Located on the south east of the island, Ayia Napa is home to well-known and famous party venues – Castle Club, Napa Dreams, Insomnia – the list goes on. When arriving in town expect to see Cyprus hotels booked up to the rafters with carefree youngsters and superstar DJ’s, all preparing for raucous night time activities in the best Cyprus clubs.

Cyprus Countryside

Do not just judge Cyprus by Ayia Napa. To do so would be a travesty as there is so much more to this beautiful island. Cyprus boasts a number of outstanding areas of natural beauty that make it a perfect destination for a walking holiday. Cyprus is known as the island of Aphrodite, who was the goddess of love and beauty – perhaps a clue as to what to expect when visiting. Booking into Cyprus hotels in the less touristy areas of the island is fairly simple in most months of the year. Once settled in, get exploring. The month of September is generally considered to be the best time to visit, as the hot summer sun will not be as harsh and makes for perfect walking weather. The Troodos Mountain Park (photo) and the Akamas Peninsula are two popular areas for walkers thanks to the vast array of wildlife and plants on show.

Cyprus Castles

Like your history? Are you a keen culture vulture who is looking for a holiday whilst also having the opportunity to take in life outside of Cyprus hotels? Cyprus has over 9000 years worth of history which means that visitors are never left disappointed on the cultural front. Kyrenia Castle (photo, top), Kantara Castle, St. Hilarion Castle (photo, right) and Buffanvento Castle are all well visited castles in Kyrenia alone. If Cyprus clubs are not your scene, just spend your days pottering around the ancient ruins which have been influenced by the various island conquers, such as the Romans, Persians and Egyptians to name but a few.

There is so much more to Cyprus than clubbing. True, Cyprus clubs still do and will continue to pull in the crowds. But it is also welcoming to all other visitors – just make sure you book into the right accommodation via

Ricky Durrance is a freelance copywriter and enthusiastic traveller who is always looking to write for and meet interesting people who share his passion for travel. Ricky names Cambodia and Laos on his list of favourite travel destinations.

Photo Credits: club, mountains

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Photo of the Week: A Single Drip (Jenolan Caves, Australia)

Two hundred kilometres west of Sydney, Jenolan Caves are thought to be the oldest show caves in the world at an estimated 380 million years, well before dinosaurs roamed our planet.It is staggering to believe such beauty and richly decorated limestone chambers are built by the constant dripping of water such as the single drops landing in the spectacular main chamber of the Temple of Baal Cave (undoubtedly one of the most spectacular caves in the world).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Best Luxury All Inclusive Destinations

guest post by travelsupermarket

For a truly indulgent holiday, why not go all inclusive? Doing so sees you pay for your flights, hotel and all your meals at once, so everything will be taken care of in a single step. By visiting the following luxury destinations, you can be confident of having a fantastic time!

One place that is certainly synonymous with luxury is Dubai. By visiting the emirate you will have the chance to stay at a number of five-star hotels that offer a host of wonderful amenities and services, and this may particularly be the case should you book at the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Hotel.

With its own private beach and outdoor pool, you can spend your break relaxing doing nothing. However, the resort offers plenty of opportunities for you to get active as you can take part in watersports such as kayaking, parasailing and waterskiing, or head to the on-site health centre for a workout with a personal trainer.

You can also indulge in luxury massages and body treatments at the spa, before heading to one of the nine restaurants and bars for something to eat.

Staying at the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah also means you are just a short distance from The Walk, Dubai's bustling outdoor shopping district that contains more than 350 shops, perfect for a spot of retail therapy.

You will also find that Ski Dubai, the first indoor winter sports resort in the Middle East, and the championship-standard Emirates Golf Club are just a short distance away.

Alternatively, the Seychelles is an up and coming destination for all inclusive holidays particularly on the North Island.

The luxurious North Island Lodge consists of 11 villas, where you will be able to take in stunning views of the Indian Ocean as well as indulge in wonderful activities such as mountain-biking, fly fishing and sea kayaking.

And as the Seychelles forms part of the world's longest coral reef system, visiting North Island also gives you the chance to go scuba diving where you will be able to see fantastic underwater scenery.

Seychellois cuisine draws on a number of international influences, including Indian and French, and while the resort does not have a set menu, you can be sure the food on offer here will suit your palette. The head chef speaks to each guest personally to figure out their eating preferences before developing a weekly menu based on this information.

Barbados is an equally great place for a luxury holiday and while all inclusive deals can be found across the Caribbean island, the Almond Beach Club and Spa Hotel on the west coast could be particularly ideal.

The adults-only resort is just 100 yards from the beach and as all your meals are paid for in advance you can tuck into fine gourmet cuisine without worrying how much it will cost!

You can take part in yoga, aerobics and tennis lessons or tee-off at the golf course. If you fancy taking a dip, head to one of the three freshwater swimming pools, or alternatively you can try banana boating, snorkelling and sailing.

There is also a twice-weekly shuttle service that runs from the hotel to Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, perfect if you fancy doing a spot of shopping.

With 161 rooms and suites to choose from, you have plenty of choice over where you stay but for a truly luxurious break, you may want to opt for the Beachfront Suite.

By seeking out a luxury all inclusive holiday, you really can have the break of a lifetime for one fantastic price!

Photo Credits: Dubai, shopping, skiing, north island, scuba, sunset

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Mesmerising Skills of a Sushi Chef (Japan)

Some years ago I was taken to a tiny sushi restaurant (maybe only places for 12) in Tokyo by a good friend, fluent in Japanese and the culture of the country. It remains one of my finest dining experiences.

Most memorable was watching the mesmeric skills of the chef. Over numerous courses while happily chatting, the chef wielded his short knife with the skills of a conductor skilfully sliced paper thin gleaming slices of fish, prepared a stellar tasting sample from the fat of the fish, carefully shaped pieces of eel and whipped up wasabi (horseradish) using the roughened skin of a shark.

The variety of seafood, the delicate flavours balanced across the courses, the ritual and the experience will stay with me forever. Eating at a sushi/sashimi restaurant in Japan is an experience worth chasing and savouring.

This article is written for Blog Action Day and the theme for 2011 is food.

Note: The photo is a generic photo and not from the evening.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Wind Towers of Al Bastikiya (Dubai, UAE)

The mention of Dubai conjures up images of oil-driven towering buildings, iconic hotels, and snow skiing and water parks in the desert. Dubai Creek is the beating heart of the city with a chaotic frenzy of workers, abra (wooden water taxi) catchers, shoppers and travellers all bustling with activity.

In sharp contrast is the neighbouring historic district of Al Bastikiya. Built by wealthy Iranian traders in the late 1800s, a gentle stroll around the peaceful but tangled streets of Al Bastikiya highlights the wonderful adobe wind tower (or windcatcher) houses. With the houses built closely together to maximise shade, this ingenious design uses natural ventilation to target the extremes of weather of scorching hot dry days and chilly nights.

The cooling effect is due to the air movement (the air isn’t actually cooled) with the air forced downwards into the main living areas of the house. Similar ideas are used in the Middle East with some extending the idea by steering the air over running water to provide a natural form of air-conditioning (a similar technique was practised in Amer Fort in Rajastan).

Take some time out from the souqs and shopping of Dubai for a peaceful stroll through the historic Al Bastikiya area and see the inventive resourcefulness of the past traders in making living in the heat of Dubai as refreshing and pleasant as possible.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guided Tours of the Art and Elegance of Eastern Europe

guest post by Titan Travel

Tirelessly topping poles and quality of life indexes, Vienna should be the deal breaker visit on any guided tours to Europe. Austria’s capital is a spread of vermillion rooftops and white buildings. Sky and houses playfully switch places - an azure reflection in a shining window is exchanged for the trespass of an occasional dome or spire which pierces the skyline. Vienna sculpts yet more reflection into its gardens, with its glassy lakes and sparkling fountains. Grand palaces yawn across acres of cultivated grounds, and there are over one hundred art museums and sites commemorating the great composers who filled its venues with thundering genius. Vienna is the Mecca of the arts and no-one with a faithful interest in the city could visit without a trip to its state opera house. With climbing marble staircases and stratified crimson balconies, lofty chandeliers and its own magnificent production company, anyone who hasn’t received an invite to a Viennese ball will relinquish their resentment once the opening act has rung the walls of this venue with poignant, electrifying song.

If Vienna’s cultural slant is toward the artistic, Prague leans in the direction of historical and political interests. The Charles Bridge dates back to 1357 and has been ravaged by floods, scored by war and battered by traffic. In spite of this it refuses to fall, and today its gleaming statues are still polished for the luck the bridge seems to have thrived upon. Prague’s ancient castle is the biggest in the world, and its gardens resound with echoes from its singing fountain. Lennon bridge, stamped with tributes to its namesake, represents the iconic singer’s impact on the city, or more his tenure as patron of idealistic peace. A hanging Freud statue drops from one of the buildings, in a state of perpetual irony, and an elaborate working astronomical clock charts perfect time, as well as other, less comprehensible measurements.

Budapest is a city synonymous with beauty, and its centre is acknowledged as a World Heritage Site. Riven by the peaceful Danube, the unusual cityscape yields to over 80 thermal springs, around which some tranquil baths have been built. A funicular railway draws crowds uphill to Buda Castle, a stronghold which thoughtfully provides a wine cellar of over 50 varieties to be sampled when the charms of its history can no longer be imbibed. Cruise down the River Danube, or head to its Jewish district, an area most vibrant during its summer festival between August and September. For something a little more sobering, the House of Terror documents the atrocities committed in the name of the dictatorial regimes which governed the city during the 20th century. A stroll through Margaret Island city park will then source some peace in which to ponder, or rattle its pathways in a quirky bringo cart if you’ve brought children. If not, cycles, electric cars and even roller blades can be rented to make its verdant pathways accessible to all.

Vienna, Prague and Dudapest captures the elegance of central and eastern Europe with their stunning architecture, historic buildings and centuries of the finest art and music.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Zealandia: Preserving New Zealand Wildlife (Wellington)

Only minutes from the centre of New Zealand’s curiously bubbly capital, Zealandia is an inspiring project to restore a valley to its pre-human state. This reserve has managed to remove major introduced predators to the area with novel fencing, including rabbits, stoats, possums, mice, rats and more, allowing endangered birdlife, insects and other animals to thrive, enhancing the survival prospects of several severely threatened species.

Zealandia is named from the sub-continent that broke away from Australia some 80 million years ago taking a number of species unique to New Zealand. Without the existence of mammals at the time, fauna developed without defence mechanisms (a number of bird species lost their ability to fly) when such animals were introduced in the last several hundred years. A number of species continue to fight for their very survival.

Zealandia is rightly proud of two Takahe, plump flightless birds with blue-purple plumage believed extinct last century. Only around 250 of these highly endangered species exist anywhere mainly on small predator-free islands where their slow reproduction continue to pamper their survival. The lively takahe peck around grasslands, their oversized scarlet beak hunting for tiny insects and moist shoots.

The kaka are similarly endangered, brown plumage being setoff against a russet breast. Excitable in groups, they delicately eat berries, fruit and nuts, taking them in their claws much like typical parrots. Ingenious feeders encourage them to certain areas of the bush. Zealandia has much success in breeding kaka, the lack of predators keeping the eggs and mother safe through the long incubation period.

Tui flutter overhead among the thickets of bushland. Their iridescent blue-green breast glimmers in the dappled light highlighted by strange white tufts of feathers hang as a lace collar from their throat like dice from a rear-vision mirror. Tui are noted mimics of human sounds with their dual voiceboxes able to master a wide variety of vocalisations. Their curved beaks rummage among the fruits of trees and shrubs for nectar.

A number of other endangered birds including the famed kiwi and other species of parrots enjoy the Zealandia area.

Zealandia have a number of tuatara, a living fossil measuring just over half a metre, with a spiny ridge up its back. Over 200 million years old (from the time of the dinosaurs), they are the only survivors of an ancient type of reptile which vary considerably from lizards despite their appearance. Many ancient aspects are noteworthy including a third eye at birth (which disappears after several months), no ear (though an ability to detect sounds), teeth that are simply pointed parts of their jawbone and no penis (they reproduce more like birds). Rats have devastated the tuatara population with most existing on a few remote predator-free islands. Notoriously slow to reproduce (one lot of eggs every few years), tuatara are poorly understood by scientists with many mysteries about their existence still to be unravelled.

Zealandia is a wonderful tract of land with numerous well-signed paths to wander the heavy native New Zealand forests, spotting and listening for a variety of endangered native birds. A small boat chugs along a dam which once provided Wellington with its drinking water offering a superb vista across the verdant valley. Birds swoop and glide among the trees, visitors pointing enthusiastically as another species is spotted. The walks are supported with an excellent display showing the botanical history of the area and Zealandia’s 500 year ambition to return the preserve to its pre-human state, expected in the ye 2500. I’d suggest not waiting that long…

Photo credit: tuatara

I travelled as a guest of Qantas Airways on The Great Crusade, a promotion highlighting the best of travel in New Zealand while following the endeavours of the Qantas Wallabies to win the Rugby World Cup.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Photo of the Week: Wellington Lights (New Zealand)

Wellington is a chirpy, cultural city full of fine cafes, small bars and lively character that tracks around its beautiful harbour. At night, the lights of New Zealand's diminutive capital city echo the lights from its buildings shrouded by a backdrop of sharply rising hills.

I travelled as a guest of Qantas Airways on The Great Crusade, a promotion highlighting the best of travel in New Zealand while following the endeavours of the Qantas Wallabies to win the Rugby World Cup.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Top Museums in Amsterdam (Netherlands)

guest post by Redseven Leisure

A city full of quirks and diversity, Amsterdam is one of the most intriguing destinations in Europe. When it comes to what’s worth checking out in the city, there is much more worth visiting than the usual coffee bar and late night club antics. A cultural hub, the city offers a range of museum delights from small quirky ones to some of the most famous in Europe to make it a truly alternative experience for those on an Amsterdam stag weekend. Here’s a selection of the best;

Van Gogh Museum

Visiting this museum is an absolute must when it comes to visiting Amsterdam. One of the most famous artists of our time, Vincent Van Gogh, was a troubled man which in turn, provided us with some magical works of art that set the precedent for many artists to come.

With one of the largest collections of paintings in the world, this museum will take you through different stages of Van Gogh’s life, where he lived and what influenced him, along with his greatest works.

Even if art isn’t your thing, you will be able to appreciate one of the greatest artists of our time.

House of Bols Cocktail and Genever Experience

Take a break from the more serious museums and wander in to mixology heaven. Situated in Museumplien Square, this museum takes you through an interactive self-guided tour teaching you about Lucas Bols (the oldest distilled brand in the world) and cocktails through tastes, aromas, film and sound in The Hall of Tastes and the World of Cocktails Lounge.

Finally, you’ll finish in the Mirror Bar where you’ll be able to see skilled professional bartenders in action.

On Friday evening it stays open until 10pm so this could be a great one to visit before heading out for the night.

Op-Art Museum

Home of the first speed boat bank robbery, the Op-Art Museum is a beautiful old canal building worth a look from the outside even if you don’t make it inside. Mainly displaying optical illusions through printmaking, photography, painting and drawing, this museum displays works of art in a different way. An interactive museum where you can touch most of the exhibits, you will experience deception with interesting contradictions and paradoxes that tend to stir things up in one’s mind.

This is an easy one to visit after you’ve been to the Van Gogh museum as the museums are only 100 metres apart.

Vodka Museum

This is the perfect museum for a boy's night out or a stag weekend which combines fun with learning! Take a tour around the museum learning everything there is to know about vodka from its history to its production along with the different types of vodka. Of course, you’ll get to learn all about the taste of it too!

At the end of the tour, you can sit and enjoy a free drink in their Fashionable Bar.

Electric Ladyland- the First Museum of Flourescent Art

The only museum of its kind in the world, this is an extremely unique museum to visit, although not the best choice when suffering from a hangover or having visited the Vodka Museum!

The museum consists of a large room made up entirely of fluorescent lights where you, become part of the art. This form of participatory art takes you on a guided tour of their extensive collections of fluorescent mineral from all over the world. Certain rocks, when under specific wavelengths of ultra violet light create wonderful luminous colours and fluorescent phenomena. This is surely worth a visit!

Heineken Experience

This is a winner for evenings such as a stag party as there are not many men who don’t enjoy a beer. This museum takes you through the history of Heineken, the process of how the beer is brewed along with other interactive games and beer tasting. You’ll even get to make your very own personalised bottle of beer followed by finishing off the tour with a nice free cold beer.

Redseven Leisure provides award winning weekends both in the UK and overseas.

Photo Credits: bols, electric ladyland

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Drinks Around the World: Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (Blenheim, New Zealand)

When people mention wine they immediately think of France, Italy, Germany or Spain. However New Zealand rightly deserves its growing reputation for fine cool climate wines, especially crisp sauvignon blanc and mellow pinot noir. Today wine touring has become an increasing tourism attraction throughout much of the country.

The Mecca of Kiwi wines (80 percent of the nation’s production) is undoubtedly the Marlborough region with over fifty wineries dotting the open areas around Blenheim and neighbouring towns. While sauvignon blanc vines dominate the region, riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay and pinot noir (among others) also contribute to the varieties produced in the region.

Wither Hills offer a tour of their fine winery. Initially with a glass of their austere dry sauvignon blanc in hand, our group wander one of their eleven vineyards, this one surprisingly within walking distance of the coast. Sipping wine surrounded by vineyards with a backdrop of rolling hills is one of life’s most relaxing experiences.

A table sits at the other end of a string of vines with a variety of other Wither Hills wines including identical wines from different years. The contrast that a year can make in taste, colour and style is notable – where most drink products look for consistency over the years, wineries seem to look for individual personalities and unique characteristics, the weather and other aspects having such a dramatic effect on flavour, colour, smell and volume in each crop year.

The white wines exhibit strong fruity aromas, some quickly identifiable, some too subtle for my amateur nose, as one of the knowledgeable winemakers guides us through the tasting. Wither Hills believes that exceptional wines are ‘created in the vineyard’ and are constantly enhancing their technique to seek further improvements. While some vineyards are already organic, the entire portfolio will be in the next couple of years.

One story is on the planting of complementary flowering plants to encourage beneficial insects in the vineyard to eat the bad bugs.

As in many wine districts, fine wine is accompanied by fine food. Wither Hills restaurant cater our group for dinner including a succulent lamb ribs with crusted herbs. A superb end to experiencing one of New Zealand’s finest products –Marlborough sauvignon blanc.

I travelled as a guest of Qantas Airways on The Great Crusade, a promotion highlighting the best of New Zealand while following the endeavours of the Qantas Wallabies to win the Rugby World Cup. The journey can be followed via Twitter hashtag #greatcrusade.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Marine Wildlife Wonderland of Kaikoura (New Zealand)

Majestically set as the Southern Alps approach the bay-lined coastline, Kaikoura is world famous for its marine tours. Geologically freaky, the continental shelf plunges over 2000 metres deep only a few miles offshore creating the perfect feeding grounds for the Sperm Whale. These leviathans, measuring up to 18 metres and weighing in at up to 70 tonnes, dive for up to two hours into the inky depths (any semblance of light in seawater disappears at around 500 metres) to snaffle giant squid among their dietary luxuries.

Sadly on my visit, the rough conditions cancel any chance of seeing these charismatic giants, but a tour of the more coastal areas still offer a chance to see a variety of marine life.

The robust craft is six seats wide with viewing platforms all around and on the top deck. Within a few minutes of the journey starting, Hector Dolphins, the world’s smallest species of these playful sea creatures, twist and dive in small groups. Entering the bay in which Kaikoura is situated, New Zealand Fur Seals appear to relish the chilly conditions basking on favourite rocks oblivious to the brisk spring winds.

A little further out to sea, acrobatic Dusky Dolphins leap clear of the water or thrash their tail in a manoeuvre unexplained by science. Petrels shoot the gusty winds while albatrosses gracefully soar the breezes.

Perfectly suited to flying long distances, the three-part wings stretch metres wide while their wings can lock into their shoulders, expending no energy to soar the wind currents above the ocean surface for hours or days on end. The two largest albatross species, the similar Royal and Wandering Albatrosses both appear around Kaikoura, spending their time just off the coastline at sea. Albatrosses appear equally regal swimming on the surface, ready to launch in an ungainly takeoff while unfurling their huge wings.

Back on land, a short walk from the town centre towards the peninsula, fur seals pull themselves onto the rocks only metres from the end of the road. Closely related to sealions, their small ears are visible (most seals have hidden ears) from only a few metres and their mobility is highlighted by their capacity to walk on all four flippers. One path leads over the lush hills offering an overview of the rocky shoreline and relaxing seals while the other navigates the coastline itself presenting seals at eye level.

A few kilometres north of town, Ohau Point features a mating colony where seal bull males compete for the chance to reproduce, mothers guard their cubs while trying to bask on their favourite rock. Baby pups either sleep in a convenient crevice in a rock or play joyously with their new mates in a small rockpool diving and jumping as the waves wash through the pools. Hundreds of seals line the shoreline, waves pounding the harsh coastline of volcanic black sands and jagged rocks.

Kaikoura is a marine wonderland with opportunities to view at close quarters remarkable creatures as the albatross, Sperm Whale, dolphins and seals combining a boat journey and a lively walk at any time of the year. While all this wildlife are permanently resident, migratory whales from Antarctica also settle in these waters during the New Zealand winter months to calf, before returning south at the onset of spring.

I travelled as a guest of Qantas Airways on The Great Crusade, a promotion highlighting the best of New Zealand while following the endeavours of the Qantas Wallabies to win the Rugby World Cup. The journey can be followed via Twitter hashtag #greatcrusade.

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