Monthly Archives: December 2016

Martingale House in Cape Town

Snuggled along the deep valleys, rolling hills and mountain cliffs, on the western cape of South Africa, the small city of Hout Bay is encroached with snow-white sandy beaches and framed with trees & thick flora. In the midst of this artistic African wonderland is where we spent an entire month during our 8-month extensive tour of S. Africa. An eye opening drive of about 40 minutes from the amazing port city of Cape Town Hout Bay offers a peaceful and serene setting of breathtaking beauty. It rests precariously between towering, jagged peaks, thick jungle and the whitecap surf of the Atlantic Ocean.

As a photojournalist, I have traveled the world seeking the unknown, the beautiful and the amazing. I found it all in S. Africa and especially in Hout Bay. Even though I was fascinated by Cape Town I do love the solitude of the less touristy areas and felt immediately rejuvenated as we entered this haven by the sea.

Our crew had arrived late on the night of October 28th 2003 at the Cape Town International airport and had made arrangements to spend at least a month touring just the Western Cape. Our perspective was not to get absorbed by the flowing beauty of Cape Town and maintain a broad-minded approach in exploring the entirety of this southern most part of Africa. Staying outside of the city would allow us to tour it at our leisure.

Departing from the plane after the long 15 hour flight our first and, at the time, only interest was to check in at the closest hotel. After breezing through the South African customs, we took a cab to a referred & quite comfortable hotel a few kilometers from the airport. At this point of our trip our primary and only goal was to pass out in the cool darkness of our rooms, which is exactly what we did. Rising the next morning, feeling total refreshed, we met in the lobby and walked out into the warm clean air of the Cape and was greeted by the slowly rising morning sun. We were totally ready for this adventure and after a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we made arrangements for a driver to take us on a 4 hour-long tour of Cape Town and eventually to our pre-arranged destination, Hout Bay. Driving in and around the city and along the bay tweaked our imagination and my Nikon was feverish in capturing the unfolding glory of this remarkable city. Needless to say, we frequently stopped to shoot hundreds of photos. Witnessing an amazing diversity of culture and scenic beauty throughout the short tour we knew whole-heartedly, that this was just the beginning. Driving just north of the city, we parked in utter silence as we stared at the famous Table Top Mountain. It was covered in a perfectly formed white blanket along its highest plateau illustrating with clarity its descriptive name, Table Top. This city, its people, the open markets of bustling native people excited the very air we breathed. Cape Town is truly one of natures and mans artistic achievements, unparalleled anywhere.

Leaving the city we drove along the winding mountainous road hugging the ever expanding bays and stopped ever so often to film & photograph, not wanting to miss a thing.

Knowing that this tour would definitely not be enough, I had already made arrangements for a rental company to deliver a car to our booked accommodations. Complete mobility was definitely not an option…it was crucial.

As the small 2-lane highway made the last flowing curve down the mountain pass we were fully exposed to the long white beach, the sunbathing people, the rows of cafes and the sky blue water of the bay as it faded off into the expanding Atlantic. Once again we stopped for photos. I knew we would never forget this beautifully inspiring land and knew fully well that our initial instinct to come here was inspirational, to say the least.

Our arranged lodging was at The Martingale House. The white two stories, early 19th century house had been fully refurbished and converted into a multi-floored guesthouse and we were booked to enjoy the entire top floor to ourselves. Our accommodation was a beautifully decorated two bedrooms, full kitchen, dining area, huge bath, and totally self-contained luxury apartment. With the stereo system, large sofas, big screen television and a balcony overlooking the private pool and garden it was the ultimate vacation accommodation. Scanning above the magnificently colored trees and flora was an overwhelming mountain and bay view…it was absolutely stunning. Unloading our bags and after some gracious and warm welcoming from our hosts, it was time to relax, but only for a few hours. I couldn’t wait to get out and explore the area.

After what seemed like only an hour, the driver brought our car and loading our cameras, we were off to soak it all in. The 50,000 plus photos and hundreds of miles of film we shot of S. Africa made sure that this tour would not be forgotten…ever!

Day and night for a complete month we explored every inch of the coast, the mountains, the towns and cities for hundreds of miles in each directions. We dined in small beach side cafes and fabulous restaurants, hiked the hills, sipped local wine from the numerous wineries, danced away the early morning hours at discos and all in all had the times of our lives. We never met or encountered a single ill tempered or even slightly rude person. Our only setback was that we did, however, accumulate way too many souvenirs and as our bags grew heavier and heavier we realized that even after our initial month, there was still much to see & do. We left this beautiful apartment on the 29th of Nov. and after bidding farewell to our kind hosts, and knowing that we could and would not leave the area completely, we drove back into Cape Town to find additional lodging in the city. We ended up staying another 3 weeks in which we took numerous driving tours, some as far as the southern most part of the continent, Cape Point & Cape of Good Hope. The visual exasperations of the wild wind swept capes that had for centuries wrecked hundreds of ships were the ultimate spiritual stimuli, not to mention the family of roaming baboons we encountered along the way. They were rummaging through a large dumpster behind a small roadside café. As they say…one persons trash is often another’s treasure!

Traveler’s Digest most assuredly recommends South Africa in its entirety and this specific region of this most remarkable land on Earth. When you do venture to the region, and your most surely owe it to yourselves to do so, we refer you to enjoy the luxury accommodations and welcoming hosts of the Martingale Estate. And for all you bird lovers, it sits directly across from the renowned bird sanctuary “World of Birds.” Believe me there is no sweeter sound to awaken your early morning hours than the sweet spiritually refreshing songs of African birds. The Martingale House is a fine balance of leisure; comfort and amenities abound in the absolute most panoramic location.

As a Traveler’s Digest highly recommended member, the Martingale House is our preferred choice for vacationers, travelers of all types, business or pleasure, seeking the ultimate accommodation for their money.

A Holiday Break to the Italian Lakes

Savvy travelers have long known that seeing the best travel destinations in Northern Italy requires that one leaves the confines of Milan or Venice to make the quick journey to the Italian Lakes, the most popular of which are Lake Como, Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda. And with plenty of affordable holidays around the lakes available from Neilson, there’s no reason not to visit the lakes and see what all the fuss is about.

Lake Garda

Lake Garda is just outside of the city of Verona and is known for its bustling resorts. Medieval-era villages line its mountainous shore, and when visitors aren’t exploring the lake via leisure cruise, they can enjoy some of the region’s famous wines at any of the many charming trattorias. The village of Sirmione is a big draw, as visitors come to see its castle and traipse along its cobbled lanes.

Lake Como

Lake Maggiore and Lake Como, on the other hand, are both about an hour’s drive north of Milan, near the border with Switzerland. The lakes share an Alpine landscape that is stunning, to say the least, but there are some subtle differences between the two.

Lake Como is incredibly posh, and is well known for its luxury villas that line its coast. George Clooney is one famous homeowner, as is Richard Branson. The lake has a long shoreline, 120 kilometers, that’s divided into three regions: the southern shore, eastern shore and western shore. The southern shore is the most visited, as it’s home to the picture-perfect village of Bellagio. The eastern shore, meanwhile, offers a quieter alternative for travelers who prefer to avoid other tourists.

Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore is about 1.5 hours west of Lake Como, with the Swiss town of Lugano standing in between the two, and has a more laid-back feel than Lake Como. The main town on the lake’s Italian side is Stresa, which is known for its villas and the stunning Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees. This hotel once hosted Ernest Hemingway, and part of his epic novel A Farewell to Arms was actually set at the hotel.


Best Places to See Wildlife in Asia

It’s true that illegal logging, poachers and globalization are all taking their unfortunate toll on lush Asian terrain and the wildlife it houses. However, many sanctuaries and national parks are doing their part to rehabilitate endangered species and reintroduce them into the wild, as well as to establish eco-tourism adventures. And with so many refuges across Asia, travelers can choose by country, animal or type of adventure for a customized visit to the animal kingdom. To make that choice easier, however, we have collected the ten best places in all of Asia for wildlife watching.

1. Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Yala National Park is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest and most well-known national parks. It’s most famous for its large numbers of elephants and leopards, which can be seen when on safari. The park covers several ecosystems, including moist and dry monsoon forests and wetlands. Historical and religious sites and ruins add to the must-see list. The park is divided into five blocks, making it easier to plan a trip.

2. Ranthambore National Park, India

The former hunting grounds of the maharajas of Jaipur, Ranthambore National Park is now one of the largest national parks in northern India. Its main draw is seeing tigers in their natural habitat; however, the park has much more to offer. The 10th-century, 700-foot tall Ranthambore fortress lies within the sanctuary, and visitors can also spot hyenas, wild boar, leopards and a huge variety of local flora and fauna.

3. Woraksan National Park, South Korea

Woraksan sees visitors all year around, yet it’s still a great escape as it never gets too crowded. Steep hikes may be a reason why it’s never teeming with visitors, but making the trip results in spectacular views above the clouds and the chance to climb around the ruins of a 13th-century fortress. The park features thousands of plant, amphibian, mammal, reptile and insect species, 16 of which are endangered. Lucky trekkers will spot the rare antelope that are monitored with radio transmitters.

4. Shaanxi Province, China

Just seeing photos of pandas is enough for an involuntary “aww!” so it may be hard to control yourself when visiting the Foping Nature Reserve, which had a population of 64 giant pandas at last count. Nestled in the bio-diverse Qinling Mountains, the reserve is surrounded by other sanctuaries, like the Zhouzhi Nature Reserve, which is in the foothills of the Qinling Mountains and specializes in rescuing injured animals and protecting endangered species, including giant pandas and golden monkeys.

5. Xe Pian National Protected Area, Laos

Tucked near the Cambodian border, Xe Pian is renowned for its gibbon population and diversity of species, several of which have not been found in any other park in Laos. In addition to the gibbon, visitors can spot Asian elephants, tigers and the so-cute-it-hurts Asian black bear. Dolphins reside in the three rivers that run through the evergreen and deciduous forests and vast flatlands.

25 Signs You are Already Successful and You’re Simply Unaware

We have all had that period in our lives where we feel, regardless of what happens, we simply have nothing positive going for us. It’s easy to criticize yourself in just about anything–from your competence in the workplace to how you deal with situations at home–and this can make it easy to become clouded to our own successes in life.

This kind of constant action and lack of clarity can make it easy to believe that you are a failure, even when all the evidence in your life–personally and professionally–points to other conclusions. If you are too busy in life fighting fires, you’ll likely never make the time to actually appreciate your own success and accomplishments. You could already be successful and just not realize it. Here are some signs that is the case:

1. You aren’t controlled by your income.

Many people feel like they are tied to that next paycheque to make things work for them. If you are able to go day-to-day without the worry that you won’t have enough money to last until the end of the month, then you are most definitely a success! You might not be able to afford a Rolex, but if you aren’t living from week-to-week you are a success.

2. You don’t seek praise.

Seeking praise from loved ones and colleagues is something that we typically grow out of in our teenage years. If you aren’t hanging around waiting to get the proverbial pat on the back at work or at home, you are a more successful individual than you might even know. Being able to do your part without looking for praise is a strong sign of mental security.

3. You suffer less drama.

Look back even just a year in your life: are you finding that things are quieter? At home and at work? If this is the case then you can probably say that your life is pretty successful–a lack of chaos points to order and harmony.

4. You have a plan.

Success is built on structure and having a long-term plan to get to where you want to be. If you actually have a framework to follow in your life to reach your life goals, you are already pretty successful. Most people don’t plan ahead!

5. You crave more.

For someone who might feel like they aren’t doing well very in life, if you tend to look for more from any situation you are already on your way to success. Ambition and a desire for knowledge points to a determined individual who seeks to better themselves.

6. You are an early bird.

You know the old saying. The early bird catches the worm. If you are to make your life a success, you can’t be starting each day in the afternoon. When you find that you are jumping out of bed, ready to attack the day, you can probably point to a successful lifestyle and personality.

7. You are socially active.

Success tends to come in many different ways, not just your rank or your pay packet. If you are able to get involved in many different situations with a variety of social circles you can point to a healthy and harmonious life–people don’t tend to stick around toxic personalities.

8. You offer mutual respect.

Success tends to come from your own experiences in life, including going through stresses and difficulties. If you understand the value of treating others with respect, you already harness one of the most important aspects of success.

9. You wish to help others.

Again, your success in this world goes far beyond the cost of your car. If you are able to provide people with a solid base to work with, and act as a pillar of strength for colleagues, success is not too far off.

10. You are driven.

Anybody without an engine and a willingness to get through the hard times and the difficulties will struggle to succeed. If you don’t mind getting your sleeves rolled up and your hands dirty, you are better off than you think.

11. You possess confidence without arrogance.

The big difference between a successful person and someone who believes they are successful is the way they conduct themselves. If you can show some genuine humility for others, whilst inspiring those who are struggling, you are already a successful individual

12. You have fought back.

We have already touched on how failure can be the point needed to succeed. You need to hit the bottom before you can reach the top. Being able to battle back from a position of failure to success–any success–is a sign of an iron-willed individual with the nous to succeed in life.

13. You strive to improve.

Many people fall into the trap of believing that they “made it”. When you always look to improve on the previous performance, even if it was spectacular, you are setting yourself up to be a long-term success.

14. You have discipline.

Discipline can only come from being a success and seeing how things have gone in the past. Learning how not to make mistakes and how to make the right call is vital to being a long-term success.

15. You preach patience.

Patience is a virtue that the most successful people emit on a large-scale basis. Without patience, it can be hard to ever make the type of impact that you originally intended in any work or personal environment.

16. You can say no.

We spoke earlier about the power of being able to avoid needing to be praised–this is the same ideal. If you are able to say no then you have already avoided the need to please everyone. This is the sign of a successful individual.

17. You manage time well.

Time management is a sign of long-term success, and being able to use the time in any given day to be productive is the sign of a successful person. Capable of dealing with plenty of tasks in any given day? You are already a success.

18. You have successful friends.

Success around you is the easiest way to inspire yourself. If you find yourself surrounded by those who are also doing well it can be easier to actually improve and develop yourself in the right manner.

19. You don’t blame others.

You have reached a point in your life where you fully understand what it means to take ownership of your actions and not target others for your frustrations and failures. That comes about from being active rather than passive, and noticing your inner power to transform your life. It also speaks to your ability to prevent the environment from leading you down a direction you do not desire.

20. You don’t waste your time.

Long gone are the days when you let others drag you along and make you invest your time in activities you deemed boring or even counterproductive to your self-development and self-esteem. Your greater sense of direction empowers you to know what you want without needing other´s approval.

21. You are assertive.

You understand that simply saying yes or no is not enough. Explaining your reasons in a clear manner is essential for others to understand that you are an individual with your own thoughts and needs. This does not mean being inflexible, but while being understanding you should never let anyone bend your way.

22. You stay positive.

You have learnt the hard way that being negative or skeptical to justify your potential defeats and failures does not serve any purpose. Not only it does make you feel unable and anxious, but also does affect the final outcome. By being positive and honest at pursuing your goals you will unleash the true achiever within you.

23. You take care of your health.

Quitting harmful activities that stop you from working towards the brighter future you have always dreamt is a powerful step. Be it smoking, taking drugs, eating too much saturated fats and sugar, or not exercising, you understand that leaving all of those behind will turn you into a stronger individual with greater drive and willpower.

24. You don’t seek a relationship to solve your personal issues.

It is easy to hide our failures behind someone who loves us. But, it is a bit immature for both sides in a relationship to stop tackling the real issues that harm each other’s lives. It is not a good idea to avoid helping the other towards becoming a better person just because it is easier not doing it or because “things are just fine as they are”.

25. You are mature.

When bad situations unfold in the workplace, or you need to deal with the individual who you have a problem with. A sign of success is being able to put personal grievances to the side for professional gain.

It’s always important to remind yourself that success isn’t something that can be judged so materially. If you are able to look at your lifestyle and understand that you do things in a mature, social and effective manner then you are already far more successful than any slap on the back will ever make you feel.

Success comes from acceptance of your own skills and abilities, not what somebody you might never have met before tells you.