Interviews

Steve Backshall is a naturalist, adventurer, writer and TV presenter renowned for his illuminating and educational children’s natural-history series “Deadly 60″.

With a CV bursting full of worldwide travel, science and wildlife in extreme measures, we unravel the story behind this once little boy who in pursuit of adventure and wilderness, transformed into an acclaimed modern day explorer!

1)From jungle to arctic: North Versus Southern Hemisphere? Where do you most feel “at home”?

In the mountains, particularly the Himalayas. I love the quality of the air, the light, the majesty of the mountains ever-changing with the light and the weather.

2)Fascinated by your global adventures, risks and motivation, I have to ask this question, favourite:

•Book?
•Continent?
•Animal species?
•Mode of transport?

Book: The Malay Archipelago, Alfred Russell Wallace, the greatest adventure natural history book ever written.

Continent: Antarctica as that’s where I’ve just returned from in the last few days!

Animal species: The wolf.

Mode of transport: Kayak. Whether sea kayak through tumultuous waves, whitewater kayak through rampaging mountain rapids, or K1 on my own stretch of the Thames.

3)As a speaker and supporter of this month’s Whalefest, the world’s largest festival celebrating whales, dolphins and marine conservation, can you pinpoint your most memorable experience of working with endangered and threatened oceanic mammals?

Very difficult, but I’d probably say freediving alongside sperm whales in Dominica, or perhaps Blue whales in Sri Lanka.

4)Your new BBC series ‘Deadly on a Mission’ Pole to Pole involves you travelling in search of deadly wildlife from the Arctic to Antarctica. What unique tales of cetaceans can you share with us in particular?

Humpback whales were with us literally every step of the way, lunge feeding in the Arctic, breaching alongside us in Alaska, bubblenet feeding in Canada, underwater at the ‘Heat Run’ in Hawaii, and then finally circling our tiny zodiak in Antarctica.

5)National Geographic ‘Adventurer in Residence’, “Tiger Wars” novelist and currently biology undergraduate! Fast-forward 10 years, where and what would you like to be doing?

Happily married with a few kids, showing them the wonders of the natural world that have been so good to me. If not, then probably herding goats and living in an Alpine hut!

To learn more about Steve’s current adventures click on his official Facebook page Steve Backshall.

Further details of WhaleFest can be found on their official Facebook page WhaleFest.


Mr and Mrs Smith Interview [Smith & Family launch]

Tamara Heber-Percy is one half of the couple behind Mr & Mrs Smith, boutique hotel experts. Co-founder and CTO, Tamara was the mastermind behind the launch of Smith & Family, a new collection of hotels that are perfect for parents with children in tow. Showcasing a hand-picked collection of hotels visited and approved by parents, with new functionality and insider info on what to see and where to eat while you’re away, the collection is available to explore at Smith & Family.

1) Luxury, boutique, romance and unique are words that mirror the Mr & Mrs Smith brand. Can it get any better?

To be honest, not really. I feel incredibly lucky to have built a business with my husband that allows us to travel the world. But these words reflect the life of a young couple and now we have children, we do a lot less romantic travelling than we used to. Having children changes your priorities, to say the least, so now my family-travel buzzwords are ‘fun’, ‘space’ ‘reassurance’ and ‘welcome. That said, I still want a little romance in the evening when the kids have gone to bed.

Smith & Family is a brand new collection of hotels that have the same kind of style we look for in Mr & Mrs Smith stays – boutique, well thought-out, a bit different – but which also cater brilliantly for families. Many of our customers have grown up with us and now travel with their little ones, so we wanted to present a selection that met the needs of those looking for a hotel that not only welcomes children, but which doesn’t neglect the grown-ups. It might have a great restaurant, an amazing spa or maybe it just serves up a decent bottle of wine in the evenings. That what’s at the heart of Smith & Family: great times for kids, parents and families as a whole. It’s a new direction for us, but we’re really excited about it.

2) As a businesswoman, traveller and parent, what do you think defines unique family travel for 2013?

There are so many hotels that cater for the children really well: with activities, kids clubs, crêches – a huge amount of stuff just for them. But the hotels that get it right for both kids and grown-ups, that have really thought about the experiences that the modern family want, are few and far between. In today’s frenetic world, both parents are working just as hard – you need holidays so you can spend proper quality time with the children, or you miss them growing up. You also need some time off yourself – parents need to be pampered and made to feel special.

3) Given 48 hours of Smith & Family travel, what would you choose and why: coast, retreat or city?

My family is based in the city and we do the tourist thing quite a lot, so given 48 hours, I would escape to the country, somewhere with wide open spaces and if there’s a bit of coast thrown in, then even better. One of my favourite places in the world is Dorset. I love the quirky festivals and market towns; I adore the geological drama of the Jurassic Coast, and there are some amazing restaurants and beach cafés.

4) What is your kids’ club wishlist?

As a working mum, I don’t spend enough time with my kids, so on holiday I like to do stuff with them, like learning to surf or horse riding or pizza-making or building a kite. I’m up for anything as long as I don’t have to do it in a dingy building with sticky floors and a horrible carpet.

5) As mother of an 8 year old who wants to “live in a hotel when he grows up”, can you predict Mr & Mrs Smith travel trends for 2023?

This is the most difficult of the questions… I’d like to see a world where we are not battling with technology, where all hotels have a sense of place and experience and source all their food locally. I’d like to see the back of all those faceless monoliths that feel like airport terminals, and to stay in places where form and function are in harmony and all hoteliers believe in quality over throughput. A world where you can decide whether to have a switched-on or -off experience: to be digitally connected or to escape from the networked world for a while.

Factbox: Find out more about the newly launched Smith & Family collection at Smith & Family.

A Place in the Sun Live is the UK’s biggest overseas property exhibition and attracts thousands of property hunters every spring and autumn.

In a fascinating interview TV Presenter and overseas property expert Amanda Lamb shares a snapshot of her round the world travel experiences, whilst filming the Channel 4 television series and preparing for her A Place in the Sun Live adventures.

Apologies but got to ask this, favourite location?

My favourite location has got to be Puglia, southern Italy (the stiletto heel of the country), where I’ve owned a flat since 2008. I actually first saw it when I was showing a couple round while filming an episode of A Place in the Sun. We both fell in love with the apartment but as I didn’t think it would look very nice to gazump my house-hunters I had to walk away! They ended up buying it, but I stayed in contact with the owner and a little while later another apartment in the same block came on the market and he contacted me. It was a complete wreck when I eventually took hold of it but the developer tackled it on my behalf. I love spending holidays there, it’s so completely peaceful and we actually get to spend relaxed time together as a family rather than wolfing down dinner and collapsing on the sofa in front of the telly like we seem to end up doing at home.

Travelling with a young child is always a challenge, but we’re lucky that Willow really enjoys being ‘on the road’. The Italian locals have welcomed her with open arms, I think because of how much she stands out having blonde hair and blue eyes!

What travel plans for 2013 do you have for A Place in the Sun and any tips for potential property investors?

The A Place in the Sun team are currently out on the road filming episodes in Spain, France, Portugal and the slightly different destination of Montenegro.

When it comes to top tips, my most important rule for hunting for a property is to make sure you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for before you start your search. This is especially true if you’re buying with your other half. It sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at the number of couples we’ve filmed with on the show who have ended up having huge bust ups because one wanted a character cottage on top of a mountain and the other wanted a beachfront penthouse – and they’ve never thought to discuss it! My advice? Buy two copies of a property magazine, go off to opposite ends of the house and circle properties that much what you’re looking for – the number of bedrooms, location, features etc… Then swap and look for something that’s going to appeal to both of you. Also remember that compromise is important.

When holidaying with the family what are your travel essentials and penchants?

When we do get a chance for a holiday (which isn’t as often as I’d like) we do tend to end up going to the apartment in Puglia, although we never feel that we’re being tied to it. When it comes to travel with a young child, make sure you have plenty to keep them occupied!

I notice Spain, then France and Portugal lead the UK’s ‘Ten Best Places to Buy Abroad’ annual survey, published in A Place in the Sun January 2012 magazine. Has this changed over the year and future predictions?

What I always notice, especially when talking to people who come to A Place in the Sun Live is that the appetite for the ‘core’ destinations – Spain, Italy, France and Portugal– doesn’t really change all that much. The majority of people want a holiday home they can get to easily and cheaply so they can use it for long weekends which is why these destinations will probably never go out of fashion. Having said that, Florida has been increasingly popular over the last few years, partly because property prices are almost laughably cheap at the moment – although they’re on the way back up. I generally don’t like to try and predict the future, anything can happen in the world of property! In fact, whenever people ask me where they should be investing I always say the same thing – somewhere you love. Investment and rental returns are all very well but wherever you end up buying, it should be a place you enjoy and that you’re going to feel happy visiting year after year, even if it doesn’t end up making you your millions.

Presenter, traveller, property specialist and mother, what’s next?

I’ve been so fortunate to have such a varied career! All I can say is watch this space…

Careertraveller readers can get free tickets to this weekend’s A Place in the Sun Live at the NEC Birmingham, worth £10 each. To claim yours visit www.aplaceinthesun.com/careertraveller

The Turquoise Holiday Company offers an alluring mix of bespoke travel services, specialising in honeymoons. My pioneering search for eden – like destinations and experiences, offering something “out of the ordinary”, encourage me to discover their exotic secret!

In an inspirational interview, James Bell, Sales & Marketing Director, brings new meaning to unique travel and honeymooning into the 21st century!

“Turquoise” has an exclusive appeal, which stimulates pure romance, nature and adventure. How did the company evolve?

Turquoise was founded in 2002 about the same time as the second gulf war, not the most romantic or luckiest of timing for the launch of a luxury tour operator, but this is when we had our first break. Another travel company pulled out of a promotion in the FT for Tahiti and Her Islands; from this opportunity we found ourselves rushed off our feet with honeymoon enquiries.

I think the colour has always appealed to honeymooners but the real credit must go to our product team who sourced little known hideaways, small boutique hotels, destinations and islands which had been largely ignored by the larger tour operators. In those early days our point of difference was very much how we went and knew places others did not.

These days our portfolio is less niche overall with more mainstream destinations like Mauritius and The Maldives. Having said that, the same meticulous attention to detail goes into choosing hotels, resorts and islands, only those which match the exacting standard of our product department make it into the programme.

The team are fiercely proud of our reputation, heritage and what the brand stands for. We simply would not sell a hotel which we felt wouldn’t live up to the expectation of clients.

We are now large enough to secure the very best honeymoon rates but small enough to know the names of all our honeymooners, the perfect size.

As an experienced travel specialist and traveller who clearly understands an authentic sand between the toes experience, what shapes a Turquoise honeymoon destination?

We believe in five key words

Authentic
• Original
• Refreshing
• Discerning
• Unique
We try to deliver on these words in everything we do and in every destination we choose. A honeymoon is quite simply the most important holiday of anyone’s life. Our job is to make it hassle free to book, truly memorable and just a little bit sexy!! A good example of this is a client who is honeymooning in Bali, spending a night in Western Flores and then going on by boat to Komodo Island to see the Komodo Dragons!! Twin and multi centre honeymoons are our speciality. We like to think our point of difference is simply our originality.

Your destinations Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Asia, Australasia and the Pacific Ocean offer a range of distinct travel experiences from active island honeymoons to castaway or sheer barefoot luxury spa. What’s new for 2012?

Borneo & Burma are fabulous new destinations being launched by us in 2012. We are also working hard on fabulous new twin combinations including: Thailand & the Maldives, India and the Maldives, Thailand & Laos to name just a few. We are seeing an increasing trend in customers looking for eco experience on honeymoon and a few resorts which meet this trend include;

Saffire Lodge in Tasmania Australia
Six Senses Laamu in The Maldives
Nukubati in Fiji
Azura at Quilalea Mozambique

One of our goals for 2012 is to create a set of more eco-friendly itineraries for our clients… essentially ’Turquoise goes green’.

Your fabulous honeymoon bible “Heaven on Earth” has wet my careertraveller thirst for tropicalfamily travel overseas. What resorts and destinations offer unique family travel for the month of August?

August is perfect for whale-watching followed by a safari in South Africa. Fly to Cape Town and head to Hermanus to see the whales and stay at Grootbos where the children can enjoy inspiring and educational activities in the surrounding nature reserve and embark on treasure hunts in the Milkwood Forest. Grootbos love families!

Then head to Kwandwe in the malaria free Eastern Cape and stay at the contemporary Ecca Lodge. Children of all ages are welcome and children receive ‘Planet Manager’ backpacks with bug collectors, a magnifying glass, booklet for identifying wildlife, a craft pack made by the local community- a journal making kit for the girls and a door sign making kit for the boys. The range will sign a certificate on the last day confirming that he/she is now a Planet Manager. Activities include ‘pooh safaris’ and spoor tracking with the ranger, fishing with the ranger, painting and making animals from clay.

Then across to Mauritius for a relaxing beach stay – Mauritius has some fabulous family–friendly beach resorts and some of our favourites include Le Telfair, The Residence and One&Only Saint Geran.

I love the creation of “Honeymoon Doctor” which offers a specialist honeymoon advice and information service to customers. How does this work?

The idea behind the ‘honeymoon doctor’ was to create a point of contact for brides and grooms to be, for all questions honeymoon. We have started this project with a live instant messenger chat service on our honeymoon shop website which has proven very popular for couples who are very busy and need quick answers. We are also about to launch the honeymoon doctor on Twitter and Facebook to create a social space in which honeymooners can chat and ask for advice not just from the honeymoon doctor, but a whole team of nurses and surgeons too! As a company which specialises in honeymoons, our team have an amazing knowledge of honeymoon tips and advice which we would love to share!

Interview with Canopy & Stars

Sawday’s Canopy & Stars is a company offering an imaginative mix of luxury and quirky accommodation in beautiful locations. My constant hunger for exploring exceptionally different and special places inspired me to learn more about them.

In an interview, Tom Dixon, Managing Director, gives me an insight to the background and future of this Bristol based company that “specialises in the special!”

I love the name Canopy and Stars. Dare I ask, who and what was the inspiration behind the name?

That’s great! Lots of people seem to love the name. I think it just strikes a chord, which I guess is what we were trying to do. We really wanted a name that was evocative of the type of experience we were hoping to provide. This is important to us. We inspect all of the places we have on the website and only add places that we feel would be a wonderful experience. So it’s not just about staying in a yurt, it’s about the whole experience – the owners, the style of the space itself, the setting, tasty local food, music, art and interesting and inspiring things to do, outdoors. So Sawday’s Canopy & Stars was born!

We also didn’t want a descriptive name that might limit what we could include within the collection. ‘Canopy’ in its simplest form means something that covers you. So while we do have yurts and bell tents we also have an Iron Age roundhouse, treehouse, horsetruck and boat in Regent’s Park… We’re all for the eclectic and eccentric and are keen to add more unusual places for people to enjoy the great outdoors. Frankly it’s more fun for us and our guests!


As a traveller with no “yurt” experience, please put me out of my misery and define the term “glamping!”

No yurt experience!!? For us ‘glamping’ is simply being able to enjoy a break in the great outdoors, in wonderful style. While the term itself might be relatively new, it’s something folk have been doing for hundreds of years! If you have a look at our glamping you can learn much more about ‘glamping’. Some facts and some things we may have made up! It certainly should be fun and creative. We’re all about the little touches and quirky details that make staying at one of our places feel special. But there’s no checklist as such in what we look for. I think this way we can stretch what we do and keep things feeling fresh.


You have many places in the UK and France. Are you planning to expand further afield in Europe and overseas?

Yes we are. We’ve only been going for about a year and a half now and so at first wanted to focus on the UK. This year we added a few French places and are going to be adding our first Spanish places very soon as well as more French places too. One of the team just went on a 10 day trip to France staying in treehouses, roulottes, cabins and looking at all sorts of structures and meeting some lovely owners… I’m hoping to go to Spain early next year.

With a 6 year old son, whose middle name is “adventure”, I am looking for a UK stay in a tree house. Can you help?

What a great name. Yes we can help. We’ve just put up on the website a new treehouse in north Wales called Bryn Meurig Bach-Living Room, in Powys. Perfect for a family escape, with opportunities for adventure a plenty… We’ll be adding more treehouses in the UK, France and Spain next year. People just love them and so do we.



Sustainability and “green travel” underpin your brand. Can you tell me more about your working relationship with Sustrans in relation to your special places to stay?

We have a long -standing relationship with Sustrans. Sawday’s (who Sawday’s Canopy & Stars are part of) have worked with Sustrans for many years on a number of projects. We’re both based in Bristol and they’re great people we’ve got huge respect for. Sustrans have a campaign running at the moment called ‘free range kids’ – where they’re encouraging kids to get outdoors and play. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do too. We’re also keen to encourage folk to travel sustainably and everyone who goes to one of our places by non-car means can win a stay to one of our places.

Staying in one of our places is by its very nature a low carbon holiday choice. It’s not always possible to travel by public transport or cycle or walk to our places. We have to be realistic about this. Going overseas will also always be something people want to do too and so if we can encourage them to think about how they get there and where they stay then that’s great.

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