Luxury Travel Escapes

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                                                                    Ron Taylor has traveled to over 30 countries, owns
                                                                    his own communications company, Taylor Creative
                                                                    ( and contributes regularly to
                                                                    Opulence Magazine.

Luxury Travel Escapes
Experience six diverse and disticnt areas of the world

A true escape is one where the pressures of life disap-   Barrier Reef meets a tropical rain forest and we have
pear in the back windshield over the horizon, while       the incomparable Daintree Eco-Lodge and Spa in
upcoming roadways are clear, sunny and smooth. Our        Australia. Rejuvenation is mandatory.
feature involves Luxury Travel Retreats and we have
chosen six very diverse experiences from six distinc-     The Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and specifically,
tive areas of the world.                                  the Cache Estates is a mountain escape where myriad
                                                          activity choices makes one’s head spin and western
Located within a grouping of 1,200 islands south of       wilderness is provided in dazzling episodes.
India and Sri Lanka, the Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru,
Maldives is a spectacular tropical paradise that sum-     Golf ecstasy is certainly found at the Kapalua Re-
mons thoughts of tranquil, sun bleached beaches and       sort on Maui, particularly with three spectacular golf
tropical huts.                                            tracks to choose from, not to mention ocean vistas
                                                          and the greenery that can only be Hawaii.
The Buraj Al Arab in Dubai is the world’s only 7-star
hotel and takes lavishness to a degree unknown to us      Finally, Ntwala Island Lodge in central Africa is a
mortals. We assume there is valet service for those       retreat of outrageous elegance located right on the
with helicopters.                                         confluence of two monumental rivers. The mystique
                                                          of this continent is undeniable and is brought right to
For spa enthusiasts, picture a place where the Great      your doorstep. - RON TAYLOR
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Maldives
Hugging the equator, on the other side of     The word Vabbinfaru in Maldivian              Food-wise this culture is extraordinary,
the world lie a grouping of islands just      means “round island circled by a round        with a mix of east African, south Asian
south of Sri Lanka, known as the Mal-         coral reef”. Forty-eight thatch roofed        and Indian. Seafood naturally, is king.
dives. Accessible via air from a number       villas comprise this island-paradise that     Whether it’s a beachside restaurant set-
of places, Male, the main city, is the        is cooled by the breezes of the Indian        ting or doing your own terrace barbecue,
center point of 1,200 islands that stretch    Ocean.                                        there is a special place reserved for
for 800 kms north to south and 120 kms                                                      soothing the belly at the Banyan Tree.
east to west. Of those islands, 202 are       The villas themselves are something to
inhabited, while 87 are exclusive resort      behold and more than satisfy our idyllic
islands.                                      view of that little beach hut on the ocean.   After a glorious day island hopping,
                                              Little beach huts, these are not.             fishing, toasting your skin or sea plane
Now, the first thing that one may ask is                                                     touring, here’s yet another capper…
given the geography is whether this was       Each has its own ocean view terrace,
a place that the tsunami laid waste to last   four poster beds, recessed sitting rooms
year and the answer is a resounding NO!       and indigenous art. Huge bathrooms are        Five spacious outdoor spa pavilions, each
They missed all of that.                      the norm and some come equipped with          with side-by-side couple massage beds
                                              outdoor showers.                              and open-air showers exist, with two
The Maldives are very similar in nature                                                     featuring exotic copper bathtubs hand-
to many of the stunning islands of the        Banyan Tree Maldives is unique, because       crafted in Sri Lanka and the private Rain
south Pacific. In fact, it is not uncommon     it has its own privately funded marine bi-    Mist Rooms - specially equipped with
to be able to walk around some of these       ology lab. In fact, this past June, 91 baby   rain-shower and steam-mist facilities. As
islands in less than half an hour, definite-   sea turtles were hatched and made their       one might guess, stress is not translated
ly a Robinson Crusoe escape.                  way into the world, with islanders hoping     into the local language, Dhivehi.
                                              that some will survive the harsh sea to
                                              return and lay eggs in the future. Snorkel-   If one were to pick a spot on the earth
One spot that Mr. Crusoe would have           ing off the reef is stupidly incredible and   that is about as far away as one could
traded all his coconuts for at the time is    there are nightly feedings of rays and fish    imagine, then Maldives would be high up
the Banyan Tree Maldives, Vabbinfaru.         right off the pier.                           on that list… both in body and spirit.
Buraj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
In the staggering heat of the Gulf of Ara-      that are used to describe opulent include:      where.
bia lies a small coastal country which of-      wealthy, lavish, luxurious, rich, mag-
fers a respite from the culture shock that is   nificent, affluent and sumptuous. Well…          The hotel is a 28 story microcosm of Arab
prevalent here to some western travellers.      that pretty much describes Dubai and in        extravagance that has its own heliport,
                                                particular the Buraj Al Arab Hotel.            presumably for those who don’t like traf-
Though there are many North Americans                                                          fic. There are 202 duplex suites ranging
and Europeans who have worked in this           The only 7-Star hotel in the world, the        from the “small” ones at 170 sq. metres
part of the globe, it still remains a culture   Buraj is a marvel of man’s capacity to         (1800 sq. feet) to the monster 25th floor
steeped in the traditional ways of long         build. Sail-shaped to honour Arabian sea-      Royal Suites which go at a completely
gone ancestors, whose teachings are en-         men of the past, this wonder stands over       ornate 780 sq. metres (8400 sq. feet).
grained in peoples’ souls.                      320 metres tall, making it the tallest hotel
                                                in the world. It juts out onto the water
Dubai, United Arab Emirates is likely a         on its own man made island and its sail        Roof top restaurants, suspended unbear-
place to which many of us have never            façade represents an astounding techni-        ably above the sea give way to others
been, particularly in a world that preaches     cal challenge, featuring a double-skinned      below the water line, offering succulent
restraint in its travel advice. Nonetheless,    Teflon-coated woven glass fiber screen           ocean cuisine while watching the curious
the United Arab Emirates is what one            - the first time such technology has been       sea creatures swim by looking for their
might call an opulent western oasis in the      used vertically in such form and extent in     buddies. The culinary genius of the staff
middle of a sea of sand and conservatism.       any building, worldwide.                       is something special, as is the incredible
                                                                                               attention by all hotel staff to detail. If you
The city itself is a gleaming architectural     The outside is incredible. The inside is       want it…they will get it.
marvel that shoots up out of the landscape.     dazzling. Featuring an atrium that shoots
Commerce thrives here and many of the           up 180 metres, one starts to get the old       In a city that has its own indoor downhill
western trappings that one would never          bug-eyes right off the bat. As one might       ski facility (itself a technological miracle),
find in other Arab countries can be located      expect, this atrium is the tallest in the      it’s little wonder that the offerings of this
here.                                           world. Don’t let the 10 storey waterfall       hotel are as substantial as what they are.
                                                distract you either, as there is certainly     It’s like blowing all the circuits in your
The words on your Windows Thesaurus             much more to see here. Gold…is… every-         travel brain.
Daintree Eco-Lodge and Spa, Northern Queensland, Australia
The land of OZ is well named, indeed.         Daintree River, a bit to the west of the      art gallery, licensed restaurant and well-
The one that Dorothy found herself in         Cook Highway. The area is in the Greater      ness centre, so one needn’t be bored. As
was occupied by engaging people who           Daintree Forest, which houses more vari-      if…
tripped over themselves to ensure the         eties of trees than in all of North America
comfort of their visitors (especially ones    or Europe, not to mention half the bird       Now many spa aficionados will be won-
who squashed bad witches with their           population of Australia. Yes, there are       dering about the spa services and Dain-
flying farmhouses). The tropical north         crocodiles, and no, you won’t have to         tree covers the gamut. Holistic therapies
of Queensland is part of our modern Oz        sidestep them at the spa!                     and naturopathic treatments from point of
and carries with it the title of world’s                                                    toe to tip of head are at your disposal and
eco-capital. Why? This part of Australia      The spa is fed by natural spring water        picture for a moment, the sensation of a
is a very unique one where the rainfor-       from its own pristine waterfall and is        full body massage and skin soothing to
est meets the Great Barrier Reef and the      rated as the purest of waters. Being as       the sounds of actual rainforest birds and
result is a kaleidoscope of natural sights,   there is no one else around there and no      bees. In short it is an experience that re-
sounds and sensations. Picture tropical       other development, the guarantee of pure      ally can’t be described with any accuracy
rainforests, sparkling rivers, secluded       air is also rock solid!                       here by ink on paper.
white beaches and breathtaking undersea
magic and we might add, one of the ten        One of the beauties about this place is       As Daintree is so eco-friendly, there
best spas in the world, the Daintree Eco-     that there are only 15 villas on the prop-    is also a component to the program
Lodge and Spa.                                erty and that means a true escape in every    that caters to its surroundings. Guided
                                              sense of the word. Despite the seclusion      Aboriginal rainforest cultural walks are a
Located about 90 minutes north and            offered by the region, all the comforts of    must-do and according to the people who
west of the city of Cairns, Daintree of-      home are here. At the end of a hard day       were there long before the white man,
fers a natural setting that quite simply is   “spa-ing” you can even relax in your own      “the rainforest is a kitchen, medicine
unmatched on the planet. Even the drive       Jacuzzi on the balcony. Life is certainly     chest, tool shed and a church”.
itself from Cairns is quite astounding        rough.
and is rated near the top of Australia’s                                                    An elixir for the soul, such is the magic
scenic rides. The lodge is located on the     The spa itself includes a swimming pool,      of northern Queensland and the Daintree.
Cache Estates, The Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Golden, B.C.
If Mountain Adventure is where you are         signer kitchens, high vaulted ceilings and    If winter fun is more up your alley, then
at, then look no further than one of the       cozy fireplaces also add to the flavour. If     the obvious choice is skiing or snow-
newest Canadian destinations, right in the     you were to pick the type of place that       boarding on the nearby mountain with all
heart of the Rockies. The Kicking Horse        fits perfectly with its surroundings, then     106 of its diverse runs. The Golden Eagle
is the new kid on the block and the one        this would certainly be it!                   Express gondola is a mere 200 meters
thing that strikes you is that there is just                                                 from your door. Beginner or seasoned
so much to do here! The Kicking Horse                                                        veteran, this place is well worth it. For
Pass, founded in 1858 is located an hour       For those unaccustomed to mountain            those who like their skiing a bit more
and a half west of Banff, Alberta. The         life, expect a surreal burst of clean air     radical, there is also snow-cat or heli-ski-
resort village itself is about a 6 minute      that citified lungs may not know what to       ing in the world-famous Purcell moun-
ride north of Golden, B.C., just off the       do with. Having acclimatized to this, the     tain range. You can also add to this, ice
Trans Canada Highway and is located            obvious next step is getting the heart to     climbing, dog sledding, snowmobiling or
in a corner of the Rockies that radiates       pump extra vigourously in some manner         myriad other winter type things to earn
outdoor fun. Six national parks surround       and there are lots of methods, depending      one’s exhausted state at the end of the
this great area!                               upon your preferred season.                   day and that special ticket to the hot tub.

The Cache Estates, where your head                                                           The Cache Estates offer a number of
hits pillow, are operated by Ultimate          Summertime invites anyone who fancies         dining options and if you want to do the
Resorts and Hotels and comprise three          the whitest of waters to experience the       cooking, have at it. Otherwise, private
luxury homes at the base of the mountain       energetic and gorgeous Kicking Horse          chefs and catering are at your disposal.
gondola. Much rock and log embrace             River. Screw on your helmet, slip on your     In fact, the people at Ultimate Resorts
the designs, which have that distinctive       life jacket and prepare yourself for an       and Hotels can set up just about anything
Canadian Rocky Mountain feel to them           exhilarating ride! If this is a little more   your little heart desires… activities and
and with over 4,000 square feet of 5           jumbling than what you bargained for,         pampering included. That’s the best
bedroom roominess, they offer the height       then jet boat safaris on the Columbia         part… a mountain getaway with all the
of comfort and stylish mountain living.        River, bountiful fishing, magnificent golf      comforts!
Neighbouring a meandering creek, de-           or endless hiking opportunities exist.
Kapalua Resort, Maui, Hawaii, USA
Mark Twain always declared golf as            Appleby, Garcia, Furyk hunt birds and        The Kapalua Gold Villas themselves
“a good walk, spoiled”, but in my case        eagles. The views all around these per-      have pretty much everything a hardy
it also includes safaris off into dense       petually green courses are scintillating,    traveller could want. Of course, the inte-
jungle. A game that none of us will ever      with the Pacific Ocean and mountainous        riors are of the utmost design and sitting
completely master, the swinging of sticks     backdrops all around.                        atop your balcony with the salty tropical
has become a life’s passion for many.                                                      air whistling through your hair and that
The best part is that no matter the result,   The Plantation course is the one where       post game Mai Tai squarely in your paw,
the golfer can always find a good excuse       the PGA pros play. Finesse and thought       surely paints a memorable picture. The
to play somewhere and if it’s possible        are integral elements of this one, as a      places are loaded from top to bottom and
to surround one’s self in heavily treed       number of downhill runs and cliffside        include dedicated concierge and advance
greenery by an ocean or lake, all the         greens yearn for your patience. You          tee times. Not to be outdone, there are
better.                                       might also consider the ocean winds here     also luxury homes available for rent,
                                              that sometimes can revert you to a cap-      each having a minimum of 4,000 square
Such is the case with the Kapalua Resort      chasing albatross.                           feet, with three to five bedrooms and
on Maui.                                                                                   swimming pool. Perfect for those family
                                              The Bay course features rolling fairways     getaways!
The name Kapalua means “arms embrac-          and big, fat greens that gently welcome
ing the sea” and this is in special refer-    you home. Not as difficult as the planta-
ence to the arms of lava that comprise the    tion course, when it comes time to build-    Maui itself is a mystical place with
bays around Kapalua.                          ing your confidence back up after playing     mountains and blazing sun, pelting
                                              the pros’ course, this is your best bet.     tropical rains, whales and historical
The Kapalua Resort is in bird’s eye view                                                   significance. Golf is a great pastime that
of both the Emerald Mountains of West         The Village course is another kettle of      is brought to another plateau when at a
Maui and the neighbouring island of           fish altogether and is a short bucking bull   place like Kapalua. Be wary not to stare
Molokai and is certainly cloud nine on        that twists and turns, up and down until     at the startling scenery to long when try-
the golf chart. Boasting three champi-        the ball finally drops on 18. Your driver     ing to navigate that little white ball in to
onship golf courses, Hawaii’s #1 golf         may sleep peacefully on many of the          that little black hole.
resort is the home of the PGA’s Mercedes      holes here, but because of the funky ter-
Championship, where the likes of Singh,       rain, it certainly keeps you amused!         Easier said than done.
Ntwala Island Lodge, Caprivi District, Namibia
Dark and mysterious, Africa is one of          special focus on the local communities.      want to see the animals if we’re in Africa
those mythical places that fuelled our                                                      and there is no shortage of them. River
kidlike imaginations as we scoured             One of the great things about Ntwala,        safaris bring us to see hippos, elephants,
through our little picture books. The          besides the fact that it comprises only      crocs, buffalo and even lions who come
continent, in general, remains glorious        four flawless cabanas, is that you are al-    down to whet their whistle. There are
but troubled, however there are pockets        located your own boat and guide for your     also options to go birding or conduct
of inspiration and sheer beauty that just      entire stay. In all cases, Ntwala employs    your own walks and with a river that is
need to be seen and felt!                      local people and your cost includes pay-     chock full, fly fishing is a must.
                                               ment towards the various funds that help
Accessed from Johannesburg, South              develop the area and its people.             Perhaps the most spectacular attraction
Africa, the south central area of the con-                                                  of the area lies about 80 clicks down the
tinent is one that has shown a distinctive     Ntwala itself is a masterpiece. The lodges   river. Victoria Falls is one of the natural
upswing and that area is precisely where       are self contained stone, wood and glass     wonders of the world. Try to picture a
our last segment takes us. Bordered on         creations, each of which includes their      great gush of water that plummets down
four sides by Botswana, Angola, Zimba-         own outdoor plunge pool facing the Zam-      a chasm that is almost 3 kms wide and
bwe and Zambia lies an extremely inter-        bezi River. The only way to get around to    you get the idea. Along with the many
esting area of Namibia known as Caprivi.       various parts of the complex is through      animals that greet tourists, these falls are
                                               a network of floating walkways and the        probably the greatest natural spectacle on
This basin is one where two of the bigger      sights, smells and sounds of the African     the African continent (with kind regards
African rivers, the Zambezi and Chobe,         interior bring us all back to those kid      to Mount Kilimanjaro).
collide and Mama Nature has blueprinted        years with the picture books.
a number of islands on the Mambova                                                          Compared to the many lavish choices one
Rapids. Located on one of the tinier is-       Whether or not you eat in the privacy of     has on this planet to escape to, perhaps
lands is a magnificent place known as Nt-       your own lodge or with the other guests,     one of the greatest gifts that a place like
wala Island Lodge. Created (along with         the food and wines are flawless as well       this can deliver is hope for its people.
other properties in the area) by a group       and quite impossible to comprehend,          The location is incredible, the effect on
called Islands in Africa, the successful       given the remoteness of the location and     the area extremely positive and yet, it still
business plan for this little jewel involves   the fact that the river system is the only   gives us a taste of what living a real life
working together with the World Wildlife       way of getting goods in and out.             is all about and when it gets right down
Foundation and other conservation and                                                       to is, that may be the greatest escape of
economic agencies to form an area with         From an activities perspective, we all       all!