VOYAGE Ron Taylor has traveled to over 30 countries, owns his own communications company, Taylor Creative (TaylorCreative.ca) 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!