Category Archives: travel stories

10 things you never knew about animal sex from BBC Wildlife

Discover sex’s most surprising secrets. 

beetle sex

1. Rotifers live in a male-free society

Sex costs a lot of energy, so why not evolve to bypass it altogether? Well, one group of animals has. Bdelloid rotifers (the ‘b’ is silent) are tiny creatures found in bird baths, ponds and puddles. When wet they come to life and hoover up micro-organisms. When conditions become dry again, they shrivel up into a ball and are blown from place to place. There are billions of them on Earth, and every single one is female. According to their DNA, they haven’t had sex in perhaps 40 million years.

Without mixing up their genes through sex, the rotifers should fall prey to bacteria and viruses, their defenses outmaneuvered. Yet they are still here. How? It seems that drying up then blowing from place to place may allow them to outflank and outlast their parasites. In their world, males add no genetic value.

2. Pandas are good at sex

Giant pandas are widely chastised for being unable to ‘get in the mood’ in captivity, and for having a window of ovulation (about 36–48 hours) too tiny to be practical. The reproductive life of Edinburgh Zoo’s Tian Tian and Yang Guang shows just how difficult it can be to encourage the species to breed normally in captivity. But in the wild, pandas are masters of sex.

Even though their territories can be enormous, males and females locate one another at exactly the right time for ovulation, primarily by monitoring chemical sex messages left on trees via squirts of urine. They also communicate vocally. Males bleat when they approach a reproductive female, possibly offering an opportunity for her to assess his size and strength. A female in oestrus often mates with several males, so they have evolved one of the highest sperm counts of all bears, to better guarantee any offspring is theirs.

As our understanding of the animal’s wild breeding improves, zoos adapt accordingly. For example, keepers liberally apply the urine of potential partners to panda enclosures in the run-up to breeding season. However, the use of ‘panda porn’ or ‘panda Viagra’ is much more controversial.

3. Some girls are boys

Many animals, especially fish, switch between egg-producing (female) and sperm-producing (male) phases during their lives. For instance, in many reef fish all of the juveniles are females and become males as they grow. These are known as ‘sequential hermaphrodites’, a phenomenon very common across a number of taxonomic groups.

In invertebrates, particularly slugs and snails, things go a step further – individuals possess male and female genitalia at the same time. In fact many slugs and snails even have the ability to fertilise their own eggs.

With such flexible reproductive equipment, it’s no surprise that a number of invasive species are hermaphroditic. Among the most worrying is the Spanish slug, which has become a serious agricultural pest across much of Europe. A single egg transported in a flowerpot is all it takes to unleash this master and mistress of sex into new places.

4. Animals have had sex on the moon

The diversity of mites’ sexual behavior is staggering. There are mate guarders, harem keepers, warring males, macho show-offs and incidences of incest and cannibalism. Perhaps the most celebrated of all is the red velvet mite. Males create trails of silk in their territories that direct females to little packages of their sperm, called spermatophores. If one approves, she will absorb the sperm into her body.

Species of mite are everywhere – in the noses of seals, on the legs of chickens, in the ears of porcupines, in the middle of a sea urchin and within the rectums of bats. In fact it’s likely that eyelash mites Demodex spp. are having sex on your face right now. It’s probably the only animal to have had sex on the moon, carried by the 12 men who have walked on it.

5. Genitalia can sing

The variety of male genitalia in the animal kingdom is jaw-dropping. There are fin-like ones (sharks), barbed ones (cats, beetles and dragonflies), regenerative ones (seaslugs), lobes (turtles), hooks (mosquitofish), finger-like extensions (barnacles) and a detachable swimming penis (the Argonaut octopus). Some penises have become adapted for other sexual purposes. The lesser water boatman frantically rubs its penis against a special comb-like structure on its body to pump out a mating call equivalent to almost 100dB. Relative to size, it’s the loudest animal on Earth.

6. The value of DIY

One of sex’s greatest mysteries is why so many animals seek to pleasure themselves, rather than find reproductive opportunities with others. Lions, bats, walruses, warthogs, whales, dolphins and deer are just some of those known to partake in such ‘auto-eroticism’. Are such behavior evolved, or are they emergent phenomena associated with something else, such as captivity?

The marine iguana is one species where auto-eroticism is common – smaller males rub themselves against rocks as they approach reproductive females. The behavior means that their resultant copulations are shorter, so smaller males are less likely to be interrupted by bigger, burlier rivals. According to research, the strategy is likely to increase their chances of a successful mating by 41 per cent – easily enough to be evolutionarily significant.

7. Monogamy is hard to find

Monogamy rarely flourishes in animal groups because fidelity limits an individual’s reproductive potential. It only persists among the species where the result is a higher number of healthy offspring. In birds, where the raising of chicks may demand care from both parents, monogamy arises fairly frequently. But it has popped up in other species and groups, too: antelopes, prairie voles, some cichlid fishes and the Australian sleepy lizard (also known as the shingleback skink). None of these are true monogamists though – each may be inclined to change partners between seasons.

8. Homosexual acts are widespread

Though many consider swans, albatrosses and emperor penguins to be nature’s most virtuous couples, all of these pale in significance compared with Eurasian bullfinches and jackdaws. Bullfinches are highly monogamous, and as a result males are modestly endowed and produce poor-quality sperm, not having any need for more sophisticated reproductive mechanisms. On the other hand, jackdaws remain faithful for life and stay near their partners year-round, even within bustling and complex colonies. They are perhaps the most monogamous of all common UK birds.

Though animals rarely eschew sex totally with the opposite sex, observations of individuals partaking in homosexual activities throughout their lives are wonderfully common, from hyenas, lions, whiptail lizards, dragonflies and bed bugs through to orcas, koalas, barn owls, king penguins, mallards, sticklebacks and rattlesnakes, to name but a few.

According to the experts, bottlenose dolphins indulge in homosexual activities as much as heterosexual activities. One of their favorite activities is ‘goosing’, when dolphins of the same sex nudge each other’s genital slits with their beaks. Other bottlenoses indulge in ‘socio-sexual petting’, when homosexual and heterosexual pairs stroke one another undersides with their outstretched flippers.

Only in recent years have scientists begun to lift the lid on the evolutionary causes that may be responsible. Though homosexual animals in vertebrates obviously suffer from lower reproductive outputs, there may be evolutionary benefits such as kin selection, whereby non-reproductive offspring enhance the survival and reproductive chances
of their siblings, ensuring their own family genes persist.

9. Duck dramas

Being largely internalised soft structures, female genitalia can be tricky to study. Among the best understood are those of ducks. Intense competition between male ducks has done remarkable things. They have evolved a long corkscrew penis that can be ‘exploded’ into a female’s reproductive tract, giving a male a greater chance than his rivals of successful fertilisation. In response the female reproductive tract has evolved into an anti-corkscrew, with pockets and dead ends.

By modelling the tract of Muscovy ducks, scientists found that she can rebuff unwanted sperm – her reproductive passages only loosen enough to grant access to the males that she deems worthy. They’re the ones with the brightest bill, for those are most likely healthiest and less likely to be infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

10. Fatal attractions

Episodes of sex that are so intense the animal dies, known as semelparity, evolve when it pays more (in terms of offspring) for males and females to invest everything in one sex act than to stay alive and breed again next year. The Pacific salmon is a good example. Though not strictly semelparous, frogs and toads often live their last days during the breeding season. The energetics of mating are arguably worse for females than males – competition can be so intense that she drowns under a mass of rival suitors. But when this happens in the frog Rhinella proboscidea, death doesn’t spell the end – the males practise ‘functional necrophilia’, squeezing eggs from dead females which they fertilise in the water.
pany Limited under license from BBC Worldwide, which helps fund new BBC programmers.

Mick Jagger to attend India’s Jodhpur RIFF festival

from Tourism Breaking News Aug 31, 2014

This year, Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stone is going to be the International Patron of Jodhpur RIFF. The Jodhpur RIFF is an international folk festival which will be held in Mehangarh Fort, Jodhpur, from mickOctober 8-12.Many artists from Rajasthan perform at the event. There will be a significant international presence also. The event will take place during the full moon of October which is considered the most auspicious. Jodhpur RIFF is a not-for-profit partnership project involving two of India’s leading heritage trusts: Mehrangarh Museum Trust and Jaipur Virasat Foundation. The festival has been endorsed by UNESCO as a “Peoples’ Platform for Creativity and Sustainable Development

All female airline crew makes aviation history

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa Correspondent | Aug 29, 2014

lady pilotKenya Airways’ fourth B787-8 Dreamliner was flown from the Boeing assembly plant to Nairobi by an all-female crew with Captain Irene Koki Mutungi at the controls.   Captain Irene was the first African female B787 Captain to be checked out worldwide and it was only befitting that she was given the honor to bring the new bird safely home to Nairobi. This year a further two such aircraft will be delivered and another three of the current order in early 2015 before the existing options for yet more B787’s may be turned into purchases or leases.

Kenya Airways had in the past, on special occasions like the International Women’s Day, operated flights with all female crews, a sign of changing times and new opportunities for ladies who have set their mind on flying, and flying in the cockpit for that matter.  With a rapid fleet expansion over the next 6 – 8 years, during which Kenya Airways will more than double the present number of aircraft operated, there will be openings for pilots and cabin crew of course, in significant numbers for that matter.

What Women Want (From a Hotel)?

Friday, 29. August 2014, 20:30
By Melanie Nayer ~ Weekly Exclusive – Views On The Latest Trends

According to a Cornell Center for Hospitality Research report titled “Creating value for women business travelers: Focusing on emotional outcomes,” hotels must focus on meeting women’s needs and womenpreferences in order to remain competitive. But, what are those needs? What women want from a hotel doesn’t vary that much from a typical traveler – safety, cleanliness, comfort – but let’s be honest, we’ll often look a little harder to find the details that matter.

While traveling on business, I’ve been shown the room at the end of the hallway because it’s the quietest or offered a parking spot in the garage because it’s less of a wait than valet. While peace and quiet, as well as ease and efficiency, are two of the more important things in travel, these are also some of the riskiest offers for women travelers.  The room at the end of the hallway is likely located next to the emergency exit stairs, making it easier for lurkers and thieves to access to your room. The garage, while helpful, is often dark and not well-trafficked. While hotels do what they can to ensure safety and use cameras to monitor activity, it’s equally important that they ensure women travelers feel safe in their surroundings. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when women travelers check in to your hotel:

If there are women-only wings in your hotel, reserve a room for your women travelers! If not, make sure the room you’re designating to your guest is near an elevator and doesn’t open to a first-floor patio or balcony. The elevator ensures there’s always foot traffic, and a room that can’t be accessed from the outside adds an extra level of safety.

One can’t enjoy a little pampering enough. Sure, there’s something to be said for fancy soaps and lotions in the bathroom, but additional amenities for women will really make a difference between the one-night stay and a repeat guest.

For example, placing good hair dryers, a straightener or a manicure set in the room will show your hotel is going the extra mile to ensure your women travelers are prepped and primped for their big meeting the next day. Place magazines in the room that are targeted to women, or offer a discount for a manicure at your spa.

A nice follow-up note from the general manager or front desk manager of the hotel after a stay is always appreciated. It shows you’re taking the time to invest in your guests — women or men — and are eager to welcome them back for a future visit. Make sure to ask for feedback, and give your guest an email address (not a blind form to fill out) where she can get in touch with any questions or concerns. This little extra effort goes a long way in making women feel safe while on the road.

Robot Butlers: Automated Room Service at Aloft Hotels! Can I take him home??

from Travel & Tour World, Aug 13, 2014

butlerMeet A.L.O. (pronounced: “el-oh”), Aloft Hotel’s new robot butler! Just under 3 feet and dressed in a vinyl-collared uniform, this robot butler (also known as Botlr) is ready to serve guests with aplomb!

The industry’s first automated bellhop can carry out all the usual room service tasks, reveal officials at Alof Hotels, a brand of Starwood Hotels. Guests at the hotel just need to call the front desk and specify their requirements. The staff will load up the Botlr with requested items, punch in the guest’s room number and send it off to make the delivery. Also, guests won’t have to pay tip for all that service. With the delivery complete, the Botlr will request for a review. If the guest puts in a positive remark on the built-in screen, the robot does a happy dance.

The official launch of this incredible technology is on August 20th. Brian McGuinness, senior vice president for the Aloft brand, said he could see having one or two Botlrs in each Aloft hotel. “I think there is a chance that this could go enterprise-wide based on a successful pilot,” he said.

So, is this new technology puts a question mark on bellhops? Officials at Starwood say these robots won’t replace any employees. Rather, they will be freed from petty tasks so that they can concentrate on other important managerial works.

The Botlr was designed and built by Sunnyvale, California, start-up Savioke. If the launch is successful, 100 of such Botlrs will be deployed in Starwood’s other properties.

Why are the days of going topless in France coming to an end?

from Tour Expi Monday Aug 4, 2-014

toplessTopless sunbathers were once synonymous with French beaches, but with the trend apparently no longer de rigeur, world looks at why French women no longer feel the need, or feel comfortable taking their tops off on the beaches. The beaches of France, especially those around the chic resorts of the French Riviera, have undergone a change in recent years and continue to do so, new reports claim.

This week France’s Elle magazine suggested that sunbathing topless is no longer the done thing on ‘les Plages’ of St Tropez, Nice and the rest of the Riviera

The magazine is certainly not the first to suggest French women are covering up more and more, with the decline of “Le Topless” apparently having been spotted back in 2009, but with the French summer in full swing the fashion magazine, in its article ‘La Fin de Topless sur la Plage’ (The end of toplessness on the beach) has reignited the debate over bare chests.

Elle points to three reasons why the old “monokini” (bikini bottoms without the top) is disappearing out of sight as tan lines make a comeback.

Firstly, the health concerns surrounding skin cancer, secondly, due to impact of the growing perception that topless woman are easy and thirdly because of the famous topless “sextremists” from groups like Femen whose semi-naked stunts across Europe have given the impression that baring chests is now only for activists, not sunbathers.

 

An opinion poll released last year revealed that only 18 percent of French women said they would consider sunbathing topless and just 12 percent do it regularly. That same poll revealed 50 percent of women believed the trend to be no longer fashionable.

Elle describes the change in culture as a “worrying sign of a regression in the place of women”. In France going topless has been linked, some say erroneously, with women’s liberation since the 1960s when actress and sex icon Brigitte Bardot famously began revealing almost all on French beaches.

In the 1970s the government refused to ban the act and the liberal attitude towards the ditching of bikini tops appeared to become a source of French national pride.

However going topless is not welcome on all French beaches. Anyone caught wearing just the “monokini” at Paris’s annual summer beach festival Paris Plages, faces being hit with a fine as well as an order to cover up.
French researcher and sociologist Christophe Colera, author of the book Nudity: Practices and Meanings told The Local that an “unjustified” fear of cancer, and concerns about the shape of the breasts has played a role. “But there’s also the phenomenon of a return towards modesty.” Colera also backed up the idea that toplessness has been affected by the fact that breasts have become over sexualized.

“This erotic dimension [of women’s breasts] is not going away and as a consequence [going topless] has been affected by all the taboos around sexuality, even if we still try to present breasts as strictly functional for feeding,” Colera writes on the Atlantico.fr website.

“Toplessness comes in cyclical fashions. In the 1960s it was associated with the rise of mass feminism and in the 1990s it was linked to aesthetic concerns, but was then affected by public health concerns around breasts.  “Today going topless is more about asserting femininity, often in a provocative way, by doing it in unexpected places.”

However French writer and essayist Christian Gambaz, believes there are two other reasons why French women are more keen to keep their bikini tops on even if it means sacrificing a perfect bronzing.

“One reason is that topless women on the beach are often harassed by young men these days. After it happens they are less likely to go semi naked,” he tells The Local. “This happens more in certain built-up areas like Nice and Cannes. Certain youngsters don’t know how to behave around female nudity.

“And there’s also the fact that the prudish American view of nudity has taken hold in France. If a woman goes topless in Florida, someone would call the police. It seems these US values are coming to our shores,” he said.Gambaz deos not believe the fashion is necessarily dying out. He points to the fact that many French women will happily go topless on beaches in Spain or Croatia this summer and claims the number of topless women on French plages will just depend on where you are in France.“On the beaches of the Atlantic coast around Les Landes is where you will see people going topless because there’s not the same crowds as on the Riviera,” he says.Gambaz believes Europe needs to protect its easygoing culture around nudity but if a recent study by travel site Expedia is anything to go by, then it is alive and well, at least in some countries more than others.

The survey revealed that nearly one in three Germans and Austrians (28 percent) has sunbathed nude on the beach, compared with 12 percent of Britons, 18 percent of Norwegians, and 17 percent of Spanish.

 

Vacation like a star, paparazzi included

Friday August 1, 2014 from Tour Expi

ladies paparattMinibars, room service, and spa days are nice treats for hotel guests, but how about living the life of a superstar for a day?

Some upscale hotels are offering creative packages where guests can bask in the glow of the paparazzi, spend a weekend like a famed secret agent, or recreate the experience of a heroine in a romantic comedy.

At Row NYC, for example, guests can pay $2,500 for a taste of the glamorous world of a celebrity. The hotel’s Paparazzi Project package includes one night’s stay at the hotel’s penthouse suite (named and inspired by famed photographer Ron Galella); hair and make-up done by a team led by a celebrity stylist; and a personal paparazzo to shoot the experience.  “Everyone sees you’re being treated like [a celebrity],” said Elizabeth Wilson, a 23-year-old from Kansas City who received the package as a graduation gift from her parents.

Those looking for a little more mystery can head to Scotland for a James Bond escape.  Over the course of a $2,100 weekend, guests at the Isle of Eriska Hotel, Spa & Island can drive an Aston Martin through the Scottish Highlands to Glencoe, where scenes of Skyfall were shot, and learn how to make the ultimate martini — shaken not stirred. They can also ride a speedboat like 007 and tour locations where scenes from The Spy Who Loved Me, From Russia With Love, and other Bond classics were filmed.

Meanwhile, the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills offers a chance to step into the role that made Julia Roberts a household name.The hotel’s package, starting at $15,000, gives guests the opportunity to be Pretty Woman for a day. Highlights include a stay in the same suite as Roberts’ character and a styling trip with a personal shopper along Rodeo Drive for two hours

For those willing to spend upwards of $100,000, the ultimate package includes a picnic, musical serenade, and special guest appearance by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.

Topless Tour’ movement inspires travelers to undress

Tour Expi – July 27, 2014

nude tourLike many visitors awed by the beauty of Arches National Park in Utah, Megan Harrod couldn’t resist posing for a photo with the famous sandstone landscape in the background. But she wasn’t going for the usual tourist snapshot

Harrod was seeking what’s becoming a trendy experience for female travelers: a topless photo in a scenic location, shot from the back and widely shared on social media.“Liberating. That’s what it’s all about,” Harrod, who lives in suburban Salt Lake City, told TODAY.com, noting she has posed for similar photos in Maui and the Czech Republic.

The pictures were inspired by The Topless Tour, a popular Instagram page that features travelers unclothed from the waist up in beautiful places. Motto: “Feel the freedom, share your beauty to the world.”  After Harrod, 31, stumbled on the page, she was impressed by the array of people “of all shapes, sizes and generations baring it for the camera in a tasteful and completely non-sexual way,” she said.

The Topless Tour Instagram page was started by two British women — Lydia Buckler, 21, and Olivia Edginton, 20 — and their Norwegian friend Ingvild Marstein Olsen, 20.  The three met in 2012 when they moved to London to study at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, Edginton told TODAY. After an impromptu moment of going topless on a trip and snapping a photo, they decided to “continue to capture our moments of freedom” and encourage others to do the same, she added.“What is so wonderful is that underneath lays the powerful message of taking pride in our differences and embracing the love for the body,” Edginton said.  “You feel so free, limitless, and (it) allows each person to discover an honest connection with the world we live in and the people we share it with.”

The trio is hoping to collect photo submissions from all over the world for their Instagram page, which has more than 260 posts and over 36,000 followers. The only requirement is that the pictures be shot from the back so that they remain G-rated, and that users include the #TheToplessTour hashtag when posting on social media. Men are encouraged to pose and share their pictures as well.

While Edginton said that so far she is not aware of any participants who have gotten into trouble, travelers should know that being caught nude in public, especially in countries with strict codes of behavior and dress, could result in fines or jail time.

Some famous destinations are cracking down on travelers who want to bare more than their souls on the road. In March, Peru’s Ministry of Culture denounced “any disrespectful act committed by visitors” in Machu Picchu and vowed to increase monitoring after photos of naked tourists at the UNESCO World Heritage Site began showing up online.

That same month, police detained several tourists — including Americans, Canadians and Australians — who were allegedly posing nude for photos at Machu Picchu, according to The Andean Air Mail & Peruvian Times.

Back in Utah, Harrod said she chose a private spot away from the crowds for her photo, while a friend watched for potential onlookers. She posted the picture on her Instagram page and tweeted it to her followers.

“When it comes down to it, it’s a bare back. It’s not a big deal, really,” she said.

 

 

Why do people go wild when they travel?

girls go wildWednesday, 23. July 2014, 20:50
Ben Groundwater is Fairfax’s globetrotter on a shoestring.
The girl in Amsterdam had never tried magic mushrooms before. I knew this, because she had been slurring at me for most of the night: “I’ve never tried magic mushrooms before.”  But tonight was clearly her night, and she planned to do it properly. That’s why she ran off to find a coffee shop that sold them. That’s why when the guy behind the counter told her to just eat a few of them she ignored him and monstered the entire box.That’s why about an hour later she was throwing up on my shirt as I tried to drag her out of the coffee shop and get her some help. And that’s why she has no memory of the time she went crazy on magic mushrooms during a night in Amsterdam.The girl probably wouldn’t have done it at home, but Amsterdam tends to do that to people. I don’t know whether they save up their crazy for the Dutch wonderland or the city just brings it out in them, but I’ve seen plenty of people do things they wouldn’t normally do when they get to the ’Dam.

Sex shows. I’ve been to a lot of sex shows. As a former employee of a European tour company, it was my job to escort the passengers to a sex show each time we stayed in Amsterdam.  There’s always a bit of audience participation in these shows, and it’s usually the quiet ones who take you by surprise with their willingness to get involved.

I saw a very meek and mild American guy practically run onto the stage for the privilege of lying on the floor with his shirt off and having a naked girl write “BAD BOY” on his chest with a texta that wasn’t being held in her hand.  That quiet American guy didn’t shower for days.

But that’s the thing about travel, and it’s not just confined to Amsterdam: people do things they wouldn’t normally do. They take chances when they travel, they let their hair down, they go wild. Maybe they’re emboldened by the anonymity, or maybe they’ve just chosen now, on this trip, to do all of the things they’ve always wanted to do. Whatever it is, they go nuts

A few weeks ago there was a video released of a tourist in the Spanish party resort of Magaluf, performing certain acts on men in a nightclub in order to get a few free drinks. It was shocking, sure – but not so shocking for people who have been on the road for a while and seen how other travellers behave.

The village of Vang Vieng in Laos used to be a haven for Westerners who wanted to do silly things. Getting drunk and swinging off ropes into a river isn’t the smartest thing to do, but plenty of us did it there during the years of tubing.

I saw an employee initiation ceremony there once that involved a whole lot of probably late-teen kids having an entire bottle of Lao whiskey poured down their throats. I’ve seen people leap into murky water right near signs that say “do not jump – people have died here” just for the hell of it.

There’s almost a feeling of invincibility when you travel, that nothing can touch you, that the normal rules of good sense and gravity don’t apply once you’ve been stamped out of Australia. Do whatever you want! You’ll be fine.  People ride on the roofs of buses because it’s fun, and nothing will go wrong. Probably. They take rides in dodgy boats, because what choice do you have? They hang out of train doorways, they cling to the back of taxis. They do all these things that they wouldn’t do at home because overseas you can, and you want to, so you do.  They take crazy risks. There’s this guy I know – let’s call him Ken Brownwater – who bought marijuana in Malawi. From a stranger. And it came wrapped in leaves from a corn cob. And it was a huge amount.

The wisdom of this purchase is not questionable, but non-existant. Who wants to tangle with the Malawian justice system just for the chance to smoke a bit of weed? But this Ken guy did it, and plenty of people he was travelling did it. And people still do it.  You take risks when you travel. But you also let yourself go, like that girl in the nightclub in Magaluf.  Want to witness tourists gone wild? Try working for a European tour company for a while. I heard of drunken passengers who managed to have a threesome in a tent.

I witnessed what would infamously be known among one group of passengers as “glowstick night”, an evening on a tour in Croatia when pretty much everyone on the tour hooked up with… Pretty much everyone on the tour. (The role of the glowsticks will have to remain a mystery.)

People go crazy when they travel. It’s what’s so great and at once so bad about the whole experience. My only advice if you’re going to do it is: look after yourself. And don’t eat a whole box of mushrooms.

 

 

 

 

The most interesting and luxurious spa treatments revealed

Tour and Travel, July 14, 2014

PICTURE yourself relaxing and completely letting go in some astoundingly beautiful location. You’re feeling restful and blissfully happy as the soothing, calming music takes over your body and you drift off into another world

Then suddenly (but gently, of course, you’re in paradise remember) you are roused as a mangku (that’s Balinese for Balinese priest) begins to perform a climactic karmic cleansing. His voice is melodic and you feel like you are flying as he ritualistically pours sacred water and flowers through a Balinese gayung — and onto you. Is this even real? Yes.Luxury spa resorts are located all over the world. On snow-capped mountains, beside far-stretching oceans, next to tranquil lakes, underground, above ground — anywhere that shouts exclusivity. There arespa bali resorts that go above and beyond in making sure the customer feels indulged, relaxed and restored, starting with the exceptional views and surroundings.That said, there are some spas that are offering something a little bit different … Yes, the views and the ambience that comes with being at a luxury spa is all there, but visitors are offered special treatments on top of the traditional ones.The Karmic Cleansing Ritual is part of the new Extraordinary Experiences created by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay (pictured above), centred on the traditional Balinese journey of self-renewal. It begins with Balinese dongs, involves a traditional Balinese massage and ends with the climactic karmic cleansing (Balinese priest included), which is aimed to purify the body and soul. Want something different? Tick.

Of course, Four Seasons are not the only ones making use of their surroundings and local insider talent. At LeSpa at Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa in New Zealand the signature treatments are based on traditional Maori traditions. Think century-old rituals and traditional therapies with ingredients such as manuka honey, beeswax, Pounamu, and volcanic clay from the North Island’s famed Rotorua geothermic region, famously used by Maori healers. Perhaps the most luxe of the lot is the aptly named Greenstone Ritual, in which indigenous greenstones (which are first hand picked from Central Otago’s riverbeds, then carved and blessed by local Maori elders) are used to massage the body after a steam, body wrap and a scrub.

On the other side of the world in the USA, thanks to its unique location atop one of the world’s largest subterranean aquifers, Desert Hot Springs in Greater Palm Springs is home to more than two dozen spas and spa hotels. One of them, Two Bunch Palms Resort Spa Resort, has mud baths that are … well, muddy. Those who book in for Moss, Minerals and Mud treatment end up in a tub filled with a mixture of peat moss and mineral-rich clay and water, feeling as if they are floating. According to the Two Bunch Palms team guests walk away feeling rejuvenated like never before — and most come back to play in the mud again.

If you prefer your baths alcoholic head to the Czech Republic where you can unwind after a long day of castle hopping by having a long dark lager beer bath at Hotel U Sládka. According to the hotel, Real Beer Baths are an original curative spa therapy (original in the Czech Republic perhaps?) and by bathing in beer (which is teamed with warm mineral water) organism functions are harmonised … some say drinking beer has the same effect.

Those who aren’t keen on bathing in mud or beer can opt to have their face and body treated with black pearls at The Spa at Sheraton Melbourne. Germaine De Capuccini’s Black Pearl Treatment uses Mother of Pearl extracts to cleanse and exfoliate the skin, after which a mask (you guessed it, made of black pearls) is applied to the face. Apparently these exotic stones assist with hydrating the skin, anti-ageing and minimising the effects of fatigue.

If diamonds are more your thing, at Titanic Spa in the UK you can get a diamond beauty treatment. Aimed at regaining youthfulness, a fusion of plants and diamonds are used throughout the treatment. The final stage is a diamond ultra firming mask … of course.

If you prefer your skin care scented, at Raffles Dubai Spa you can get caviar smothered on your face.

Caviar has long been considered one of the most decadent (and pricey) foods to eat … apparently caviar is good for the skin too! It contains a fair amount of antioxidants, such as Vitamin A and E (which both help to correct and protect the skin) and potassium and selenium (these nutrients improve the skin’s dermis elasticity and help to prevent the erosion of tissues). Just don’t eat the product … it can’t be good for you.