Traveller: Takeoff travel news August 10, 2014

Zafara tented camp, Botswana
Delta's new dawn
Botswana’s Okavango Delta, a chain of lagoons and floodplains in the Kalahari Desert, has been named UNESCO’s 1000th World Heritage Site. From June to August, the delta trebles in size as it floods, attracting Africa’s great wildlife. Explore on foot, game drive, helicopter, on horseback or by dugout canoe. Best visited in the cooler months from April to October, check out the new Dhow suites in the Zarafa tented camp (1300 237 422, or the newly renovated ecological Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge ( The lodge reopens on September 1.

Snuffle a truffle
Australian truffles are no flash in the pan – they’re muscling their way onto the world’s tables, with a legion of fans including many-Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal. Wander through the trees of Oak Valley truffle farm in Western Australia’s Manjimup district, hunting with hounds for French black truffles. The new tour aims to demystify the pricey fungus while you snack on freshly roasted hazelnuts and trail a truffle dog. ‘‘People are fascinated by truffles, particularly their rarity and expense,’’ says guide Peter Norris. Catering for up to seven guests, the tour ends  with a truffle lunch at Watershed Premium Wines in Margaret River. The full-day tour costs $240 a person, including lunch and wine. Phone 0411 186 430, see

The Paris Cat, Melbourne


Drink up, Melbourne
Let go of your Sydney sensibilities and walk down the darkest alley in Melbourne - then go down the stairs. Basement bars are where it’s all at in this town at the moment, from hip jazz cafes to boutique wine bars. Half the fun is finding them (signs are for tourists), and the latest edition of Melbourne’s Bars and Pubs is now free and spells out the dress code, the average price of a meal, happy hours and even the average age of punters. This is not a directory – expect a curated list that’s written and developed by Melburnians. It’ll hook you up with the cool bar nearest you, with GPS, maps and photos, weekly gigs and lets you check in via facebook or foursquare, for extra bragability. Available on iPhone and Android, free.
Tall tales from small travellers
Young kids have a different perspective on the world, and not just because they’re usually a foot shorter than you. Let local kids lead yours around their home town, from Brisbane to Fiji or Glasgow, on the Bound Round travel app for iPhone and iPad. In each location, kids aged eight to 12 years share tips about great parks and sights to fun activities and food, with videos, photos and games. Currently, there are travel guides and experiences for 20 locations worldwide, with the Pacific Islands, Darwin, Adelaide and Perth going live by the year’s end. Next year, there’s a focus on the US and the UK, but even if you’re not jetting off anywhere soon, it’s ideal to crack the conundrum of what to do in school holidays in Sydney or Melbourne. Founded by Sydneysider Janeece Keller, all content is vetted by a board of kids and the iPhone app has also just gone live, free. See
The Travel Wallet by Bellroy
Slim pickings
Pack your passport in your pocket without ruining the line on your skinny jeans with the Travel Wallet from Victorian designers Bellroy, who are evangelical about reinventing the slimline wallet. The wallet is a favourite with bag aficionados and stockists Rushfaster, who recommend it for the micro pen – essential when all the airport pens at customs are dead. It’s carefully designed not to crumple boarding passes. Costs $119.95. Phone (02) 8594 1100, see

On The Ghan
Rock on over
Get right off the beaten track with the Ghan’s new four-day journey into the heart of Australia. One of a new series of train journeys, it departs Darwin and takes four days to reach Adelaide, stopping for a starlit dinner in the MacDonnell Ranges and a day underground in the opal-rich town of Coober Pedy. For an additional charge, you can even fly in to Uluru and still have time to rejoin the train. The four-day, three-night Ghan journey runs from May 23-August 22, 2015 and is one of the new offerings in the 2015/16 timetable. Costs from $3199 a person, Gold twin share. Phone 1800 725 993, see

Creepy capers
Scaring the kids has never been so right: BIG4 Holiday Parks is pulling out the cobwebs and pumpkins for its annual Halloween camp-out to raise money for children’s cancer charity Camp Quality. Campsites cost $20 in the 85 participating Big4 parks across Australia, with many parks running additional activities such as BBQs, face painting and creepy capers. Camp and sCare runs Friday 31 across Australia, and Friday October 24 in Victoria. Book online at


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