Getting snappy in the Arctic, trans-Australian training: Takeoff travel news


It's been extremely quiet on the blog front, so excuse me while I drag the last couple of Takeoff columns up online. In particular, this photography competition, which will win you a $10,000 polar adventure, closes soon. So make it snappy!

Cold snaps
If ice is the spice of your life, enter Aurora Expeditions’ new Facebook photography competition as the adventure company hunts for its next Official Arctic Photographer. Open to all comers, from phone snappers to professional photographers, the winner will sail from Scotland to Spitsbergen spotting great whales and polar bears, massive icebergs and wild landforms on a 14-day adventure. The prize includes airfares, an expedition cruise and all expenses paid, worth $10,000. To enter, ‘like’ Aurora Expeditions’ Facebook page, add your best travel photo and write 50 words  on why you should become the official Arctic photographer. Entries close March 3. See facebook.com/auroraex.


GEAR 
Pack for adventure
Sometimes, hard-shell suitcases just won’t cut it when you’re strapped for space: such as when you’re boating or taking a light plane. Hit the road with Australian company Paklite, whose new Escape rolling duffle bags are practical and sturdy, ideal for the traveller who likes to pack in plenty of adventure. The bags come in three sizes for overnighters (1.9kg, 32l), weekends away (2.4kg, 50l) and longer getaways (2.kg, 72l) in Spring Green, Rust and black. Each has a lockable trolley handle and wheels, and the smaller bags can slot over the handle of the larger case, to keep one hand free. Cost from $159-$199. See paklite.com.au.

TRAINS
Cross country
Central Australia is on show with a new advertising campaign for the cross-continent trains The Ghan, the Indian Pacific and The Overland, which links Adelaide and Melbourne. The campaign, ‘Journey Beyond,’ took a year to create and urges travellers to explore some of Australia’s most evocative and remote landscapes, such as Coober Pedy in South Australia and the Northern Territory’s Katherine Gorge. “We welcome you to step off the train in the middle of nowhere to witness an Outback sunrise,” says Steve Kernaghan of Great Southern Rail. “You can dig for opals, take a river cruise, linger over a long lunch, board a scenic flight to Uluru.” Current specials include saving up to $992 on an eight-day Wildman Kakadu Adventure package or a Perth and Margaret River package on its all-inclusive Gold Service. Book by February 28 for travel from May 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016. To watch the new TV advertisment, see http://youtu.be/57ZjnxL5eUI, greatsouthernrail.com.au.
WILDLIFE
Songs of the ocean
If you’ve swum with sharks, tuna or seals, it’s time to play with the big boys, whales, on the first sing-and-swim tour in Tonga. This tour is the first of its kind to combine swimming with humpback whales and Tonga’s singing culture. Led by Sydney choir director Stuart Davis, who has conducted singing tours to Cuba, Morocco and Spain, the 12-day adventure includes a traditional Tongan song workshop, beach feast, listening and joining village church choirs as well as five days in the water with the singing whales. "Their song is ancient and resounds through all your senses,” says Stuart. “If you are above them, you can experience the sound vibrating through your body – it's truly unforgettable. And even the male humpbacks sing.” The tour departs September 9-22 and costs $3108, twin share, which includes 12 nights’ accommodation. Budget around $1000 for airfares: Virgin Airlines flies direct from Sydney to the Tongan capital, Nuku'alofa. Contact Stuart Davis on 0403 869 405, singup@optusnet.com.au.

AIRLINE
Kits that means business
Qantas has brought Australian luxury leathergoods designer Oroton on board with a collaboration on its new business class inflight amenity kit. Available only on Qantas flights to Asia, the pro-Australian kits are packed with Aurora Spa ASPAR toiletries and Qantas pyjamas by Peter Morrissey, emblazoned with the airline’s logo. Oroton, which has been creating envy-inducing handbags since 1938, designed the limited edition Business Sleep Collection kit to help celebrate Qantas’ new A330 business suites.  These were designed by another key Australian designer, Marc Newson. If your budget hasn’t stretched up a class, economy passengers travelling on the refurbished A330s also get broader seats with power, 11-inch screens and, as across the rest of its aircraft, larger meals with more dining choices. The A330 aircraft refits are being undertaken by more than 200 staff in Qantas’ Brisbane hangar and are expected to be complete by end 2016. Qantas also recently announced it will conduct one-off flights from Sydney to Istanbul via Perth for the ANZAC centenary commemorations at Gallipoli. Flights depart April 21, returning April 28. See qantas.com.au.  

TECH
Austria shells out
If Vienna isn’t within your reach right now, cheat and see the best of the city here in Sydney, or online. On February 4, the Sydney Opera House will host a classic Viennese tradition,  a free public concert. Conducted by Ola Rudner and featuring soprano  Elisabeth Flechl, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra will play the Greatest Hits from Vienna, with works by  Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven and Schubert. During the second half of the concert, our opera house’s sails will be transformed by scenes of Vienna and artworks such as Gustav Klimt’s The Tree of Life. Watch the concert with ticketed seats inside, enjoy the the free concert from a public viewing area at Campbells Cove, near Circular Quay station, or watch it live online from 8.30-10.15pm, at visions.vienna.info. Upload and tag your photos with #VisionsOfVienna to enter a competition to win a week in Vienna, with flights by Emirates Airline.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald's Traveller section every Sunday.  

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