Tips

Travel ingenuity from our island hopping holiday experts

Milestone Birthday Trips: Celebration Inspiration

in Tips by
Bali party villa Umah Daun Umalas

We know what you’ve been doing in our villas and we like it. Your birthday parties are fabulous. The surprises, the laughs, the photos – incredible. We can’t think of a better reason for a memorable holiday in our villas, or a better way to celebrate a big birthday.

Are you (or someone you’d love to celebrate) approaching a 30th, 40th, 50th or 60th birthday? Planning a destination event to celebrate is easier than you might think.

James, who just turned 30, planned his Bali Birthday by himself and was very pleased with how it turned out.

“I’ve loved every minute of this holiday and that’s because of the fantastic Villa Umah Daun and Elite Havens team. Thanks for making my 30th birthday my best yet!”

He started planning his birthday trip about one year in advance, when it occurred to him that the big 3-0 was a good excuse to bring people together for a holiday in Bali. The hardest thing about coordinating a group holiday – picking the date – was done. Before calendars filled up with too many other appointments and occasions, James’s 30th was penciled in.

For his friends and family in Australia and New Zealand, the travel distance to Bali was feasible, so the invitation to his special ends-in-an-0 birthday was hard to turn down. A group of twenty agreed to join James for his milestone birthday trip, and the rest quickly fell into place.

They chose two Elite Havens villas – Villa Umah Daun and Villa Surya Damai. Both are five-bedroom villa rentals in Umalas (smack between the tourist haunts of Seminyak and Canggu).

Bali Birthday Party at Villa Umah Daun

According to the B-day boy, everyone was blown away by the size of the villas, their amenities and the personal service they received from start to finish. James reserved the villas directly with Elite Havens, so our team were aware of his birthday and his preferences before arrival.

A milestone birthday trip means your fête will exceed the 24-hours of your birthDAY. You don’t have to choose between having a daytime pool party or a barbecue or a dinner party or hire a band or go out dancing – you can do them all.

Keep Reading

Beach reads for your trip

in Tips by
reading in a hammock

Want some tips on what to read this summer? To keep you company in the airport lounge or by the pool, here is our pick of new book releases for summer 2017, plus some classic reads that bring to life the island paradise in Bali, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy

The writer’s eagerly anticipated second novel comes 20 years after her breathtaking first, award-winning The God Of Small Things. It’s a sprawling story; its various settings across India, from the hubbub of Old Delhi to turbulent Kashmir, serve as backdrop to a vast cast of unique characters. It deals with issues from the personal – abandonment, transgender issues – to the social – partition, Kashmir independence – vividly brought to life in Roy’s superlative lyrical prose.

Standard Deviation – Katherine Heiny

Described by the Washington Post as a “blissful summer novel”, Standard Deviation tells the story of Graham and his inimitable second wife Audra, a kind of 21st Century, sexually liberated version of Jane Austen’s Emma – curious, well-meaning, and an insatiable gossip. The novel is a brilliantly funny look at mid-life, marriage, and raising children with learning difficulties (their son has Asperger’s and is a prodigal talent at origami).

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep – Joanna Cannon

Who doesn’t love a mystery seen through the eyes of curious children? The Trouble With Goats and Sheep follows two 10-year-olds’ mission to uncover the bewildering disappearance of their neighbour in the searingly hot English summer of 1976 (seriously – ask any Brit over the age of 50 and they’ll tell you about the summer of ’76). Equally heartwarming and gripping, it’s also a wonderful window into the idiosyncrasies of small town British life in the 1970s – and the Brits’ obsession with weather.

All Grown Up – Jami Attenberg

The story of 39-year-old Andrea – single, child-free and living in New York City – may sound like tired chick-lit you’ve read before, but Jami Attenberg’s fifth novel is anything but. In Andrea, Attenberg has created a brilliantly nuanced heroine – flawed, human, and likeable. This wry commentary on how the grass isn’t really greener on the other side is sharply funny, and sometimes raw and tragic. The Guardian rates this as the author’s best novel yet.

White Tears – Hari Kunzru

A sharp satire of cultural appropriation and the urban white privileged youth,

Keep Reading

Blissful, Beguiling and Back in Business

in Tips by
Sri Lanka map

The first time I visited Sri Lanka there was a war on. Twenty years, 40+ visits and a beach house later, how things have changed. In 1997, tourists were restricted to the southwest corner of the island – from Bentota through Galle round to Yala National Park. Now the whole of this aptly named “island of serendipity”, is open for business, and what a delight it is to explore.

“Journeys are long although the distances are short” was the mantra of my loyal driver, Lucky, back then. And he wasn’t wrong.

To get to Colombo from the UNESCO-listed Fort at Galle (only 125km) you had to endure a 4 to 5-hour journey of hair-raising overtaking along an inadequate coast road. Traffic would grind to a halt on the approaches to Colombo, and crossing the capital to reach the airport was a war of attrition.

Now, a sparkling dual carriageway whisks you from the airport to downtown Colombo in 30 minutes and Galle can be reached in just over the hour. The delightful south-coast bays of Weligama, Dikwella, Matara and Mirissa (of whale-watching fame) are in easy reach. The Cultural Triangle, with its ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, and the historic centres of Dambulla and Sigiriya, are also much more accessible thanks to a series of newly paved and widened roads.

The hill stations of Nuwara Eliya, Ella and Horton Plains are still not easy to reach by road, although the train is a popular, more relaxing alternative. But once there, the stunning tea plantations and panoramic trekking country make for a magical setting. Sit back in a planter’s chair, sip a G&T and enjoy the colonial splendour.

Take your time, slow down to Sri Lanka speed

Pasikudah, Trincomalee and the Jaffna Peninsula were pretty much off limits to all but the brave and/or foolhardy until 2009, so visiting the stunning beaches of the east coast was nearly impossible. Gravel tracks, frequent check points, mine sappers and curfews made travel long and arduous – our worst east-to-west-coast road trip took staggering 17 hours at the height of the conflict. Today, seeing 300 wild elephants watering at dusk in Minneriya National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list, as should the spice gardens around Kandy and the crystal clear waters of Nilaveli Beach running up to Pigeon Island. 

Keep Reading

A Mini Guide on Exploring Galle Fort

in Tips by

The city of Galle, on Sri Lanka’s idyllic southern coast, is home to one of the island’s best-preserved colonial fortresses. It is also one of the best examples of a European-built fortified city in south and south east Asia.

Dating back to the 16th century, and washed on three sides by the Indian Ocean, Galle Fort is a hybrid of Portuguese, Dutch and British design.

The fort is ringed by a series of bastions and walls constructed from lime and coral, and within these walls are some of Sri Lanka’s most characterful homes.

Among these sought-after properties are the luxury private rental villas No. 39 Galle Fort, a spacious three-bedroom family home, and Ambassador’s House, a huge five-bedroom townhouse with lap pool.

Both of these Galle Fort villas are situated on historic Lighthouse Street, just a stroll away from colonial churches, cafés, boutiques and museums.

Explore on foot
You can now walk nearly all the way around the grass-tufted ramparts, admiring the views of the red-tiled rooftops of the fort on one side, and Indian Ocean vistas on the other. The best place to start your stroll is at the Galle Dutch Hospital (on the corner of the banyan-tree-shaded Law Court Square), a majestic building that’s now home to restaurants and shops. Heading south, the next landmark you approach is the fort’s British-era lighthouse, dating to 1938, which punctures the south-eastern corner of Galle Fort.

A little further along is Flag Rock, which is worth a pause to watch young kamikaze Sri Lankans dive acrobatically into the sea for a few hundred rupees. The western ramparts are great for sunset watching, and for joining an impromptu cricket game, while the three northern bastions (Sun, Moon and Star) face inland, forming the highest part of the ramparts and incorporating a tall clock tower. They offer superb views of the new town and international test cricket ground.

Where to eat and what to buy?
Galle Fort is increasingly cosmopolitan. Over the last five years the charming streets of this old town have mushroomed with little cafés, restaurants specialising in healthy fare, one-of-a-kind boutiques and design stores, and even a couple of delicious gelato outlets – we love Pedlars Inn Gelato on Pedlars Street.

Keep Reading

5 Marvellous Facts about the Maldives

in Tips by

There’s more to the Maldives than a blissful island sanctuary with glittering blue waters, private beach villas on sugar-white beaches and coral reefs that teem with exotic marine life. Here are five facts about the Maldives that might just surprise you.

maldives-coconuts1. Coconut suspected of rigging an election

In September 2013, a questionable young coconut found loitering and acting suspiciously outside a polling station during the island nation’s presidential elections was detained by the police. Many Maldivians believe in magic, and coconuts are a common ingredient in black magic spells and rituals. A magician was called to examine the coconut for any threats and curses. Luckily for the coconut, the magician concluded it to be innocent. It was subsequently told it was free to walk – or roll.

maldives-literacy-rate2. One of the most literate countries in the world

The Maldives boasts one of the highest literacy rates among adults in the world at 98%. Since residents are spread over 200 inhabited islands, a unified education was difficult. However, the nation understood the importance of education for their future success and, with the aid of UNICEF, a unified education programme was created. The internet was used for long distance teaching and children, parents and caregivers were all urged to take an active role in education.

whale-maldives

3. A whale-watcher’s dream

The Maldives ranks as one of the top five places for whale- and dolphin-watching in the world, with 23 different species of cetaceans having been recorded in its waters. Trips run all year round and it’s not uncommon to spot up to 2,500 of whales and dolphins in a single outing. From dwarf sperm whales, false killer whales to real killer whales, you will also see bottlenose dolphins, striped and spotted dolphins and pilot whales. If you’re lucky, you might also see the world’s largest fish, the Whale Shark, cruising the crystal-clear waters of the Maldives.

atoll-maldives4. The Maldives have some of the smallest islands on earth

Apart from its popularity as an amazing island destination, the Maldives is also famous for having some of the tiniest islands on the planet. There are about 1,200 islands in the Maldives and the largest island barely reaches 6 kilometres long. Elite Havens’ Maldives villas are on Amilla Fushi, a tiny less-than-one-kilometre-long jewel of an island on the edge of the Baa Atoll,

Keep Reading

1 2 3
Go to Top