This year, a new crop of ahead-of-the-curve hotels are pushing boundaries and setting new standards in experiential travel. From a game-changing wildlife sanctuary perched above a Cambodian river valley to a luxury Rwanda wilderness lodge on the fringes of a gorilla-dotted national park, we’ve scoured the globe for the top 12 debuts to hit the hotel scene this year.
The Italian sun brushstrokes the Amalfi Coast in pastel hues come dusk, transforming the fabled clifftop towns into a watercolour painting – but it’s the sunset from under-the-radar Praiano that sends the blushing landscape into overdrive. Words: Joanna Reeves
A picture-perfect backdrop at Casa Angelina, the soul-stirring Amalfi Coast catches your eye like a Renaissance painting – the pièce de résistance among the modern artworks showcased throughout the gallery-white hotel. Words: Joanna Reeves
Iconic cities, dramatic scenery, a plethora of wildlife: it’s time to discover the continent that has it all. From the colour-splashed coastline of New England to the raw, untamed beauty of British Columbia and otherworldly Alaskan landscapes – the sheer size of North America makes for truly extraordinary experiences. Words: Joanna Reeves
Australia’s beautiful sandy island is home to more than just pristine beaches, mysterious shipwrecks and vast dunes – a pod of playful residents flock to the shores each night for much-anticipated treats
A jagged-edged fin glides past, slicing through the emerald waters and casting ripples around my shins. Seconds pass, and I hear the dolphin before I spot him again: a sudden whoosh of air and a spray of water through his blowhole. A solo light on the jetty picks out the dark-grey silhouette darting through the shallows, just inches from my legs.
“When I say now, drop your hand beneath the surface,” Emma, the dolphin care expert, says to me. “Beware – Echo’s greedy!” On the command, I dip my hand and the fish I’m holding is eagerly snapped up. I catch a glimpse of the mammal’s sleek curves before Echo dashes off, circling and splashing his companions.
It’s 7pm and I’m up to my knees in water at Moreton Bay. Just off the coast of southeastern Queensland, Moreton Island is known for its steep dunes, mystical wrecks and caramel swathes of powdery sand. It’s also home to a handful of playful bottlenose dolphins that gather at the shore of the west coast in anticipation of evening snacks.
It all started with Eric, a dolphin who started regularly visiting the jetty of the Tangalooma Island Resort in the 1980s for scraps from guests fishing there. Eric was swiftly renamed Beauty by the Osbornes – the resort owners – when ‘he’ turned up one day, suckling calf in tow. As Beauty’s family grew over the years, Betty Osborne began trying to hand-feed the friendly pod – with great success.
In 1992, the Tangalooma Dolphin Care and Research Program was born, with official dolphin-care protocols approved by the Marine Park Authority – only a fraction of the creatures’ daily food requirement is supplied to prevent dependence, for instance. Today, the team at the resort’s on-site Marine Education and Conservation Centre monitors the bay’s 12 flippered residents and provides insightful talks on the area’s marine life.
Best of all, guests can join staff in feeding the majestic mammals – just watch your fingers with Echo.
Details: The wild dolphin feeding experience is available for guests of the Tangalooma Island Resort, or via day trips from Brisbane (a 75-minute boat journey away). www.tangalooma.com
Forget pounding away on a treadmill for hours – head off the beaten track with this new crop of sporty adventures, from freediving in Mexico to ice yoga in Swedish Lapland and a marathon along the Great Wall of China…
Beauty is more than just skin deep in St Lucia, Joanna Reeves discovers
“Never put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat,” says Freda, our beauty therapist at Auriga Spa, gesturing at the cluster of Mason jars on the wooden table. My mind flicks to the cinnamon doughnuts I’d tucked into the night before…
It’s not just the silky-smooth wine Tuscany is great for — the Italian region does health and wellness in style, too
Tucked away in the sleepy village of Bagno Vignoni, this luxurious health and wellness retreat is situated around 40 miles south of Siena. A traditional Italian hillside villa, the main hotel is spread over three floors, accessed by a polished travertine stairway curving around a floor-to-ceiling crystal chandelier.
From my suite’s balcony, the beautiful Val d’Orcia unfurls before me, a patchwork of tree-lined fields and terraced vineyards. The perfect base for exploring the countryside, the hotel offers free daily cycling and hiking tours, plus an app with recommended routes. At breakfast, lycra-clad cyclists sit among robed spa-goers, tucking into fresh fruit and omelettes in the open-air atrium; make-your-own juices are a nice touch.