The rich culture of Madagascar

Embark on an adventure to the remote island of Tsarabanjina and discover the friendly people and rich culture of Madagascar.

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Take advantage of the one-night stopover on the mainland before travelling on to Constance Tsarabanjina to immerse yourself in the colourful local customs and traditions of Madagascar.

Ethnic groups in Madagascar

The diverse ethnic groups which make up the Malagasy people, divided into 18 ‘tribes’, are united around the common Malagasy language and traditional beliefs in the importance of kinship and the veneration of their ancestors.

Local crafts

Crafts including raffia weaving, woodcarving and silk weaving – particularly the weaving of the silk lamba, the island’s national dress – can be traced back to the very first inhabitants of the island and are central to the island’s cultural history.

The traditional woodwork of the Zafimaniry people of Madagascar were considered so important that in 2008 UNESCO included them on its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Music of Madagascar

Music plays an important role in the lives of the Malagasy people with beats and rhythms echoing the music of Africa and Indonesia and often played on traditional instruments or sung with only hand clapping accompaniment.

Lemur in Madagascar

Lemur in Madagascar

Learn Malagasy

Seize the opportunity on the mainland or on Tsarabanjina to really get a sense of what makes the people of this region so special. Here are some Malagasy phrases you might find useful during your visit.

Welcome: Tongasoa

Good morning: Mbolatsara/ Salama

How are you? : Karakory/In vao vao?

Goodbye: Veloma/Samitsara

Have a nice trip: Soavadia

Goodnight: Samy mandry mifoha

Enjoy your breakfast/ launch/dinner: Mazotoa misakafo

Slowly: Mora Mora

Local Mitsio fishermen in Madagascar

Local Mitsio fishermen in Madagascar

Thank you: Misaotra

Thank you so much: Misaotra Betsaka

Best wishes: Mirary soa/ Tsara tsara

Island: Nosy

Fish: Laoko

Rice: Vary

Lemurs: Komba/Maki

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The future of travel

A range of new websites providing help with everything from flight and hotel booking, itinerary planning and money saving are due to shake up the future of travel, according to the digital specialist site Mashable.

At the airport

The future of travel

The startup travel sites we’ll all be using over the next few years, according to Mashable, include:

Peek a new site which will seek out the most interesting things to do at your destination (based on categories such as romantic, off-the beaten-path, tours). It then allows you to book directly through the site.

BlackJet for a new service which, Mashable claims, fills the gap between private jets and flying commercial by scheduling small 6-14-seat planes.

Bag2go a personal baggage tracking system that will ensure that you’ll know exactly where you suitcase is at all times.

Find My Itin offers a new way to plan your holiday by following the hashtags of like-minded travellers. Travellers will post information about where they’ve been and where they’d like to go for others to gain inspiration and advice from.

Top 10 family adventures in the Seychelles

Revive your family’s spirit of adventure in the Seychelles with activities from searching for lost pirate treasure to feeding giant tortoises. Here’s our guide to the best family adventures in the Seychelles.

Zip lining at Constance Ephelia Resort

Zip lining in the Seychelles

• Search for the legendary pirates’ treasure on a trip to Moyenne Island

A short boat ride from Victoria, Mahé, is the National Park of Moyenne Island, a Robinson Crusoe-style desert island with no human inhabitants and over 100 giant tortoises. Parents will enjoy the rare biodiversity of the island while kids will adore the legend that says the two graves belong to pirates who also buried their treasure somewhere on the small island.

• Experience a thrilling zip line ride through the jungle canopy on Mahé

Based at Constance Ephélia, SMAC Adventures offer adventure sports including zip lining, rock climbing and abseiling for adults and children over 4. See the beautiful forests and mountains of Mahé in a new and exhilarating way on eight different zip lines up to 120m long. Or try scaling the island’s natural granite crags with climbing for beginners through to advanced. Check out the fun on SMAC’s Facebook page.

• Try some traditional local crafts at Domaine de Val des Près

Based around the Gran Kaz Plantation House on Mahé this National Heritage Site not only celebrates local crafts and culture but gives you the chance to get involved with a series of craft workshops for the whole family.

• Explore the ocean on Teddy’s Glass Bottom Boat

Board the boat from Beau Vallon Bay, Mahé and discover the jewels of the Indian Ocean with your family. See the vibrant corals and the rainbow colours of lush marine life that live on and around the reefs from the safety of the glass bottom boat. Then jump into the water for some snorkelling and the chance to get a closer look. The excursion then takes you to a secluded beach for a bbq and swim before heading home.

A giant tortoise, part of Mauritian wildlife

A giant tortoise

• Meet giant tortoises in their natural environment on Curieuse Island

A short boat ride from Praslin is Curieuse, home to a colony of hundreds of Aldabra Giant Tortoises which walk freely around the island. Tourists are encouraged to interact with these regal creatures feeding them snacks of greens and watermelon. There is even a tortoise ‘nursery’ on the island where they care for young tortoises from birth to five years. Of course, being the Seychelles there are also glorious, deserted beaches for the kids to enjoy too following a 30 minute nature walk across the island.

• Discover the interior of Mahé with a wildlife walk to Sauzier Waterfalls

Setting off from Port Glaud this beautiful forest walk will take you past traditional Creole homes and the guide’s own farm where groups can stop off to meet the resident bats and farm animals. The short walk is perfect for families – kids and (brave) adults are then rewarded at the end with a refreshing dip in the crystal pools at the foot of the beautiful waterfall.

• Spend the day swimming and hanging out at Beau Vallon Beach

While the Seychelles has a plethora of beautiful, deserted beaches sometimes it’s fun to hang out amidst the hustle and bustle of locals and tourists. Beau Vallon Beach on the North Coast of Mahé is a beautiful white sand beach with restaurants, bars, craft shops and cafés lining its shores. Water sports abound and the cafés have a great selection of ice creams and smoothies to keep the kids happy. The best time to visit is on a Wednesday when the evening Bazar Labrin market brings fresh food stalls, live music and an authentically local vibe to the beach.

• Explore the unique biodiversity of the UNESCO World Heritage site Vallée de Mai

Famous for its unique coco de mer seeds, legend has it that this Nature Reserve on Praslin island was the site of the original Garden of Eden. Kids will love exploring the nature trails through the national park and discovering the rare endemic plants and wildlife here. Set them a challenge to catch sight of the rare, endangered Black Parrot.

Family fun at the beach

Family fun at the beach

• Horse riding in the Seychelles

Available on most of the islands, horse riding is a thrilling way to explore the local area. Whether you’ve done it before and want to gallop down a white sand beach or if you’re just trying it for the first time and want a gentle nature trek, local guides will ensure the experience is unforgettable. Riding in the Seychelles is popular so it is worth contacting your hotel before you arrive so that they can book the excursion for you.

• Seychelles National Botanical Gardens

The National Botanical Gardens is a perfect way to spend the afternoon in Victoria, Mahé, with all the family, particularly if you want to see one of the islands’ giant tortoises. Meet the tortoises and check out the colony of fruit bats feeding and roosting in the trees, then while away the afternoon exploring the beautiful tropical gardens.

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Top tips for the best beach reads of 2013

Whether you’re loading them on your kindle or wedging paperbacks into your suitcase, choosing the perfect holiday read is always a challenge. Here’s our list of the Best Beach Reads for 2013.

Constance Moofushi, Maldives

Constance Moofushi, Maldives

1. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Sitting comfortably in all the bestseller lists this summer is the first novel for six years from Khaled Hosseini (‘The Kite Runner’). This moving family saga follows a brother and sister born in Afghanistan as they journey through life moving from Afghanistan to Paris, San Francisco and Greece. A beautiful depiction of love and the family bonds that shape us.

2. Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell

Following all the hype around the release of the Baz Luhrman Hollywood production, the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ will be on many people’s reading lists this summer. If it’s on yours this is definitely a book to read alongside it. Sarah Churchwell’s thorough research attempts to put together the true characters and places that inspired Fitzgerald’s novel. The result is a fascinating insight into the affluent, social climbing and turbulent human stories behind the glittering roaring Twenties.

3. All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

A darkly atmospheric, menacing tale from the author of ‘After the Fire, A Still Small Voice’ this novel follows the reclusive Jake Whyte as she sets up home on a remote and seemingly deserted British island. Jake wants to be alone with no one but sheep and her untamed companion Dog but when something starts brutally killing the sheep, one by one, she begins to question her solitude.

Constance Tsarabanjina

Constance Tsarabanjina

4. The Infatuations by Javier Marías

Every morning María, a publisher’s editor, has breakfast in the same café and watches the same couple at the next table. She grows increasingly attracted by their obvious infatuation until one morning they’re simply not there and she feels oddly deprived. Seeing a picture of the man murdered in the papers María feels compelled to get involved. Spanish author Javier Marías lures us into a world of desire and infatuation with such graceful beauty and ease that the reader becomes as entranced by the playing out of the inevitable murder as María herself.

5. Soon by Charlotte Grimshaw

Tensions arise as two families are thrown together for the summer in a palatial beach house in New Zealand belonging to the Prime Minister. The intense inter-personal relationships are further complicated by emerging tales of corruption and political intrigue in this page-turning novel which has sat at the top of the New Zealand bestseller lists since publication.

For more inspiration for your summer reading check out:

Top tips for getting over jet lag

Revive aching muscles and stiff bones after a long flight with a range of full body stretches devised by personal trainer at Constance Le Prince Maurice, Isabelle Lamant.

Exercise 1 – Relax the lower back

Open arms and keep shoulder blades on the floor. Relax your legs on the side. Inhale for 8 seconds with the nose – exhale naturally through the mouth. Repeat 5 times.

Exercise 1 – Relax the lower back

Exercise 1 – Relax the lower back

Exercise 2 – Stretch your bottom to avoid pain in the lower back

Put your right foot on your left knee, right arm between your legs, cross your fingers on or under the left knee. Press your knee in the direction of your chest until you feel the muscle stretch. Hold for 20/30 seconds per leg.

Exercise 2 – Stretch your bottom to avoid pain in the lower back

Exercise 3 – Stretch your hamstrings with a towel

Hold a towel with both hands and stretch your right leg as far as you can. Hold for 20 seconds. To avoid curving the back, bend the opposite (left) leg and put the left foot on the floor before changing legs.

Exercise 3 – Stretch your hamstrings with a towel

Exercise 4 – Stretch the outside of your legs (abductors)

Hold the towel in your left hand and place it under the right foot. Keep your left leg flat on the floor, turn your head and stretch out the right arm on the right side. Put the left elbow on the floor and pull your hand gently until you feel the stretch on the outside of the right leg. 20/30 seconds per side.

Exercise 4 – Stretch the outside of your legs (abductors)

Exercise 5 – Stretch inside of your legs (adductors)

Place the towel under your right foot and hold in the right hand. Keep your left leg flat on the floor, turn your head to the left. Put the right elbow on the floor and pull your hand gently until you feel the stretch on the inside of the right leg. 20/30 seconds per side.

Exercise 5 – Stretch inside of your legs (adductors)

Exercise 6 – Stretch inside of your legs (adductors), hands and forearms

We never think of stretching of our hands but they can really need it. Bend your knees, bring your big toes together and sit down as far as you can on your heels. Point your fingers in the direction of your hips and then press the palms of your hands on the floor. Hold for 20 seconds.

Exercise 6 – Stretch inside of your legs (adductors), hands and forearms

Exercise 7 – Stretch quads and improve the flow of blood circulation in your hips

Position your right knee above the right heel, stretch the left leg back and raise your spine. 20 seconds per leg.

Exercise 7 – Stretch quads and improve the flow of blood circulation in your hips

Exercise 8 – Stretch your hamstrings and shoulders

With your legs close together, cross your fingers behind your back and bend forward. Stretch your arms above your back as far as you can. Hold for 20 seconds.

Exercise 8 – Stretch your hamstrings and shoulders

Exercise 9 – Stretch your arms and chest and open the thorax

Put your fingers on a wall, stretch your arm and twist your body in the opposite direction. 5 deep breaths per side.

Exercise 9 – Stretch your arms and chest and open the thorax

Exercise 10 – Stretch your Legs, back, shoulders and arms

Press your hand against a wall. Stretch your arms and legs and keep your back parallel to the floor. Hold for 20 seconds.

Exercise 10 – Stretch your Legs, back, shoulders and arms

After this routine of 10 exercises you will immediately feel the benefit. These are stretches you can do every day without moderation.

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Are you getting the most out of your 5 star hotel?

Many travellers can be reticent about getting the most from a stay in a luxury 5 star hotel, according to travel writer Mark Hodson in the Huffington Post.

Personal service at the Beach Bar, Constance Tsarabanjina

Personal service at the Beach Bar, Constance Tsarabanjina

Hodson suggests that ordinary travellers need to understand that excellent high-end service is what you’re paying for when using 5 star hotels and travellers should not be timid about taking advantage of this.

Ways to improve your 5 star experience, according to the post, include:

  • The concierge – Hodson describes the concierge as the pinnacle of service at a 5 star hotel. ‘The concierge is a highly-trained and well-connected fixer whose services are at your disposal.’ Available for everything from theatre ticket bookings (if you contact the concierge desk before you arrive) to restaurant reservations and bookings, the concierge is there to smooth out any difficulties, fix any problems and make your stay as pleasurable as possible.
  • Get in touch before you arrive – ‘Once you’ve made your booking, contact the hotel to let staff know how they can make your stay more comfortable,’ advises Hodson. This can mean anything from ordering the perfect pillow to informing them what brand of tea you prefer in the morning.
Expert preparation at Constance Moofushi, Maldives

Expert preparation at Constance Moofushi, Maldives

  • Butler service – Take advantage of butler service by having your butler unpack for you, they will also iron clothes and hang them for you if required. Hodson claims a personal butler will run any errand for you during your stay, much like an executive PA.

Read Mark Hodson’s full post on How to get the most out of a luxury hotel.

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