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Turquoise Holidays recommends…

If you’re going to ask someone about their favourite places to stay in the world it sure as damn it should be someone who owns a luxury travel company. So it’s kia ora, bula and jambo to Sue Bell of the awesome Turquoise Holiday Company, specialists in luxury long-haul and exotic destinations, beloved of top travel editors and savvy travellers.

Sue spent a whopping three years after university travelling to remote places the world over – no boring trainee graduate programme for her –  and now spends her time as Product Director at Turquoise, testing out travel hotspots all over the world. Yeah I know, feel her pain! Anyway, below are Sue’s insider tips to the best places to put on your travel bucket list if you can’t persuade her to let you carry her hand luggage.

CAPE TOWN

Cape Town is my favourite city in the whole world, no question. I remember flying there for the first time, seeing the top of Table Mountain and being totally overwhelmed by the view. Aside from the fact that it’s an incredibly beautiful part of the world, Cape Town has a real energy and buzz about it – it’s very chic and cool, and everywhere you go there are hidden gems, off the wall restaurants and boho beach bars. One of its big draws if you’re looking to go on holiday somewhere is the strength of the pound against the rand – seriously, it’s brilliant value for money. Plus it has the same time zone as the UK and has a fantastic choice of boutique hotels, better than any other African country I’d say. If you’re planning on travelling en fam, there’s also no jet-lag, no jabs and relatively low crime.

Where to eat? Head to Kloof Street for coffee and brunch with the locals and make sure you book restaurants well in advance – Test Kitchen and Pot Luck my two big tips.

Where to stay? I’d choose the Cape Cadogan Hotel

Where to sip the plonk? Babylonstoren, Franschhoek

Whenever I’m in Cape Town I always hire a car and drive out of the city to the winelands (I have a weakness for wine, don’t we all?!). There’s a fantastic place just outside Franschhoek called Babylonstoren, one of the oldest working Cape Dutch farms in the area. It’s renovation from its former family days has been done beautifully, with whitewashed walls, contemporary touches, all very light and bright.  There’s a phenomenal restaurant there called Babel in a converted cow shed. The vibe here is all about farm-to-table with  guests encouraged to explore the gardens with the gardeners and chefs, to choose their meals and learn all about where the food they are eating comes from. They sell their own amazing oils, freshly-baked bread, Babylonstoren Estate grown-wine and fresh fruit to take away, too. I can’t quite get into word how brilliant it is, make sure you go if you’re Cape Town way.

LEINSTER DOWNS STATION, THE AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK

I’m not sure everyone’s idea of fun is to be an Australian cow girl, but of all my experiences around the world, working at Leinster Downs Station in the Australian outback still packs fantastic memories for me. I was travelling around Australia after university but by the time I reached Perth I’d run out of money, so took a job as a jillaroo, miles from civilization, on a 3000 acre outback station – mending fences, camping out in the middle of nowhere and looking after the sheep. It really opened my eyes to the bush, I absolutely loved it. ‘The Agnew’ was our local pub, a mere hour and a half away. I remember the first time I walked in and the whole pub went silent – I was the only woman there. Think ‘Crocodile Dundee’ in a ramshackle tin shed and you’ve pretty much got the idea.

MAKANYANE LODGE, SOUTH AFRICA

I absolutely love safaris, and I’d always dreamed of sleeping out in the bush. Finally I managed it a few year ago on safari in South Africa at Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge. Makanyane is located within the stunning malaria free, Madikwe game reserve, a short flight from Johannesburg. The lodge itself is beautiful – imagine glass-fronted bedrooms, a luxe en suite, spacious living and dining area, an overlooking a ravine that’s abundant with game. Just 15 minutes away from this main lodge by jeep is ‘the hide’ which is where I had my bush sleep out. All guests are invited to try their signature ‘sleep out under the stars’ experience which takes place in a double storey tree house. It’s basic (comparatively) but it’s more than comfortable, with a double bed, bush toilet, lanterns, a mosquito net, a walkie talkie (just in case) and even a candlelit dinner before bed if you want to push the boat out. You sleep out under this amazing canopy of stars – it’s a true once-in-a-lifetime experience, and something I recommend to all my clients.

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