Monday, 15 March 2010

FRANKS FAVOURITES: Bundanoon, Wild Dolphin, Argentina, Singapore, Vietnam


OVER 20,000 visitors are expected at this year's Bundanoon is Brigadoon in the NSW Southern Highlands on Saturday April 17.

Now in its 33rd year, this is one of the biggest Highland Gatherings in the world, featuring a massive street parade with 25 pipe bands from Australia and overseas, marching Scottish Clans and Societies, and dozens of decorated floats.

After the 9.30am Parade and 10.45 Official Opening visitors will be entertained to Scottish Country and Highland dancing demonstrations (with the opportunity to join-in if they wish,) individual pipe band displays, and demonstrations by the Highland Cavaliers and Southern Highland Kennel and Obedience Clubs.

There'll be such Scottish Traditional – and not-so-Traditional – games and activities as the Caber Toss, Shot Putt, Hay Toss, Haggis Hurling, Egg Toss, Water Toss, Kilted Races, and a Bonnie Bairns Highland Dress Competition (up to 6 years of age.)

And strongman David Huxley and the 'Tartan Warriors' will show their prowess in lifting the 'Bundanoon Stones of Manhood' that weight 100, 110, 125, 145 and 165kg each.

Over 100 Variety and Specialty Stalls will have arts, crafts, Scottish goods and tartans on sale, and a further thirty will offer a variety of foods and drinks – even haggis.

And Australia's unique Celtic Rock Band, HIGHLANDER will stage several performances during the day. Hailing from Newcastle, the 5-piece group is a powerhouse of the sounds of bagpipes, fiddle, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, percussion and vocal harmonies.

Entry to Bundanoon is Brigadoon $18 for adults (17 years and over,) $15 Concession (Age Pension cardholders,) $5 children 5-16 years and $40 for families.

Details including pre-purchase of tickets from Southern Highlands Information Centre 1300 657 559; also check-out

FOOTNOTE: If you are planning on visiting by train, don't look for Bundanoon on the railway station: even the platform name sign is changed to Brigadoon for the day!


Visitors to Australia's dolphin capital, Port Stephens, will be able to ride the waves in the water amongst a wild dolphin pod as part of a unique new interactive experience that has just become the first commercially licensed wild dolphin encounter in NSW and the only one of its kind in Australia.

Launched by Dolphin Swim Australia and Imagine Cruises and billed as a breakthrough in dolphin-human interaction and the 'closest thing to swimming with dolphins', the new 4 hour 'Aquatic Marine Viewing Experience' departs from the Nelson Bay Marina at Port Stephens, 2½ hours north of Sydney. After a thorough briefing, four people at a time will don wetsuits, snorkel gear and a safety harness before entering the water where they are securely attached to a cable between the twin bows of the catamaran, 'Imagine', as it sails along at a safe 5km/h. The in-water interaction lasts for about five minutes, with participants in trials smiling from ear to ear after the brief but intense experience.

"What we're launching is a unique experience which allows you to actually keep up with the playful and friendly common dolphins which get very excited when they see humans in the water whom they think are 'swimming' as fast as them," said tour co-founder Frank Future from Dolphins Swim Australia and Imagine Cruises. "It's an intense and moving experience that takes you right into the dolphins' world where you can hear and feel their vocalisations," Mr Future said. "We believe it will attract many more visitors to the 'Blue Water Paradise' of Port Stephens from around Australia and overseas... already more than 250,000 people a year come to Port Stephens to join dolphin cruises.

"Trials of the in-water dolphin encounters have shown that these types of dolphins just love to ride the waves with us and come right alongside our guests in the water," Mr Future said.

Dolphin Swim Australia joint venture partner, Andrew Parker, added that staff would conduct scientific research on the dolphins during the trips to discover more about the movement and abundance of the common dolphin and to ensure the activity had no negative impact on the species.

The NSW Marine Parks Authority has given Dolphin Swim Australia a three-year licence to run the dolphin encounters.

Available to swimmers aged 12 and over, the in-water dolphin encounters will run at Port Stephens every Saturday and Sunday at 7.15am from the Nelson Bay marina and cost $229 for swimmers (including wetsuit and snorkel hire) and $60 for observers. Rates include breakfast onboard 'Imagine'. Trips are limited to 20 swimmers and 20 observers. Bookings are via or, both featuring a video of the new tours, or 02 4984 9000.


Santiago, a striking city set beneath the Andes, the wine region of Santa Cruz, the tranquil lakes district and Latin America's most cosmopolitan city, Buenos Aires, are some of the highlights of Tempo Holidays 12-day Best of Chile and Argentina package which carries a 10 per cent discount on new bookings deposited by April 30.

The discount applies to all departures in 2010.

The discount price is from $2272 per person twin share (normally from $2524) which includes accommodation in four-star hotels, 11 breakfasts, two lunches, three dinners, coach and private excursions with bilingual guides, transfers and land transportation with bilingual guides, hotel pick up/drop off for excursions and transfers.

Airfares are not included but Tempo Holidays can organise them through its Latin America airline partner, LAN.

Contact agents, Tempo Holidays on 1300 558 987 or see


FAMILIES or friends who enjoy sharing a cabin to save on cruise-holiday costs, can join the elegant 680-cabin Italian liner Costa Romantica from Singapore to Hong Kong in April or May this year – from an unbelievable $1999pp quad-share, or $2099pp triple-share for 9-nights fly, cruise and stay through

And it includes return air and taxes from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide, two hotel nights pre-cruise and a night aboard ship in Singapore with all transfers, and 7-nights on Costa Romantica with all onboard meals and entertainment.

Representing savings of over thirty-per cent on originally-advertised prices, even twin-share packages starts from as low as $2249pp – and on some select departures children up to 18 years cruise free (paying only port charges) if sharing a cabin with two adults.

There are three of these fly, cruise and stay packages between April 17 and May 29, with Costa Romantica visiting Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang and having three full-days at sea between Singapore and Hong Kong.

A particular highlight is the opportunity to enjoy three-days of Singapore's duty-free shopping, markets, dining at the famous "hawker centres" and the Lion City's many other attractions, as all packages include a night at the riverside Novotel Clarke Quay Hotel, another night and day aboard Costa Romantica before sailing, and all transfers from airport to hotel to ship.

Details phone 1300 369 848 or visit

ADDITIONAL SHIPBOARD DETAILS: Costa Romantica is a stylishly elegant liner with public areas featuring rare timbers, Carrara marble and millions of dollars worth of original sculptures, paintings, murals, wall hangings and hand-crafted furnishings.

There's a spa offering beauty treatments, therapies and personalised instruction, four Jacuzzis, an outdoor jogging track, fitness centre with gym, treatment and sauna and steam rooms, nine bars, an internet centre and library and a shopping centre.

She also has casino, disco and a 600-seat theatre rising through two decks.


WENDY WU Tours is expanding its south-east Asian product by introducing a 12-day tour of Vietnam which concentrates on the country's exotic cuisine and learn-to-cook sessions with local chefs.

The tour blends the gourmet dining and cooking experience with the best of the country's cultural highlights, including a motorised cyclo tour to Hue's Imperial Citadel and a trip around Halong Bay on a traditional junk.

The cuisine experience includes dinner at the former residence of the U.S. Ambassador and a private cooking class at the Saigon Culinary Art Centre.

The fully inclusive escorted tour departs Sydney and Melbourne on October 20 and costs from $4280 per person twin share. Price includes international economy airfares, Australian and Vietnamese taxes, superior accommodation and all meals, local transportation in Vietnam, daily tours and entrance fees, an English speaking National Tour Escort and/or local guides and visa fees for Australian passport holders. It also includes airline fuel surcharge of $162 and tipping of $70, which are subject to change.

Fully inclusive prices for Brisbane and Adelaide start from $4580 per person twin share and Perth starting from $4690 per person twin share.

For more detail contact Wendy Wu Tours on 1300-727-998 or visit