Arrivals & Departures Weekly Travel News & Views 27 February 2024

Nishi Park, Fukuoka.

Japan springs to life, Italy puts on a show and whaleshark season is finally here, as Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield dives into another week in Travel


In a world obsessed with being cool, welcome to the hottest place on Earth. Yes, WA was the hottest place on the planet last weekend, with temperatures above 45C in many parts of the State, and above 39C in nearly all the State.

“It’s SO HOT,” people have complained to me this week.

“It’s summer in Australia,” I reply.


Japan seems to have nature under control. Tourism authorities have released the annual cherry blossom (sakura) forecast, with the blossoming earlier than normal.

Tokyo and Osaka are scheduled to see the colourful blooms in March, with the season continuing for almost three months. Key dates are for Tokyo on March 20 (four days earlier than usual), Hiroshima on March 21, Osaka on March 22, Ishikawa on March 27 and Sapporo in Hokkaido on March 27 and Kushiro in Hokkaido on May 12.


The sakura season has been celebrated for centuries in Japan. A spokesperson for Japan National Tourism Organisation explains: “The emerging blossoms symbolise a time for renewal, as well as serving as a reminder of the transient nature of existence, beauty, and the importance of ‘being in the moment’.

After remaining dormant during the icy winter months, Japan’s cherry blossom trees sense the arrival of spring after experiencing several warm days in a row. Forecasters know that a string of warm days will trigger the required ‘temperature sum’ for the blossoms to open, which is also an important signal in the broader plant world.”

My favourite spots:

Tokyo’s Ueno Park with 1000 trees, mostly lining the path between Keisei Ueno station and the Tokyo National Museum.

Nishi Park in Fukuoka, pictured below, where there are about 1300 cherry blossom trees, and views over Hakata Bay and its islands.

Mt Yoshino in Osaka, with 30,000 cherry blossom trees of various varieties.


The opening of The Royal Park Hotel Iconic Nagoya this month will see a “fusion of Japanese traditional aesthetics of the Chubu region with modern elements,” says an insider. It’s a premium hotel in the historic and redeveloped Chunichi building, in the centre of Honshu. Traditional Japanese crafts and products will be featured in guest rooms and facilities. There are Arimatsu Shibori textiles, and Tokoname, Seto and Mino pottery and ceramics. On the 7th and 24th to 32nd floors of the Chunichi building, there are views of Nagoya Castle, Mirai Tower and Oasis 21.


Reader Doug Jones has asked about the state of play for Bali visas. Good question, Doug. Yes, we reported that there might be visa-free travel to Bali for Australians early this year. No, it hasn’t happened. Doug notes: “As you reported, the new Bali tourist tax is now in place but as far as I know nothing further has occurred in relation to the return of visa-free travel for Australians.”

What we reported about the possibility of visa-free travel was correct at the time — but two things have since happened. Ross Taylor, founder of the Indonesia Institute, explains for us: “First, Indonesia was heading for a national election, so the process was delayed. Second, Australia decided to increase visa fees for Indonesians wanting to holiday here by a massive 34 per cent to $190 per person at the same time as we are wanting visa-fee travel to Bali, Indonesia for all Aussies.” Indonesia has been disappointed by this, said nothing, but kept deferring the removal of the Visa on Arrival for Australians. As Ross puts it: “A stalemate unfortunately. So, as it stands now, we pay around $50 per person for a Visa on Arrival plus a $15 per person State Government tax upon arrival into Bali to help the local environment. Around $65 per person all-up.”


As Italy starts to thaw from its winter chill, and with an early spring on the horizon, festivals such as Carnevale and Easter are just around the corner. Festival spirit is in the air and the months from March until May are a good time to be there. Carnevale starts about a month before Ash Wednesday and finishes before Lent, and there are lots of parades, masked events and clouds of multicoloured confetti. Though Venice is best known for masks and parades, even small towns have Carnevale parades.


And nature’s calendar is pretty much on time in Australia’s Coral Coast, where the 2024 whale shark season has officially started. Ningaloo Discovery will run whale shark tours daily from February 26, with other operators starting their tours from Coral Bay and Exmouth over the coming days and weeks. A spokesperson for Australia’s Coral Coast explains: “The start of the season at Ningaloo between March and July, coincides with the annual coral spawning taking place during the full moon in March. The 2023 season at Ningaloo was one of the best on record, with approximately 40,000 whale shark swims.”


And, following extensive renovations over the last two years, Chimes Spa Retreat in Denmark (WA) has reopened. There are timber panels, vertical timber slated screens, woven rugs, and freestanding circular baths in guest rooms. New owner Jeanne Herholdt, who took over the retreat in February 2022, says: “I love beautiful things, I do not apologise for that.” An Autumn 2024 Stay and Day Spa Package, from $695 per couple, includes two nights accommodation, breakfast, spa treatments and an evening charcuterie board.