Weekly Travel News & Views: February 12 Edition

Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield wraps up another week in travel


Australia’s borders to double-vaccinated international tourists open on February 21 after what will be a 704-day suspension. But not for WA, of course. I’ve just been talking to a friend in Sydney, just back (quarantine free) from seeing family in the UK. And another who has just booked a six-week holiday in Europe, including a long family get-together in a villa in Crete.


The Australian Federation of Travel Agents has been turning cartwheels over the Federal Government’s decision to reopen. Travel agents have had a horror two years, and are currently helping Australians manage up to $6 billion in credits for COVID-impacted travel — all for no payment. The federation estimates that, on average, 51 per cent of all travel businesses’ work is in helping clients use credits.


With Australia’s cruise ban in place until February 17, Carnival cruise line has pulled two of its ships out of Australia. Carnival Splendour will join Carnival Spirit in repositioning from Australia to the USA and Carnival has cancelled all Australian cruises until October.


Bali opened on February 4 to foreign tourists, who’ve had at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. They must spend their first five days in a resort in Nusa Dua, Sanur, Jimbaran or Ubud, isolated from the outside world.


Last week, we published a story about the good work Stefan Bran and Barbara Ebel have done in Bali, building a reef by hand. With it, we published a photograph of them with a statue of Buddha at their Siddhartha Oceanfront Resort and Spa in Bali, which is named for him. (Yes, Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha, was a real person who lived from about 563BC to 483BC.)

But reader Jan Vandine writes: “I was rather offended by the photo in today’s edition showing Stefan Bran and Barbara Ebel leaning on a statue of Buddha in Bali. I am Buddhist and to see someone treat the symbol of my belief so disrespectfully was disappointing. Would they so casually lean on a statue of Jesus Christ in that manner? I think not. So I ask that you encourage your travellers to show respect to the symbols of other cultures.”


Buddha taught that forgiveness should be such that the person who is being forgiven doesn’t even know that you feel they have made a mistake and are forgiving them. He said they shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about their mistake. Buddha wrote: “Why should I forgive you when you have done nothing wrong?”

And those wanting to think more about it might look up what (accessible) psychologist and teacher of Buddhist psychology Jack Kornfield says about it all.


In a terrible “slip of the brain” in a busy moment, I made a mistake last week. We published a story by Chris Tate about platforms being built for grebes in a lake in Treendale, near Australind. It was wrongly attributed to his brother Lee Tate. I know and respect them both and offer my sincere apology for the mistake. And compliments to Chris for his significant part in the project.


A new nature playground is the showpiece of upgraded visitor facilities at the Water Corporation’s Churchman Brook dam. Part of the $2.5 million of taxpayers’ money going into recreational areas at four metro dams, the upgrades also include a grass picnic area and new toilet and barbecue facilities. The scenic spot, in the City of Armadale, is visited by thousands of people each year, and there are picnic areas and walking trails. The visitor facilities at Serpentine Main, Canning and Mundaring dams will be upgraded later this year.


Transwa and the WA Visitor Centre are launching their new collection of 2022 Seniors Breaks packages that provide free travel for WA Pension Concession Cardholders. This year, the expanded program offers more destinations, quality accommodation and a wider choice of optional tours to add to packages.

The Seniors Breaks include trips to Kalgoorlie, Esperance, Bunbury, Busselton, Pemberton, Albany, Kalbarri, Geraldton, and on the Rottnest Express and with Whale Watch WA. Transwa offers one free return trip or two single trips per calendar year on the Transwa network for all valid WA Pension Concession Cardholders. Seniors without a card can still get a 50 per cent fare discount. Bookings can only be made through the WA Visitor Centre, either at the WAVC, 55 William Street in Perth’s CBD, by calling 1800 812 808 or by emailing to info@wavisitorcentre.com.au. Contact WAVC for a copy of the new 16-page brochure to be posted or sent by email.


The 2022 season for Sal Salis eco-luxury camp, in the dunes by Ningaloo Reef on North West Cape, is almost completely sold out. So owner Journey Beyond has opened bookings for its 2023 travel season earlier than ever before. Chief commercial officer Peter Egglestone says Journey Beyond is also extending the season from the beginning of March, to coincide with the start of whale shark season, through to mid-November. The camp has 15 wilderness tents and one honeymoon tent, each with an ensuite, hot water shower and comfortable bed. The social heart of the camp is the recently refurbished lodge. An advance purchase king/twin wilderness tent in March 2023 is $1590 per night, per couple ($200 less than the everyday price), or $795 per person. A honeymoon tent is $2050. Sal Salis also has packages which include transfers from Learmonth airport, a scenic flight or three nights sailing on the Shore Thing with Sail Ningaloo. salsalis.com


I have received a lot of correspondence this week about our border situation. One reader suggested a new number plate slogan for WA: “(permanent) State of Emergency”. Another made references to Game of Thrones and power corrupting even the most noble intentions.

… which leads me to a happy moment when visitors to the newly launched Game of Thrones Studio Tour in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, were surprised to be greeted by actors Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Star), Kristian Nairn (Hodor) and Nathalie Emmanuel Missandei). They were there to open the attraction. In one of the series’ original filming locations at Linen Mill Studios, Game of Thrones Studio Tour takes guests into the Seven Kingdoms. They can step inside the Great Hall at Winterfell where Jon Snow was proclaimed the “King in the North”, stand by Daenerys Targaryen’s imposing Dragonstone throne, and see props, weaponry and visual effects. gameofthrones studiotour.com