Introducing Our New Middle East Manager – Richard

Richard with the Dubai Desert Classic Trophy at Emirates Golf Club in Dubai Middle East United Arab Emirates Oman Dubai Abu Dhabi
Richard with the Dubai Desert Classic Trophy at Emirates Golf Club in Dubai

For the past 24 years, Chaka Travel, have been organising luxury golf travel holidays to destinations around the world. Our experience in places like Mauritius, South Africa & the Middle East are unparalleled.

Chaka is excited about the development of new championship golf courses and luxurious hotels popping up all over the already popular Middle East region. This has presented us opportunities to grow our already successful Middle East Portfolio.

With that being said, Chaka Travel Managing Director, Mark Marais is delighted to announce the appointment of Richard into the Chaka Travel Team;

“Richard brings a wealth of experience from the Middle East to us and we’re excited for our future developments within the region’’

Richard, a former golf professional with stints on the PGA EuroPro Tour, has worked extensively in the Golf Travel industry in the UK & Internationally;

‘’I’m delighted to join Mark and the team at Chaka Travel, their drive to offer the very best service and excellence in luxury golf travel is evident and something that matches my work ethics.”

Richard with the Dubai Desert Classic Trophy at Emirates Golf Club in Dubai Middle East United Arab Emirates Oman Dubai Abu Dhabi
Richard, Middle East Manager at Chaka Travel

Richard has just returned from 4 years working in the golf sector in the Middle East, where he was based in Dubai; “This provided me with some amazingly unique experiences and insight into the world of Middle East golf travel.”

“The magic surrounding the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club, the stunning coral reefs of Oman or the piercing blue ocean on Saadiyat Island are just a few of the regions gems that are waiting to be discovered.”

“I’m excited to use my years of personal experience with golf in the Middle East and beyond, to help consumers get the very best out of their golfing holiday.
Whether it be Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Kaimah, Oman or further afield, I am excited to compliment the vast experience at Chaka Travel to create the very best value and experience, by adding those unique aspects to the trip that only a local to the destination would know to explore.’’

Richard has been working hard to put together exciting new offers in the Middle East which he will announce in our newsletter tomorrow, Feb 27th.
You can sign up to receive the newsletter here

To find out more or make an enquiry, please contact richard@chakatravel.com or visit our Website

#ChakaTravel

Mauritius Revisited: Mark & Marcella Return to Paradise

It had been 3 three years since my last visit to Mauritius and with all the changes on the island, I felt a trip was very much needed to get up to speed with things. Stuart and Jean from the office had both been over recently to see a lot of the changes which had whetted my appetite. With Marcella and I now being empty nesters it was great to be able to go away on a ‘work trip’ together and this was her first time back in 10 years. We flew out of Dublin via Dubai and couldn’t find fault with Emirates who consistently rank as one of the world’s leading airlines.

Day 1 – Arriving to a Sunny Festive Mauritius and straight onto the Heritage golf course

After a comfortable and stress-free journey from Dublin via Dubai with Emirates we arrived and were quickly out of the bright and modern airport and into a sunny, warm Mauritius morning. We were driven along the south coast by our charming concierge Clifford from Emotions who look after all of our clients’ transfers and local tours requirements as well as giving us a 365 day /24hr presence on the island. We passed an amazing Tamil religious festival en route to the hotel, the bright bold colours of the silks and exotic flowers immediately stirred the senses, making us suddenly feel like we were a long way from the hustle, bustle and any stress left at home.

Straight on to the Heritage Golf Course


Of course within an hour of arrival at the African themed Heritage Awali Golf and Spa Resort I was out on the Heritage golf course. It was great to be back out on one of my favourite courses, I remember seeing the course when under construction and had the pleasure of watching it blossom into maturity when attending its official opening, over the years it’s just got better and better. I enjoyed playing with the South African golf director Jonathan Menteath and his friend Nico who was over visiting from Legends Golf and Safari resort in SA. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Legends 3 times and even taken on the ultimate golf experience with a helicopter up to the Extreme 19th! As such there were 3 of us Southern Africans playing together but unfortunately only two good golfers! I used every excuse in the book about our 8 month winter in Europe to try and justify my wayward golf, I must thank them for their patience. The weather was absolutely perfect, 28c with a lovely soft breeze and clear blue skies, we played in these absolutely ideal conditions until the sun set. I was pleased to hear from Jonathan that they are soon starting the 2nd course and I look forward to playing it in the future!

After the obligatory post game Phoenix beer sundowners I met up with Marcella and we enjoyed an early dinner at Infinity Blue restaurant down alongside the beach. Sitting outside with your feet in the sand at this relaxed restaurant was a perfect end to our first day back in Mauritius!

Day 2 – Catching up with Golf Developments in Mauritius

Another day in paradise for Marcella and I: beach, massage, food, beer and a tough lunchtime meeting with my old friend Michael Geerdharry at the stunning Heritage Le Telfair Resort. Michael has been involved in golf on the island since day 1 and I’ve known him for over 20 years! It was great chatting about how golf has developed on the island and I’m pleased to say more courses are in the pipeline including the second Heritage golf course! I love the local food in Mauritius and we had a delicious meal in the Mauritian-Asian style Zafarani restaurant at the Heritage Awali.

Marcella and Michael Geerdharry Le Telfair Golf Resort Mauritius
Marcella with Michael Geerdharry at Heritage Le Telfair

Day 3 – Meeting an old friend at the new Avalon Golf Club

After breakfast we headed up the from the south coast to Avalon Golf Club where we were met by the Estate Manager Ryan Dodds. Whilst it was my first round at Avalon it wasn’t my first time meeting Ryan who I’m sure many will remember at Heritage GC just down the hill! Marcella and I really enjoyed this superb Peter Matkovitch course, he’s a great designer and I’m pleased to say a fellow Zimbabwean. The course has spectacular views of the ocean from virtually every hole, surrounding tea plantations and nearby mountains. The course has wide forgiving fairways as it winds through rivers, ravines and indigenous forests, we thoroughly enjoyed our round yet again played in perfect conditions. During the round we bumped into Jean Patrick who I had met many times over the years at Heritage Golf Club – it was really pleasing to see that a local Mauritian who had started working at the range has progressed to being Avalon’s PGA pro, a true sign that Mauritius has matured as a golf destination. After golf we set off across the Island with our ‘concierge supreme’ Clifford who stopped at the very impressive recently constructed statue of Parvati the Hindu goddess of fertility, love and devotion – what an island, even after 23 years of coming here and still so much to see…… We went on to Anahita Golf and Spa Resort on the east coast of the island ending the day with a wonderful dinner on the veranda.

Avalon Golf Course Mauritius Mark & Ryan Dodds
Mark & Ryan Dodds on the Avalon Golf Course

Day 4 – Some welcome down time at Anahita Golf and Spa Resort

After a fairly busy start to our trip we treated ourselves to a really relaxing day around the pool at Anahita Golf and Spa Resort. The resort is truly top class and offers a wide range of accommodation all set in beautiful gardens as well as having a superb golf course which I was looking forward to playing the following morning. In the evening we headed up the coast to the recently completely renovated One&Only Le Saint Geran resort for dinner with Rheena, the charming manager of Emotions and her equally charming husband Martin. We had a tour of the resort before enjoying a memorable meal in excellent company. On&Only LeSaint Geran for many years set the standard on the island and whilst we only enjoyed a short visit I believe it will have all of the other leading hotels knowing they will have to up their game as the bar has been raised.

Anahita Resort Mauritius Beach
Some relaxation on the beach at Anahita

Day 5 – An early golf game at Anahita then onto Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok

With another sunny morning I was up early and the first out on the Anahita Golf Course, as always the course was in fantastic condition. With the construction of a number of new villas alongside the course, there was some background noise and the normally picturesque 4th hole had fencing most of the way down the fairway. Fortunately, the stunningly located green with wonderful views of the turquoise ocean was unaffected. The course is very forgiving off the tee box which suits me, to score well you need a good short game as designer Ernie Els made sure scoring wasn’t easy with well protected, tricky greens.

After lunch we moved around the bay to Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok, Mauritius where we would be spending a couple of days. Having been taken over by Shangri La since my last golf break in Mauritius I was interested to seeing any changes. Having been to a number of Shangri La’s resorts including the Shangri La’s Rasa Ria Golf Resort in Malaysian Borneo and the Shard in London I knew the standard would be high. Overall the biggest difference we found was that the resort had a more relaxed and informal feel having previously been very elegant and chic. I particularly enjoyed the late afternoon sundowner session they now have every afternoon on the beach which brought people together with music in the background creating a lively and fun atmosphere. Throughout our stay we were looked after like royalty by the affable marketing director Peter Donlevy, we joined him for dinner in the Japanese restaurant and the company and the food were of the highest order!

Anahita Resort Mauritius Plunge Pool Overlooking Golf Course
Plunge Pool overlooking the Golf Course at Anahita

Day 6 – A golf transfer with a difference – off to Ile Aux Cerfs course by boat!

Marcella and I spent a magical day playing on the iconic Ile Aux Cerfs course. This was her first time there and I really enjoyed sharing the experience with her. Everything was perfect, from the boat ride out to the island, to playing the immaculately maintained course and enjoying post match drinks and lunch in the lovely clubhouse, it is truly an experience that will live long in the memory of anyone lucky enough to grace Ile Aux Cerfs fairways. The course was in tip top condition and with just a gentle cooling breeze conditions were once again ideal. I have played it many times and enjoy it a lot more now since they have made it easier to play – when it was first opened it was ridiculously tough! Hats off to the Director of Golf Marc Amelot and his team who do an amazing job in keeping the course at a consistently high standard!

Mark on the Ile Aux Cerf Golf Course Mauritius
Mark on the Ile Aux Cerfs Golf Course

Day 7 – The ultimate in laid-back luxury – a relaxing day on a private island!

We spent most of the day at Shangri La’s Le Touessrok’s private island Ilot Mangenie – truly paradise!!! Just a short boat ride from the resort and you find yourself in heaven, nothing more than a few sun loungers dotted along the stunning beaches plus an excellent beach restaurant providing world class food – how do the Mauritians do it! Our overall impression was that the Shangri-Las Le Touessrok has notably changed and is now less formal but equally as impressive! After lunch we moved back around the bay to the Four Seasons Mauritius. We were lucky enough to be given a beachfront villa with a private pool. These outstanding villas are the absolute epitome of luxury as one would expect from Four Seasons. The resort has a number of excellent restaurants and dinner was enjoyed under the stars with a gentle breeze keeping things really comfortable.

Ilot Margenie Private Island Mauritius Boat Trip
Boat trip to the private island of Ilot Margenie

Day 8 – On your bike!

Marcella and I decided we needed to work off some of the amazing food (and in my case numerous cold Phoenix) so we hired some bikes and went off for a fun ride through the cane fields and down the east coast. Whilst the weather was cloudy and breezy it was great to get out of the resorts and enjoy the island. Later in the day we moved to the superb Constance Prince Maurice Resort, in my opinion the finest resort on an island famous for its world class hotels! Le Prince Maurice shares two superb golf courses, the Legend and the Links, with its sister hotel the Constance Belle Mare Plage. Le Prince Maurice is an extremely elegant resort, renowned for its exceptional service, luxurious décor, amazing cuisine and a wonderfully extensive wine list. After a cocktail at the floating bar we had an excellent meal at the Asian Restaurant, where the superb food is prepared by the chefs in full view of the diners.

Day 9 – Epicureans & wine lovers, be ready!

Another day, another great golf course! This time Marcella and I played the Links course. Opened in 2002, The Links is Constance Hotels second championship golf course, it’s a fair course that rewards good play but can be equally tricky, particularly on the back nine. There are reasonably generous fairways leading to tricky greens which puts an emphasis on solid iron play as well as making really think about your choice of approach shot. There’s considerably less water than on the Legend course but there are still 6 water hazards as well as volcanic rock features that must be avoided. Following the golf we relaxed on the beach at the resort before winding down even further with a relaxing massage at the superb spa. We had a wonderful evening with pre-dinner drinks at the floating bar before the ‘La Paulée’ dinner dedicated to sumptuous wine and food pairings!

Mark Links Golf Course Constance Belle Mare Plage Golf Resort Mauritius
Mark on The Links at Constance Belle Mare Page

Day 10 – A warm welcome at the new C Palmar Resort

After this we moved to the new C Palmar Resort, I was really looking forward to seeing our great friends from Constance Resorts latest offering. This is a smaller boutique style resort and on arrival we were given a typically warm Mauritian greeting. As we walked through the hotel we took in the stunning view of the beach and sea which dipped beyond the horizon. The bright natural light as well as the airy feel to the resort really complimented the colourful setting. We were fortunate to have a room that shared this wonderful vista and spent the afternoon enjoying the crystal clear sea and sparkling white sandy beach! After the obligatory pre-dinner cocktail we had dinner in the main restaurant. Whilst the buffet didn’t have an overwhelming selection there was plenty to keep us happy and we were well looked after by the attentive and friendly staff.

View of the Beach at C Palmar from the Deck
View of the Beach from the deck at C Palmar

Day 11 – A testing round at the new Mont Choisy golf course

We woke to strong winds and a cloudy sky so made sure we had waterproofs packed before heading to the north of the island to try out the new Mont Choisy golf course. We played with our old friends Jo and Rory Kirk who originated from South Africa but have been in Mauritius for many years. Jo did a wonderful job looking after our Mauritius Mixed Pairs tournament for many years and was as enthusiastic as ever to get out and show off their new golf club regardless of the weather.

Fortunately the rain stayed away apart from one large shower and I really enjoyed playing a truly testing round in high winds, living in Ireland has made me accept it as part of the challenge! The course is another excellent Peter Matkovitch design, it’s built on a former sugar plantation with few mature trees and offers wonderful views of the mountains. The 15th hole is an absolute gem, it’s a short par-3 across a wetland to an island green, it’s located near an old chimney, a landmark that harks back to the past. We had the pleasure of lunch and a few drinks in the stylish modern clubhouse with the Kirks. As Rory had to fly off to South Africa that afternoon Jo joined us for dinner in the C Asian restaurant back at the resort, we had a superb meal reminiscing about the island and all of the changes it has undergone over the last 20 years – fortunately the majority of these are very positive both for tourism as well as the locals.

Mont Choisy Golf Club Mauritius Mark & Jo Kirk
Mark taking on the challenge of Mont Choisy

Day 12 – Home from home at the Belle Mare Plage

We thoroughly enjoyed the C Palmar and would have happily stayed on for another week but it was time to move on again! Luckily the trip wasn’t too arduous as it was just a few minutes up the road to what is generally rated the best golf resort on the island – Constance Belle Mare Plage. Having first visited the resort in 1995 I have really enjoyed seeing the resort develop from a ‘charming’ old beach resort with one golf course to the wonderful stylish current version with two excellent courses and a third in the pipeline! Belle Mare Plage, like the island itself, really feels like a second home to me, we have had thousands of happy clients enjoy the resort and many of these return year after year and like me feel totally at home.

Villa Gazebo at Constance Belle Mare Plage Mauritius
Villa Gazebo at Belle Mare Plage

Day 13 – Golf with old friends at the Links course

In the afternoon I caught up with my old friends Sarran and Dinesh who have been looking after the golfers at the Belle Mare Plages two courses for many years. It is always a highlight of my visits to Mauritius playing golf with these fun-loving, charming guys and it was a real pleasure playing the Links course with them. Golf with these laid-back guys whilst enjoying a couple of beers on the way round is my type of golf, lots of laughs and whilst competitive it’s always played within the right spirit. Many of our returning clients would know Sarran and Dinesh and I’m sure they would agree with me that the two of them, as well as the rest of the staff, really enhance the golfing experience with their charm and professionalism. It was a shame that Sebastian the director of golf was unable to join us due to a bad back but I’ll be sure to get out with him on my next visit. Our delightful dinner in the Blue Penny restaurant at Belle Mare Plage was preceded by a tour of the very impressive wine cellar and a sumptuous wine tasting experience.

Day 14 – On your bike again!

To combat all the wonderful food and drink on this trip we took on another bike ride, this time along the beautiful east coast of the island, the stretch along the Belle Mare public beach with the spectacular colours of the sea right next to us was truly memorable! A well-deserved swim and lunch were followed by a lazy afternoon enjoying the resort. We ended the day at La Spiaggia, one of my favourite restaurants, where the superb food was up to its usual high standards, before heading to the main bar to listen to some music and enjoy a nightcap (or two).

Day 15 – A quick 9 holes at the Legend Course and travelling like a star!!

Our final day had unfortunately arrived However, we were departing on an evening flight so still had the whole day to savour. We spent the morning relaxing on the beach and after lunch, we went out for a final 9-holes on the Legend Course. The changes made to the course over the last two decades have been considerable, it now plays a little easier due to wider landing areas but the abundance of water, as well as dense forest and volcanic rock, means you can expect to lose a ball or two. Overall the course was in excellent condition with well-maintained tee boxes, bunkers and pure well-paced greens. In the evening we tried out the Yu Lounge at the airport. This is in a separate building to the main terminal and is ideal for stress-free travel. On arrival at the lounge your luggage disappears, and whilst you enjoy bubbly and excellent food your passports are taken away and returned with your boarding passes. When it’s time to fly out you are taken to the main terminal in a Porsche Cayenne! At the terminal, you are whisked through a private security route and onto the departure gate. This is one indulgence I recommend particularly for those who like to be pampered!

Warm welcomes, superb golf and idyllic weather – what more could you want!

May is the perfect time of year out here with great hotel rates and idyllic golf and beach weather! The courses were all in fantastic condition particularly considering winter officially started when we were out there. The Emirates flights were all on time throughout our journey and all of our luggage appeared at the right times and places so we are grateful to them for their usual high-quality service!

I am so fortunate to have been to Mauritius many, many times and the island itself really feels like a second home to me. It was a real privilege and pleasure to spent two weeks with Marcella enjoying the best that the island has to offer. We could not have been looked after better and are very thankful for the kindness and hospitality we enjoyed throughout or visit. We have had thousands of happy clients enjoy the superb golf courses, idyllic weather and world-class resorts that Mauritius has to offer, many of these return year after year and like me I’m sure they are always planning the next return to paradise!

A Review of Golf in Sicily by Mark McGowan of IrishGolfer.ie

Review of Golf in Sicily by Mark McGowan of IrishGolfer.ie

If you haven’t considered golf in the Mediterranean then it’s time to…

You may not have considered Sicily as a destination for your golf trip but on a recent trip to the island Mark McGowan from Irish Golfer Magazine discovered some fabulous golf courses, wonderful resorts and outstanding cuisine.

Why golf in Sicily?

When it comes to Mediterranean golfing destinations, Sicily may not be the first to spring to mind, but basking year-round in the sun, the island is an ideal destination as the nights get longer and the temperature drops on domestic shores.

A long history of invasion and conquest, beginning with the Phoenicians in the first millennia B.C., through the Carthaginians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Vandals, the Goths, the Moors, the Normans, the French, the Germans, the Spanish, and even the British, make modern Sicily a cultural cocktail.  Italian is the official language, of course, but Sicilians regularly switch to a local dialect barely recognisable to that of the mainland.

Geographically, Sicily’s most southern point is more equatorial than most of the North African coast, virtually guaranteeing sunshine all year long, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius in the summer months. Sandy beaches can be found around the entire island, and the warm Mediterranean Sea makes for ideal bathing.

Sicilian golf consists of five resorts, which boast seven courses between them. Golf is a relatively new activity on the island, with the oldest course, Il Picciolo), not even 30 years in existence. The newest resort, Verdura, has two courses and is situated on the South-West side of the Island. Donnafugata, on the South-East coast also has two courses, while Monasteri, Le Saie and Il Picciolo each have one course and are all situated on the East coast.

Golf in Sicily at Verdura Golf & Spa Resort

Verdura Golf and Spa Resort is the undoubted jewel in the crown. Most easily accessed from Palermo airport, a short detour which might be of interest to fans of Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola is the village of Corleone, whose name was adopted by the legendary (if fictional) mob boss in the Mafioso classics. Although affiliated by name only, in a rare example of life imitating art, in the 1980s and 1990s, the Corleonesi became the most powerful sector of the Sicilian mafia in spite of relatively modest resources.

Set on an expanse of coastal land, the Verdura luxury resort is modernist to the core, and boasts one of the Italy’s leading spas. Two courses, the East and the West, offer a demanding challenge of championship proportions along the picturesque coastline. Host of the Sicilian Open in 2012 and 2017 (the event wasn’t held in the four intervening years) on the European Tour, Álvaro Quirós and Thorbjørn Olesen will both have very fond memories of their visit to Verdura.

Beautifully manicured and conditioned, both courses are playable by golfers of all standards with a variety of long and challenging holes to suit the longer hitters, and short holes where accuracy rather than power, is key. The short par-3 6th and the par-4 18th on the East course are the signature holes, with the latter requiring a nerve racking drive along rugged cliffs with a watery grave below for errant shots.

In terms of cuisine, the resort offers a variety of options and locations to ensure guests are never bored at meal times. The main hotel restaurant is formal, and rather upscale, but this is offset by a traditional Sicilian Trattoria close by, and an Italian Pizzeria by the golf club. Additionally, there is a seafood restaurant by the shore behind the sixth green which is open April to October.

Golf in Sicily at Donnafaguta Golf & Spa Resort

Located close to Verdura is the historic city of Agrigento. Founded by the Greeks in the sixth century, B.C., Agrigento is home to the Valley of the Temples. A ridge, rather than an actual valley, upon which stand the Temple of Juno and the Temple of Concordia and an hour’s drive East of Agrigento lies Donnafugata Golf and Spa Resort. In the shadow of the historic castle of the same name, Donnafugata offers two different challenges in its Links and Parkland courses. The Links Course – although not a typical links by Irish standards – is an undulating journey through an inlet valley just off the Mediterranean Sea. Largely devoid of trees, the Links Course offers breath-taking panoramic sea views and a challenge to suit golfers of all levels. The Parkland Course is designed by Gary Player, and hosted the Sicilian Open in 2011 when won by Raphaël Jacquelin.

The Parkland course is vastly different from the Links course, as you may expect, and occupies the opposite end of the resort where the fertile soils surrounding several of the resort’s springs facilitates the growth of carob and olive trees, and many holes feature traditional stone walls – a surviving token from the estate’s agricultural past. Dense scrub punishes errant drives on most holes, and water comes into play on five of the eighteen.

A hot and exceptionally dry summer – most of the island hasn’t seen rain in six months – has left the course in need of a drop of rain, however, being overly critical would be unfair, and the resort itself is incredibly impressive, and affords a certain sense of intimacy in spite of its expansive layout. Three restaurants – the highlight of which is the open-air bar and grill area – serve up a host of Sicilian specialities, composed entirely of locally sourced ingredients, and cooked to perfection.

The city of Ragusa in Sicily

Not far from Donnafugata, and a little further inland, is the hillside city of Ragusa. A city of two halves, Ragusa’s lower half – Ragusa Ibla – was destroyed by the large earthquake of 1693. Subsequently, Ragusa Upper was constructed on the other side of a canyon and the two sides were only connected in 1926. Ragusa Ibla is home to a number of Baroque-style cathedrals, reconstructed after the earthquake, showcasing the grandeur of the Catholic Church in all its splendour.

Allegroitalia Siracusa Golf Monasteri

A 90-minute drive east of Ragusa is Allegroitalia Siracusa Golf Monasteri, on the outskirts of Siracusa, one of the oldest Greek settlements on the island. Monasteri is, as the name suggests, a former Benedictine Monastery that has been converted into a Golf and Spa Resort. Combining the modern elegance of a spa resort with the rustic charm of a traditional Roman farm, Monasteri is set within an 86-acre orange, lemon and prickly pear plantation, all of which are features of the 18-hole golf course on site.

A 6,520 metre, par-71, Monasteri golf course is a fascinating blend of expansive, wide-open holes and devilishly narrow driving channels. Suffering a similar plight to Donnafugata in terms of an extended arid spell, Monasteri was a little under the weather when I visited. Most unusual was the wealth of prickly pear cactus trees – a most unusual sight – that lined the fairways on several holes, most notably the low indexed, par-4 sixth, where the cacti stand like sentries on both sides of the fairway, making an errant drive both a fearsome and painful thought.

The course itself features a number of very good holes, and is set to undergo some small renovations. The restaurant is spacious, with a large outdoor fireplace ideal for late night gathering in late autumn and early spring. The rooms are contemporary, and very impressive, and the spa, whilst considerably smaller than the two previous resorts, is ideal for relaxation and tranquillity.

Forty minutes north of Siracusa is Le Saie Golf Club. Opened in 2014, Le Saie is Sicily’s youngest golf course. Featuring water hazards throughout, and beautifully kept fairways and greens, Le Saie also boasts a three-tier driving range. Annexed to the course is the Le Saie resort, which is still under construction. Due for completion in mid-2018, the resort is enormous – capable of accommodating 1000 guests.

Argentario Sicily Italy

Il Picciolo – Golf at Sicily’s oldest golf course

Last, but by no means least, is Il Picciolo – Sicily’s oldest golf course – part of the Etna Golf and Spa Resort. The name is of course derived from the active volcano – Europe’s highest – in whose shadow the course lies, and whose rich, fertile volcanic plains make Il Picciolo an entirely different golfing experience from the island’s six other courses. Tree lined, and beautifully manicured, it is most definitely a course you must think your way around. Spectacular views of a smouldering Mount Etna, along with visible lava stone on the 16th and 17th holes make for a unique acquaintance.

Interestingly, the local town, Castiglione di Sicilia, is twinned with Killarney and Il Picciolo twinned with the incredibly picturesque Dooks golf club in Glenbeigh.

Unlike Dooks, however, the park surrounding Il Picciolo is a haven of lush Mediterranean vegetation, including vineyards, orchards and, of course, the olive trees that are synonymous with the entire island. The four-star hotel is elegant and benefits from cooler temperatures mid-summer due to it being almost 500 metres above sea-level.

Apart from Etna itself, which is of course a major attraction, the nearby coastal towns of Taormina and Giardini Nexus are major tourist attractions due to their ancient Greek heritage and some of the artefacts and archaeological findings that have been uncovered. Perhaps most interesting is the Ancient Greek Theatre in Taormina, built in the third century B.C., and is still used for concerts and operas to this day.

Although it may fall short of the sheer quantity of golf courses of the Algarve or the Costa del Sol, and the sheer quality of golf courses of the British Isles and Ireland, Sicily provides something entirely different. A relaxing family getaway, or a romantic excursion with some golf to tip the scales. Soak up the sun, immerse yourself in the culture, the conviviality and the cuisine. Enjoy the wine, and a little pampering. And above all else, don’t call them Italian…

If you wish to discover Sicily’s fabulous golf courses, wonderful resorts and outstanding cuisine for yourself, Chaka Travel can tailor-make your golfing trip to Sicily. See our suggested Sicilian golf holidays here.

Jean’s trip to Mauritius to see the new C Palmar

Chaka Travel sales specialist, Jean, recently travelled to see the newly opened C Palmar resort in Mauritius. Here is her report from the trip.

Having been in out in Mauritius only months before to see the newly refurbished Belle Mare Plage I was very excited to hear I was travelling out again, this time to stay in Constance’s newest boutique hotel C Palmar, which is just 10 minutes from Belle Mare Plage itself.

Saying goodbye to the husband and the dogs I took myself off happily to Belfast City airport to start the first leg of my journey. After a few happy hours of duty-free shopping in Heathrow I met up with the rest of my traveling companions and we headed off to the lounge for a glass of fizz (or 2) before boarding our Air Mauritius aircraft.

We were on the direct service from Heathrow which was great and woke up 11 hours 55 minutes later feeling refreshed and excited for the next few days ahead. Having already been to Mauritius many times I knew what to expect from this beautiful Island and its people, so the unknown was what to expect from Constance’s newest little addition C Palmar.

The Swimming Pool at C Palmar

The Swimming Pool at C Palmar

Day 1 at C Palmar, Mauritius

Upon arrival into Mauritius we were picked up and transferred straight to C Palmar and had the warmest of Mauritian welcomes by the team at C Palmar which is something I have had the pleasure of receiving at both The Belle Mare Plage and Prince Maurice previously, so it was lovely to see how delighted my travelling companions were as this was their first Constance experience.

After meeting the lovely staff we were brought into the bright and airy buffet restaurant for breakfast and immediately noticeable was how happy the staff all were and they seemed genuinely delighted to be chatting with clients all around us.

Having to be dragged away from the buffet, we were taken on a short tour of the hotel just to get our bearings and then each of us were shown to our room. The rooms were just fabulous, beautifully done with thought and attention clearly going into the design, using the local wood for the furnishings just added to that feel of small boutique hotel vibe.

There is a feeling of space in the rooms with every amenity you would need, including the mini bar as part of the all-inclusive and as the property has only 50 rooms in total they are laid out in almost a horseshoe shape so you either have beautiful garden or sea views.

Aerial shot of the resort

Aerial shot of the resort

Naturally an agreement was made between the group that after we unpacked we were to meet at one of the two infinity pools at the earliest opportunity (turned out to be 5 minutes later) and get to grips with how the clients would be enjoying the beautiful view from the infinity pool right into the beautiful Indian ocean. The water was just right and quote some time was spent in the pool testing “the view”.

C Palmar is set right on a beautiful stretch of white sand which couldn’t be ignored so we headed down to the beach and parked ourselves on one of the comfortable sun loungers, however before we could get too comfortable we were encouraged to try out some of the water sports that can be taken from the beach at Palmar.

Life vests are collected at the water sports hut on the beach and away we went, kayaking, pedalo and paddle boarding to name a few which are complimentary to all guests. Wifi is included throughout the hotel so we were able to snap away at our water antics and post online immediately, showing off really I would have said

This evenings dinner was taken in the C Asian restaurant which is the a la carte restaurant at Palmar and seats 26, so be sure to get yourself a seat as the food was amazing. Of course before dinner we met up with Giovana the hotel manager for cocktails on the upper deck, this was to become a favourite spot for me over the next 2 days!

C Palmar from the outside

C Palmar from the outside

Day 2 at C Palmar, Mauritius

Started with another super breakfast in the buffet restaurant, I went with omelette this morning as I had heard rumours of cocktail making classes later on in the day so best to have a good breakfast.

Headed straight off after breakfast to see the golf courses at Belle Mare Plage on the complimentary shuttle provided by C Palmar for all guests and also a tour of the hotel, which again for my now new friends not just travelling companions (the cocktails on the deck the night before proved to be a good bonding experience) was a new experience as none of them had seen the course or the hotel before.

So again I took great delight in seeing their reaction to another fabulous Constance property topped off with a fabulous lunch at Indigo restaurant in Belle Mare Plage.

Back at C Palmar late afternoon, we were being served C Palmar’s version of afternoon tea which was delightful and well received by all and then along came this cocktail class that had been rumoured that morning.

Everyone was strangely very eager to take part in this and a real bonus was whatever cocktail one of us chose to make we all got to have one, that somehow made the afternoon go in quite quickly and the next thing you know we are getting ready for yet another fabulous dinner this time in the buffet restaurant and joined by the lovely Fabrice Sales Manager for Constance.

Having been served up the most beautiful lamb in the buffet they had taken the time to pair up a lovely red wine and take the time to discuss the wine itself with us which is another part of the all-inclusive, actually 100 wines from around the world are included I’m told, I’m just hoping nobody is going to ask me to sample them today!

Jean's View at C Palmar

Day 3 at C Palmar, Mauritius

Morning at leisure so off we headed back down to the beach as you simply just couldn’t resist that sand and crystal blue water, by this stage as the property is so small you are now beginning to see the same people and chat happily as if you have always known them. This is a first for me in a property and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to people’s plans for the day and what they had already been up too.

Lunchtime brought another great first for me, a cooking lesson at the C Asian restaurant where we made the most fabulous curry from scratch. I will not admit to how much help we had from the excellent chef, but our curry was good enough to be served up for lunch in the buffet restaurant for all to enjoy!

The afternoon again was spent leisurely between the beach and the upper deck where you are continuously looked after by a happy smiling staff member which is only too happy to whizz you up a drink of your choice while you enjoy the sunshine.

Our last evening was kicked off with canapes and Champagne for all guests out by the pool, the canapes having been made by the fabulous Dominique who himself took great delight in seeing how well received they were and chatted happily to every client in the most beautiful French accent We also had entertainment this evening with local singers who set the tone for the lovely evening ahead.

Off we went back to C Asian for another great meal and this time we did the cooking ourselves at the tables with hot stones, an unusual but very likeable experience which I would certainly do again. For our final farewell before heading home the following morning we had a rum tasting experience in the main bar giving us a flavour of all the rums on offer at C Palmar which was enjoyed by ourselves and clients alike and led to good craic in the bar that evening for sure!

C Asian Restaurant at C Palmar

The C Asian Restaurant at C Palmar

Championship golf available

Championship golf available

Day 4 at C Palmar, Mauritius

Up and out nice and early for the flights home, we said our goodbyes to the staff as if they were old friends. It is not hard to make friends in this boutique hotel both with staff and other guests and I can only look forward to my next visit, and maybe I will even see you there!

Gerard revisits Mexico – the Golf Holiday Destination with something for everyone!

Having been to Mexico on four previous occasions I relished returning and I looked forward to showing Mark Marais (Chaka Travel MD) around one of my favourite golf holiday destinations. We both looked forward to getting out for some winter sun and seeing a wide range of resorts, playing the golf courses and enjoying the legendary Cancun nightlife.

Days 1 – 2 Cancun, Mexico

After leaving a very cold, wet, miserable UK behind and after a 10 hour flight we arrived early evening on the same day into Cancun, Mexico. We flew with Virgin and as usual their friendly efficient service meant we were well supplied with both food and drink whilst watching the latest movies on their excellent entertainment system.

On arrival we were greeted by our local representative and had a comfortable 20 minute journey to our first hotel, Secrets The Vine Cancun. On arrival at The Vine we were greeted with a very warm, “Welcome Home”, a cool refreshing towel and an ice cold glass of champagne….what a cracking start to our trip! This is a superb 5-star adult’s only hotel where we were to spend our first two nights.

thevine-roomview

After getting a tour of the hotel by our excellent concierge, Alberto, we were then shown to our rooms, which were Preferred Club Junior Suite Ocean View and they were located on the 21st Floor. The views of the beach and sea from our rooms were memorable!

Mark and I decided to quickly freshen up and make our way down for something to eat and I am pleased to say we chose the Blue Water Grill, Steak Restaurant which is located on the 12th floor. Well, all I can say is, there is nothing that beats tucking into a t-bone steak and beautiful glass of red wine 2 hours after touching down in Cancun!

After dinner we enjoyed the entertainment and atmosphere in and around the lobby bar. We also made sure to sample a drink that Mexico is very famous for ………TEQUILA!

The following morning after breakfast we explored the hotel further and we were very impressed with the layout and all the facilities on offer. As we had a free afternoon we decided to spend the day at the pool, enjoy the atmosphere and of course sip some excellent ice cold cocktails to battle the warm sunshine.

mexico-aerial

Days 3 – 5  Moon Palace Golf Resort & Spa, Cancun Mexico

On our third day we checked out of the excellent Secrets The Vine and made the short 15 minute journey to Moon Palace Golf Resort & Spa.

Moon Palace is a large resort split into 3 lobbies, Sunrise, Nizuc and Moon Grand and we were staying at the Sunrise section.

The hotel also has an excellent 27-hole golf course attached.

After a quick check in we left our luggage in our rooms and made our way to play the first 9 holes, Lakes on the Moon Palace Course and let’s just say this was an interesting 9 holes of golf. Whether it was a long journey, not playing much over the winter at home or just bad golf, we didn’t exactly light up the course.

The highlight of the day was my 6 iron leaving my grip after my tee shot at the Par 3 and ending up in a tree! I put this down to hot weather and not wearing a golf glove!

gerard-lostclub

A day of golf better forgotten, but on a brighter note the 9 holes we played just whet our appetites to play the remaining 18 holes!

That evening Mark and I had the pleasure of meeting up with clients of mine, Mel and Joy Wright who were also staying at the Moon Palace. We had such a great time in the company of the Wright’s and we ended up having dinner with them all three nights during our stay. It was great to meet clients of mine and the Wright’s were as lovely in person as they have been on the phone with me over the last few years. We thoroughly enjoyed their company and are looking forward to seeing them in Belfast for a game of golf and showing them around our wonderful home city (don’t believe what you see on the news!)

mexico-thewrights

The following day Mark and I played the remaining 18 holes, Jungle & Dunes on the Moon Palace course and I am pleased to say they did not disappoint. Our golf also improved thankfully but unfortunately Mark ran away with the win 4&3 so I was left licking my wounds. Whilst I lost a bit of my pride having to play with my shorts around my ankles for not having driving past the ladies tee on one occasion at least I managed to keep a tight grip on my club and didn’t have to search for in the jungle again!

On the Saturday we had arranged for a site inspection of Le Blanc Resort & Spa which is part of the Palace Resorts Group. Le Blanc is located in the hotel zone in Cancun and Mark and I were both wowed as soon as we entered the lobby. It’s a beautiful serene adults only hotel with an outstanding spa, perfect for couples looking a relaxing getaway, golfers looking for luxury or honeymooners alike.

We also sampled some culinary delights in each of the restaurants and the food was definitely up there with the surroundings. Clients staying at Le Blanc can also avail of the unlimited golf package that Palace Resorts offer on the Moon Palace and Riviera Cancun Courses.

After our Le Blanc visit we did a tour off the area including downtown Cancun where tourists can pick up some great bargains in the many shops in this area. We also visited the infamous nightclub zone where popular venues like Coco Bongos and Senior Frogs are located. Thankfully they were closed when we were there or it could have been a very long day!

leblanc-hoteltall

Days 6 – 7   Dreams Riviera Cancun, Mexico

The following day we checked out of the Moon Palace and made our way to Dreams Riviera Cancun which was to be our final hotel for our last two nights. Dreams Riviera Cancun is an excellent resort for those looking for a relaxed informal resort and is particularly well suited for families with plenty of activities during the day to suits all ages and superb entertainment at night for the whole family to enjoy.

As we had nothing planned for that afternoon we decided to take advantage of the 30 degree heat relax at the pool and beach.

The following day we had arranged for more hotel inspections so our transport was waiting on us at reception and off we went. Our first stop was the Secrets Silversands Hotel situated in the Riviera Maya. Another fantastic adults only hotel which would be perfect for, honeymooners, groups of friends or couples looking a romantic getaway. The hotel itself is very modern with excellent pool areas where you can enjoy the activities or just kick back and relax.

Next on our list was Secrets Maroma, on which I had already had the run down as my little sister spent her honeymoon at this hotel. Well, everything I was told was exactly right and it even exceeded my expectations. It is a truly wonderful hotel which would be perfect for honeymooners or couples looking to celebrate a special occasion in the most beautiful setting. One particular point of note is the beach at Maroma, turquoise blue water, soft white sand, I thought I was in the Bounty Bar advert!

The final hotel we visited was Now Sapphire, a lively 4 star family hotel which would be great for groups, families or a wedding with children. They also had excellent kid’s facilities from 3 years right up to 17 years.

Our final day arrived and as we were on a night flight we decided to play one last round of golf. We played the beautiful Grand Coral Course situated in the Riviera Maya, an excellent Nick Price designed course with many fantastic holes. I very pleased to say that my golf game had finally returned and the outcome was a 7&6 demolition of the boss (I’m lucky I am still in a job) so all in all the golf ended up pretty even over the week!

After golf we returned to the hotel and as we had arranged a late checkout we were able to enjoy the last few hours of sunshine before catching our transfer to the airport for our flight home.

In summary it was great to see so many variations of excellent accommodation which will certainly suit all of our clients no matter what their requirements. The food was spectacular and I had some of the best meals I have ever had, from outstanding Osso Buco to mouth watering Fillet Mignon, there is something for everyone’s taste.

What truly made this trip worthwhile was experiencing the friendliness and warm hospitality of the Mexican people. The hotel staff always greet you with a smile and a, “Buenos Dias” or “Buenos Noches”. It makes you want to return to this wonderful destination again!

Thank you for taking the time to read about our trip to Mexico. So if it’s a golf trip, honeymoon, family holiday or if you just want to discuss the destination please do not hesitate to contact me.