Travelling with a Twist – Health and Fitness Holidays

Samantha Lippiatt spent quite a few years in the ‘mainstream’ of the travel business; a few years she had this idea about health, wellness and travel so she went in search of an opportunity and found it with a business called Health and Fitness Travel.  Samantha is now an entrepreneur, healthy lifestyle advocate and co-founder of Australia’s first speciality wellness travel company Health and Fitness Travel. She has an unbridled enthusiasm for all things travel, health and fitness and is committed to providing healthy holidays options that not only enhance but change lives.

Peace and harmony
Peace and harmony

I caught up with Sam  – on the Travel Writers Show -on Melbourne’s J-Air just few days ago and asked her first:

How did you get into the Health and Fitness Travel Business?

I wanted to combine my passions for wellness and travel, originally I was looking to set up my own retreat and in doing so I noticed there was no platform on which to market these types of holidays even though my research showed it was becoming increasingly popular. My personal experience and market research showed me that travellers, particularly within the wellness sector, wanted a trustworthy, knowledgeable and localised contact to help guide them through their booking experience and to help them explore the many options on offer.

During my research I came across Health and Fitness Travel in the UK, the “experts in tailor-made healthy holidays”; and after studying them and their business model I knew I had to bring this business to Australia. It was immediately well received with many travellers calling in and telling us how they had been on the lookout for such a business and booking up their healthy holidays and it continues to gain popularity and followers month-on-month.

Wellness tourism is a fast growing market segment – up so 35% over the last few years is that what you see in your business:

The local wellness tourism sector is growing every day with more and more Australians seeking better ways to take care of themselves and to improve their lifestyle. There is a growing segment of travellers who are even taking trips specifically focused on maintaining and improving their personal health and well-being. This is driving the growth of wellness tourism and we can’t wait to see Wellness Travel go mainstream.

What sort of holidays are people buying:

There is a big focus early in the year on fitness and overall healthy lifestyles to kick-start the New Year, and lots of de-stress and relaxation holidays booked for later in the year to give travellers something to look forward to as they move into another busy year.  A big trend we have identified is the Yoga fusion holiday where guests combine yoga with another interest such as Yoga and spa to de-stress, Yoga and Stand up Paddle-board for fitness and fun. There are others who want to explore the country in which they are travelling, so they look at our bespoke Discover Recover range.
One property in particular is very popular with Australian Travellers and a personal favourite of mine, Kamalaya in Koh Samui Thailand and I believe that is due to the wide range of programs on offer. From detox to fitness and even a program tailored especially around embracing major life change there is something on offer for every wellness traveller.

Tai Chi in the Mountains
Tai Chi in the Mountains

You have a great website; does that drive a lot of traffic:

We are really proud of our website, it is easy to navigate, provides the option to browse by destination, specific health and fitness holiday experiences or preferred time of year to travel. We also have a great blog attached to it with lots of wellness industry information and industry experts including personal trainers, sports instructors, nutritionists and yoga teachers, as well as local destination specialists will often share advice for our readers. This year we will be adding more functionality and creating a mobile friendly version as we know lots of our clients like to research on their lunch-break via their hand held devices.

You seem to have a very full range of holidays on offer:

Health and Fitness Travel provides clients with a huge range of bespoke active and wellness getaways worldwide; from fitness, to detox and de-stress programs through to comprehensive well-being spa and rejuvenation retreats, and we can tailor make the perfect health and fitness holidays to suit our clients goals and interests. We have even created our own exclusive range “Fusion Fitness” holidays that allows us to create a program unique to the traveller with many leading properties where this option did not exist before.

So whether people want to be active on holiday and learn a new activity such as kite-surfing, mountain biking, diving and tennis, or simply relax in a spa, meditate or participate in a yoga class, detox or fitness program, we’ll find the perfect health and fitness holiday for them.

Morning fitness with a view
Morning fitness with a view

Do you regularly have special offers available:

Yes we do – We promote all of our latest offers via the website, and as part of our negotiations we are often able to include special bonus inclusions exclusively for guests of Health and Fitness Travel.

Do you have a personal favourite H&F destination:

There are so many, we have a just partnered with a fantastic collective of luxury walks in Australia (Great walks of Australia) and I am about to join one to explore down in Tasmania and I am really looking forward to it.
Some of my all-time favourites very close to home are:

Aro Ha Retreat, perfect for a detox and fitness holiday located just outside of Queenstown, New Zealand offering an all-inclusive eco-friendly retreat where you begin and end your days with yoga and in-between explore the stunning scenery with sub-alpine hiking, my husband loved this property and we both felt so revitalised after our stay.  COMO Shambhala in Bali, is fantastic for a de-stress and relaxation holiday where you can focus on your total wellbeing, Guest teachers and practitioners fly in from all over the world to this spectacular wellness sanctuary. The spa is world class and the food is so healthy but delicious. What more could you ask for?
San went on to offer a couple of specials for our listeners on J-Air and they are in fact still available for any readers who wish to take advantage of them: To find out more go to the website:

Peter Watson

For those who want to read more about the global growth in wellness travel, there is a comprehensive report available on the Global Wellness Summit

Featured post

IFWTWA Australasia launches Travel Writers radio show

ifwtwaAUST-smlsqThe International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), a global network of journalists who cover the hospitality and lifestyle fields, today launched the Travel Writers radio show, an initiative of IFWTWA’s Australasia division.
The program will be heard on Melbourne’s newest FM station J-AIR and via the Internet to a mobile and a global audience (  J-AIR is a community-based broadcaster with a narrowcast commercial FM licence to transmit for 10 km around Caulfield to a potential audience of almost one million people.  J-AIR has been broadcasting via the Internet for 18 months, but its FM signal is expected to be live later this month at 87.8 FM. The Travel Writers radio show airs Wednesdays at 1pm (AEST), hosted by industry veterans, Graeme Kemlo and Peter Watson.
Announcing the move, IFWTWA Australasia chair, Graeme Kemlo, said the program covering both leisure and business travel topics as well as culinary and wine tourism.
“It is designed to entertain, inform and inspire”.  It features IFWTWA members from across its global membership base reporting the latest travel news, interviews, travel tips, reviews of destinations, food, wine and unique experiences for travellers around the world, or around the corner in Australia’s cities and regions.
“We have a wonderful network of experienced travellers who cover the globe in words and pictures and will provide first-hand accounts of their adventures.  It will be a collaborative effort co-ordinated from Melbourne with reporting by members across Australia, South East Asia, the South Pacific, United States, Canada and Europe,” Graeme said.
“The ‘wireless’, as we once described it, is a wonderful medium that allows a listener to dream of exotic locations and aspirational experiences.  So, alongside the expertise of our writers in food, wine and travel – many have their own columns, travel apps, books, websites and blogs – we’ll supplement their radio reportage with information and images posted to the IFWTWA website ( and the blog – foodwinetraveltips,” he said.
Peter Watson, who spent many years as a senior executive in the Australian travel industry, said the program was also designed to lift the veil on the industry for travel consumers and would cover topics such as: should you book everything on the Net; how far out should you buy an air ticket/ hotel/cruise; how (not) to get an upgrade; travel health; the best travel technology; how to identify and avoid travel scams; should you believe online hotel reviews; and how to choose from the myriad of travel money options.

Here’s a link to the podcast of the first episode –

– Graeme Kemlo

Dear Ketut, loved Bali, could have passed on the airport


There seem to be a few camps when it comes to Bali – those dedicated tourists who go year after year for a cheap and cheerful holiday basking in the Indonesia sun; those who have been once and vow never to go back; or those who simply would never set foot on its shores.

Then there are the likes of me, who loved the weather, along with its humidity, the food, the resorts and the landscape –but not enough to make it an annual event.

I’d heard a few stories from friends before leaving, two in particular about hiring a motorbike and being pulled over and fined on the spot – having their wallets emptied.  Another couple had their passport taken from them and were separated with no explanation, only to be released some time later.

I guess as a virgin to this Indonesian island these are things you need to hear, but it’s equally important (if not more so) to know the details about entering and leaving the country.

Firstly let me say this.  Our resort, the Laguna Resort and Spa at Nusa Dua, was everything I could have ever imagined and more.  It looks exactly as the photos depict on the website.  The pools, food and climate could not have been better, and the service was exceptional.  Although make sure you get your head around the currency before you get there and don’t blindly order a cocktail thinking it’ll be about A$10 only to find you paid A$35 – I did wonder why when serving it the waiter said “Here’s your ‘special special’ drink Madame.”  Needless to say my husband gave me a new nickname during our stay – ‘special special’.

Before going to Bali, you need to make sure your vaccinations are up to date.  As my doctor said – sure there are those that say it’s being pedantic, but if they’re prepared to risk contracting Hepatitis A from the water or rabies or measles – then that’s a risk which is up to them.  I choose to be precautionary.

You need US$25 each to enter the country and Rp 150,000 each to depart.

Once you get to the airport and walk through to get your bags, porters will take your bag from you and start walking towards customs with it, often saying ‘customs’ and nothing else. This simply means they will take your bags to the conveyor belt to go through customs and follow you expecting a small payment.  If you don’t have small notes, or want to pay for this service, you need to get to your bag first and firmly but politely inform them that you’ll take your own bag.   This often needs to be repeated three or four times.

If your travel agent has arranged a transfer to your resort, they are often from a local tourism venture trying to sell you experiences along the way and they will try and lock you into it right then and there. Should you want some time to consider your options – make that clear.  The commute will likely involve your car being  bomb checked too.

The alternative to a tourism venture/driver, is to get a taxi, but make sure you get a fixed price up front, or ensure they turn the meter on so no bargaining can be had at the end.

Even in the most exclusive tourist resort destinations, if you walk along the beachfront, you will be approached by hawkers.  Even when riding a bike.   With the average Balinese earning little more than $5 a day and working often 12 hour days, it’s not surprising they are trying to earn a living this way, and the same person will ask you to buy the same thing from them every time you pass.

If you do want to purchase a tourism experience, bracelet or scarf from those who walk up and down the beaches – be prepared to barter.  They expect it, and in fact in some cases, it’s said to be considered polite to barter.

In your resort, typically the water in the bathroom is free, otherwise you pay.  Be prepared to pay up to A$10 a bottle in the resorts.  It’s best to find a local supermarket and stock up there.   In Nusa Dua it’s only a short bicycle ride and you can hire bikes at the resort for less than $10 an hour which is also a great chance to do some local sight seeing and see the local markets.

For drinks, it’s best to go to happy hour to avoid the ‘special special’ experience and stick to the local beer and cocktails.   Cocktails from the resorts are exceptionally good, and very reasonable and in Nusa Dua you can walk from resort to resort along a beautifully lit boulevard and visit any bar along the way – we loved the frozen Margarita’s at the Tapas Bar at Melia Bali, and the Chess Club at Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Resort, where you could get a carafe of good quality Rose for about A$20.

Cornerstone at Laguna Resort and Spa had exceptional Indonesia cuisine – I couldn’t go past the Bakso, chicken meatball soup with glass noodles and fresh celery leaves or try the Indonesian Chicken Curry with sambal, shrimp crackers and crispy shallot flakes; or Bakhmi Goreng with seafood from Jimbaran, vegetable acar, red chilli and spicy sambal.

This was one of the most affordable restaurants we found in the resort area of Nusa Dua, probably because it is back a little from the beachfront, but you dine al fresco in what has a roof top feel, and it was by far the best food we experienced.

So all in all you did well Ketut, and at least I’ll be well prepared next time I enter your shores.

Psst: Hot Tip for Inexpensive 5-Star Experience

View from Sofitel Melbourne on Collins
View from Sofitel Melbourne on Collins – subterranean secret dining.  Photo: G Kemlo

One of Melbourne’s best kept culinary secrets is buried beneath the Paris end of Collins Street at Sofitel Melbourne On Collins.

I wish I could tell you to go to a special door confidently give the secret knock and you’d be in like Flynn, but there’s no signage and select few know about it. Thousands walk on top of it every day at busy Collins Place.

This subterranean gastronomy occurs in a basement level training restaurant called the Pantry, attached to Academy Sofitel, the hotel’s regional training school.

Well, ‘le chat est sorti du sac’, so I guess I should disclose at this point that my son, Christopher, is a graduate of Academy Sofitel and our family has dined once, a couple, a few  oh OK, I confess we’ve eaten plenty at the 50-seat Pantry where culinary trainees manned the kitchen and management trainees were front of house. It has been around 10 years and is now run in conjunction with Victoria University.

It opens Wednesdays through mid-September and it is the real deal, however you slice and dice it: a three course a la carte lunch costs $35 a head, while dinner is only $38 for three courses including petit fours. Drinks are extra. But really, you could spend more at a fast food outlet and get no service.

Apart from the food, half the fun of dining at the Pantry is getting there via an underground maze of stairs, corridors and the occasional lift – so best to book (03) 9653 7744, tell ’em Graeme sent you and meet in the hotel lobby where you can be personally escorted below stairs.

And while it is full of trainees, there are no L plates here – it is fine five star fare and service, supervised by Academy staff.  The restaurant recently won ‘Best Restaurant in a training institute’ at the Restaurant & Catering 2013 Victorian Awards For Excellence.

Graeme Kemlo

A secret between you, me and (shortly) most of Melbourne

You’d be forgiven for thinking the country was awash in autumn food and wine festivals.  And you’d be right.  Image

But there are still some gems to be discovered amongst the offerings from quiet country towns in regional Victoria.  Take Warburton for example:  it is home to one of the best kept food and accommodation secrets – Oscar’s, recently reborn beside the Yarra River with sparkling accommodation for 40, glamorous public spaces, enormous century-old oak trees, an actual babbling brook river frontage, and a star in the kitchen!

I was there with some other IFWTWA writers to have an exclusive preview of the Yarra Valley Food & Wine Festival.  And from the first sip of the opening dish the chef had me. We dined on THE best Tom Kha I’ve ever tasted full stop. And having worked in Thailand over the past 15 years, and been feted around the Kingdom, I have swallowed my share of the delicious coconut and galangal soup, with and without chicken.  Outside of Thailand the problem with most attempts at this Siamese staple is the lack of young coconut flesh, instead substituted by coconut cream in cans.  The reason for the subtle yet distinct flavour balance Oscar’s executive chef, Mark Krueger achieves is soon revealed.

He spent the past eight years in Koh Samui Thailand and the Maldives, but his classical training includes time in a Bocuse kitchen. Image

Mark calls his style “Meditterasian” – and his Tom Kha delivered wonderful flavours enhanced by unexpected elements such as sundried tomato.  Another of Mark’s signature dishes, seared salmon featured tomato and basil hummus, crisp fried capers, smoked olive powder and bell pepper pannacotta.

By the time you read this the restaurant at Oscar’s may be taking bookings from an unsuspecting public – my suggestion is get in there before everyone’s talking about Mark’s culinary skill and you can’t get a seat (or a bed overnight should you indulge in one too many)

The other reason you might want to visit the festival in Yarra Valley, starting this Thursday April 11 through 14, is that the local winemakers predict the current vintage will be “spectacular in both still and sparkling” – a quote from Dan Buckle of Chandon who also said the local pinot was “deep in colour…smells fantastic”. Punt Road winemaker Kate Goodwin said that although grape quantities might be down 35-40%, the concentrated wines that resulted were fantastic and 2013 would be a stellar year for pinot and chardonnay – “the grape quality is so good we are trying to do more with the grapes themselves.”

Kate encourages visitors to cellar doors to speak up about what they like.  “I meet a lot of customers who say, ‘I know nothing about winemaking but I know what I like’.  They are too nervous to speak up front, but we like the authenticity and, actually, most people are pretty good judges.”

For more information:

Spice Island – A Balinese Extravaganza

spice island cooking school and pantry
spice island cooking school and pantry

A recent invitation to the Spice Island cooking school at San Remo revealed cooking classes don’t need to be a tame, hands-off affair; quite the contrary. Paul Stafford’s teaching style is energetic, fun and unfrazzled.

His school is about good food, good company and good fun. I’ve attended many classes over the years but Spice Island would have to be the rowdiest and most unruly; the best I’ve ever been to.

During the 90s I spent many evenings in the small kitchen of Aruna Kuba, an Indian lady, who ran regular cooking classes from her tiny apartment above the bustling streets of Riyadh.

About a dozen expatriate women would squeeze around her kitchen island; it was the stage to her ever-changing performances. A calm, meditative air surrounded all her demonstrations, these were my benchmark.

To arrive at a vibrant, colourful open-plan cooking school cum café in downtown San Remo was not what I was expecting. The only thing meditative about Spice Island was the name of Paul’s efficient offsider called Angel. Everything else is fast-paced, frenetic, hands-on and delicious; it’s my kind of cooking.

A long bench encumbered with a psychedelic array of Balinese mise-en-place took centre stage. Armed with a Phillip Island Purple Hen sauvignon blanc and an apron we were ushered to our stations to grind, chop and stir the night away. Somehow, amidst the frivolity and wine our group managed to create a Balinese extravaganza. Chicken satays, roasted eggplant sambal, aromatic poached chicken and curry fish miraculously materialised before our eyes.

But the best part about the evening was retiring to a long communal table laden with the fruits of our labour. The philosophy behind Spice Island is simple. Cooking classes designed for groups – friends, corporate and family – seeking a little ‘me’ time.

It’s a dinner party with a twist.

San Remo is a relaxed few hours drive from Melbourne. The Silverwater Resort, moments away from the school, is the perfect base for a weekend escape. Luxury apartments await your arrival.

Spice Island Cooking School and Pantry

117 Marine Pde

San Remo

T 03-59567557


Silverwater Resort

17 Potters Hill Rd

San Remo

T 1800 033 403

On wine…and wine snobs

Not pretending for one nanosecond to be a wine expert, I did appreciate three years ago in Tasmania being well tutored on “how to be a wine snob”, by one of Australia’s most successful wine entrepreneurs, Gerald Ellis of Meadowbank.  Around a roaring log fire in his barrel room, Geoff’s tongue in cheek, but highly entertaining presentation, culminated in the ultimate one liner to take the hot air out of wine snobs – “this wine’s got a hole in the middle palate”.

Last week in the Yarra Valley a preview of the new regional food and wine festival, Reap & Relish proved to be yet another occasion not to pull out the killer quote.

Here at Mt Rael Retreat, overlooking the glorious Healesville valley were three of the biggest names in Yarra Valley winemaking, but also three of the most down to earth. Winemakers Dan Buckle (Domaine Chandon), Willy Lunn (Yering), and Steve Webber (De Bortoli)

Over lunch Dan is laconic, even in explaining that we are tasting a 1996 sparkling (Cuvee Prestige) which had developed over one “spectacular Indian summer” and had since spent 15 years on the lees before being disgorged and released last June with “the oldest lees time on the Australian market.”  They might all be competing for our palates, but Willy and Steve agree this is a special drop, so who are we to argue? If you hurry Dan might still have some ’96, but only at the cellar door.

We eat a magnificent selection of courses prepared by Mt Rael’s John Knoll, well matched by the winemakers with their chardonnay and pinot.  Given that these blokes seem to tell it like it is, we ask a few of the harder questions based on the theory that many drinkers were “chardonnayed-out”.

Typically blunt Steve Webber (pictured above) admits that, as winemakers, many of them made mistakes trying to produce wines that were “not of this place” and better suited to Margaret River than the Yarra.

“There’s no doubt we have got ourselves to blame about the fate of chardonnay, but we have learned a lot over the past 10 years: pick early, lower alcohol, finer flavour, not oaky.”

Willy agrees: “In the nineties we were into big fruit, malolactic fermentation, oak – we were not making a style that was true to the region.”

Even within Yarra Valley there are sub regions which deliver different characteristics they say…the three winemakers nod agreement. They talk often. Mostly at the pub.

“Yarra Valley doesn’t make big chardonnay well.  Now it is elegant, minerally. We don’t use lots of new oak,” Steve says, defending chardonnay as “always the noblest of all grape varieties around the world, along with reisling”.

Lessons must have been learned, because he says sales of chardonnay are “going crazy”, particularly in the $25 plus bracket…”people are no longer prepared to spend silly money on Sauvignon Blanc.”

– Graeme Kemlo

Hook, line and sinker

If you happen to be heading to Seattle and you’re in the mood for great food and wine, then Tom Douglas’s name needs to be encrypted in your iphone.

Fortunately, this is the only piece of information you’ll need to know because once you’re in Seattle every man and his dog knows him and his empire of cafes and restaurants. He’s a bit like Midas, the king in Greek mythology, everything he touches turns to gold.

Google Tom Douglas and up pops nine of his eating establishments: his famous triple coconut pie can be found at Dahlia Bakery, fresh pasta at Cuoco and serious pizzas are found at Serious Pie of course.

It was Etta’s – one of his seafood restaurants on the shores of Puget Sound – that hooked us. So much so, that we broke the golden rule of travel and returned on two consecutive nights.

Tom’s tuna sashimi with a green onion pancake and tobiko’ was seriously addictive, ditto the ‘steamed Dungeness crab with grilled lemon and drawn butter’. The excellent Washington State wine list plus the waiter caught our attention; hook, line and sinker.

Other tidbits of fabulousness in Seattle were the Tasting Room – 1942 Post Alley – a cellar door outlet for seven Washington State wineries. One of their wines, the Wilridge Nebbiolo, gives Barolo a good run for its money.

As for accommodation, hovering above the Tasting Room is Pensione Nichols – brilliant location, interesting folk (we shared our muesli with a Cuban jazz band), extremely clean and reasonably priced.

One last name to put in your iphone is Dale Chihuly. The most out-there glass artist in the world has permanent exhibits in Tacoma. Check out the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum and Union Square. Tacoma is a one hour bus ride south of  Seattle.

Mandy Rowe

To sleep: perchance to dream

Hamlet’s words “to sleep: perchance to dream” is my mantra. In fact, sleeping would have to be one of my greatest pleasures. Over the years I have developed a rather extensive database – a bell curve – of good and bad hotel sleeping experiences. And yes, it takes a very good hotel mattress to make me want to strip back the sheets in the hope of finding a brand name and contact details. A recent sleepover at The Olsen, one of Melbourne’s Art Series hotels, had me doing just this – after having enjoyed one of the best room service breakfasts in decades. I’m flummoxed as to why good hotel mattresses are so elusive. Surely it’s the most important piece of furniture in a room or suite; after all a hotel’s primary role is to sell a good night’s sleep. The Olsen’s Coorong penthouse ticked all the boxes for décor, air-conditioning and block-out window furnishings; other elements that play an important role in a room’s comfort. But it was the bed – the size of a paddock – that took centre stage. And as I slipped between its crisp white sheets, I pondered which part of the bell curve it would occupy; the mediocre middle like most hotels or would I be pleasantly surprised? That night I found my ‘new best mattress’ benchmark, and the fact that you can order an Art Series Signature bed when you check-out, speaks volumes about the product – superlative. Now I wonder where I put that order form?

Mandy Rowe

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: