Articles by Mark Jeffries

Mark recently joined Audley as a Web Content Editor. He has worked in a variety of web editorial and digital marketing roles, ranging from online retail and publishing to academia. He is currently looking after content for Australasia, North Africa & the Middle East, Canada & The USA and North Asia & Russia on the Audley website. He has travelled throughout Europe and parts of north Africa and his favourite travel experiences include visiting the pyramids at Giza, the temples at Luxor and Karnak, and the amphitheatre of El Jem in Tunisia. Next on his lengthy wish list of places he'd like to visit are Japan, China, India and Peru.

Audley celebrate being double award winners this week

We’ve had a great start to the week, scooping two awards: from the Which? travel survey and the Oxfordshire Business Awards 2014.

Which? travel survey

Which? Holiday Companies June 2014 logoThis year, we were the only company to achieve 5 stars all-round in the Which? travel survey. Stars are awarded for customer service, accommodation, description matching reality, and value for money.

We also received a joint top customer score of 93 per cent, reflecting customers’ overall satisfaction. Which? members praised us for our ‘superb’ planning and personalised itineraries.

Oxfordshire Business Awards 2014 Employer of the Year

And, last Friday we took home Employer of the Year in the Oxfordshire Business Awards 2014.

Judges from The Blue Law by Darbys were impressed by our investment in people and how we endeavour to create a collaborative culture.

Visit the Audley website to find out more about us.

New Audley China, Russia & Central Asia Brochure

The Great Wall of China at Jinshanling

The Great Wall of China at Jinshanling

Our new China, Russia and Central Asia brochure is available to order, download and view online.

Inside you’ll find information covering China, Hong Kong, Tibet, the Silk Route, the Trans-Siberian Railway, Mongolia, Russia and Ukraine.

To help you get the most out of this fascinating region our specialists have put together a collection of their favourite accommodation, places to visit and things to do.

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New Russian River Cruise

View from the walkway of the Volga Dream

View from the walkway

We were really excited to check out a new boutique river boat sailing between Moscow and St Petersburg on the Volga River recently. The Volga Dream provides an opportunity to visit the remote and secluded villages and towns that are dotted along the river, all while maintaining the style of a boutique hotel, which can be difficult to find in Russia.

The unique and detailed programme offers a revealing insight into the history and culture that makes Russia such a fascinating destination. Maximum passenger numbers of 109 mean that this is one of the most intimate and exclusive cruises on the entire river.

To find out about incorporating this fantastic river cruise into a tailor-made trip to Russia with Audley, call one of our specialists on 01993 838 230 or contact us online.

Audley wins Telegraph Best Tour Operator award for 2013

Audley pick up the Telegraph Top Tour Operator award for 2013

Audley pick up the Telegraph Top Tour Operator award for 2013

Audley’s head of Marketing, Jim Millward, was at the newly open Shard building in London yesterday to pick up the ‘Best Tour Operator’ in the Telegraph Travel Awards 2013.

This award was created as part of a survey by the Telegraph to find out its readers’ favourite travel companies and destinations. Over 70,000 people voted in the awards – making it one of the most comprehensive and wide-ranging travel surveys in the world – so to win the coveted best tour operator award is a real honour for Audley.

To learn more about booking a tailor-made trip with Audley, call one of our specialists on 01993 838 810, or alternatively you can contact us online via our Audley Travel website.

If you would like to find out more about the awards and other winners visit the  Telegraph website.

“From Ajloun and Jerash to Aqaba and back again…”

Hadrians Arch, Jerash

Hadrians Arch, Jerash

Geoff and Naomi from Oxfordshire recently returned from a trip to Jordan with Audley. Read about their experiences and why they feel that Jordan is such a fascinating country to visit.

Holy Land mosaic, Madaba

Holy Land mosaic, Madaba

From Ajloun and Jerash to Aqaba and back again, we visited so many different places, and had the holiday we hoped for and much more besides. The landscapes were breath-taking, the architecture from the Phoenicians to the Crusaders was stunning and there were mosaics of a quality we haven’t seen outside Italy/Greece. Swimming in the Red Sea and the Dead Sea as well as the very imaginative hotel pools was great fun, and jeep driving in the desert is to be recommended.

The Jordanians were very friendly and welcoming and we were impressed by how people of different religions and life-styles respected each other’s cultures. I doubt we will experience dinner again in an up-market restaurant, where you will see most people arriving by car, and have another diner arrive by camel and park it on the restaurant veranda!

We stayed in three luxury hotels: Four Seasons, Amman; Kempinski, Aqaba; Marriott Dead Sea Resort & Spa, all of which were excellent. We also enjoyed our stay at the less sophisticated but totally unique Taybet Zaman at Petra. The variety of food everywhere was very much to our taste, but we did discover that we had no palate for thyme tea or hibiscus juice.

The Marriott Dead Sea Resort & Spa

The Marriott Dead Sea Resort & Spa

For anyone feeling anxiety about the current Middle Eastern problems, we can only say that we felt safe at all times and that security at the airport and the hotels was taken very seriously. We were given a mobile phone at the start of our journey, which contained our personal driver’s number as well as the Audley contact number, but we never bothered to turn it on. The exciting places to see to the north and north-east of Amman are not to be missed and you are still a considerable distance from the Israeli and Syrian borders.

We can honestly say that Audley’s organisation of our holiday was exactly as promised and their travel documentation extremely useful. In addition, our personal driver was professional and very good-natured. He contributed greatly to our enjoyment as his knowledge of Jordan was superb. He also added in visits not on our itinerary and took us to restaurants and coffee-houses we would not have found on our own, including a Bedouin tent.

To find out about a tailor-made trip to Jordan with Audley, call one of our specialists on 01993 838 415 or contact us online.

Chengdu, “the home of the panda!”

Playtime at the Chengdu Panda Sanctuary

Playtime at the Chengdu Panda Sanctuary

Isabel, one of our China specialists shares her love of China’s pandas and the Chengdu Panda Sanctuary.

Isabel, Audley China specialistThe Chengdu Panda Sanctuary in China is now home to 70 bears including cubs and a nursery, where experts keep a close eye on their health and development. When I visited in 2008, I was blown away by their big kind eyes and ultra laidback approach to life; they are so adorable I almost couldn’t tear myself away.

Breakfast is the best time of day to visit the iconic Giant pandas as they are such sociable creatures during this time. You’ll find them lazing around in little groups munching on bamboo sticks and catching up, whilst they survey the little cubs who bound and tumble on the wooden climbing frame close by. This is the most animated time of day and indeed, the most important for a panda, as the rest of the day is spent largely sleeping it off.

Breakfast time at the sanctuary

Breakfast time at the sanctuary

If, like me, you are particularly fascinated by these gentle giants then not only can you now hold a cub in your arms at the sanctuary (or even volunteer with the staff!) but you can also fly there direct with British Airways!

From Chengdu it’s also just a short flight to Beijing and The Great Wall of China, or to Xian and the Terracotta Army, or even the mountainous tranquillity of a Li River boat ride in Guilin.

To find out about a tailor-made trip to China with Audley, call one of our specialists on 01993 838 220 or contact us online.

New Audley Canada & Alaska Brochure

Audley Canada & Alaska Brochure

Yesterday, to celebrate the launch of their new brochure, our Canada and Alaska team marked the occasion by throwing a party for everyone here at Audley to pick up a copy and sample some Canadian refreshments and nibbles.

Highlighting the incredible landscapes, wildlife and exciting outdoor activities available across Canada and Alaska, our new brochure has something to appeal to all ages – from gentle scenic walks to adrenaline-pumping white water rafting.

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China Explorer – Group Tour

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Black Dragon Pond, Lijiang

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Black Dragon Pond, Lijiang

This well-paced trip mixes classic sights and local flavours

There are a myriad of landscapes to explore, sights to visit and cuisines to sample when visiting China. But in a country so vast and varied, it is hard to know where to begin. This tour samples some of the best of everything China has to offer: the classic sights of the Great Wall and Forbidden City in Beijing, and the remarkable Terracotta Warriors in Xian are absolute must-sees, but the tour then delves into more rural climes.

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Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary Update

Tasmanian Devil at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

Tasmanian Devil at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

As part of Audley’s commitment to responsible travel we support a number of charities around the world. As you may have read in one of my previous blogs, our Australasia team has chosen the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary charity in Tasmania.

Tasmanian Devil enclosure at the sanctuary

Tasmanian Devil enclosure at the sanctuary

We are pleased to hear that they have had their most successful year ever in terms of visitor numbers, which means a much higher profile for the wonderful work they have been doing. Since we originally sponsored them, around this time last year, they have been busy building boxes for the resident Tasmanian Devils. This gives the Devils additional shelter alongside their dens, and enables the keepers to do health checks with fewer disturbances to the animals. The team at Bonorong constantly monitor the Devils to ensure they are in good health, and to keep an eye on whether any baby devils – or Joeys – might have appeared. This year the team there have also completed a seabird enclosure and rehabilitation pool, which means they can extend their refuge to a much broader range of wildlife.

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Hawaii Vs Taiwan

Hawaii Vs Taiwan blog

Two of our specialists go head to head to extol the virtues of the intriguing islands of Hawaii and Taiwan.

Hawaii – reviewed by Audley USA specialist, Emma

Lava oozing from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii

Lava oozing from Kilauea Volcano

Why it’s a hidden gem: Dramatic cliffs, tropical rainforests, reefs teeming with marine life, epic volcanoes with lava bubbling into the ocean, palm-fringed beaches, and an exotic ancient civilisation preserved in tikis, temples and the general ‘aloha’ way of life. Of course there are also superb shops, restaurants and the poignant Pearl Harbor memorials.

Activities: View lava oozing from the Kilauea Volcano into the sea and snorkel with manta rays, turtles and sharks on Big Island; take a helicopter over Kauai’s dramatic Na Pali cliffs; go whale watching, swim with turtles, and watch the sun rise over Mount Haleakala on Maui; surf the big waves of Oahu’s north shore.

Favourite hotel: The Inn at Mama’s Fish House on Maui: it has just 12 plantation-style cottages with access to a remote beach.

Combine with: Alaska – there are direct flights between these two ‘fire and ice’ states.

To book a tailor-made trip to Hawaii, call one of our specialists on 01993 838 755 or contact us online.

Taiwan – reviewed by Audley North & Central Asia specialist, Chris

Taipei at night, Taiwan

Taipei at night

Why it’s a hidden gem: Taiwan is blessed with superb natural scenery and modern, friendly cities. Some of the highlights are: Yushan National Park, which encompasses part of the Central Mountains and is home to black bear and macaques; Yangmingshan’s hot springs and cherry blossoms – which rival Japan’s; the numerous fishing villages and unspoilt islands off mainland Taiwan; and the temples, cuisine and vibrant night markets of capital Taipei.

Iconic sights: Taroko Gorge, an impressive stretch of marbled canyon and mossy riverside; the cherry blossom and hot springs of Yangmingshan; and Taipei 101, which was the tallest building in the world until Dubai’s Burj Khalifa opened in 2010.

Favourite hotel: The Lalu, a boutique and trendy resort that sits on the edge of scenic Sun Moon Lake.

Combine with: China, to extend your taste of the Orient.

To book a tailor-made trip to Taiwan, call one of our specialists on 01993 838 260 or contact us online.