About Jonny Scott Blair
Jonny Blair is a self confessed traveling nomad. He sees every day as an adventure. Since leaving behind his home town of Bangor in Northern Ireland ten years ago he has traveled to all seven continents, working his way through various jobs and funding it all with hard work and an appetite for travel. His website Don’t Stop Living, a lifestyle of travel' contains over 1,000 stories and tips from his journeys round the globe. He wants to show others how easy it is to travel the world, give them some ideas and encourage them to do the same but most of all he aims to constantly live a lifestyle of travel. He is currently based in Hong Kong and on Twitter @jonnyblair.
Latest Posts by Jonny Scott Blair
Hotel San Buenaventura de Atitlan is a family owned and operated 4 star Extended Stay Hotel located at the edge of Lake Atitlan, near the town of Panajachel, in the Guatemalan Highlands.
For those who haven’t been to Atitlan before, the lake was formed by a volcanic caldera and is the deepest lake in Central America. It is surrounded by picturesque volcanoes and escarpments. The Kaqchikel Maya make up 95% of the local population and have a vibrant and colorful culture. Imagine a hotel nestled in such a stunning environment.
The hotel has fully furnished and equipped finely designed houses that can lodge from four to six guests comfortably, suites for two and standard hotel accommodations ideal for one or two guests. While we list standard fixed rates through travel agencies we are flexible and frequently offer specials, depending on season and circumstance. Because of the impact of the global economy on international tourism, now is an especially good time to contact us.
Their facilities include a bar and restaurant, heated pool, Mayan sauna or “tuj”, Jacuzzi (below) and areas to rest and relax at our private beach. If you wish, you can rent a bicycle to ride on our roads and trails in the old Hacienda San Buenaventura. At the front desk, you can also rent kayaks that you will find at the beach. They also have a pier and boat services so you can visit the Mayan towns around the lake.
The location is ideal since they are adjacent to the lake-front community of Panajachel, which has banking, shopping, live entertainment and other tourist attractions. The hotel creates tailored programs built around conferences, seminars, and retreats to suit your special interests, a fantastic getaway spot. They also offer guided tours that explore the Mayan cultures.
The area around the area houses a valley as well as the stunning and renowned lake. The Valley is home to coffee groves and the Atitlan Nature Reserve, dedicated to protecting the flora and fauna of the Lake basin and to environmental education. This Reserve is open to the general public and features signed nature trails, a butterfly preserve, hanging bridges that cross picturesque ravines, and a zipline that traverses the natural forest canopy of the Reserve.
You get to Panajachel after a short speedboat ride across the lake from San Pedro La Laguna. Also check out the cosy “Writer’s Lair” at Posada Los Encuentros before heading over if you are an artist at heart.
Hotel San Buenaventura is on the lake and has a stretch of beach, and offers private beach for stretches at a time.
The on-site swimming pool has exquisite views – the ultimate place to go for pure peace and tranquility.
Their sauna extraordinaire.
Kayaks for guests are complimentary.
They offer delicious breakfasts — try the Desayuno Tipico which comes with coffee and juice.
Phone:+502 7762 2559
Crazy crazy night of travel – attending the fire ball festival in Nejapa, El Salvador.
“There’s a bullet in the gun. there’s a fire in your heart” – Planet Perfecto
Fire ball festival/Bolas del Fuego, Nejapa, El Salvador **
You’ll tell everyone you’re coming to El Salvador for a few days, and like me, you’ll end up staying a bit longer as you’ll love it so much. Tales of touring Tazumal, seeing how indigo dyeing works, visiting Casa Blanca, surfing at Barra de Santiago and staying in Capricho and Ximenas as well as trying Salvadorian cuisine. However, on a dark Sunday night, on the 31st August 2014, I headed out to the barely known town of Nejapa in El Salvador.
Here in Nejapa, a seemingly “normal” town in El Salvador becomes one crazy insane town just for a night. I headed to Nejapa for the Fireball Festival, known in Spanish as Bolas de Fuego and it was just insane, intense and unbelievable!! Photos, videos and words may never do justice to this festival, but I’ll try…
The Bolas de Fuego Fireball Festival in Nejapa, El Salvador **
Fireworks on entrance to the town, the local lad telling us we had to move the minibus, hundreds of people piled onto the streets for a festival. The place had a buzz and you could feel it, you feel it in the air.
Fireball tornado – you could feel the magic in the air. **
The evening wasn’t only about fire though, there were more surprises up Nejapa’s hot hot sleeve and here’s how the evening unfolded in order…and disorder.
“You’re a monsoon and a fire all in one” – Super Furry Animals
With the dude who prepares crazy shots in Nejapa
My shot. Below, together with our shots!
Hot milky alcohol mix for $1 US to get us in the mood for the Fire Ball Festival in Nejapa, El Salvador.
“I predict a riot” – Kaiser Chiefs
The preview features some crazy guys with fireworks and sparklers on their heads!!
The Fireball Fight. Yes, it’s a fireball fight. Two teams on opposite ends of the street throw live fire balls at each other. There is no health and safety here whatsoever and the balls drift into the crowd every now and then. I kick one away a few times, another one lands on my camera just as the fight is coming to a close. There are some crazy alcohol fuelled guys who are involved and are NOT wearing gloves. They pick up and kick the fireballs with their bare hands. The fight lasts well over an hour and anyone can get involved.
“One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist” – Primal Scream
People dressed up in costumes, mostly black and reminiscent of Halloween nights fight it out with the other team by hurling fireballs at them. It’s an organised riot in essence.
Fire on the streets of Nejapa **
Though admittedly it’s not too safe!! There are only a few police, fire brigade and paramedics on the scene ready for any mishaps.
“I’m your venus, I’m your fire, at your desire” – Shocking Blue
Lines of fire on the streets of Nejapa
I was sitting in a bar in Baku, Azerbaijan and my friend Nal asked us if we would visit Turkey soon and because we had already been, it wasn’t on my list to return, however tales of great hospitality and exciting activities changed our minds.
For visa reasons we decided to fly into Istanbul and work our way over to Iran. Overlanding it through Turkey gave us some amazing added bonuses on route and the opportunity to see Ankara, Adana, Trabzon and Dogubayazit before crossing into Iran. From Ankara we got a bus to Goreme in Cappadocia. At Goreme, the biggest bonus is getting up early to see the sunrise over the other worldly moonscapes of Cappadocia. (above and below).
We spent two nights in Goreme where we stayed in Cave Villas, literally carved into the rocks.
Hot air balloons blowing up in Goreme before dawn.
It was very cold so gloves, hats and coats were needed. We arrived at the viewing point at 6am and as the sun began to come out, the hot air balloons begin to go up. There were probably about 70 of them.
Base yourself in Goreme to save time. The sunrise walk in Goreme to the view point is quick and easy, plus you don’t need to drive anywhere to see the viewpoint. Some of the other towns and villages in Cappadocia are a bit further out. It’s worth adding this to your list.
Top photo credit: Reversehomesickness.com.
Relaxing at the pure luxury of Xanadu Resort in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
The Xanadu Resort in San Pedro Belize is paradise. It was voted the best hotel in Belize for the last 4 years on Trip Advisor.
Serene and luxurious on the beach.
Sun loungers by the sea at Xanadu Island Resort.
Xanadu Island Resort is situated on the island of Ambergris Caye, in the town of San Pedro, in Belize. San Pedro can be reached by ferry from either Chetumal in Mexico or Caye Caulker/Belize City in Belize. Once you get to San Pedro, get a taxi to Xanadu – the taxi drivers will know it – a taxi should cost 10 Belize Dollars.
San Pedro town centre in Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Xanadu has an instant paradise feel to it. Coconut palm trees line the entrance on approach, you walk across sand to the reception, there are views to crystal clear blue waters. They offer complimentary Kayak Rental as well as bikes.
After a few hot and sweaty bus and boat journeys, not to mention a few days of border crossings, we arrived at Xanadu resort. Instead of asking for passport details or money straight away, the question from the staff was “what drink would you like?!” and every guest is given a complimentary welcome drink. You also have free unlimited use of snorkeling gear – you can do tours with Black Hawk (recommended) and Tsunami (not recommended).
In addition to the relaxing pool, you can lounge in the sun chairs and hammocks around the pool – free wifi is available and reaches the pool, a nice plus if you have work to do on vacation.
(1866) 351 4752
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The former Dutch colony of Suriname is famous for its sugar cane plantations although today, it’s sadly its a thing of the past. The glory days of sugar cane plantations may have gone in Suriname, but you can still do a Sugar Trail Tour and I’d recommend it.
Base yourself in Paramaribo to get the tour booked, which is the capital city and where all the main tour companies are based. One tour operator is Waterproof Suriname who are experts in organising tours around Suriname and the Sugar Cane Trail.
The tour starts with “Hammock” street, the sunken German war ship in the Suriname River and lots of details about Surinamese history. In our minibus, we cross the bridge over to New Amsterdam and on route to the plantations at Concordia. Upon arrival at the village on the other side of a bridge, it’s morning coffee and biscuits time.
Coffee time before heading to Concordia Plantations.
We all board a speedboat to take us along the Commewijne River, which is a really relaxing journey. Njoek our guide gives us more anecdotes and stories along the way as we arrive in a custom made jetty in the middle of the jungle….the Concordia Plantations.
We take a fascinating walk through the jungle at the Concordia Plantations. After the sugar cane industry died in Suriname, this place is no longer in use, the glory days were from the late 1880s to the latter part of the 20th Century. My first quick tip is to make sure you bring your insect repellent – we sprayed a lot on but still picked up some bites – spiders, mosquitoes and ants are quite common in this part of the jungle.
First of all we are shown some trees which bear fruit. Then we hear some howler monkeys, but we do not see them. There are lots of unusual plants and trees as well as some remains of old mills and engines that were used in the harvesting and refining process for sugar cane.
An abandoned engine.
A frog at Concordia.
A spider at Concordia.
We board the boat back from Concordia and are given some of the local snack Borrell Chips to share on the journey. We see some odd looking animals at the base before getting the minibus to Tamanredjo, where there was also a baby jaguar.
Then, we drove to Tamanredjo where we stop on the main road for lunch. The restaurant for lunch is a typical Javanese style cuisine – roots from Indonesia of course. We have a choice of lunch and we choose a tofu, chicken and vegetable meal plus a chicken and rice meal.
Lunch at Warung Toucha restaurant in Tamanredjo.
We have a short drive through the countryside to arrive at the village of Marienburg. On route again Njoek gives us lots of information about the area, the sugar plantations and the housing style and current vegetation and agriculture. Most houses along the way grow their own vegetables and fruit.
Marienburg is almost like a custom built village just for the sugar cane plantations. In front of the train which once transported sugar on Suriname’s only railway.
We have a quick stop in New Amsterdam and see a war memorial by the river before it’s time for the grand finale – a boat trip back to Paramaribo.
Then, you board a boat back across the Suriname River to Paramaribo.
Boarding the party boat back to Paramaribo!
Guyana may not be high on your hit list (be honest with yourself – you prefer the appeal of Brazil or even Peru, as I once did). But please forget all that and head to the three Guyanas.
That said, Guyana was still my last port of call on the continent, as we crossed the border from Suriname and suddenly I was able to speak English and explore a country I knew little about except the British colonialization. Guyana houses the highest waterfall in the world and a whole lot more.
Dagron Tours is a great choice to show you what Guyana has to offer. Their office is also very handily situated on Middle Street in Georgetown, directly opposite Rima Guesthouse, where we stayed. They have a few different options for touring the Amazon part of Guyana and indeed the Kaieteur Falls or just pop into the office when you arrive in Georgetown. Prices are around $200 US for the Kaieteur Falls tour. You can pay in local currency, US Dollars , Euros and Visa.
91 Middle Street
Georgetown , Guyana
You need your passports for check in and the bags will be weighed and bear in mind that you will not be issued with an actual physical ticket. The planes are tiny and they know who is on them.
The internal flight takes approximately one hour and was smooth and scenic, where you’ll see beautiful endless Amazon rainforest – trees everywhere and rivers flowing. As you fly over Kaieteur Falls, the pilot will fly down near the falls so you can get your first glimpses of it. Have your cameras ready for photos and videos as the view of Kaieteur Falls is just magnificent.
Arrival at Kaieteur National Park: tmall landing strip in the middle of Kaieteur National Park is next to a big hut, which acts as a souvenir shop, place to stay and washrooms. It’s a wooden base in the middle of the jungle.
We have our lunch here – bottle of water, spicy sandwich and a jam sandwich and soon we are off on the walk to explore this part of the Amazon and more importantly the Kaieteur Falls!
Nature at Kaieteur National Park: the terrain we walk on is all natural, apart from the custom built steps.
We are told that there isn’t really a threat of insect bites here and that insect repellent is completely unnecessary!
We are also shown the point where the overland walk arrives at the Kaieteur Airfield. We saw trees which contains frogs inside water within it, which help deter mosquitos. We also spotted some white necked swifts and some centipedes.
The first of our four viewing points for the Kaieteur Falls is Johnson’s viewing point and it’s a short, easy walk to get to it.
On arrival at Johnson’s Viewing Point we catch our first proper glimpse of Kaieteur Falls and it is memorable. Everybody in our group grabs the photo opportunity naturally, unaware there are three more even better view points to come! A
Boy Scouts Viewing Point: In the 1930′s, the boy scouts once built a shelter here nearby the viewing point, with a hiking challenge required in order to earn a badge of honour.
The walk from the remains of the shelter down the the viewing point is just a few minutes. Then we are feasted with the Boy Scouts viewing point, which is closer and bigger than Johnsons.
Rainbow Viewing Point: the third viewing point is stunning until we reach the final viewing point, which is mind blowing.
We are lucky on the day as the sun is shining and a rainbow is clear for most of the walk, and we grab plenty of rainbow photos. Oddly the view of the rainbow was better from the Johnsons and Boy Scouts lookout points than the actual Rainbow named one!
The Top of Kaieteur Falls is epic and a moment of awe, where the river just drops and the falls begins. The endless gushing waters we see here are a sight to behold.
The burning question is how high is it? Obviously depending on the amount of water, the climate at that time etc. the exact height varies. Most sources site it as 226 metres in height.
It also has just one single drop – it is a standalone waterfall and for this reason it is believed to be the highest standalone waterfall in the world.
What does the name Kaieteur Falls mean? There is an ancient story about a family who pushed one of their members on a boat over the edge of the waterfall, in local dialect “Kaieteur” means “old man falls”. It is also possibly named after a chief called Kai.
Staying Overnight at Kaieteur Falls: some people go overland which takes a few days, and some pencil in the luxury of spending a night here, within a few hundred metres of the Kaieteur Falls. The price of a bed for the night in the lodge is 3,000 Guyana Dollars, which is only $15 US.
One of my most memorable experiences from my 3 days in Cayenne in French Guyana was turtle watching at Novotel Beach. This was a real surprise for us. We knew turtle watching and viewing was something you could do in French Guyana, but what we didn’t know was how random and spontaneous and lucky we would get. It can be done at night and in early morning. By day, you won’t see a single turtle here.
Watching turtles at Novotel Beach, Cayenne, French Guyana.
We hired a car in French Guyana which made it easy to get around. For the basis of this post I will refer to the beach as the Novotel Beach which is just down from the Cayenne Novotel.
The entrance to the Novotel Hotel in Cayenne, on down the road to the right of this photo is the beach for turtle viewing.
If you don’t have your own transport, it will be tricky so I’d recommend getting a car to travel along the main road between Cayenne and Remire-Montjoly.
The location of the Novotel in Cayenne, French Guyana.
Follow the main road out of Cayenne which heads east towards Remire-Montjoly. At some point you will see a sign on the left hand side for Novotel. This is the turn off you take and less than a kilometre down this road is the beach where you can see turtles. The beach will have signs up on the way in and a small car park, and on the left lots of turtle related murals.
The best time for turtle watching is between April and June but July is also quite good. Be sure to research in advance. Night is the only time they come out and they stay out of the water for about two hours.
The Information Boards: on the way to the beach you will see lots of information boards about turtles, which will tell you about the different types of turtles.
Information boards on the turtles at Novotel Beach, Cayenne, French Guyana.
The Murals: on the right hand side as you walk to the beach there are a load of cool murals all featuring images of turtles and this is sponsored by a group called KWATA which protects the turtles.
The Beach: obviously this is a tropical paradise so the beach itself is worth checking out to go in for a dip and relax. There are not really any ice cream or drink vendors which proves how untouristy it really is. It’s a great spot to relax.
Turtle Watching: Essentially, turtle watching by night is the highlight. We turned up just after 8.30 pm and got to see small baby turtles and a mother nesting her eggs. The eggs need to be in sand in a hole. There were a few turtle experts that came along to explain the process to us.
The mother turtle nesting on the beach.
A baby turtle on the beach.
On the beach with a turtle by my feet.
We were lucky to catch both the mother and the baby turtles. It was quite a sight I have to say and really really worth it. Flash lights are not supposed to be used hence the lack of actual photos – go there and see it with your own eyes. The guides will give you stickers which read “Turtle Safe” to put over your torches to prevent the flashlight shocking the turtles. Protect the animals remember.
The turtle safe sticker to put on your torch.
Sunrise and Sunset: we ran across people who were heading to the beach to watch sunrise and sunset. Sunrises in the east of course so sunrise is best.
Early morning on the beach near the Novotel.
There are numerous tour companies throughout Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana that organize turtle tours and turtle viewing.
We recently discovered pure luxury and relaxation at an apartment complex run by Etienne’s Unique (EU) Apartments in Paramaribo in Suriname.
Having crossed the border from St. Laurent du Maroni (French Guyana) to Albina in Suriname, we arrived in the capital city, Paramaribo – a city I first visited in 2011. This time, we were here for a couple of tours, some relaxation and a l’il luxury so I could kick back and get some work done.
Fajalobi translates as “Hot Love” in English and it is one of a few apartments in a secure complex in the city of Paramaribo. Fajalobi is the name of the apartment which is part of a complex run by Etienne’s Unique. The apartments are situated in a lush area further away from the city centre yet still close to supermarkets, restaurant and bars.
What’s nice about the apartment complex is that you have your independence, and a full kitchen so you can opt to cook at home if you’d like, making it easier to relax, kick back, read a book and slow down. Each apartment in Etienne’s Unique is outfitted with its own fast wifi, which not all hotels have reliably in this area. The location is also incredibly quiet. Situated on Nadiastraat in Paramaribo, it is far from the city centre so you will not be awakened by noises or crowds.
Security — your own keys, locks and even an outer gate and barbed wire on the fence make this a secure and safe place to stay. You can book in advance through their website or simply call them and make a reservation.
Etienne’s Unique EU Apartments:
The apartment complex is situated at No. 40 Nadiastraat in the Uitvlugt district of Paramaribo.
Telephone (597) 822 – 6200 / 498278
http://www.eu-apartments-suriname.com and http://www.guesthouse-amice.com/contact.php