Selwo Animal Safari & Adventure Park, near Mar Azul Resort, Estepona
05 July 2008
Published at 20:37 Comments (0)
Despite the fact that the Selwo Animal Safari & Adventure Park is a couple of miles away from the Mar Azul Resort, I just have to include it in my overview of this coastline. Why ? Because it is MAGNIFICENT !
Considered to be the only theme park of it's kind in Europe, here you will find more than 2,000 animals from every continent living in semi-free conditions on the one million square metre site.
Okay, I hear you say, just another zoo.
Well it's not.
Note the bit in the title ""Adventure Park". That's exactly what it is. It's an adventure from the moment you climb up the steps of an off-road truck, which clambers up a rough track in low-ratio 4-wheel drive to a large outdoor enclosure. Not surprisingly they don't let you in, because it's not your home, it's the Bengal Tiger's home, but you get CLOSE ENOUGH to these wonderful creatures. Exiting briefly from the trucks you have the opportunity, but not for the feint-hearted, to leave the bright sunlight to enter the gloom of a cave full of vampire bats. And then you're out into the sun again, and off up through steep-sided valleys to the peak of a mini-mountain where there's a cafe & restaurant with spectacular panoramic views.
When suitably re-fortified your journey will continue through many separate and "geographically designated" areas, each being host to a wide variety of animals such as elephants, bison, antelopes, bears, tigers, giraffes and rhinoceroses, and with glorious views over the luxuriant and extensive lake-side gardens, Masai-style villages, and beyond to the wonderful Marbella coastline.
After reaching another "mountain-peak", you have the choice of a lift back to base in a truck, but better still take the short-cut back on foot across several overhead rope walkways (with wild animals foraging below you ! ) and through the biggest aviary in Europe, holding over 1,000 birds of hundreds of different species in an utterly enchanting valley totally enclosed in netting !
See, I told you it's an adventure !
And there's more !
There's a wide variety of additional activities including an exhibition of the flying and hunting skills of eagles and hawks, camel rides, archery, an adventure playground, trampolining, and a simulated rain-forest water-spray machine ! And the "Great Tyrolean Traverse" zip-wire over a crocodile-infested lake which, with a length of more than 100 metres is the longest in Europe. (Sorry, I made it up about the crocodiles)
Of-course there's got to be a word of warning when entrepidly exploring the unknown. Wear appropriate footwear, bring drinks, and protect yourself from the sun. Also think carefully about whether it might become just too much effort for very young children, or for the parents that might have to end up carrying them !
Fortunately there are several restaurants and cafes around the site serving drinks, snacks and more substantial meals, but a further word of warning...you're not allowed to take your own food in !
Visiting hours at Selwo Aventura are from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM during the summer season, and from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM in winter. But best to check for the latest information about opening times and up-to-date prices by telephoning 902 19 04 82. Or vist www.selwo.es but that's in Spanish !
Also, for accommodation in nearby MAR AZUL Resort, visit
www.marazul-resort.com That's in English !
Mar Azul Resort, next to Kempinski Hotel, Estepona
03 June 2008
Published at 21:47 Comments (0)
The MAR AZUL Resort is an exclusive, luxurious and peaceful oasis in a prime South-facing beach-side location next to the Kempinski Hotel Estepona & Laguna Village, with panoramic views over the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlas mountains on the African Coast.
MAR AZUL is comprised of only 72 ultra-luxurious apartments arranged in a 'V'-shape, facing South, and designed so that each apartment is provided with both their fair share of the Sun, but also the intimate privacy that one may expect from a private villa.
The open end of the 'V' is purely beach & sea ! Within the 'V' is a totally unique area of exuberant & colourful tropical gardens, and within that lies an inner world of spectacular sculptured swimming pools, flowing canals, fountains, cascading waterfalls, a giant overflowing bowl, sunken deck-chairs, jacuzzi beds, and romantic thatched cabanas with lovely comfortable armchairs & settees.
At the sharp end of the "V" is the Mar Azul Aparthotel with an indoor health & leisure centre providing a heated pool, fully equipped gym, spa, Jacuzzi, sauna, solarium, steam-rooms, thermal baths, beauty salon and sports injury treatment centre offering massage, osteopathy, reflexology, chiropractics & acupuncture.
I paid my first of four stage-payment for my off-plan purchase of my apartment on Mar Azul in September 2003, and the last in March 2006. Building work was completed on the last of the blocks in 2008, and peace and quiet returned to this wonderful location. Mar Azul is now a stunningly beautiful and relaxing haven where the blue water of our infinity pool apparently merges with the even bluer water of the Mediterranean as if it was always meant to.
Most of the Mar Azul apartments are privately owned, and only some of those owners choose to make them available for holiday rental.
Being able to walk to Cruisos Beach Bar, Laguna Village, and The Kempinski Hotel Estepona is a big advantage, but it is also only a 30 minutes walk to the start of the characterful Estepona promenade, and there is a choice of routes. The easiest is along by the side of the main A-7, and every time I visit, that route improves.
We used to have to walk right next to that road as far as the A-7 roundabout, but now you can walk away from the road most of the way, in front of the newly built complexes. The walk from the A-7 roundabout to Estepona Carrefour Supermarket roundabout is pleasant enough as you're in the shade of trees bordering the attractive boulevard. Then at the Carrefour roundabout you turn leftand down some steps following signs to an Italian Restaurant to the start of the promenade near the "La Buena Vida". Apart from those steps, this route is child-buggy friendly.
Walking along the beach is another option, which is very pleasant but a little harder ! The surface of the sand varies, and some of the coastline is stony. Occasionally in the Winter, passage along the beach is disrupted due to high tide. Not suitable for buggies !
The third option is an interesting mixture of beach-walking, but also involving some very pleasant detours through lovely gardens & parkland. It's about a 35 minute walk and starts on MAR AZUL'S own promenade. Yes, we have our own, it's just that it doesn't quite join up with anyone else's ! Walk to the right, in the Estepona direction, to the end of our promenade, and take the steps down to the beach. After 4 or 5 minutes a stream can be seen on your right, after which you can gain access to a wooden promenade, probably the nicest wooden promenade you've ever seen ! This takes you along by the beach in front of the new and then an older complex. (This promenade does actually stretch back very close to MAR AZUL, but you can't access it at that end at the time of writing)
All good things come to an end, but stick on the promenades, ignoring private signs (these refer to the gardens on the right I think) until reaching a complex through which an extension to the promenade has not been provided. You come to a brick wall and a massive cactus. You can at that point cut up through pathways to the main road close to the main roundabout mentioned earlier. But you don't need to ! For the more adventurous, back to the beach for another 10 minutes, in which time you'll pass houses as close as you can imagine to the Sea !
Just past another stream, come off the beach onto big broken concrete slabs, into a low-budget park with terraced contours supported by railway sleepers ! Keep as close as you can to the Sea, and at the end of the park you'll find a wooden walkway well above the level of the beach. If you're fed up of beach-walking, head inland and you'll come out near the Carrefour roundabout mentioned earlier. But if you're the determined type, follow that wooden walkway.
Careful now. Two choices. Well 3 actually. The third is to continue on the same contour when the wooden walkway ends, but I advise against this. The path deteriorates and actually gets very iffy. It's just not worth the trouble. You need to get back down to the beach, and this is the point at which the Sea can be higher than the beach ! So before you decide on one of the 2 sensible options, look over the top of the walkway to see how close the Sea is, or how high it is. If it's too close or too high, head back along the walkway, and inland from the park. If you reckon your footwear (perhaps that should be feetwear but it doesn't sound right) is/are up to it, descend the steps half way along the walkway !
Another 8 minutes on the beach will bring you to the beginning of the Estepona Promenade at the "La Buena Vida" Bar, for a cold beer, but to reach it don't be tempted to climb the brick steps up, instead go a little further to the steps with rocks on either side.
If you have a child in a buggy, and a hire-car, then your best plan may be to drive into Estepona, and park in the massive underground car-park UNDER the promenade. You can get a lift up from there, and you're straight onto the magnificent promenade. It's sprinkled all the way to the marina with bars, restaurants, childrens playgrounds, wrinkleys playgrounds, fountains, pools, shelters & seats. A delight for all ages !
It's about a further 30 minute walk to Estepona Marina, but if you've got kids it might take 2 hours because they'll keep wanting to stop ! If you let them on the beautiful beach, well supplied with showers and sun-shelters, it may take all day ! But isn't that what holidays are all about ?
Estepona Marina is well worth a visit, but don't expect rows of chic boutiques alternating with ice-cream parlours and trendy bars like at Puerto Banus. Here you have a good selection of reasonably priced cafes, restaurants and tapas bars overlooking a good selection of small to medium-sized boats. From here you can hire a choice of boats with a skipper. One that I can recommend will take 6 people or a great day out, for about 550 Euros. (This includes drinks & snacks, but not fuel) You could go dolphin-spotting to Gibraltar, or spend an hour or two at Nikki Beach and pretend to be a millionaire (if your not already), or just relax in the Sun with a spot of snorkeling. Telephone Louise on 0031651614492 or 0031651259093 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
So, Estepona's Marina isn't as chic as Pueto Banus, but there's room for a Sunday Market here, and a big surprise round the next corner !
Carry on walking out of the Marina, through a car-park, and through an area we call "no-mans-land". We call it that because it's a prime tract of coastal ammenity ground but it's as if no-one's prepared to admit owning it.
And just beyond.....there it is.....the jewel in the crown....."Horse-shoe Beach" ! The nicest beach on the coast, and great for kids as it's sheltered, the Sea is shallow and the sand fine. Two good beach-bars provide good-value food & drinks, relaxing background music, loungers & umbrellas. Just perfect.
For photographs of Mar Azul and holiday rental opportunities visit www.marazul-resort.com
Kempinski Hotel, next to Mar Azul Resort, Estepona
31 May 2008
Published at 21:47 Comments (0)
The Kempinski Hotels' 5 superior stars were not awarded gratuitously. They deserve every one. (Particularly since a recent 7 million Euro renovation) But exclusive it is not. My dictionary defines EXCLUSIVE as "catering for a privileged minority...excluding everything else". That cannot apply to the Kempinski....they let me in and made me welcome enough.
Refined and luxurious it certainly is. First impressions are important. You receive your first impression of the Kempinski as you glide around the inside of the giant revolving door accompanied by an array of exquisite orchids & lillies within their own glass enclosures. The next as you proceed through the impressive atrium generously sprinkled with many more beautiful arrangements of fragrant tropical flowers. You smell the quality. This quality smells good.
You can walk straight through to the gardens from here, or not, as the case may be. No, let's stop at the bar for a while, and admire the scene. The entire South-facing wall is glass, (can you have a glass wall ?) It could get like a greenhouse in there without a full kit of blinds, the like of which I've never seen before. They've got to be admired.
Another good thing about the Kempinski Hotel is that Jesus administers at the bar. (His name is actually pronounced "Hethoos", a common Spanish name). He's the tall & slim barman, a real nice guy, but with a wicked sense of humour. It was his idea for me to try a drink at the "Oasis Showgirls Bar" across the road. If you think the Kempinski drinks are on the expensive side, try there ! Cost me 50 Euros for a small bottle of Heineken and a non-descript non-alcoholic beverage. Fortunately for the longevity of my marriage and my life that's all the money I spent.
Tear yourself away from the bar, and walk through the glass doors onto the terrace. You're now overlooking the manicured deep-green lawns around the lovely blue swimming pools, with a backdrop of an even bluer Mediterranean Sea. Simply gorgeous.
The wonderfully maintained gardens slope gently towards the beach, liberally provided with clusters of comfy loungers & matching tables (of-course).
The beach-front has been refined with imported white sand and reclaimed railway sleepers to support a splendid children's playground, a volley-ball pitch, and more sun-bathing areas. Jet-skis, yachts, pedalos etc can be hired here, and water-skiing is available during the peak summer months.
In Summer 2006 a boardwalk was provided from here to Laguna Village, but it was washed away during the winter storms later that year, and never replaced. Shame that. I did hear it is to be replaced. In the meantime it is only a 4 minute stroll across the beach to Laguna, and a further 4 to Cruisos Beach Bar. For those not liking sand between their toes, they'll need to either cross the dried up river-bed under the main road bridge, or walk across that bridge. The trouble with the former is it's not always dried up, and the problem with the latter is that you're walking right next to the noisy trafic, and unfortunately the walkway narrows since the errection of more efficient safety-barriers and is now too narrow for buggies and wheel-chairs. Also, the walkway takes you past the Laguna Village, and you've got to walk back into it ! Plans are afoot to rectify this situation I've been told.
The Kempinski Hotels offers a choice of four restaurants and two bars, each with a unique ambience.
The Alminar restaurant
is the posh one inside. I only experienced that once, and came away disappointed & broke.
The La Brisa
is on a spacious terrace by the main pool with live music. It takes it's name from "a soft Mediterranean wind". Just make sure it's not blowing too strongly when you're dining out there.
La Cabaña del Mar. "
Chill & Grill." This is described as an "an entirely natural wooden structure". I've never seen one of those that hasn't looked like a tree, and this doesn't, but it is in a lovely spot near the beach. Make sure your table will stay in the shade as the Sun moves if you need shade !
El Mirador is the "
breakfast room, on another large terrace overlooking the gardens and Sea.
And don't forget that snacks and tapas are served in the main lounge bar at most times, and I should mention the pool bar. A good selection of coffees, natural fruit-juices, snacks and freshly-made exotic cocktails is available, along with sandwiches and ice creams. Nothing more refreshing than a delicious Sangría underneath the parasols in the Summertime.
Bear in mind some of these restaurants are only open at peak times. For example the pool bar, La Brisa and La Cabaña del Mar may be closed in the wintery months. Visit the Kempinski web-site below for more details.
One thing you must do is to partake of a Kempinski Sunday Brunch
. Don't be frightened off by the price ! Okay, it's about 65 Euros each. But when you break the cost up, it's cheap as chips ! For one thing, you'll not need to buy a drink all afternoon, and as you know, that can double a bill. Your Champagne glass will be re-filled as soon as it's half empty ! Throughout this wondrous event you will be thoroughly entertained by a brilliant Trad Jaz z quartet. These guys just ooze talent, they're outstanding, and I'm not a jazz fan . What can I say about the food. I can't begin to descibe the range on offer. You'll just need to go and try it for yourself. Suffice to say that I've never managed yet to limit myself to only one half-lobster ! One bit of advice. Get their early ( I think you'll find it 's on from 1.00 pm 'till 4.00 pm.) to make the most of this scintillating afternoon. Book at reception.
The Kempinski Spa & leisure club offers it's guests [only] a wide range of massages and treatments, a sauna, heated indoor pool and fitness room. But if you're not resident, there are equally good facilities at the Mar Azul Resort next door. There you can pay by the day. Most of the other Kempinski facilities are available to non-residents. Obviously the bars & restaurants are, and if you've spent a few bob in one of those then no-one's going to stop you siestering on a lounger for a while. It's all a matter of common sense really, you wouldn't walk off the beach and take over a prime clutch of sun loungers. They didn't seem too keen on non-residents using their tennis courts though, but there are two tennis clubs within a 5 minute drive. Visit www.clubdetenisestepona.com
For more details of Kempinski Hotel, visit :- www.kempinski-spain.com/en/home/index.htm
For a holiday rental opportunity on the Mar Azul Resort next door visit :- www.marazul-resort.com
Laguna Village, very near Mar Azul Resort, Estepona
29 May 2008
Published at 00:28 Comments (2)
The "Laguna Village" is unique. How did they get planning permission ? That's not to say I don't like it....I do. But here we have a collection of interwoven giant thatched cabannahs occupied by an up-market selection of trendy shops, bars, and restaurants surrounded by swimming pools, lagoons, waterfalls, and tropical gardens....ALL RIGHT ON THE BEACH !
The opening night was a big one ! Invitation only, free bars, free food, the very prettiest people from Marbella and Puerto Banus, the briefest of dresses, a greatest selection of cars parked around, camels on the beach....and me ! No, of-course I wasn't invited....just sneeked in.
If the weather's good, you feel the need for a pampering coming on, you've got a reasonably full wallet and a free day, you could spend it all here.
Arrive early for a leisurely breakfast in the "Spanish Star Cafe", before strolling through the galleries of exclusive shops selling mostly chic clothing & accessories, ( some for kid too ) but with a sprinkling of purveyors of home-interior knick-knacks, a collectors' emporium, a hardresser, an "Art Galeria", a "Bang & Olufsen" shop, and of-course an Estate Agent.
By then it'll be time to settle on a cosy sun-bed in a private nomad tent around a lagoon in "Puro Beach Club". Lie back on the sumptuously comfortable mattress, soak up the relaxing ambience, imbibe your first cocktail of the day, whilst admiring the spectacular view across the sand & Sea to the Atlas Mountains, the coast of Africa, & Gibraltar.
Followed by a light lunch at "Trader Vic's".
(I've always like "Trader Vic's". The staff have all seemed genuinly friendly. The last time I was in they were all dressed up as witches & vampires and Bloody Mary's were on special offer..bet you can't tell what night that was )
"Tidbits" look good on their menu, a mouth-watering selection of tapas-sized morsels just enough to keep hunger at bay throughout a hard afternoon of casual conversation, a game of backgammon, a stroll along the beach, an ear open to the siesta-inducing tropical music, a read of your book, a relaxing massage, an invigorating dip in the swimming pool..............welcome to the Puro experience.
A Mai-Tai cocktail aperitif will go down well before your choice of intimate dinners in one of the stylish restaurants, or you may wish to avail yourself of one of the special themed performance evenings held throughout the season in the Puro Restaurant.
Sounds good ? It is ! But it can be very quiet out of peak season, and we've seen the demise of a few businesses.... the Shushi Bar struggled through two off-seasons and then shut it's doors, and the big front bar on the left never really seemed to open theirs ! And why did I see 50% discount off genuine top-designer-labelled clothing last October if all is well ?
It is a sensational place, but is it in the right place ? Time will tell.
To much more information about Laguna Village, please visit :- www.laguna-village.com
For holiday rental opportunities at the nearby Mar Azul Resort Azul visit :- www.marazul-resort.com
Cruisos Beach Bar, near Mar Azul Resort, Estepona
28 May 2008
Published at 17:47 Comments (0)
In a wonderful open setting at the most Easterly portion of this area of coastline. Next to "The Laguna Village" on the El Padron Beach. Just a few minutes walk from Mar Azul Resort.
Open every day between about March & October, except Tuesdays! Very good food & most popular drinks (but no Magners ! ) served at very reasonable prices by Sue, Barry & James, who are sure to give you a warm welcome.
The menu contains a variety of bar-food favourites, but with some less likely attractions such as sword-fish, and a "specials" board will be pointed out. Starters great but big ! Never yet had room for a sweet, but they've looked good.
Live music on Wednesdays & Saturdays provided by a very popular singing saxaphonist. Dancing encouraged, but you're unlikely to perform as well as your hostess Sue.
This is "the local tavern" to many of the more mature local English residents, groups of whom create a pleasant atmosphere at the bar. I suspect some of them spend more time here than at home !
Throroughly child-friendly, this is the perfect place for a family meal, lunch-time or evening, where the kids can play safely on the sandy beach right in front, overloooked by their relaxing parents enjoying a drink in the shade of an umbrella. Loungers can be rented by the day.
If you're walking in the Estepona direction, fill ya' boots here, because you'll pay double or more elsewhere in the next mile !
For holiday rental opportunities at nearby Mar Azul Resort visit :- www.marazul-resort.com
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