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Luxury escapes: Aussies book Orpheus Island, Hamilton Island, Lord Howe Island and more


High-end travel is surging as direct result of coronavirus, with Australians who feel they deserve a special break post-lockdown trading up and splashing hard-earned dollars once intended for overseas trips on luxury domestic holidays.

Luxury lodges, retreats and hotels are filling up fast for months ahead, with some service providers recording a ten-fold jump in bookings year-on-year.

Luxury Escapes, who package special locations together with VIP inclusions, have booked more than 1000 trips with a nightly rate exceeding $1000 in the three months to September, compared to less than 100 this time last year.

Chief customer officer, Jason Shugg, said strong booking numbers show the Aussie desire for travel is alive and well — a trend reflected across the price spectrum and highlighted by the Go And Get campaign backing domestic tourism.

ESCAPE SNAPS LOGO

“The behavioural change we are seeing is twofold,” Mr Shugg said. “People are either upgrading their experiences within Australia or they’re travelling for longer, as this is now their primary trip of the year.

“In the end Australian tourism will be the winner as they’ve got a captive market for the next six to 12 months at least.”

Packages to the exclusive Berkeley River Lodge in Western Australia and Orpheus Island in Queensland sold out within a week and immediate weekend availability at Jamala Wildlife Lodge in the ACT was gone within a day.

Orpheus Island in Queensland.

Berkeley River Lodge in WA.

Demand has kept occupancy at the exclusive qualia resort on Hamilton Island at around 85 to 90 per cent and has led to an increase in flights with a daily direct flight from Brisbane recently added.

Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island has bookings well into autumn 2021 and Tim Stanhope of Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley in the Blue Mountains said the domestic market has filled the gap left by international visitors.

Supplied Editorial Capella Lodge, Lord Howe Island

Capella Lodge at Lord Howe Island.

Emirates One&Only Resort Wolgan Valley in NSW.

The “trade-up” effect is being reported anecdotally at all levels of the travel market, fuelled by those whose incomes have not been impacted by coronavirus and who have saved money by reducing leisure activities in recent months. Janelle Boyd from NRMA Parks and Resorts said a new market of “five-star campers” has emerged, opting for glamping tents and cabins over campsites.

RELATED: Australia’s hot travel deals right now

However it’s at the top end that the figures are most noticeable.

View Retreats, an online travel booking service that focuses on grander properties, reports customers are paying double on this time last year.

“If we look at the average price people were paying per holiday before COVID-19, it was around $1400 to $1500,” said spokesperson Stoewie Van Den Bulk. “Now it is almost $3000. Property owners are telling us they are overwhelmed with enquiries and bookings, they’re taking bookings as far ahead as August and September 2021.”

Jamala Wildlife Lodge in the ACT has also been popular.

Mark and Jacqui Buckley of Avalon on Sydney’s northern beaches had to cancel a family trip to South America this year due to COVID-19. They have turned their focus to exploring Australia and recently returned from a week at Elements of Byron at Byron Bay.

“We loved it so much there we have booked to go again in the Christmas holidays,” Jacqui said. “I’d love to visit The Pearle at Cable Beach in 2021 and Longitude 131 in the Northern Territory.

“Though it was disappointing to have our South America trip cancelled, Australia has so many amazing destinations.”

Join in the #EscapeSnaps celebration of Australia’s best holiday spots and experiences this weekend — part of the Go And Get It campaign to support domestic tourism. Share your favourite memories or future Aussie dream destinations on Instagram and tag @escape.com.au and #escapesnaps.





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Shark attack off Fraser Island: Fisherman bitten on hand


A fisherman has been flown to hospital in Queensland after he was bitten by a shark he’d hooked so hard his companions had to help to pry him free from its jaws.

The man, aged in his 50s, had been fishing off the coast of Queensland’s Fraser Island just before 4pm on Thursday afternoon when he caught what is believed to be a whitetip shark.

He told rescuers he was trying to unhook the animal from his fishing line when it bit his arm.

Friends he was fishing with rushed to the man’s aid to help pry his arm out of the shark’s mouth and called emergency services.

The man was brought to shore by boat, where he was treated by Queensland Ambulance paramedics before being flown to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in a stable condition.

Thursday’s attack comes little more than a week after surfer Nick Slater, 46, was mauled to death by a shark on the Gold Coast.

Mr Slater was attacked on September 8 off Greenmount Beach, which has shark netting.

Despite the best efforts of other surfers, lifeguards and emergency services, Mr Slater was pronounced dead on the sand.

Another surfer brought Mr Slater’s board back to shore, which had a clear indent from the shark’s bite and a tooth lodged in it.

The real estate agent’s death marked the first fatal attack on a Gold Coast beach in 62 years and sent shockwaves through the community.

More than two months ago, Matthew Tratt, a spear fisherman from the Sunshine Coast, was fatally mauled in waters off Fraser Island’s Indian Head.

Mr Tratt, 36, had been fishing with his brother during a family holiday when he was attacked on July 4.

Bystanders, including a doctor and nurse, treated the man before paramedics could get to the area, but he died at the scene.

His brother Robert told the ABC two weeks later the father-of-two had a “beautiful” death.

“When he did pass away, he was on the rocks,” he said.

“There were whales jumping out of the water not 50 metres away, turtles flapping their flippers in the water below us.

“You couldn’t write a more beautiful way to die if you tried.”

In June, Rob Pedretti was mauled by a three-metre great white shark at Salt Beach, near Kingscliff, just south of the Queensland/NSW border.

The 60-year-old was dragged to shore by his friend and one other surfer, who were forced to fight off the shark as they pulled him onto a surfboard.

NSW Police were granted permission to destroy the shark due to concerns the two heroes had to fend the animal off and the shark had stayed in the area for hours after the attack.

hannah.moore1@news.com.au



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Long Island teen arrested at high school during COVID-19 pandemic


Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get more ridiculous here, a high school student has been arrested for turning up at school and demanding to be allowed into class.

And Top Gun fans are going to love his name: Maverick Stow.

Maverick is 17 and starting his senior year in a New York State high school in Long Island, which is the kind of town (population 15,000) that Americans like to call a “hamlet” and has merchants with names like Gabe’s Auto Repairs, Poospatuck Smoke Shop and EmpanadaVille.

It’s on the way to the Hamptons, but also a long way from the Hamptons.

Maverick turned up on Tuesday at William Floyd High School, despite it being his scheduled day for remote learning, with New York schools offering alternating days of in-school classes for social distancing.

Maverick reckons he should be allowed to go to school five days a week so he turned up again on Wednesday, even after copping a five-day suspension the day before. The school warned him he faced criminal trespass charges if he showed his face again before the suspension was over.

But he wasn’t to be deterred and turned up Thursday in a fluoro lime green shirt and readied himself for some learning.

“Well, I’ve just been trying to go to school – and they’ve been consistently disallowing me to … I’m going to go into school and they’re going to call the police and I’m going to be arrested this morning,” he told the local press.

He was right. Suffolk County police officers charged him with third-degree criminal trespass and he’s due to appear in court later this month.

Of course there is more than one side to this story – public safety, a kid trying to score cheap points against the system, and a young man’s right to enjoy a normal senior year with his friends.

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Pick your point of view. None is completely wrong and none is completely right.

It seems like it’s time to allow people to push back against what sometimes seem like arbitrary rules designed to fit a COVID era which no-one really understands. Look at Victoria – does anyone understand the plan there?

The move to arrest a teenager for demanding to be allowed to go to school is a step too far. Especially in a nation where for months people have been freely gathering at beaches, sidewalk dining areas, on public transport and at protests and riots.

Don’t blame the kid for this mess. Work with him to find a solution that everyone can live with, rather than attempt to make him the villain.

It’s time to forget about rigid rules and handcuffs and arrest warrants when it comes to dealing with the unprecedented situations we find ourselves in thanks to the pandemic. We’re all in this together. Nobody asked for this (not anyone I know anyway).

It’s time to find a way out of this cluster using our brains and compassion, not our big sticks.



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UFC’s Fight Island to showcase Australian champion Alexander Volkanovski


When NRL Island was floated by Project Apollo as one of the ways to get the footy back on track during the coronavirus shutdown, it was justifiably seen as a bit of a joke.

Gilligan, Lord of the Flies, some too-real stuff about what rugby league players could get up to away from the prying eyes of the mainland … every version of every quip was made.

Ultimately it wasn’t required, but the UFC is making it a reality.

On Sunday, some of the mixed martial arts world’s biggest names will square up on “Fight Island” for UFC 251.

What is ‘Fight Island’?

It very much does what it says on the tin. It’s an island, where there will be fighting.

The UFC reached an agreement with Abu Dhabi to hold its most recent event on Yas Island, which is home to luxury hotels, beaches, a Formula One circuit and a golf course.

The sun sets on a UFC octagon on Yas Beach in Abu Dhabi. A palm tree is in the foreground.
Shots of an octagon on the beach looked idyllic in promotional shots but were never realistic.(Twitter: UFC)

You may also have seen shots of an octagon on the beach, but that, according to the UFC, was built solely “for the fighters’ enjoyment” (read: for promotional images). And that’s probably a good thing, considering temperatures are expected to nudge 50 degrees Celsius on Sunday.

The real fights will be held in the air-conditioned Flash Forum, where luminaries such as The Wiggles have performed and the UFC has hosted previous events, as far back as 2010 and as recently as last September.

An 11-kilometre stretch of the island has been cordoned off as a “safe zone” for the fighters and crew, with employees required to quarantine for 14 days in Yas hotels and undergo three tests in the lead-up.

“Innovative ‘mist tunnels’ — 1.5-metre passageways on entry to the venue — have been added to sanitise everyone entering, with the mist killing 99 per cent of surface bacteria,” Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) said.

The whole “safe zone”, according to the DCT, took 350 tonnes of steel and 18 kilometres of cables to build.

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While the employees on the island have had to quarantine for two weeks, the fighters touched down in the UAE just a couple of days ago and the UFC said they were tested on take-off, landing, two days after arrival and will be tested once again before the fight.

After Sunday’s bouts, there are at least three more fight nights slated on the island over the next two weeks.

How did we get here?

The UFC's octagon, with the wire from in the foreground, on Yas Beach in Abu Dhabi (also known as Fight Island).
There will be three title fights on Sunday.(Twitter: UFC)

Three months ago, White was bragging about how his organisation was going to be the first sport to come back after COVID-19 started shutting down the world.

In reality, the sport stopped for almost two months, from March 15 to May 10, despite White’s repeated insistence that they would have events through April.

Even so, Fight Island was on June 10 confirmed as the ninth UFC event since the shutdown.

All of them have gone ahead with strict health and safety measures in place, and no crowds.

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The island idea was first mentioned back in early April, when White said he secured a location and the infrastructure was being built.

It was initially supposed to be a measure to ensure international fighters could get in the ring and to avoid, in White’s words, “smoking all the talent in the United States”.

Who’s fighting?

Alexander Volkanovski leans back and screams, with his fists clenched
Aussie Alexander Volkanovski (right) beat Max Holloway for the featherweight belt in December.(AP: John Locher)

There are three belts up for grabs on Sunday, with Australian featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski among the fighters.

He’s scheduled for a rematch with Max Holloway after beating the American back in December to become the sport’s first Australian-born champion.

That precedes the main event: a welterweight title bout between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal.

Highlighting the dangers of an event like this in the middle of a pandemic, Masvidal himself wasn’t even supposed to be fighting in UFC 251, only getting a shot after Brazil’s Gilbert Burns tested positive for coronavirus last week. Then Masvidal’s coach tested positive, meaning he couldn’t make the trip.

The other title fight is between Russian Petr Yan and Brazilian Jose Aldo for the bantamweight belt.

Elsewhere on the main card, Rose Namajunas is taking on Jessica Andrade in the strawweight division, and flyweights Paige Vanzant and Amanda Ribas face off.



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UFC president Dana White says he has secured an island to hold international MMA fights


Updated

April 08, 2020 12:34:17

With world sport searching for ways to get around the coronavirus pandemic, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is talking up the possibility of holding fights on a private island.

Key points:

  • UFC has not held an event since mid-March amid restrictions on mass gatherings due to coronavirus
  • President Dana White says infrastructure is being built on a private island to allow international fighters to compete
  • In Australia, the NRL has said moving the competition to an island off the Queensland coast is one option for the league to revive its season

UFC president Dana White said a fight between lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson had been scrapped, with Nurmagomedov apparently unable to leave Russia amid the pandemic.

American Justin Gaethje is the new man to replace Nurmagomedov at UFC 249 at a yet-to-be-determined location.

“I’m this close to getting a deal done so this place where this fight is going to be on April 18th, I have locked up for two months. So I’m going to continue to pump fights out,” White told ESPN.

“I’ve also secured an island. I’ve got an island. The infrastructure is being built right now.

“We’re going to do all of our international fights on this island.”

White gave no indication where the island was located.

The last UFC event was on March 15 in the Brazilian capital Brasilia.

It became the first event in UFC’s history held behind closed doors after the Governor of the Federal District that includes Brasilia declared a ban on all large gatherings in response to coronavirus.

Since then, a UFC fight night in London was also cancelled, as were two other cards due to be held at UFC’s headquarters in Las Vegas.

Although White still has not even announced a venue for UFC 249, he remains determined to hold the pay-per-view show.

White wrote on Twitter: “The fight is signed and is 100% ON LIVE on ESPN somewhere on EARTH!!!!”

Most US states have restrictions in place that would make it impossible to stage a show, even without an audience.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

UFC 249 initially was slated for Brooklyn, but a venue change became necessary several weeks ago.

ESPN, the UFC’s broadcast partner, has said White was attempting to secure an unnamed venue on the west coast for the show.

“I’m terrified and I … love it,” Gaethje tweeted after the announcement of his fight.

Nurmagomedov announced last week that he wasn’t planning to leave his native Dagestan, suggesting Russia’s travel restrictions in response to coronavirus made it impossible.

He later claimed he would be willing to leave for the fight but couldn’t plan because he didn’t know where or when it would occur.

Sports eyeing island solution

The island idea is not new, with the NRL admitting it is considering a range of options including moving its entire competition to Tangalooma — on Moreton Island off the Queensland coast — to keep the players quarantined.

The AFL has suggested the possibility that teams could be sent to a number of “hubs” in different states in a bid to get the season off the ground.

The idea would involve some teams based in Tasmania and Western Australia, where there are lower COVID-19 infection rates and a possible earlier end to self isolation and restrictions than elsewhere in Australia.

However AFL Players Association president Patrick Dangerfield has described the idea as “speculative” and said he wasn’t sure how comfortable he was with it.

What you need to know about coronavirus:

ABC/Wires

Topics:

infectious-diseases-other,

respiratory-diseases,

sport,

covid-19,

united-states,

tas,

wa,

brisbane-4000,

tangalooma-4025,

qld,

australia

First posted

April 08, 2020 10:27:40





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