April, 2016

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Parks and Reserves in South Africa

images (70)South Africa displays picturesque landscapes, nature parks and wildlife reserves. Many tourists visit the country to observe the wildlife in their natural habitat. It is a travel destination of breathtaking beauty and colourful history.

The country boasts of its abundant parks and reserves, which are as follows:

• Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park is adjacent to Port Elizabeth, which is Eastern Cape’s biggest city. The park gives you the chance to see elephants up close. The area was originally 2500 hectares during its proclamation, but it has grown to 180,000 hectares, encompassing the north and south coast. Hence, it ranks as the country’s third largest. The park is a natural habitat for buffalo, leopard, lion, and rhinoceros. You will also discover that its marine area is a home to great white sharks.

• Augrabies Falls National Park

It is a national park situated in the Northern Cape of South Africa. You will wonder with the various rock forms such as the Moon Rock, which is a dome from granite stones rising about 30 meters above the Augrabies Falls Park. The weather in this area is dry, but most of the wildlife has adjusted to the temperature. The park offers challenging guided games supervised by park representatives. You can also go hiking, mountain biking, and canoeing in the Orange River.

• Kruger National Park

The park is a well-known conservation site, which is ideal for witnessing wildlife. It stretches for about 20,000 square kilometres and is home to the Big Five, which are buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinoceros. There are approximately 145 species of mammals, which hunt and feed in the natural environment. You can go for a guided tour with skilled rangers. The ideal time to visit the park is from June to September. Flora is sparse during this time, which enables you to see the wild animals better. Furthermore, the risk of contracting malaria is lower during those months.

• Garden Route National Park

Forests, beaches, lakes, and oceans merge to give you a spectacular view. The Tsitsikamma National Park portion is the natural habitat for blue duiker, bush pig, genets, monkeys, otters and sometimes leopards.

You can explore the lagoons and lakes within the park via a canoe. There are dolphins and whales surfing the waves. You will surely enjoy the dense forest, sun-drenched beach and sea breezed.

• Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Golden Gate got its name from the bright gold shade radiating from the sun. You can go here at sunset to marvel at the view of the park’s vast space. You will appreciate the beauty of this park during summer, which is from December to March, when the temperature is cooler than in the low areas.

• Mountain Zebra National Park

This park is a conservation site for the endangered species of zebra in the Cape Mountain. Aside from zebra, you will find about 216 species of birds such as blue crane, Ludwig’s bustard, ostrich, secretary bird, and Verreaux martial eagles. You can also have a picnic or join an afternoon game for a unique wildlife encounter.

• Table Mountain National Park

The mountain is located in Cape Town, where you will witness the majestic view of the Cape Peninsula. It is a splendid park situated within the metropolis. You can access most of the park’s area free except for the four portions, which require entrance fees. You will see various creatures such as baboons, bontebok, eland, lizards, otters, tortoise, steenbok, and zebra. Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden within the park is an area for picnic.

• Royal Natal National Park

The park is located in the northwestern part of Durban. The perfect schedule to book your tour here is from April to July, when the mild climate is ideal for hiking activity.

These various parks offer you the opportunity to discover the biodiversity of the country. The South African tour will provide you with the exceptional and unforgettable experience.

Smart Tips About How To Plan A Vacation In Spain

downloadLooking for some tips about how to plan a vacation in Spain? This article will help you about planning your trip to the Land of the Siesta. If you want to enjoy a more laid back kind of life, Spain could the best destination on your next vacation. Just take note, however that daily life is slow in Spain, and it runs rather late. Store hours are limited in most parts of this country. These are precisely some of the things that you should understand about the Spanish perspective. The Spanish people go by the rules of moving slowly, eating well and relaxing and simply enjoying yourself. It is through this credo that Spain as a country has inculcated so much character. Revel in the beauty and dynamism of Spain on your vacation.

Attractions In Spain

If you want to visit energetic and hip cities, you can take a trip to Barcelona and Madrid. In Granada, you can have a glimpse of the distinctive Moorish touch. Take some time off from the beaten track and visit the splendid Basque Country. August is a favorable time to have a vacation in Spain, particularly in the great town port of Valencia. At that time of the year in Bunol, heaves of crowds gather to celebrate the tomato-throwing festival. A quick day out to the Canary Islands or Ibiza is an undeniably delightful experience. The list is endless for beautiful and unique places to visit in Spain.

Food And Accommodation

It’s actually more economical to vacation in Spain than in other Western European countries. Accommodation is cheaper as well. You can stay in a hostel which costs somewhere from 15 EUR to 30 EUR in Madrid or Barcelona that are major cities in Spain. A hostel private room double accommodation costs about 40 EUR per night. These are the starting rates by far and it goes up from there if you pay for a room in a budget hotel. Accommodation is even lesser when you take a trip to smaller towns.

How much does food cost in Spain? For 3 to 7 EUR, you can buy sandwich meals or tapas. If wine is included in your meal, it’ll cost you 10 to 13 EUR per meal. At 13 EUR, you can enjoy a meal in a restaurant while appetizers and drinks with paella cost about 22 EUR. Dining out in an expensive restaurant in Spain will have you paying about 27 EUR. Fast food in Maoz or McDonalds costs approximately 6 EUR. Your groceries for one week would typically cost you 30 EUR.

Transportation And Activities

Spain is efficient in their different modes of transportation. For every trip via the city metro or bus line, expect to pay 1 to 3 EUR. Renfe, Spain’s train system is more expensive. If you’re taking a more popular route via a high speed train, prepare to pay somewhere from 50 to 140 EUR. There are slower trains in other regions of the country, too. Every trip costs 15 to 45 EUR. If you’re having an inter-city trip in Spain, you can take an overnight bus with far costing about 18 EUR. It’s the most economical inter-city option.

You can visit museums and other attractions in Spain. You’ll spend around 2 to 14 EUR for these activities. If you plan to go diving, your guide would typically charge you 45 EUR for every dive.

You can download more resources about tips on how to plan a vacation in Spain for more details.

 

Kerala Tours – Important Tourist Destinations

downloadKerala is one of the favorite tourist destinations in India. It is famed as the God’s Own Country due to its amazing beauty of nature and serene surroundings. Honeymooners, nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, and many other tourists from all over the world visit Kerala every year. There are many important tourist destinations scattered across the state. The following five are the most important of them.

Munnar

Munnar is the most beautiful hill town in South India. It is located at steamy Western Ghats in the state of Kerala. Lush green tea gardens, dense forests area, rare collection of wildlife, beautiful lakes, and hill peaks are the important attractions of this place. The place is visited by large numbers of nature and adventure lovers every year.

Kovalam

Kovalam is the most popular beach holiday spot in Kerala. It is located just 16 km away from the Kerala’s capital, Trivandrum. It is the favorite holiday spot for beach lovers in India. Resorts, hotels, massage parlors, and spa therapy centers are dotted in its surroundings. Tourists can enjoy good quality tourists facilities and services here.

Cochin

Cochin is the city of heritage in Kerala. It resembles rich heritage and legacy of duchess and portages. Tourists can visit ancient forts and palaces, churches, and well-stocked museums in the city. Cochin is also known for its spice plantation and delicious cuisines. Some worth visit places in and around city are Fort Kochi, Mattancherry Fort, Chine Fishing Nets, Marine Drive, St Francis Church, and Bolgatty Palace.

Alleppey

Backwater is the prime attraction of Kerala tourism. There are many globally acclaimed backwater holiday spots dotted around the state. Alleppey is the most popular of them. The town has an excellent network of lakes, rivers and water lagoons, and natural and manmade channels. Houseboats are the best accommodation option available here. Houseboats are immensely popular among honeymoon couples. Locally called as Kettuvallams, houseboats are easily available in different budgets and classes.

Kumarakom

Kumarakom is another important backwater destination of the state. It is located in the backdrop of Vembanad Lake, the largest backwater lake in Kerala. Gifted with supreme beauty of nature, Kumarakom is also the home of exciting aquatic wildlife. Kumarakom Water Bird Sanctuary is the most prominent tourist attraction of the city.

 

A Country Where Happiness Is More Important Than Wealth!

downloadBhutan suddenly shot to fame with the famous speech by their Prime Minister claiming that Bhutan is not only Carbon neutral, but Carbon negative. A time when our dear planet has sunk itself in tonnes of pollution, Bhutan is literally a breath of fresh air! Stunning Dzongs, monasteries and buildings that look right out of a film set… Bhutan is an impressive Kingdom. So without further ado let us spill beans about the country which measures its progress by Gross National Happiness (GNH) index… reallly!

THE PLACES

THIMPU – Only capital city in the world without any traffic signals!

Wow!! And trust us this is not the only reason why Thimpu is interesting. In fact inspite of this fact it is fairly easy to travel and get around this pretty and petite capital of Bhutan. Thimpu gives you ample opportunities to soak in the culture of this beautiful country and the locals here are super friendly and approachable. Thimphu offers myriad attractions to visitor- there is National Folk Heritage Museum, National library, Zorig Chusum School of Traditional Arts for those who want to understand the history and rich culture of this place. A stroll around Norzin lam which is like a City Centre is also something you must not miss while here. Thimphu also offers a great local shopping experience at the famous Crafts market. Thinking souvenirs?

Where to Stay:

Thimphu being the capital city of Bhutan has plenty of choice to stay on your visit to Bhutan. Every type of hotel is available from luxury to budget. Our recommendations based on every budget are as follows:

Amankora by Amankora Groups (5 star)
Taj Tashi by Tata and Tashi Group (5 Star)
Druk Hotel (4 Star)
Hotel Norbuling (3 Star)
Hotel Dorji Elements

PARO… Where a monastery hangs on a cliff!

And you must have definitely seen the images of this famous landmark which is called Taktsang Monastery also known as Tiger’s Nest Monastery! Apart from the Monastery, Paro is a stunning valley in its own right for the nature lovers. Revel in the ancient air here at Drukgyel Dzong, a fortress that has stood the tests of time. Old, dilapidated but not forgotten! Paro also boasts of a National Museum that exhibits rare artefacts and photographs. The only International Airport in Bhutan is also located here thereby making it an important city and also a place of heavy tourist activity.

Where to Stay:

Like the Capital City, Paro also offers its guests a varied variety of stay options beginning from luxurious five stars to more pocket friendly resorts. Our picks are:

Uma Resort by Como Group (5 Star)
Amankora by Amankora Group (5 Star)
Heaven Resort (4 Star)
Tashi Namgay Resort (3 Star)
Hotel Metta Resort and Spa (3 Star)

TRONGSA… movie set of a place!

Trongsa is very popular with visitors in Bhutan and there is big reason to be. This place is dotted by many fortresses from older times but they are in a great shape. In fact Trongsa looks like a film set for those Shaolin and Kung Fu movies! These colourful fortresses and palaces nestled amidst misty mountain sides create a mystical atmosphere around Trongsa. Trongsa was once the seat of power over central and eastern regions. Both the first and second kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat and it is customary for the crown prince to serve as the Trongsa Penlop (“governor”) prior to ascending the throne.This place also has a number of guesthouses, restaurants and hotels owing to healthy influx of tourists. The most spectacular tourist sites here include Trongsa Dzong, Ta Dzong, Chökhor Raptse Dzong, Thruepang Palace, Kuenga Rabten Palace and Chendebji Chorten.

Where to Stay:

Most popular places to Stay at are:
Puenzi Guest House (3 Star)
Tashi Ninjay Guest House (3 Star)
Yangkhol Resoort (3 Star)
Chendebji Resort

WANGDUE PHODRANG… spectacular wildlife and the biggest Bhutanese Monastery

Sitting at a height of over 1300 meters (4265 ft), this picturesque district is home to the largest Monastery of Bhutan- Gangtey Gompa. Due to the height, Wangdue enjoys an ideal weather all through the year. It is also a part of Black Mountain Conservation Area because of its rich flora and fauna. For those who like to observe wildlife, Wangdue Phodrang has to be on top of the bucket list. Red fox, Sambar, Himalayan Black Deer, barking deer are some of the illustrious species found in these forest areas!

The other attractive place to offer spectacular scenic beauty to visitors here is Phobjikha Valley which is 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Wangdiphodrang. It is also simply referred as Gangtey. This valley is the habitat of rare and endangered Black Necked Cranes that roost there during their annual migrations. This valley also has interesting Home-stay options for tourists that entails living with a family to experience and learn about the way of life of local people including overnight stay in the households, local food and drinks, interaction with family members and participation in daily household chores such as cooking, milking of cow, making butter, cheese, feed livestock etc. Depending on the season, visitors may also have the opportunity to participate in gardening and farm activities including crop plantation, harvesting etc. For most of the foreign urban visitors, this experience will provide a glimpse of the ancestral way of life – life that is hard work, devoid of stress and sustainable.

Where to Stay:

Twenty homestays offer accommodation facility with each homestay having the capacity of two rooms for four persons. The households are equipped with the basic modern sanitation and bedroom facilities. Apart from this, there are normal hotels available too:

Amankora (5 star)
Hotel Dewachen
Gangtey Goenpa Lodge
Wangchuk Lodge

BUMTHANG

At dizzying heights ranging from 8530 ft to 14765 ft, Bum Thang is a trekkers’ paradise. Oh, and there is more to see around for those who are not much into walking and hiking. This magnificent place has its share of some of the oldest temples and monasteries in Bhutan. Bumthang consists of four main valleys Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor. Choekho. Bumthang is one of the most richly endowed districts in terms of historical and spiritual legacy. Famous burning lake is also located here. Scenic Ura valley is just about 48 kilometers(30 miles) from here and worth a visit to take a look at the village and countryside lifestyle and culture of Bhutan.

Where to Stay:

Some of the places to stay in Bumthang are:

Amankora (5 Star)
Jakar Vollage Lodge (4 Star)
Hotel Peling Hotel Ugyenling (3 Star)
Jakar View Guest House (3 Star)

PUNAKHA… former Capital and cradle to Red Rice!

Punakha served as the capital of the country from 1637 to 1907 and the first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. Since it is the former Capital, it is but obvious that Punakha holds the spectacular Punakha Dzong (fortress and former power seat) whose location is on the equally mesmerising confluence of two rivers- Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu. Punakha also boasts of breathtaking trekking routes and rich wildlife on the way. There is a unique suspension bridge which makes for a nice spot and various Dzongs or fortresses owing to the history of Punakha.

Where to Stay:

Amankora (5 Star)
Uma Resort (5 Star)
Meri Phuensum( 3 Star)
Damchen Resort

RUSH OF ADRENALINE… and some more!

After all that sightseeing, it is time to pump up the adrenaline with some great adventure activities Bhutan affords owing to its unique location, geography, climate and topography. Cycling is a great way of exploring Bhutan on its most stunning and rustic routes. However, keep in mind that the hilly terrain can pose its own difficulties on the climbs so make sure you are physically fit to endure them.

rush that you can experience here in Bhutan is amongst the rapids of its many rivers where white water rafting can bring in the sheer joy of rising and falling with swell! Kayaking is also a popular adventure that many enthusiasts indulge in. For more hardcore visitors with an appetite for bigger challenges and thrill, rock climbing around the rugged mountainous terrain of Bhutan is something of a must try. Some of our softie team members are more content with fishing and as they put it- great way to pass sometime while getting a great catch for dinner. Well I am not complaining, after all a hearty meal is what I would need after that rafting followed by rock climbing!

For wild life enthusiasts, Bhutan is like a treasure trough that brings in rich and exotic amalgamation of animal life and ample bird watching opportunities! And this you can combine with exploring lesser known countryside of Bhutan on its amazing trekking trails, that take anything from a few hours to quite some days to cover!

VIBRANT FESTIVALS

Bhutan is nothing less than an artist’s canvas with its vivid colours and absolutely vibrant culture. This is why witnessing their festivals is something you must not miss. These fests also present the best of opportunities to mingle with locals and observe their Buddhism influenced culture up close. Though Bhutanese calendar is full of events, there are two festivals that we have specifically picked:

Jomolahari Mountain Festival: This festival takes place at the base camp of Mt. Jomolhari and thus the name. The event showcases exhibitions, local cuisines, stirring performances by local communities and culture and traditions of the Dragon Kingdom.

Tshechu: Speciality of Tshechus is that they take place throughout the year in different regions of Bhutan and so you have strong chances of getting to see one! Oh wait… I forgot to tell what exactly they are. Tshechus are religious festivals that are celebrated with dance, music, fervour and faith. Mongar Tshechu is the most famous of all and is celebrated in Early November. However, local communities celebrate version of this festival throughout the year locally. So if you are interested in seeing one, check with your guide or tour agency beforehand to include one in your itinerary.

Where to Stay:

Usually one can stay at the nearest city or town where the festival is taking place. However, visitors can be provided tents and other necessary equipment for setting up camps by the tour operators at the festival site itself.

SPIRITUALITY… Discover the path to your soul

Have you ever observed how calming the presence of a statue of Buddha usually is? Now imagine going to a country that follows in his footsteps in its true spirit! When in Bhutan, getting in touch with your inner self is something you must look forward to. There are various meditation and wellness centres across this Himalayan Kingdom. The very views of snow capped peaks emerging from velvety lush act as enablers towards the path of spiritual wellness. These centres have techniques based upon concepts of peace, harmony and meditation.

Famous Wellness centres:

Como Shambhala Retreat at Uma Paro is a centre for peace, harmony and happiness
Terma Linca Resort, Thimphu
Ngoba Wellness Centre, Paro
The Mindfulness Yoga & Meditationn, Ziwaling Resort, Paro

HOT SPRING TRAILS

Bhutan also has a number of hot spring trails around the country and the most famous of them are at Gasa by the banks of River Mo Chhu.. Locals believe that hot springs relieve them of many physical ailments. However, remember that the locals consider them holy and attach sentimental value to these hot springs. Apart from Gasa, other notable and famous springs are:

. Chubu Tshachu which is located alongside the banks of the Pho Chu River and is located within a day’s journey from Punakha town

. Dur Tshachu is located in Bumthang Dzongkhag in Central Bhutan, Dur Tshachu is famous for its medicinal value and is known for curing body aches. It is situated in the village of Dur

. Duenmang Tshachu is situated alongside the banks of Mangde Chu River, Duenmang Tshachu is quite popular amongst the Khengpa population who visit it regularly.

. Gelephu Tshachu in Southern Bhutan is a hot spring mainly frequented by the local residents. In winter, people from all over the Bhutan journey come here to cure themselves of diseases.

HOW CAN I FORGET FOOD!

First and foremost, this is one country where red rice and Buckwheat are grown in abundance so make sure you taste the food made out of these ingredients because they are rare elsewhere. Also, Bhutanese love their spice and chillies so if you are little allergic to them then let your servers and hosts know!

So let us start with their National dish- Ema Datshi which is essentially gravy of Chillies and Cheese with variations where veggies are also added. Another delicacy of spicy minced Chicken served on rice called Jasha Maru is high on must-try food list here. Another Pork dish that is famous here isPhaksha paa which has pork simmered in stew with Raddish, Ginger and Chinese greens (Bok choy) garnished with dry pork in the end. Momos- dumplings stuffed with pork, beef or cabbage. Now to down it all, you can try their local beverages that range from tea to beer. And do try their local version of Beer/ Sake which is called Ara.
Highly recommended Places to eat in Thimphu: The Bhutanese, Bhutan Kitchen, Tandin, Ama, Yangkhil, and the restaurant of the National Folk Heritage Museum.

 

5 Best Cultural Events in Penang

images (68)Penang hosts numerous exciting events and festivals throughout the year. All the major religious and cultural festivals are celebrated in Penang just like any other state in Malaysia. The Chinese population in Penang is quite large and thus you witness numerous vibrant Chinese festivals celebrated here, which is quite unlikely in other parts of Malaysia. So, you get to enjoy the Penang International Floral festival, where flowers of various shapes, sizes and colors are displayed. This event takes place every year and attracts visitors from all over the world. In addition, several other top festivals in Penang include:

George Town Festival:

George Town festival is a month-long celebration that comprises of film, music, dance, theatre and local art. The festival was introduced in 2009 when Georgetown was listed as a UNESCO heritage site. For the whole month of August, visitors can witness a diverse range of attractions and shows apart from exploring the colorful street arts and well-preserved heritage buildings. The festive month in Georgetown offers ample time to flock over shops selling snacks, delicacies, books, local artwork, souvenirs and trinkets.

Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta:

Your stay in Malaysia becomes successful when you attend Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. The event takes place at Padang Polo in Georgetown. Visitors get many opportunities to participate in fun-filled activities apart from watching magnificent balloons floating in the sky. The event sports fifteen hot air balloons from participating countries like Belgium, US, Netherlands, South Korea and Thailand. Visitors can explore the interior of the cold inflated balloon or enjoy a ride in a tethered balloon.

Nine Emperor God Festival:

Emperor Gods is a widespread practice in Malaysia. This festival is held for nine days from the first day to the ninth day of the ninth lunar month every year. The notion behind this celebration is- the spirits of the Nine Emperor Gods that reside in stars begin to descend to earth through spirit mediums.

Many devotees prefer to live on a vegetarian diet during the festival. Various stalls are set up for selling vegetarian food. An opera is performed to show respect to those gods. Apart from worshipping, you will get the opportunity to witness challenging activities like fire walking ceremony, spear skewing ceremony, etc.

Bon Odori Festival:

Malaysian Japanese Society organizes the BonOdori Festival. This festival is the Japanese version of the Hungry Ghost festival of China. Japanese expatriates, including old and young attend this festival for paying homage to their descendants.

Penang International Dragon Boat Race:

Penang International Dragon Boat Race festival attracts participants from all over the world. The festival made its debut in 1979. The festival is held to show respect to the celestial dragon of the Chinese culture. The concept of dragon boat festival originated in China and this event is held worldwide currently. The event starts with boats racing with each other, with dragon heads fitted to them. The event becomes vibrant with the rhythmic beating of drums.