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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda: a Guide



Uganda is best known for its concentration of primates, including its most celebrated residents – half the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population.

Gorilla trekking is high on the wish list for many travellers, and Uganda is one of few countries where it is still possible to observe gorillas in the wild. But the recent move by Rwandan authorities earlier this year to implement a significant price hike for compulsory gorilla trekking permits from US$750 to US $1,500 per person for all visitors has added significantly to Uganda’s appeal, with Ugandan permits considerably more affordable at just US$600 per person.

One of the best places to see gorillas in Uganda is the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country’s southwest. Bwindi is home to just over half the world’s last surviving mountain gorillas, as well as the spectacular Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp. Comprising just eight tents, it is one of the most remote and atmospheric camps in Africa. Frequently visited by gorilla families due to its unique location, it is the perfect base for a once in a lifetime encounter with mountain gorillas.

We asked Michael McCall, what guests staying at a Forest Camp can expect when embarking on a gorilla trekking trip.

Early Rises!

“Expect a wake up call at around 6.30am, followed by hearty breakfast, after which you will be escorted to the starting point for the gorilla trek, conveniently located just a five minute walk from Sanctuary gorilla Forest Camp.”

“This is where you will be introduced to your guides for the day and receive a safety briefing ahead of the trek. You’ll be one of just eight trekkers, and you’ll be accompanied by a Uganda Wildlife Ranger plus two armed rangers (to fend off any rogue forest elephants). There’s also a porter for each guest, who will be carrying everything you need during the trek, including water and a packed lunch.

Time to trek.

“Every trek is different, and can last between four and 10 hours, depending on the location of the gorillas. The terrain is varied and may involve climbing up and down some quite mountainous trails. Along the way, your guide will be looking (and listening!) out for clues from the surrounding forest, including scouring the foliage for droppings, left over food and knuckle fingerprints. The aim is to find out where the gorillas have spent the night, as they tend to only travel up to 1km per day and are likely to still be nearby the nest.

“Once you’ve located your chosen gorilla family, you’ll have around an hour to observe them in their natural habitat. And of course, the rangers are extremely knowledgeable and will be on hand to answer all your questions and explain gorillas’ behaviour.

“While there are certainly restrictions on how close you can get to the gorillas (10M) they can be as curious as you are, so be prepared to say hello!

Welcome home.

“Once your magical hour has come to an end, it’s time to head back to camp where your drink of choice and a much-welcomed refreshing towel will be waiting to welcome you home.

“The laundry team are also on standby to clean boots and clothes for your next adventure. And for those with stiff muscles, a visit to the masseuse in the mini spa for a well-deserved post trek massage is a must.

“After dinner it’s time to kick back, relax and share your stories around the campfire!”

Trek Essentials.

For anyone planning a gorilla trek, here is Michael’s list of essential items you should definitely not leave home – or camp, without!

· A good quality waterproof camera.

· A poncho or rain jacket as it can rain heavily, even in the dry season.

· A walking stick, which will be provided by the Camp.

· Gloves which come in useful for grabbing bushes, or sliding downhill on the seat of your pants as you never know where your trek might take you!.

· Bug repellent. DEET strength.

· A good-quality, solid – and comfy hiking boots.

· Cool, comfortable clothing in muted colours. Michael recommends long sleeves, trousers, long socks and gaiters to keep bugs out and prevent scratches.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

President's secret New York rail tunnel keeps us guessing



LURE OF A NEW YORK BEST-KEPT SECRET

David Ellis

IT was once a New York City well-kept secret, a long-abandoned rail station deep below the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at which American presidents, giants of industry and matrons from highest society, would be dropped from their very own private trains and whisked by elevator to dine or overnight in the 5-star Waldorf hotel above.

And if they wished, have their limousines that they had brought with them aboard those personally-owned trains, off-loaded by their chauffeurs and taken by separate elevators to the hotel's carpark, instantly ready for further travels and appointments around the city.

Today, the old subterranean station that was first used in 1938 and then most-heavily through the 1940s, is known simply as Track 61 and largely gathers dust between occasional filming usages and some off-beat product launches. And it's acquired something of a "holy grail" status amongst so-called urban explorers, those engaged in a constant battle of wits with its owners, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel above, as they leave personal marks proving their success in breaking into this dark, dank and supposedly impenetrable cavern.

And to also boarding an historic rail car still down there to leave further marks alluding to their visit, a rail car which once would have been hooked-up to the train of President Franklin D Roosevelt – with his various luxury and first-ever armour-plated presidential limousines, that would have been carried aboard and be hauled by elevator to the street above while the President dined in the Waldorf.

Like President Roosevelt's personal passenger carriage (which is now in Miami's Gold Coast Rail Museum,) the rail car that carried his limos has 15mm thick steel armour-plating, 76mm thick glass windows, and two escape hatches.

President Roosevelt used the private train extensively as he suffered from polio, and rail gave him a more comfortable means of travel with his wheelchair and other aids as he criss-crossed America, addressing vast crowds from the observation platform of the train's last carriage.

FOOTNOTE: To this day, whenever a President of the United States stays at the Waldorf-Astoria, a diesel train with a team of FBI and Presidential guards waits below at the Track 61 platform with motors running, in case urgent escape is needed in the event of an attack on the President.


PHOTO CAPTIONS:


[] THIS rail car, parked permanently on Track 61 under the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City today, was part of the personal train of President Franklin D Roosevelt, carrying his various luxury and armour-plated limousines with him on his rail travels around America. (Waldorf-Astoria Hotel)

[] PRESIDENT Franklin D Roosevelt surrounded by security guards – within his car, on foot on the roadway, and in the car behind. The limo is a 1939 Lincoln K-series dubbed "The Sunshine Special" because of its retractable roof, and one of the first American Presidential cars to be armour-plated and to have bullet-proof windows – yet not have a bullet-proof roof. (Miami Gold Coast Rail Museum)

[] TRAVELLING by rail allowed President Franklin D Roosevelt to address vast crowds from the observation platform of the last carriage of his train, despite him being handicapped with polio. (Miami Gold Coast Rail Museum)




Friday, July 21, 2017

Beautiful Sanya, Romantic Paradise


#China #Sanya Celebration Focus on International #Tourism




The 2017 Sanya Celebration ("Celebration"), an international tourism promotional event organized by the Municipal Government of Sanya, officially kicks off in July. From July to September, themed "A romantic invitation to the beautiful Sanya city," the event will be hosted in the following countries in four groups: Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia; the United Kingdom, Germany; Russia, Kazakhstan; Singapore and India to introduce the city's unique charms.

"Beautiful Sanya, Romantic Paradise" Sanya City Promotes "Sanya Celebration"
Located on Hainan Island in south China, Sanya is a renowned tropical coastal paradise for vacation and a key international gateway of the island. Sanya Tourism Commission statistics show that with a steady rebound of international tourists in recent years, especially in 2017, Sanya has attracted near 280,000 inbound tourists from January to May, increasing over 70 percent compared to the same period last year.

Tianya Haijiao, a popular visitor attraction in Sanya City
At the events, Sanya will introduce its latest city information, the classic coastal resort products, folk customs tours of local Li and Miao ethnic minorities, ecological forest tour, countryside tours and traditional Chinese medicine therapy tours.

The Celebration will present the city's advantages in terms of tourism resources, economy and cultural heritages to promote inbound tourism of Sanya City as well as Hainan island. The city is targeting to receive 1 million international visitors in 2018, building it into the biggest international tourism in South China area.

Following the Belt and Road Initiative (B&R) development strategy, Sanya is actively expanding in the markets of Asia and Europe as well as Commonwealth of Independent States to build a transportation hub and destination along the Maritime Silk Road within 4-, 8- and 24-hour reach.

About Sanya

Located in the southernmost point of China's Hainan island, Sanya is an international coastal destination. The city has been praised by global visitors as the only Chinese seaside vacation destination for its stunning coastline and profound cultural heritage.

For more information about Sanya please visit: http://english.sanya.gov.cn/publicfiles//business/htmlfiles/englishsite/tourism/index.html

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Visiting South Australia’s Flinders Ranges

#southaustralia

South Australia’s Flinders Ranges is representative of the magnificent outback landscapes that typify Australia as a wondrous natural and cultural destination.

South Australia's Flinders Ranges are ideally explored by 4WD or SUV (South Australian Tourism Commission)

The Flinders Ranges can be considered the southernmost region of the “outback” and at just 200 kilometres by road from the state capital of Adelaide, are easily accessible for self-drive travellers and escorted tourists alike. They stretch from Crystal Brook near Port Pirie in the south to Arkaroola in the north, a distance of more than 400 km

The ‘birth’ of the ranges occurred around 540 million years ago during the Cambrian Period when the region was subjected to severe faulting. Over the subsequent millions of years, erosion created the unique and dramatic red and ochre landscape formations we see today and sets them apart from the many other ancient landforms in the outback.

Human history is equally significant and the stories and beliefs relating to its creation are central to the way of life of the region’s Adnyamathanha people. Their Yura Muda stories provide an intriguing standpoint from which to view the land and its stunning physical features. It is possible to hear evocative spiritual accounts of the formation of the ancient ranges from the descendants of the original inhabitants.

European settlement in South Australia began in 1836 with the establishment of Adelaide. Drovers and cattlemen quickly ventured north in search of pasture and early encounters with the Adnyamathanha were marred by conflict.

The Aboriginal Dreaming Trail runs to the Nepabunna community where visitors can meet some of the locals and get a feel for their contemporary way of life. Visit the Tunnel of Time exhibition at the Wadlata Outback Centre in Port Augusta and learn about the local traditions and impacts of early settlement.

Flinders Ranges Seasonal Events Program offers a range of additional cultural activities including Adnyamathanha cultural tours.

Camping at Rawnsley Park Station  (South Australian Tourism Commission)

Wilpena Pound, an enormous natural amphitheatre, is considered the centre of the Flinders Ranges National Park. After the failure of agriculture in the early 20th Century, the emphasis switched to tourism and the sprawling cattle stations converted to tourist resorts. Rawnsley Park Station is named after Rawnsley Bluff, the southern tip of Wilpena Pound. The property is 29,000 acres including part of the neighbouring Arkapena and Prelinna Stations added in 2009.

The plants of the region sustained the small indigenous communities for thousands of years, providing food, tools, shelter, medicines, ornaments and ceremonial objects. At least 85 plant species in the park are of national, state or regional conservation significance.

The native animals of the Flinders Ranges are well adapted to the climatic extremes. Permanent waterholes for stock and the removal of dingoes have allowed native animals to return including kangaroos and echidnas. Birdlife is also rich and varied, with more than 100 native bird recorded species making bushwalking or cycling a rare experience.

The proximity of the famous Barossa Valley wine region makes it simple to include an enriching wine and food tour through some of the countries acclaimed vineyards like Wolf Blass, Seppelts and Kaiser Stuhl as well as the many small boutique vintners.

Did You Know? Aboriginal legend says that Arkaroo, a mythical monster, drank Lake Frome dry and crawled up into the mountains. He urinated to create the many waterholes of the area then squirmed across the land to create Arkaroola Creek.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A tropical holiday in Berlin. True.



BERLIN'S SURPRISING TROPICAL RETREAT

David Ellis

BERLIN hardly springs to mind when talk turns to tropical escapes, but pleasure-seekers in their thousands flock daily  to the Tropical Islands Resort that's 60km south of the city to revel on its sands, swim its waters, bask in 26 degrees warmth, and walk its dense rainforest.

And they do so even in winter, when around them there's snow as far as the eye can see…

For this amazing Resort has been created inside one of the largest buildings on earth, a monstrous 360 metres long, 210 metres wide and 107 metres high, and originally built seventeen years ago to house the huge CL160 CargoLifter airship. But CargoLifter went bankrupt before a single airship saw its interior, and the hangar was abandoned.

Then in 2003 Malaysian entrepreneur Colin Au bought the hangar for Euro17.5m (AU$26m,) and inside created a "tropical sea" covering 4,400 sq metres and a "Bali lagoon" of 1,200 sq metres for swimming, with vast sandy beaches alongside both, several other swimming pools, plus fountains, whirlpools and waterslides.

He also added the world's biggest indoor rainforest with 50,000 trees and plants, a novelty golf course, and a stage for evening entertainment, and let loose flamingos, quail, pheasants and other birds to stride and fly the resort, and turtles and fish to live in its waters.

And finally a dozen bars and restaurants offering Asian, European and American fare, accommodation blocks for overnight stays or longer, shops and boutiques, and Europe's largest tropical sauna and spa complex, many housed in structures replicating the architectures of Thailand, Borneo, Bali and Samoa.

Tropical Islands Resort is open 24/7 and can cater for up to 6,000 visitors a day. For details including entry fees, additional optional costs inside, and overnight accommodation, go to www.tropical-islands.de
 

PHOTO CAPTIONS:


[] TROPICAL Islands Resort has beaches and bars, spas and shops, a rainforest and guest accommodation, all housed in this vast hangar from a failed one-time airship venture near Berlin. (Pic: Tropical Islands Resort)    

[] WHILE guests frolic in the "tropics" inside, it could be snowing outside. The vehicles outside give an idea of just how vast is this building. (Pic: Tropical Islands Resort)

 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Pie time is high time in NSW Southern Highlands


David Ellis

COULD New South Wales be on the verge of having a new geographical region – the Southern Pie-lands, after the stunning success in June of Australia's first-ever month-long celebration of the great Aussie pie in the Southern Highlands between Sydney and Canberra?

Dubbed Pie Time, it saw a mind-blowing 100,000-plus pies wolfed down during the month by locals and visitors alike in caf├ęs, pubs, restaurants, take-away shops and home dining rooms, and had chefs working 24-hours straight at times to keep ovens catering for demand… or having to shut up shop early after simply running out of supplies.

And pie aficionados happily told of driving from Victoria, the ACT, Queensland and from across New South Wales to experience as many as they could of the diversity of pies they'd heard were on offer, pies both hot and cold, and sweet and savoury.

With thirty direct-outlet pie bakeries, the Southern Highlands have more per square kilometre than anywhere else in Australia, and as well as offering-up the products of these, organisers of Pie Time oversaw pie tastings, pie and beer matchings and pie talks.

And all said they were absolutely blown-away with the interest in Pie Time and demand for their products, which far exceeded all expectations.

Plus there was a pie judging, with the title of Grand Champion Pie going to a beer-braised pork neck in short pastry dubbed The Bernie,  that was created jointly by owner/pie maker at Southern Rise Pies at Moss Vale, Matt Fitzgerald and owner/chef of Bernies Diner in Moss Vale, Ionnas Benardos.

And as pie aficionados are already saying, June 2018 can't come quickly enough in the Southern Pie-lands.

(If you want to know more about the Southern Highlands and what to enjoy there year-round, go to https://www.southern-highlands.com.au/)


PHOTO:

[] OWNER of Gumnut Patisserie in Bowral, Tracy Nikl rolls out another cart-load of pies for Southern Highlands Pie Time that saw locals and visitors wolf down a guestimated 100,000 pies during June's first-ever month-long Pie Time. (supplied)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Five Reasons to Visit Kangaroo Island in South Australia



Last month QantasLink announced a new flight route to Kangaroo Island (KI) – direct flights to Kingscote Airport from Melbourne and Adelaide.

The new flight route reflects the increasing demand and popularity of KI and provides a massive boost for tourism in South Australia and will be available from December 2017.

With the exceptional tourism products, sweeping landscapes and unique accommodation options KI has on offer, it's not hard to see why it's one of the hottest destinations for travellers to visit.

 Here are five reasons to travel to Kangaroo Island:

1. Beautiful Accommodation
Accommodation on KI is luxurious and will not disappoint - especially the likes of Southern Ocean Lodge, Lifetime Private Retreats, Kangaroo Island Beach Lodge, Villas on the Bay and Sea Dragon Lodge to name a few.

2. Natural Beauty
From soaring cliffs, dense bushland, Little Sahara Sand Dunes, wetlands, miles of white beaches and azure water, to the new Wilderness Trail stretching across 61 kilometres of rugged, remote coastline - KI's natural beauty will astound.

3. Wildlife encounters
With over 24 protected areas, 19 National and Conservation Parks including Seal Bay and five Wilderness Protection Areas - KI is a sanctuary for wildlife. Experience up-close encounters with Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari, including the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins, or take a tour with Exceptional Kangaroo Island Tours to experience KI's abundant wildlife.

4. Fresh produce
KI is a foodie's delight – with fresh and delicious produce at every corner. Include a visit to Island Pure Dairy to taste their range of sheep yoghurt and premium cheeses, stop in for lunch at Andermel Marron farm, sample Ligurian honey at Clifford's honey farm or end the day with a gourmet meal overlooking the Southern Ocean at Sunset Food and Wine.

5. Unique Tours 
Tour operators like Exceptional Kangaroo Island Tours, Odyssey Tours and KI Wilderness Tours are ready to showcase the very best KI has to offer while Hannaford and Satch's bespoke and intimate dining options will leave a lasting impression. Whether you're looking for sun, surf and sand, high end luxury or rugged adventure – KI has you covered.

For more information regarding South Australia and its regions, visit http://southaustralia.com/.
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