Wednesday, October 16, 2019

India’s Lesser Known Destinations

Most people who travel to India often head to familiar destinations - ‘must visit’ places such as Delhi, Agra and Goa, but sometimes it’s the lesser-known destinations that offer a far greater cultural and less touristy experience.
So here are five places with names that are unfamiliar, but worthy of consideration on your next trip to the Indian Sub-Continent.

1 - Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh:

The cradle of a unique tribal group and with a balmy climate, Ziro is the peace seeker's paradise. Lying 115km from Itanagar, the capital city of Arunachal Pradesh, is a beautiful plateau and the headquarters of Lower Subansiri District. It is one of the oldest towns in Arunachal Pradesh, home to the Apa Tani tribe and famous for a valley full of verdant rice fields and the surrounding hills covered in bamboo and pine forests.

Named a World Heritage Site for its stunning natural beauty, Ziro Valley is headquartered in the Lower Subansiri District. This beautiful hill station is located on the Apatani Plateau, as Ziro is popularly known, at an altitude of 1,500m above sea level. The Apatanis, one of the major ethnic groups of the eastern Himalayas, have a distinct civilisation with systematic land use practices and rich traditional ecological knowledge of natural resources management, and conservation, acquired over the centuries through informal experimentation.

An imposing landscape of beautifully lush green forests, rivulets and elevated patches, famous for terraced paddy-fields-cum-pisciculture cultivation. This is how local people practice the unique system of poly-culture and water management in a valley used for wet-rice cultivation where fish are also reared. This is further supplemented with millet reared on elevated partition bunds between the rice plots. The systematic land-use pattern ensures a high level of biodiversity in the area and efficient conservation of crucial watersheds ensuring perennial streams flowing into the valley to meet the needs of the people. The agro-ecosystems are nourished by nutrient washout from the surrounding hill slopes.

The tribe is known for their colourful culture with various festivals, intricate handloom designs, skills in cane and bamboo crafts and vibrant traditional village councils called bulyañ. This has made Ziro Valley a great example of a living, cultural landscape where man and environment have harmoniously existed together in a state of interdependence even through changing times, such co-existence being nurtured by the traditional customs and spiritual belief systems.

The temperate climate during the summer makes it a favoured destination for a vacation. Ziro is relatively pleasant

throughout the year. However, September is the month to travel if you wish to attend the Ziro Music Festival, known as one of the best outdoor music festivals in India – the all day and all night festival runs for four consecutive days.

The local attractions around Ziro are the Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Hapoli, which is the centre of all the town's activities, Ziro Puto and Dolo Mando hillocks, and the Meghna Cave Temple. The Siddheshwarnath Temple, houses a natural shivalinga that was discovered only a decade ago.

Where to stay: the town has stretches of lush green grasslands everywhere, especially in the the Ziro Puto hillock. You may camp on these grasslands and just revel in its idyllic nature. You can either opt to camp through the official Ziro campsite or bring your own tent. There are local camping services available, which offer tents of different sizes and various other facilities.

What to eat: Bamboo chicken is a local dish that must be tried, along with their speciality rice beer.
2 - Theni, Tamil Nadu:

The natural beauty and cultural richness of Theni have prompted the moniker, ‘Earth’s Hidden Paradise’. The Theni district broke away from Madurai in 1996 and established the district headquarters in the town of Theni. It is one of the most verdant and beautiful parts of the state where rivers and creeks crisscross the district to facilitate rice, cotton and tea production.

The word ‘Theni’ is derived from the Tamil ‘Then’ meaning honey or nectar. It is a bustling centre for cotton trade and is a region full of significant religious shrines and small but beautiful temple.. Dedicated to the Goddess Ambica, Sri Gowmariamman Temple hosts a number of important festivals. The goddess is said to cure her devotees of measles and chickenpox. Sri Saneeswara Baghwan Temple, dedicated to Saturn, is also an important pilgrimage destination. Sri Arulmigu Balasubramanya Temple – Kartikeya is one of the important deities worshipped in South India. This temple, dedicated to the God in his child form, hosts a number of important festivals as well.

April is the month for festivals. The Chithirai Thiruvizha festival of Sri Gowmariamman Temple is a grand 8-day celebration held in May. Womenfolk wear yellow and red and cook sweet pongal (a rice/lentil dish) in earthen pots on open flames. Devotees go around the temple holding a fire pot as part of their obeisance. The Karagam dance and ritual ‘Kavadi’ lifting add to the fervency. The bullock cart races held during the Pongal days are a spectacular event. Like the rest of Tamil Nadu, Aadi Perkuku is a month-long celebration that showcases the best of family bonding and religious devotion in Theni. Tamil New Year (mid-April) is also a day for many cultural programmes and temple festivities.

Theni is great to visit any time of the year. The summers are not as hot as the rest of the state, thanks to the presence of abundant greenery and many rivers. Winters, however, are the best time to visit this part of Tamil Nadu. Winter monsoons ensure that the temperatures are mild and the waterfalls overflowing. Summer monsoons make the town humid and do not have quite the same effect. The Tamil months of Thai, Chithirai and Aadi are best for tourists wanting to visit the region to participate in the grand temple festivals held here.
3 - Patan, Gujarat:

Rani Ka Vav, the latest Indian entrant to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites is situated in Patan, making this destination one of the newest tourist hubs in India. Vanraj Chavda, the first of the Chavda dynasty, founded the ancient city of Anahilvada Patan.

This fortified, walled city was the capital of Gujarat for 650 years, from 746-1411, after the centre of power moved from Saurashtra around the same time that the separate kingdoms of the area were integrated into roughly what we today call Gujarat. It was ruled by a series of dynasties, and shone as a centre of trade, learning, and architectural achievements. It was also a thriving centre for Jainism, and the Solanki rulers commissioned a large number of Hindu and Jain temples, as well as other civic and religious constructions.

During the Vaghela rule towards the end of the 13th century, Ulugh Khan plundered the town and destroyed it completely. In 1411 the capital shifted to the newly founded Ahmedabad, leaving Patan just a shadow of its former glory. One of the positive effects of Muslim rule in Patan is the presence of some of the earliest Muslim buildings in Gujarat, built before the earliest constructions in Ahmedabad.

The ruins of the ancient city, with the famous Rani Ki Vav and Sahasralinga Talav, stand about 2km northwest of present-day Patan. In the bustling bazaar of this charismatic town, tucked away among the havelis (mansions) in the narrow pols (lanes) you will probably stumble upon rope or bidi (traditional cigarette) makers, working on their doorsteps. It is worth searching out the unique patola and mashru weavers, the snow-white Jain temples, as well as the Hemachandracharya Jain Gnan library of ancient Hindu and Jain texts.

Headi northwest outside the city walls to Anahilvada Patan, the ancient city that served as Gujarat’s capital for 650 years. Here you’ll find the 1,000-year-old Kali temple from where Kali Mata, the kuldevi (family goddess) of the Solanki dynasty, guards the town. Further north, you find the Sahasralinga Talav, literally ‘lake of a thousand lingas’ (symbols), which is finely constructed to channel water in from nearby Saraswati. On the edge of Rani Ki Vav, known as the ‘Queen’s stepwell’, you can descend into the cool air. Towards the water, the carved stone gods and consorts invite you into their world, the world of spirit and the sacred.
Getting there: Intercity buses from Ahmedabad to Patan take 3.5 hours, and 1 hour from Mehsana. Shared jeeps are slightly quicker but less comfortable. The train can take you as far as Mehsana, from where you'll need to catch a bus to Patan. The nearest airport is Ahmedabad.
4 - Hemis National Park, Jammu and Kashmir:

Hemis National Park is truly a beautiful place, located in the eastern Ladakh region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is considered the best place to see the snow leopard in the wild. The park has the distinction of being the largest national park in Southern Asia and derives its name from the Hemis Gompa, the largest and wealthiest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, just outside the northern boundary of Shang.

The park also has the distinction of being amongst the largest contiguously protected regions, second only to Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Six villages exist within the confines of the park. Rumbak, Kaya, Sku, Shingo, Urutse and Chilling are home to about 1,600 people, mostly pastoralists raising poultry, goats and sheep within the park.The villages are located on or adjacent to valley floors rising up to about 4,000k. The locals are mostly Buddhists although there is a monastery at Markha Village.

Established as a national park in 1987, the total area of the park is about 4,400sqkm and is known for its unique biodiversity. It is the protected home of endangered mammals such as leopards, Asiatic ibex, Tibetan wolves, Eurasian brown bears and red foxes. It is also home to small mammals like Himalayan marmots, mountain weasels and Himalayan mouse hares.

Lofty mountains and alpine forests of juniper and subalpine dry birch make it a treat for the eyes. The Stok Kangri peak is situated within the park. The confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers acts as the park’s boundary and includes the catchments of Markha, Sumdah, Rumbak and parts of the Zanskar Range. Camping and trekking are popular activities that can be enjoyed in the park.

The area is strictly reserved for the betterment of wildlife and biodiversity, and where activities like developmental, forestry, poaching, hunting and grazing on cultivation are not permitted.

The best time of the year to visit is between May and Mid-October. The nearest airport is Leh airport and is about 10km from the Hemis National Park. The nearest train line is at Jammu Tavi railway station, about 21km away. There is a daily bus service from Leh to Hemis as well as taxis. No hotels are available in or near Hemis National Park. Trekkers mainly visit the park, but the Hemis Monastery also provides accommodation to visitors. Nearby Leh also offers many resorts and hotels to suit your budget.
5 - Auli, Uttarakhand: 

Auli is one of the less-explored hill stations in India and a fairly new entrant on the tourist map. The resort is located in the Chamoli district in the Himalayan Mountains of Uttarakhand, a place that dates back to the 8th Century AD but is nowadays known as ‘The Skiing Destination of India’.

Located at 2,800m above sea level, Auli has numerous resorts where the slopes offer a panoramic view of many famous Himalayan peaks like Nanda Devi, Kamet, Mana Parvat, Kamat Kam and Dunagiri.

There is a natural beauty about the Auli region, dotted with apple orchards, old oaks, pine trees and deodars (Himalayan cedar trees). There are numerous treks in the hills of Garhwal Himalayas and spellbinding views of the snow-draped mountains. Many religious destinations are also scattered around Auli.

Skiers are naturally provided with pristine stretches of between 10 to 20km of snow-covered mountain slopes. There is also a descent of 500m from a ridge over a stretch of 3km. The forests on the slopes also seem to help the skiers by reducing the wind velocity.

In the months of February and March, Auli often hosts the National Winter Games.

In the evenings, activity shifts from the slopes to the bukhari-warmed huts and resorts (bukhari: a quaint, wood burning stove), listening to folklore and revelling in the local music of Garhwal in the oil-lamp-lit rooms or besides bonfires.

When to visit: Auli offers a perfect mix of adventure, entertainment and it becomes a skier’s paradise during the winter season. The period from late November to late March is generally considered ideal for skiers.

Getting there: the nearest airport is Dehradun, about 298km away and the nearest railhead is Rishikesh, about 235km away. Regular road services are available from Delhi, Dehradun, Rishikesh and Hardwar to Joshimath, 16km away. From Joshimath you can also hire jeeps to Auli.

www.incredibleindia.org

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Hidden Italy Weekend: cycling on the outer islands of Venice



A weekend cycling in Venice? It doesn’t seem quite right, too many cobbles, bridges and tourists, but there are, in fact, over forty kilometres of marked cycle trials up and down the outer islands of Lido and Pellestrina. These two thin islands stretch from Punta Sabbioni in the north to Chioggia in the south forming the barrier that limits tidal flows from the Adriatic Sea, creating the lagoon. Once out if the busy northern end of Lido, the cycle trails take you through farmlands and past ancient fishing villages, a very long way from the madding crowds of San Marco.

Bikes can be hired from shops near the ferry terminal. The bustling centre of northern Lido quickly gives way to long stretches of seashore. At the end of the island there are regular ferries that take you and your bike across the narrow stretch of water to Pellestrina, an even thinner and less developed island. You go down one the ocean side and come back on the lagoon side, with Venice in the distance. Along the routes you pass through long stretches of farming land, go past hidden agriturismi (farm stays) and visit sleepy fishing villages, one of which, Malamocco, dates from Roman times and was the capital of the lagoon in the Middle Ages.

I loved my weekend staying in an agriturismo on Lido but if you haven’t don’t have that time, a cycling day-trip on the outer islands is a terrific complement to the hustle and intensity of Venice.

How to get there:

Regular traghetti connect Venice with Lido: number 1, 2, 5.1 and 6 starting from Piazzale Roma or from Sant Lucia railway station, a thirty-minute ride down the Grand Canal, past St Marks Square and then out across the lagoon. If you are coming from Chioggia (the fascinating little port on the south side of the lagoon) you take the number 11 ferry, which goes to Lido via Pellestrina.

Where to stay:

The Grand Albergo Ausonia and Hungaria in Lido town is a classic 4-star hotel that captures the charming retro air of Lido’s turn-of-the-century heyday. A double room starts at 130 euro per night.

The Viktoria Palace Hotel is another good 4-star hotel in Lido preserving the atmosphere of days gone by. A double room from 120 euro.

For a very different Venetian experience consider Country House Le Garzette (https://legarzette.it/) a lovely agriturismo surrounded by small vineyards and market gardens, near Alberoni on the south of Lido island.

The Relais Alberti is a luxurious small hotel in a beautifully restored 14th century noble residence in the hamlet of Malamocco, double from around 140 euro. While, if you decide to be really adventurous and stay on Pellestrina, the only option on the whole island is the ‘ittiturismo’ Le Valli, which has six well-appointed rooms in a natural setting, starting from 90 euro a night.

What to do:

Friday evening

Assuming you are staying in Lido, we suggest settling into your hotel and then exploring Lido town. From the ferry wharf head down the Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta, the liveliest street on the island, full of shops and restaurants until you reach the Lungomare Marconi and the sea. Since its beginnings as a seaside resort in the late 1800’s, this stretch has maintained the atmosphere of an upmarket resort, lined with the grand hotels of the era on one side and a beach, lined with kiosks the famous capanne, or bathing cabins, on the other. Lord Byron used to ride horses along this beach (the story goes that he swam out here from St Marks Square, sure…) and Thomas Mann found the inspiration for his book Death in Venice while convalescing at the Hotel Des Bains. After your stroll, try dinner at Ai Murazzi, a unique restaurant set in a small timber building with seafaring decorations and marvellous views out over the retaining walls and the sea – meals for around 40 euro per person.

Saturday morning:

Go cycling. This itinerary can also be walked following the cycleways or done using the local bus service, number 11, which runs the length of the island and back again, starting from the ferry wharf and finishing at Alberoni, from where you can catch the ferry to Pellestrina and back.

If you do both islands, the total itinerary is 20 km each way, 11 kms along Lido island and then 9 kms along Pellestrina island. Bikes can be hired on Lido in Piazzale Santa Maria Elisabetta, in front of the ferry wharf at a cost of around 10 euro per day – you can also pick up a map here. If you are setting out in the other direction from Chioggia, bikes can be hired at the Pellestrina petrol station for around 10 euro per day.

Leave the Lido piazza, head back down the Gran Viale and turn right down Lungomare Marconi (being careful to avoid any movie stars who may be here in August/September for the annual Venice Film Festival). At the end of the Lungomare, you come to the Murazzi, the retaining walls that were built in the 17th century to protect the island, and Venice, from the sea.

After leaving the town and peddling for 5 kms you come to the charming little port of Malamocco, one of the oldest settlements in the lagoon (it has Roman origins) and the capital of the Duchy of Venice from the 8th century to the 10th century, after which they moved the capital to its current, and better protected, location. There is an excellent little restaurant here, the Trattoria Al Ponte di Borgo, where you can taste some wonderful Venetian culinary specialities in a simple and very amiable ambience.

From Malamocco, keeping peddling (all very easy as you follow mostly small roads without a incline in sight) until you get to Alberoni at the southern tip of the island, where there is a small nature reserve. From here you can load your bike on to the ferry for the short hop to Pellestina island, on the way passing the impressive structures of Moses, the mobile locks, designed to protect Venice from the rising tides.

Saturday afternoon:

Pellestrina is a fishing island, 11 kms long and very narrow – barely 100 metres wide in parts. Riding down the lagoon side of the island you pass through numerous little fishing settlements, with small canals and pretty, coloured houses until you get to the little hamlet of Pellestrina itself. At the southern tip of the island is Ca Roman Oasi, a small bird sanctuary which you can visit. The best place for lunch on the island is Da Memo, at Porto Secco, between Pellestrina village and the northern end of the island. Having finished you visit to Pellestina ride back to the ferry for Lido and head back to your hotel.

Saturday evening:

Two options for those feeling cashed up: a night at the casino on Lungomare Marconi or, for something completely different, and spectacular, walk up to the Airport Nicelli (Venice’s first and only airport) from where you can catch up a helicopter with Heliair and view Venice and the lagoon from on high.

Sunday morning:

After an exhilarating and energetic day, it’s probably time to chill out on the beach. The beach is sandy and wide and the water quite clean and popular mostly with Venetians. There are a number of free sections but the classic way to do it is to hire one of the numerous capanne, small beach cabins that can even have verandahs. They don’t come cheaply: at the Quattro Fontane you can spend from 44 to 122 euro per day, depending on the season and which row you are in! The ‘Tahitian’ umbrellas and mini-cabins at the Hotel Des Bains’ beach can cost from 50 to 205 euro per day, although there is a 50% discount for after 2.00pm.

Sunday afternoon:

For achange of focus, you could visit the glass factories on the nearby island of Murano, which involves catching the traghetto number 5.1 to Le Fondamenta Nuove on Venice and then the 4.1 or 4.2 to Murano.

Sunday evening:

Dinner at the Trattoria Bar Trento, a small rustic restaurant which serves classic Venetian cuisine.

Source: hiddenitaly.com.au

Monday, September 30, 2019

Sri Lanka: Back to nature at Flameback Eco Lodge



The Mature Traveller, Michael Osborne, explores Flameback Eco Lodge

On my recent visit to Sri Lanka, I had the privilege of being taken to a fantastic glamping style lodge. We only had time to walk around and look at the unique accommodation, to watch a cooking demonstration and then to eat it in the elevated dining room with its superb views across the lake.

The lodge is run by the local village that grows and provides the brilliant fresh food.

I was so taken back that I will let them tell their own story …

Nestled amidst a bird sanctuary by the tranquil Weerawila Lake, Flameback Eco Lodge offers a legacy of rejuvenation. Providing an exquisite array of meticulously personalized tented lodges filled with luxurious amenities overlooking the marvels of mother nature, you will be mesmerized by the serenity of the lush surroundings to escape the mundane.

Enjoy the delectable organic cuisine sourced from local communities, while being part of our eco-friendly glamping escapade conserving mother earth.

Flameback is the perfect epitome of five-star luxury combined with the delectable space of perpetual privacy……

Where we are…

Flameback Eco Lodge is nestled within the Weerawila Bird sanctuary located in southern Sri Lanka, southwest of the Yala National Park. Consisting of wetlands and reservoirs, Weerawila attracts a diverse range of bird species each year to roost and nest. Being aptly located alongside the Weerawila reservoir within the sanctuary, Flameback Eco Lodge wondrously attracts thousands of local and migratory birds who roam across the sanctuary, both aquatic and jungle dwelling birds alike.

Unbridled with the charm of an idyllic fishing village, an authentic experience awaits you in Weerawil. Quiet and tranquil, this small town is conveniently located and is central to some of the most renowned wild life parks and cultural heritage sites of Sri Lanka.

Accommodation



The eco kissed charming lodges draw their inspiration from the intimate mosaic of the picturesque mother nature, where the luscious forests meet the flowing lakes offering adventure, culture, variety and stunning scenery at every turn.

Each of the 7 luxury tented lodges reflect exquisite indigenous heritage of the mesmerizing surroundings. The rustic appeal is thenceforth complimented with understated elegance and modern conveniences. These tented eco lodges are privately located pods hidden in a luscious garden, bordering an enchanted lake. Each lodge allows guests to be in close contact with nature and the great outdoors, without losing an element of luxury and comfort.

Our exclusive Honeymoon Suite and Deluxe Lodges will unveil your senses to the sights and sounds of endemic birds as dawn breaks. You will have nothing less than viewing pleasure from the privacy of your elevated teak sun deck within our luxurious glamping escapade.

Facilities

The many places to explore while on the property will provide our guests with an unforgettable glamping escapade of being ‘one’ with mother nature. At Flameback Eco Lodge, you will unearth the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure with a myriad of facilities inclusive of:

The Infinity edge Swimming pool

Surrounded by the lush gardens with stunning views of the lake festooned with teak sun beds for relaxation

The Main Restaurant

An elegant restaurant overlooking the lake with comfortable seating capacity for up to 30 guests; the dining options include a delectable a-la carte menu which includes a delectable variety of local and international cuisine as well as organic meals made from produce sourced from the local community.

Spa

Our traditional Spa overlooking the lake, offers in-house guests the ideal setting to relax, unwind and rejuvenate they soul and senses.

Yoga Retreats

Year around yoga retreats with experienced yoga teacher is conducted for discerning travelers who wish to have a holistic experience while enjoying the unique glamping experience.

The Entrance Palmyrah mud house

Houses the Reception and lobby that welcomes you to the serenity of the sanctuary

The lounge bar

Consists of a remarkable array of fine wine, beer, fresh juices and a blend tea/coffee to quench your thirst

Indoor Recreation

A spectacular library of books and magazines to relive your senses

Free Wi-Fi connection at the Main house

Board games & Kiddies activities

Outdoor Recreation



Roaming around the gardens savoring the deliciousness and freshness of the air, scenery and environment will have you longing for our specialized outdoor activities which include:

Bird Watching treks & nature trails with our in-house naturalist

Fresh water fishing excursion in the lake

Cookery demonstration with our Head Chef

Kids play area

Cycling

Organic Garden

With great impetus in protecting mother nature, we house an organic vegetable and herb garden yielding fresh vegetables and herbs throughout the year to provide our Chefs with a delectable variety to make their fresh cuisine each day.

Safari/Nature trails and Village excursions

Whether it’s a game drive to your favorite national park or a quite farmer’s lunch in the village, our experienced staff will ensure you have a wide array of activities during your stay

Laundry service

Foreign Currency Exchange facility

Dining/Restaurant

Illustriously eco-friendly in its’ soul and function, Flameback Ecolodge consistently upholds the value of providing for and conserving the environment at its’ best. The in-house restaurant exuding elegance to its core, looking out on to the lakes, offers an authentic fine dining experience to our discerning guests. A fusion of International and traditional cuisines are on the menu inclusive of dishes made from appetizing organic ingredients, vegetable and grain sourced from the local community, passionately designed and prepared by our Executive Chef.

Whether it’s a typical western or authentic Sri Lankan breakfast, to a steak or traditional local lunch, you’ll end the day under the stars to savor the fine dining experience of selecting from a variety of specialty a-la carte menus

Private Dining

If you wish to make it more secluded, you have the choice of dining on the spacious deck of your lodge or by the pristine flow of the lake with plenty of unique locations to dine in private. Whether it’s a 5 course fine dining experience or a BBQ dinner by the lake, we will ensure that you will experience a unique meal under the stars. A champagne breakfast by the lake as dawn breaks is also on the cards.

Village farmer’s lunch

You can indulge your taste buds with the unforgettable venture into the surrounding village to mingle and enjoy a freshly made Sri Lankan meal with a family in their home within the neighboring local community. By having these meals you will help make a contribution to the local community Flameback is proud to have collaborated with.

Activities & Excursions

In-house activities

For the discerning traveler looking for relaxation, the hotel has a selection of in-house activities

The traditional mud house

The entrance house with its clay walls and Palmyrah roof is an ideal cozy spot for the guests to interact with the local arts and crafts made by the talented local artists. Hand painted canvas paintings of young local artists featuring endemic birds and wild life are exhibited in a gallery display. Other souvenir handicraft items made from clay, wood and palmyrah made by talented local villagers are displayed in the mud house while certain afternoons are filled with live demonstrations of local talent.

Local Cookery demonstrations

Cookery demonstrations done by our Head Chef will let the guests partake in an evening of preparing a selected local food and delicacy followed by a food tasting session. An exclusive ‘Certificate of participation’ is given to those who participate in this authentic experience.

Palmyrah weaving

Try out your talents with a local palmyrah weaver to weave a bag, hat or other craft which you will get to take home as a souvenir

Out-door activities and Excursions

A stay at Flameback offers you an opportunity to embark on many activities and adventures to ensure a unique and exciting escapade. Our experienced in-house naturalist will ensure to deliver a wide variety of unique nature trails and bird watching hikes. Embark on a game drive in the comfort of a modern safari jeep with an experienced tracker to experience wild life and nature in abundance.

Weerawila Bid Sanctuary: Bird watching nature trail

Debarawewa Lake Bird watching nature trail (10 Minutes drive)

Bundala National Park (15 minutes drive)

Yala National Park- the wildlife excursion (45 Minutes drive)

Lunugamwehera National Park/ Galge Entrance- Yala Block 5 (35 Minutes drive)

Fresh water fishing Excursion (Flameback specialized tour)

Village cycle tour to experience ‘curd making’ & farmer’s lunch (Flameback specialized tour)

The Kingdom of Lord Skandha- Kataragama (30 minutes drive)

Udawalawe National Park – Elephant Safari (55 minutes drive)

Hambantota Botanical Gardens (30 minutes drive)

Ridiyagama Open Zoo (45 minutes drive)

Rekawa Turtle Hatchery (1 hr drive)

Eco Tourism

As part of our constant focus to embrace nature and community with our business practices, Flameback Eco Lodge is committed in its continuous contribution made to the environment and the community it is integrated in. As such, we are humbled to contribute $ 1.00 from every online rooming night to the hotel’s Eco & Social development fund which is in turn donated to the preservation and well-being of the Environment, Community of Weerawila and the hotel employees.

Environment conservation: A sustainable footprint into eco conservation

At Flameback Eco Lodge, we have embraced a framework of environmental strategies aimed at making changes and improvements that benefit the environment from the onset with subtle thought put into the architecture, use of natural resources and waste disposal.

Get in Touch

May you wish to obtain more information about Flameback Eco Lodge and activities in the vicinity, please contact us via the any of the below options!

For Inquiries & Reservations:

Tel : +94 47 5 100100

Fax : +94 47 5100 200

Email : info@flamebackecolodge.com

Web: www.flamebackecolodge.com

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The 2020 Travel Hot List


#hotlist

The experts have revealed their much-anticipated hot list for the year ahead. These are their predictions for destinations which are up-and-coming, exotic, undiscovered and guaranteed to stir the soul. Collectively, they have singled out these unusual and unique destinations which every discerning adventurer will want to know about."

Azerbaijan

With an economy based on oil, Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus may seem an unlikely place for luxe wanderings. But this energy-rich nation on the Caspian Sea is a surprise package. Located on the divide between Europe and Asia it has a 5,000-year-old history and a heritage variously influenced by the Russian, Turkish and Persian empires. A stroll through its cosmopolitan capital Baku is a striking contrast of old and new where locals play chess in cobblestone laneways against a backdrop of the city's famous futuristic flame towers.

Benin

The birthplace of voodoo, Benin is steeped in a rich and complex history of glorious kingdoms, slavery and colonialism. Voodoo is still widely practiced throughout the country and travellers can witness colourful voodoo ceremonies where feverish drumming and highly charged dancing by costumed fetish priests provide a bewitching encounter. Fishermen in remote villages still practice age-old techniques and the slave coast is a haunting reminder of a dark past.

Finland

Dramatic year-round, Finland in Europe's far north is a land of lakes, mountains and forests with a vigorous sauna culture. Expect endless daylight in the summer months and long winter nights when the Northern Lights are at their most dazzling. The vibrant capital Helsinki is a harbourside showcase of modern architecture and design with world beating museums and galleries, architectural masterpieces and an 18th century sea fortress.

Eastern Indonesia

Remote and unspoiled, the crystal-clear waters of Eastern Indonesia harbour some of the world's finest marine life and underwater treasures. Hordes of volcanic islands spread across the aqua blue waters of the Flores and Banda Seas play host to some of the most spectacular coastal terrain on Earth and soft sandy beaches to match. Explore the Komodo National Park, the Spice Islands and Raja Ampat where world class diving and snorkelling reveals brilliant coral gardens, vibrant tropical fish, sea turtles, reef sharks and manta rays while on land the prehistoric Komodo dragon hunts its prey amidst dry savannah.

Jordan

Middle Eastern hospitality doesn't come much better than in Jordan. Add to that some of the world's most famous archaeological sites and it's easy to see why it's considered one of the region's star attractions. In a country with a 4,000-year-old history and biblical references aplenty there's no shortage of attractions. At the top of the list, with undisputed celebrity status and worthy World Heritage recognition, is Petra but there's much more once you delve deeper – crusader castles, mineral-laden waters, ancient Roman ruins, dramatic desert landscapes and a vibrant cuisine.

Malta

Heavily influenced by the many civilisations which have contested and ruled its sun-filled archipelago, Malta and Gozo, its sister island, together claim over 6,500 years of history with one of the world's greatest concentrations of historical sights. Each conquering power has left its mark from Arabic town names to British food, Greek superstitions and Roman Catholicism. A few days here will reveal a lavish architectural legacy, splendid Baroque churches, a flourishing food scene and rich agricultural traditions.

Namibia

One of the least densely populated countries on Earth, Namibia is a vast landscape of shimmering salt pans, red dunes, glittering oceans and haunting coastlines where the sunsets are unforgettable and the desert-adapted wildlife abundant. Hugging the southwest coast of Africa where the red sands of the world's oldest desert meet the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Namibia is an unexpected surprise and new lodges, like Shipwreck Lodge on the Skeleton Coast, have opened to broaden the already luxe offering

South Korea

Say hello to one of Asia's most surprising destinations. A relative newcomer to the luxury travel scene, South Korea is a surprise package known as much for its street food and high-speed internet as it is for its heavily militarised border. Hip and edgy, the capital Seoul is a dynamic city where new meets old and pop culture is alive and well. It has first-rate museums, absorbing local customs, flavoursome culinary delights and scenery throughout the country is utterly picturesque.

Wukalina Walk

Tasmania is known for its walking adventures and this is one of the newest. Aboriginal owned and operated, the four-day Wukalina Walk reveals the breathtaking Bay of Fires region in the state's northeast from the unique palawa (Tasmanian aboriginal) perspective. Hiking in the footsteps of their traditional people, palawa guides and elders relate first-hand the palawa creation story, allowing guests to participate in cultural practices that have been passed down for hundreds of generations. Nights are comfortably spent in bespoke palawa inspired domed huts and the meticulously renovated Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage at larapuna (Bay of Fires).

Zimbabwe

Off the radar for many years, Zimbabwe is back with a flourish and in recognition A&K has opened its 11th African office there. The country has some of the continent's most impressive national parks where its iconic species roam and a top-notch selection of small-scale luxury safari camps and lodges. It boasts one of the world's great rivers, breathtaking landscapes from acacia woodlands and riverine plains to primeval escarpments and granite-studded hills and it's home to the largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls.

To book any of these destinations or enquire further please contact Abercrombie & Kent on 1300 590 317 or visit www.abercrombiekent.com.au

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Gorilla Trekking – the ultimate wildlife experience



If you haven’t yet included gorilla trekking in your bucket list, then it is high time you added it as it is definitely one of a few dramatic wildlife experiences you definitely shouldn’t miss. Here’s everything you need to know to make sure it is a good one!

Where to go?

There are only two populations of mountain gorillas left in the world, numbering about 1,000 in total. The first lives in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, with groups scattered between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The second lives deep in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country’s southwest, which is home to half the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, making it one of the best places where you can see these awe-inspiring primates in their natural habitat.

Best time to go for gorilla trekking

To ensure a successful gorilla experience, like anywhere in Africa, the two most significant seasons you need to consider are the wet and dry seasons – and each comes with their own advantages and disadvantages. During the two dry seasons –June to September and December to February, rainfall is very low and the gorilla habitat remains relatively dry, making it easier to hike through Bwindi’s dense vegetation and steep slopes in search for these unique creatures. The wet seasons – running from March to May and again from October to November, are characterized by heavy rainfall, ensuring that trekking is much more challenging. On the upside, however, more plentiful food during this period makes it a little easier to locate gorillas in their usual habitat, unlike the dry season where the limited food supply makes them move much further afield in search of something to eat.

Gorilla permits in Uganda.

To take part in gorilla safari in Uganda, a permit is mandatory and currently costs USD600 (increasing to USD700 from 1 July 2020). Make sure you book your permit early enough, at least 3 months prior to your actual trek, as permits are limited to just a few people each day and demand is typically high. Permits can be obtained through a trustworthy tour operator or through the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

What to pack for gorilla trekking?

In preparation for your gorilla adventure, it’s important to pack appropriately, and the following items are essential!

· Sturdy, waterproof hiking shoes to help you navigate rocky, and often, slippery surfaces. Remember the trails can be muddy and slippery – especially during the rainy season.

· Insect repellent.

· Gardening gloves can come in handy when the gorillas are ranging within sparky, thorny and stinging vegetations.

· A good camera to capture the best shots.

· Long sleeved shirts and long pants to protect you from the cold and stinging nettles.

· A Waterproof backpack to protect your camera and other fragile items.

Where to stay

There are quite a few safari lodges near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to suit every budget, but one of the best places to stay is the award-winning Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp. Tucked away on a on a flat ridge deep within the heart of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the award-winning camp is an idea base to explore the Bwindi region. Featuring just eight private luxury tents, the property was re-launched by boutique luxury travel operator Sanctuary Retreats in 2018, following the completion of an extensive refurbishment program.

The atmospheric Camp’s small size ensures it retains an intimate, exclusive feel, enabling guests to experience Africa’s magic with the lightest of footprints, while enjoying practically every mod con. Even better, its unique location means the Camp is frequently visited by gorilla families, making it the perfect base for a once in a lifetime encounter with Uganda’s endangered mountain primates. Buhoma Village is also close by, with plenty of opportunities for guests to visit the Bwindi Community Hospital and meet local Batwa villagers.

The last word.

All in all, Uganda is the ultimate destination for gorilla trekking, a rare experience that will bring you up close with endangered mountain gorillas in the wild. With no single mountain gorilla in captivity, Uganda is a must visit if you are looking to the golden opportunity of sitting amongst gorillas in the mists of Central Africa.

Friday, August 23, 2019

From TV to TZ, Five Lessons from The Lion King


Disney's The Lion King may be many people's first encounter with lions, but the movie is more than a touching tale of a cub finding his way to the throne. Jenman Safaris advises travellers to watch the movie closer to learn about some of the real locations, cultural wonders and handy tips for safari experiences in Tanzania.

1.     The Serengeti inspired the Pride Lands
The Pride Lands film set reflects the Serengeti (which means "endless plains'' in Swahili); and a drive through the Serengeti quickly reveals the uncanny resemblance. Travellers will enjoy the savannah teeming with herds of zebra, impala, and wildebeest, while among the long grasses cheetah and lions stalk their prey – the circle of life in real life action. Nearby, the Olduvai Gorge supposedly served as inspiration for the spot where Mufasa was trampled by wildebeest. The gorge is a significant archaeological site where Mary Leakey discovered a 1.8 million-year-old hominid skull.

2.     Accurate animal behaviour
While Disney got some of the animal behaviour right – e.g. the structure of the pride led by one dominant male who is the only one to sire offspring and lionesses straying away when food is scarce, fact and fiction part ways where Simba's diet is concerned. Lions can never survive off bugs, as an adult male eats around 10 kilograms of meat a day. Another fact is hyenas are successful hunters and kill most of their own meat, so they are not the lazy scavengers The Lion King portrays them to be.

3.     Characters named after Swahili words
Remember the names of these characters and you've just gained some Swahili vocabulary:
– Simba means lion;
– Rafiki means friend;
– Pumbaa means foolish or silly;
– Shenzi means savage; and
– Banzai means to skulk or lurk.

4.     Hakuna Matata is a real phrase!
Thanks to the catchy tune, everyone is familiar with 'Hakuna Matata'. A useful phrase picked up by Disney's research team during their time in Africa, it really does translate to 'no worries' and is frequently used by locals in Tanzania. However, it is typically only used for tourists' benefit with Tanzanian Swahili speakers preferring to say hamna shida instead.

5.       Pride Rock was inspired by kopjes
Kopje formations across the Serengeti plains look eerily similar to Pride Rock because they were the source of inspiration. Islands of granite thrusting up out of the grassy savannah, kopjes often feature lions draped across the top. These rocky outcrops are not only important vantage points for lions, but they also serve as good hiding places for their cubs, just like in the movie!

MORE: Established more than 18 years ago, Jenman Safaris is a specialist safari tour operator offering travellers a wide range of small group tours and tailor-made itineraries in Southern Africa, East Africa and Madagascar.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Discover Queens, NYC as host borough to the US Open Tennis Championship



City Hotels to Offer Special Packages, Experiences and Incentives for Those Staying Overnight During US Open

On August 26, the most attended annual sporting event in the world will return to New York City at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center as the US Open Tennis Championships take over the borough of Queens.

Stars like Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Sloane Stephens and Rafael Nadal will compete for the last grand slam championship of 2019 in front of more than 700,000 fans during two weeks of tennis that concludes on September 8.

NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organisation, is encouraging visitors to attend the US Open Fan Week and US Open Tennis Championships events, but also to stay longer and explore the diverse neighbourhood offerings in the vibrant and diverse borough of Queens. Additionally, several NYC & Company hotel members are offering special packages and incentives to encourage more overnight stays during this iconic event.

The week prior to the tournament, visitors and locals are encouraged to participate in US Open Fan Week, taking place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center from August 19-25. The weeklong tennis and entertainment festival includes the US Open Qualifying Tournament, free evening concerts; open practices featuring top players, a new Kids’ Zone and various other family-friendly activities. A complete schedule of events can be found at usopen.org/fanweek.

The entertainment options continue post-Fan Week, as the tournament is held in the vibrant Flushing Meadows Corona Park, home to multidisciplinary attractions such as the New York Hall of Science, Queens Botanical Garden, Queens Museum and Queens Night Market as well as nearly 900 acres of park space—home to the iconic Unisphere.

In the surrounding Corona neighbourhood, authentic NYC experiences are abundant. At the Louis Armstrong House Museum, jazz fans can learn about the musician’s life and legacy in a museum outfitted in the house he and his wife lived in for nearly 30 years. Meanwhile, the culinary options nearby embody the borough’s reputation as the most diverse in NYC. Leo's Latticini is an 80-year-old Italian deli that makes mozzarella cheese fresh on-site. AtArepa Lady, diners can feast on trademark Colombian food-cart treats, and at Tortilleria Nixtamal, savoury Mexican food is served on fresh, GMO-free tortillas pressed in the front window.

Flushing, located on the east side of the USTA National Tennis Center, is filled with Asian flavour and culture from China, Japan and Korea. Asian Jewels is a popular destination for classic Chinese dishes, with a large open dining space and dinner menu filled with Cantonese specialties. Hunan House brings uniquely spicy dishes straight from China’s Hunan province, while Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao serves Singaporean specialties like scallion pancakes and stir-fried rice cakes. At the Queens Historical Society and Flushing Town Hall, visitors can learn about the borough’s history while experiencing two protected NYC landmarks.



New York City’s iconic hotels are rolling out the red carpet for the US Open, with curated packages, offers, and celebratory experiences including:

The Lotte New York Palace is offering an ACE of a stay for the US Open. “The Palace Doubles Package” includes opulent accommodations for two nights in the Towers Corner Suite for up to four adults, and exclusive access to The Palace Invitational, a one-of-a-kind badminton tournament featuring the very best in professional tennis at The Palace’s iconic Madison Avenue courtyard.
The Pierre New York is celebrating the tournament with the third annual outdoor festival “Smash Bash: A Celebration of Tennis” on August 21, featuring special appearances by US Open players Dominic Thiem and Garbiñe Muguruza. Taking place on the Rosé Terrace of The Pierre’s Perrine restaurant overlooking Central Park, the event will also feature a delicious selection of elevated court-side fare from Executive Chef Ashfer Biju, endless Château Miraval rosé, the Honey Deuce cocktail by Grey Goose Vodka, live DJ and table tennis.

At the InterContinental New York Barclay, and other participating IHG properties, visitors can enhance their experience with the “Game-Set-Match” package, including complimentary one level upgrade, tennis macaroons welcome amenity, US Open Honey Deuce cocktail voucher, map to USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and US$15 metro card. The Gin Parlour at The Barclay will serve signature beverages such as “The Lime Judge” and “The Watermelon Smash” to celebrate the tournament’s return to NYC.

The Peninsula New York will host a watch party every day of the US Open with a live feed of each match screened at The Bar at Clement, where the Honey Deuce, in partnership with Grey Goose, will be the cocktail of choice.

The Times Square EDITION, a brand-new luxury hotel located in the heart of Manhattan, is featuring a special “LOVE/TENNIS” offer. Visitors can save up to 15% on US Open accommodations when booking by August 16 for stays through September 8, 2019 and using the promo code TNI. Located just a few steps from the 7 train, The Times Square EDITION provides easy access to the tournament for spectators.

Conveniently located next to Grand Central Terminal and the 7 train to/from Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the Grand Hyatt New York offers visitors the opportunity to cool down at The Lounge at New York Central pre- or post-match, with a Honey Deuce cocktail, the official drink of the US Open.

“We are so pleased to welcome the US Open Tennis Championships back to New York City this summer. Visitors traveling to the City later this month will have a unique opportunity to see and experience Queens, the City’s most diverse borough. With an outstanding roster of cultural, dining and entertainment options plus several attractive hotel packages and offers, travelers will have no shortage of activities to enjoy during one of the nation’s most iconic big events,” said NYC & Company president and CEO Fred Dixon.

For more on the US Open this year, visit NYCGo.com/us-open-tennis-championships and for more on what to do and see in New York City’s borough of Queens, visit NYCGo.com/queens.

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