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.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Vancouver’s Top Five Landmarks to Visit



Vancouver is Canada’s most populous city on the west coast, and is arguably the most popular tourist destination in British Columbia, having hosted over 10 million visitors in 2016.

A popular filming location for Hollywood movies, Vancouver is close to the gorgeous mountainscape of the Canadian Rockies. With its exciting art, culture, and entertainment, the city offers a unique heritage as North America’s most ethnically diverse city.

Begin your foray into Vancouver by visiting these iconic attractions, recommended by our Pan Pacific Vancouver team.

1. The Refurbished Old Dame: Woodward Building

Look for a big “W” on Vancouver’s horizon: it’s the new sign of its historic Woodward Building.

Originally built in 1903 and once North America’s biggest supermarket, this historic site has now become a residential and office complex housing downtown campuses of several leading Canadian universities. If you are sightseeing from the nearby Vancouver Lookout, you can see the entirety of the Woodward Building from the top down, plus a 360-degree view of Vancouver city.

2. Appreciate Japanese Botany at the UBC Botanical Gardens

Located at the University of British Columbia, UBC Botanical Gardens is Canada’s oldest university botanical garden, established over 100 years ago in 1916. Entry rates vary depending on which sections you are heading to: check its website for details. The garden’s traditionally Japanese-style Nitobe Memorial Garden is considered to be one of the most authentic Japanese gardens with a teahouse in North America.

Spread over one hectare of forest, the garden has each plant and stone carefully placed to emphasise harmony among natural elements. Cherry blossoms bloom in spring, irises in summer, and fiery maples in autumn.

3. The Heart of the City: Vancouver City Hall

Vancouver City Hall houses Vancouver City Council on 453 West 12th Avenue, and features a 12-floor tower. Completed in 1936, it was declared a schedule A heritage building in 1976.

Snap a photo of the statue of Captain George Vancouver by renowned sculptor Charles Marega. Gracing the front of City Hall, it pays tribute to the 18th century English officer who charted the west coast of Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the US.

4. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Considered the first Chinese “scholar’s” garden built outside of China, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Classical Garden is located right in the middle of Vancouver’s Chinatown area.

Adorned with beautiful pavilions and a jade green pond filled with koi fishes, the garden features a rare collection of 150-year-old miniature trees and tai hu rock specially imported from China.

5. Capilano Suspension Bridge

Thrilling visitors since 1889, Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of Canada’s most popular outdoor attractions.

Suspended over the picturesque Capilano River, the 137-metre long and 70-metre high Capilano Bridge offers visitors a unique experience combining British Columbia’s nature, culture, and history through interpretive signs and knowledgeable staff. Visitors can also explore the adjoining Treetops Adventure which takes guests into the mid-story of a coastal rainforest, traversing across seven suspension bridges.

Stay at the Pan Pacific Vancouver where you will be just a few steps away from the convention centre with panoramic views of the Coastal Mountains, Coal Harbour, and city landmarks in Vancouver. Pick a Pacific Club room or suite for club access and a host of privileges!

Need more reasons to visit Vancouver? Here's what our Concierge Recommends.

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