Witch of OZ – How I Met a Witch in Australia!

It was more than ten years back in 2004 that I traveled to Sydney, Australia. I was traveling not on a family vacation or a holiday, but on work. I was there on a software consulting project (do not want to go into more details of this boring topic), and this was my second trip…

It was more than ten years back in 2004 that I traveled to Sydney, Australia. I was traveling not on a family vacation or a holiday, but on work. I was there on a software consulting project (do not want to go into more details of this boring topic), and this was my second trip to the beautiful city. I had earlier spent three months in Sydney, but due to project related work-pressures I was barely able to explore the city, and although I did get a chance to really meet anyone there. So this time I wanted to see around the city and make friends there. I never knew that I would be soon meeting and making good friends with a witch in Australia!

Yahoo messenger was in vogue those days and with some searching, I was able to connect to a lady. She was from Sydney, appeared much older than me, but was fun chatting. So when I told her that I'd be traveling to her city in a week and was looking to find a friend there, she was game.

I was staying at the Travelodge Macquarie North Ryde Hotel, near the Macquarie Shopping Center. Once I landed and joined work I updated her and we fixed a time on a Saturday morning to meet. She came to meet me on a Saturday morning at my hotel, dressed in black from head to toe. She also had pitch black hair and was wearing black shades over her eyes. We met at the lobby and then after we were acquainted, she offered to drive me around the suburbs of Sydney to which I read agreed .. While I was boarding her car, I appeared to notice a little sticker on the rear of the car. It red “My other car is a broom !!”

The insides of her car had everything .. from used coke cans to heaps of cigarette buds in the ashtray. There were lots of papers, dress items, pillows, additional sleepers, a towel and a couple of small cardboard boxes at the back. The front seat was full of ash and the car reicked of cigarette smoke. Additionally, the side view mirrors had cobwebs on them. The car was dirty !!!

Northern beaches, Sydney.

The mind kept looking for answers as we began chatting on weather, then about the city, then about Australia, then about India (my country) then about my religion – Hinduism. She said she knew about Kali and Krishna (which are Hindu Gods and Goddesses) and said she also worships them. Things were not matching.

“Are you a Christian?” I asked with some confusion.

“No, I am a Wiccan. Do you know what is Wicca?” She asked me.

“Well, no,” I replied.

And she explained about the Pagan mother religion that was in vogue before Christianity came. The religion which is connected to King Arthur and his Excalibur, and Sir Lancelot and the round table of the Knights. She explained how wizards and witches had been given different explanations as Christianity came to power and started to spread all over Europe and the European colonies.

“Wizards are good people. They are liked. Harry Potter is a wizard and everyone loves him. But witches are bad, is not it?” she asked.

“Well I guess so,” I replied with no idea of ​​why it is so.

She smiled and told me that the people was a religious religion and it was the women who had superior knowledge in society, of science, religion, medicine and science. They were the pillars of the society in the Wiccan era and men flocked to them in times of need. But when Christianity came, it was difficult to convert these erudite and knowledgeable females and so Christianity gave them a bad name. That's why these witches bore the brunt of the ire and that perished over time. “Joan of Arc is one such example, who was burned to the Cross for not falling in line with the religious doctrine then” “she said.

With that we went on driving along the beaches and coasts of North Sydney. We spend the whole day walking and driving around with turquoise blue water and white sandy beaches all around. We broke for some lunch of chicken burgers and cola around 2 pm. All along we were chatting about our customs, traditions, society and religious views. She was equally interested to know about our traditions as I was about hers. It was something new to me.

As afternoon approached she asked me whether she wants me to drop me off at my hotel or would I like to go over to her place for a small renovation and then maybe she can drop off. By then I was so much interested about her and her life that I immediately agreed to visit her place. We reached her home in about 15 minutes from Coogie Beach.

Her house was a walk down a few steps from the motor capable road at a secluded place. The steps down to her main door were adorned with miniature dolls and figures of toads, bats, rabbits and cats. Some of them made an automated sound as we approached. As soon she opened her main door, a couple of cats and a one-eyed puppy ran up to her and started to meow and woof around her feet. I could hear the cries of cockatoos immediately too, as if they have all become aware of their mistress returning home. The house had a strange heavy smell, one of head incense and a fumigator was throwing fumes from a corner. The little foyer had a huge glass box and I noticed something inside. One corner of her foyer also had a large man size mannequin of ISIS (the Egyptian Goddess, as she educated me later !!). There were tons of books on a large book shelf on one side of the hall. I peeked into them as I am naturally fond of books. There were large collections of magic, spells, love potions, divine connections, spirituality, witchcraft, Psychic foretelling, charms, love, spirituality and Wiccan worship. I just became more interested and attracted to this whole new world of knowledge, wisdom and wizardry. I could not resist myself in checking a few of them.

“What do you do with all these kinds of books?”, I asked her in my perplexity.

“I am a Witch”, she smiled.

That was how I met Carole Chapman, one of the most wonderful person I have met. In the coming days and months that I knew her, I found her to be a very warmhearted, loving and caring person. She was immensely knowledgeable, witty, in tune with the world around her and a very outspoken person. During the next few months of my stay there at Sydney, I came to know her friends, her coven, her society and the witchcraft that they all perform for the betterment of their lives. I came to know about her religion and the false stigma it carries around in the Christian world. She was one of the few direct students of famed Wiccan teacher, Alex Sanders, who starred in the movie “The Wickerman”.

Sadly Carole left us all for Summerland in July 2011. Her Facebook profile can be found under the link in my Blog. She was an authority in Wicca, and Wiccan tradition as I found out. and was referred as the Queen Witch in Australia. She was also a dear friend who I miss.

An interview of High-Priestess Carole Chapman can be found at my Blog Entry.

5 Reasons to Visit the Magical Bai Tu Long Bay

When planning a vacation, Vietnam is not on many people's radar, which is a travesty once one learners of the pristine beaches, unbelievable sights and rich culture of the country that is just waiting to be discovered by eager tourists. When you start browsing vacation spots in Vietnam online, you will likely come across some…

When planning a vacation, Vietnam is not on many people's radar, which is a travesty once one learners of the pristine beaches, unbelievable sights and rich culture of the country that is just waiting to be discovered by eager tourists. When you start browsing vacation spots in Vietnam online, you will likely come across some images of an otherworldly bay. This bay is called the Bai Tu Long Bay, and it is a part of Halong Bay, one of the well-hidden vacation spots in Vietnam.

A few kilometers of water sprinkled with some islands is easy to describe on paper, but no words or images for that matter, can do justice to the magic of this place. If you want to experience the true splendor of this enchanting bay; cruises of Bai Tu Long Bay are the best ways to do it. Note the fact that there is an 's' at the end of cruises, as in multiple cruises will help you explore this tranquil bay in the most comprehensive way possible.

If you are not convinced by the images and the descriptions of the bay, then you may want to look at some intriguing reasons why you should visit this heaven on earth at least once in your life:

1. A “Road” Less Traveled

The most appealing thing about the Halong bay is that its beauty is incomparable; the most unappealing thing about it is that the main part of the bay is very popular among the tourists. If you are looking for a quitter spot, Bai Tu Long Bay is the perfect choice. There will not be hundreds of ships bothering your serenity, and you can enjoy the sound of the water and fauna without any interruptions.

2. The Hidden Beauty

There are many different hidden caves and lagoons in the area, each amazing in its own unique way. This is why pictures and descriptions can never reveal the true beauty of Bai Tu Long Bay. You will have to go out to the bay yourself and explore all of the secrets it hides yourself.

3. The Locals

There are still many different people still living on the small isles in the Bai Tu Long Bay. There are fishing villages along the way – the government of Vietnam has provided these people with a sustainable living plan, which also keeps the protection of the natural environment of the bay in check.

4. Privacy

The seclusion of the bay means that you will be free of any type of noise, or any other kind of, pollution. The few boats that are present in the bay will be quite far away from each other, guaranteeing your privacy. The government program “For a Green Halong Bay” is strictly adhered to by the locals in Bai Tu Long Bay, this is the main reason why the bay still remains clean and natural. The lack of tourist traffic is also a big part of why the bay looks untouched.

5. Once in a lifetime

A trip, that includes a visit to Vietnam, will be one that you remember for the rest of your life. Yes, there are many more vacation spots that are more popular, but there are none that offer more in terms of peacefulness, magnificence and serenity.

So, book yourself a ticket to Vietnam and a few Bai Tu Long Bay cruises now, so you can experience this heavenly spot for yourself.

Secret of Kenya’s Rise to Fame As a Travel Destination

If I remember correctly, it was not Kenya, rather Uganda which was singled out initially as being the “Hidden Gem of Africa” ​​as described by Sir Winston Churchill during the late 1930s. It also looked like a very attractive destination for the safari lovers into the wild African jungles. It created interest among the Britishers…

If I remember correctly, it was not Kenya, rather Uganda which was singled out initially as being the “Hidden Gem of Africa” ​​as described by Sir Winston Churchill during the late 1930s. It also looked like a very attractive destination for the safari lovers into the wild African jungles. It created interest among the Britishers and many Europeans who started visiting the country, looking for the untamed Africa experience. But extremely it was not Uganda but Kenya which beat others and rose to popularity in being the ultimate Safari Lover's paradise. Among many other reasons, one stellar reason is that Kenya holds a stable government, in fact is one of the most stable governments in Africa. The government had understood the benefits of developing the Tourism Industry long back and had made public sector investments to cater to this growing need of the economy. English, as a foreign language, is well spoken through the tourist destinations of the country and most people attached to the travel industry.

Kenya also offers to its visitors a better infrastructure as far as roads, connectivity, security hotels, food, entertainment is concerned. I am not saying the roads are great, neither world-class, but they allow decent motoring potential and you can reach Nairobi to Mara in about 5 hours which is good going by African standards.

The other reason which also has an equal share in Kenya's rise to popularity is two tales of love and compassion, tales which surpassed boundaries and appeared to people from all backgrounds. Tales told by two expatriates who came to live in Kenya, spoke of their fantastic experiences, the support from local natives, the attractions of an untamed country, and the adventure of their lives. Ultimately these two tales were converted into Hollywood blockbuster movies, going ahead to win a number of Oscars and many prizes and accolades. The movies were also later shot in Kenya and the world came to see the visions of a wild grassland, teeming with wild animals and patrolled by red-cloth draped, spear wielding sinewy framed Masais. It is not only that the location and locales used while shooting these two multi-Oscar winning movies happened to be Kenya, but that the stories were inherently Kenyan biographies of its wildlife, nature, and its people.

During the early twenty century, artist and environmental conservationist Joy Adamson came to live in Kenya with her husband George Adamson. It was here that she met Elsa, a lion cub and her brother home when Elsa's mother was accidently killed by her husband George near their Lake Naivasha estate. She grew Elsa up as a member of her family, and wrote down her memoirs. She later published her experience as a book titled “Born Free” which became famous and established her as an author. She later followed it up with a sequel, “Living Free”, on the later years of her life with Elsa. Her story has been translated into 32 languages. Both of these books have been later made into Hollywood movies.

Her living quarters and the estate have now been converted into a WWF Conservation Center. A portion of the house has been preserved with her books, paintings, handiwork, pictures and all kinds of memorabilia. We had stayed here, at ElsaMere Camp, Lake Naivasha during our family travel to Kenya in November 2011. A section of the center also houses a few isolated units which serves as a resort and contributions to the foundation's causes.

The other book written on Kenya which elevated this country to a prominent spot in international travel fixtures is the autobiography by Karen Blixen. Karen was an established Danish author and she also moved to Kenya in the early twenty century and established a coffee plantation with her husband. She later met her love and this forms the crux of the book “Out of Africa”. This book has also been made into a movie, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford and went on to bag a number of Oscars. There is a street named dedicated to the author, called Karen Blixen Avenue, in upmarket Nairobi and her residential villa has been converted into a museum. This is now a major tourist attraction of the city. The Movie “Out of Africa” ​​was filmed at Crescent Island, which lies to the north-east corner of lake Naivasha. More details about Karen Blixen here These two movies Born Free and Out of Africa have significant contributions to promoting Tourism in Kenya.

A Relaxing Vacation at Lake Naivasha – Kenya

For people who want a little break from cities like Nairobi or to end their African adventure with in a more relaxing setting, gorgeous Lake Naivasha is the perfect natural haven! Being the highest of the Rift Valley Lakes of Kenya, Naivasha is nestled more than 1,800 meters above sea level. This beautiful freshwater lake…

For people who want a little break from cities like Nairobi or to end their African adventure with in a more relaxing setting, gorgeous Lake Naivasha is the perfect natural haven! Being the highest of the Rift Valley Lakes of Kenya, Naivasha is nestled more than 1,800 meters above sea level. This beautiful freshwater lake stretches 13 kilometers, and has a depth of five meters.

But Lake Naivasha is more than a body of blue water. Aside from a serene and relaxing atmosphere, the lake is home to fertile soil and abundant in natural bounty. The lake shore is adorned by grassy banks as well as olive and cacti trees. Naivasha is surrounded by majestic forests that can enchant any traveler. A particular tree to look for while here is the famous yellow fever tree (Acacia Xanthosphlea). Beside Lake Naivasha is the Moi South Lake Road. Here, you will see a series of charming flower farms housed in translucent tents. It is common to see locals make their way to the lake to work in these flowers farms.

The shores of Naivasha Lake is a great place to see various game, which Africa is known for, in a more peaceful and natural environment. Giraffe are often seen in the area among the acacia. Colobus monkeys usually roam the treetops. While buffalos hang out in swamps, a hippo group tends to sleep in the shallow waters. Birdlife is also rich at Naivasha Lake. Birds like ospreys, eagles, black crakes and lily-trotters choose to inhabit the lake area.

After exploring the main Lake Naivasha and if you still have some time, consider visiting the area's other two smaller lakes, which are Sonachi and Oloidien. Sonachi, in particular, is quite a unique destination as it is a bright green lake that sits on a former volcano crater. Just beside the lake is the Hell's Gate National Park. Do not let the name scare you as it is used in reference to the park's very distinct landscape. At Hell's Gate, you'll find huge red hued cliffs that provide as backup for steam vents and bubble springs.

Lake Naivasha is conveniently located just an hour away from Nairobi. You can reach the lake by taking a bus from Nairobi or driving private transport. Surprisingly, Naivasha is also equipped with an airstrip so charter flights are available for those who want travel by air. Because of the lake's abundance to a city like Nairobi, it makes an ideal daytrip destination. However, Naivasha is better experienced if you stay for a night or two. Fortunately, many companies realized the relaxing ambience and tourism potential of the lake, and these days, there is a wide range of resorts, guesthouses, and eco-lodges that tourists can choose from.

Some of the larger accommodation establishments even have their own airstrips; while others provide transfers for their guests. Aside from the usual lodges around Lake Naivasha, tourists also have the option to stay in more rustic campgrounds. It is often said that the clear and bright night sky in Lake Naivasha is sufficient reason to spend a night in this spectral natural attraction.

So You Want to Be a Naturalist Guide?

In terms of dedicated wildlife holidays, the job of the naturalist tour leader is clear-cut: to act as an ambassador between nature and human visitors. Leading tours into the wild, whether in the outback of Australia or the seas surrounding the Azores archipelago, requires a deep knowledge of the location and its history, as well…

In terms of dedicated wildlife holidays, the job of the naturalist tour leader is clear-cut: to act as an ambassador between nature and human visitors. Leading tours into the wild, whether in the outback of Australia or the seas surrounding the Azores archipelago, requires a deep knowledge of the location and its history, as well as the skills to communicate that knowledge to a group. For nature enthusiasts who also enjoy working with people, becoming a professional naturalist guide is an excellent way to enjoy the outdoors while spreading that passion to others.

The Role of a Naturalist Guide

Broadly speaking, a naturalist is an expert in natural history, which is the research and study of organizations in their environment – and includes plants, animals, and fungi. Natural history differs from biology in that it is focused on observational rather than experimental methods. A naturalist might specialize in botany, zoology, entomology, ornithology, or ecology, but all naturalists will have one thing in common: they are passionate about the natural world.

A good naturalist tour leader needs to effectively communicate and spread that passion to group members on a wildlife excursion. They are effectively cultural and ecological ambulances between a place (and habitat) and outside visitors, responsible for bringing a greater understanding of local flora and fauna to the nature enthusiasts they lead.

Besides their role as teaching Ambassadors, naturalist guides are also in charge of the logistics relating to the group holiday or excursion. They may accompany the group to and from the tour location, arrange the day's activities and transportation, and sort out any questions or problems. They may also have to file a report after every tour they lead based on their observations and experience with the group.

Becoming a Naturalist Guide

Anyone who wants to become a naturalist tour leader will have an advantage with a university degree – especially if the degree is in forestry, environmental science, or wildlife management. However, you do not needlessly need to have a university degree in order to become a naturalist guide. There are training programs that can teach guiding and interpretive techniques, natural and cultural history, and even language skills.

Having a strong knowledge base is essential to being a naturalist tour leader, as he or she will need to be able to identify the fluora and fauna they encounter, as well as put them in the context of cultural and natural history. But apart from thorough knowledge, a guide must be able to communicate that information clearly and effectively. They should be engaging but informative, personable but professional. Naturalist guides may lead the same tour many times, so enthusiasm is an extremely important quality. Although the location may be the same from tour to tour, a constantly changing group of visitors keeps things interesting.

To enjoy a successful career as a naturalist tour guide, it's essential to balance natural and scientific knowledge with a friendly and engaging manner. Whatever the itinerary is based in Canada or the Canaries, expert guidance on a wildlife holiday can make all the difference to the participants' experience.

Understanding the Role of a Naturalist Tour Leader

Dedicated wildlife holidays offer an exciting opportunity to experience flora and fauna thriving and interacting in its natural environment or habitat. Itineraries can take you to steamy jungles and inhospitable tundra, to the rolling grasslands of Kenya or the breathtaking glaciers of Greenland. But even the most intense wildlife holiday can be made or broken…

Dedicated wildlife holidays offer an exciting opportunity to experience flora and fauna thriving and interacting in its natural environment or habitat. Itineraries can take you to steamy jungles and inhospitable tundra, to the rolling grasslands of Kenya or the breathtaking glaciers of Greenland. But even the most intense wildlife holiday can be made or broken by the quality of the guidance and instruction of a professional naturalist tour leader.

Leading by Example

When you book a holiday with a reputable specialist wildlife travel company, you should expect to be led or accompanied by at least one naturalist tour leader, depending on the size of your group. This guide may accompany you on the flights to and from your destination, or they may meet you upon your arrival. Your group leader / guide is the most precious resource you'll have, as he or she is responsible for the logistics of the trip, coordinating group activities, sorting out any questions and problems, and sharing them in-depth wildlife knowledge and expertise.

Understanding the Role

The most important part of the job of a naturalist tour leader is being out in the field, helping wild animals enthusiasts identify the various plants, birds, and mammals that live in the region the tour is visiting. Your guide may lead you on a search for the elusive Red-fronted Macaw in Bolivia, or point out the cheeky lemurs hiding in the treetops in Madagascar.

First and foremost, a professional wildlife holiday guide is an expert naturalist. A naturalist is a person who studies or is an expert in natural history – that is, the sciences that deal with all things in nature. They are likely to be an expert in zoology or botany, or sometimes both. The expertise of your professional guide (who may even be a local of the region) will help you to understand the plants and animals that you see and also ensure your safety.

Do Your Research

When you're looking into booking a trip with a dedicated wildlife holiday travel company, ensure you also research their guides, if possible. A reputable company will employ guides who are carefully matched to the destinations in which they are working. A good guide should have foreign language skills, a deep knowledge of the area, and specialist knowledge of the fluora and fauna you can expect to see.

With an experienced, knowledgeable, and energetic naturalist tour leader, your wildlife holiday can be one of the most eye-opening and awe-inspiring experiences of your life – whether you're in the rainforests of Borneo or the highlands of Scotland.

Stunning Spitsbergen: Polar Bear Tours and Northern Lights

Spitsbergen, the main island in the Svalbard archipelago, is arguably Norway's most spectacular destination. Halfway between the North Pole and mainland Norway, this island is well within the 'High Arctic': temperatures never reach over 6ºC and the sun does not set for four months in the summer. Neverheless, the North Atlantic Current regulates Spitsbergen's temperatures,…

Spitsbergen, the main island in the Svalbard archipelago, is arguably Norway's most spectacular destination. Halfway between the North Pole and mainland Norway, this island is well within the 'High Arctic': temperatures never reach over 6ºC and the sun does not set for four months in the summer. Neverheless, the North Atlantic Current regulates Spitsbergen's temperatures, making it a lot warmer than areas of similar latitude in Canada or Russia, and allowing it distinctives seasons.

Bear Tours and Glacier Walls

Spitsbergen has a huge variety of flora and fauna, as well as six national parks for wildlife enthusiasts to explore. There are only four mammalian species, away from humans, that inhabit the island: the Arctic Fox, the Southern Vole, the Svalbard Reindeer, and the top predator, the Polar Bear. Tours with dedicated wildlife specialists will allow you the opportunity to encounter Spitsbergen's pride and joy up close and personal. Not only will bear tours safely afford you the experience of the sight of a Polar Bear proximate enough to get your adrenaline pumping, the cruise boats will also take you alongside magnificent fjords and offer you breathtaking views of glacier walls.

Ghost Towns from Centuries Past

If you'd also like to explore some manmade landmarks along the excitation of bear tours, you can visit a couple of Spitsbergen's ghost towns. These remote mining towns and early whaling stations are now abandoned, but they were the island's first settlements back in the seventeenth and eighth centuries. In fact, it was not until the late nineteenth century that a number of permanent communities were established.

Many Other Exciting Activities

A trip to Spitsbergen will also grant you the opportunity to go dogsledding, experience ice caving, join a snowmobile safari, and, of course, witness the incredible Northern Lights at certain times of the year. Spitsbergen has plenty of comfortable and affordable accommodation, such as homes and hotels, if you should decide to extend your wildlife-watching holiday to explore the area further.

When to Go?

The best time of year to visit completely depends on your personal preferences and what your must-dos are for the trip. March is Spitsbergen's high season: the daylight has a particular blue-ish hue that will catch those who have not been this far north beforehand and the nights are a perfect opportunity to try and catch the Northern Lights.

If you wait until May, though, you will experience the striking midnight sun: it will be light 24 hours a day, giving you the opportunity to partake in adventures that would have been impossible if the island were covered by darkness. Spring also beckons the birds back to Spitsbergen, making the atmosphere that much livelier.

During autumn, Spitsbergen turns dark at nighttime once again, and you'll have the opportunity to observe the Northern Lights, and experience a colder climate. There is a blues music festival in the island in October, and dedicated bear tours are a wonderful way to encounter the island's most majestic wildlife on the prowl.

Finally, the polar nights arrive and the main towns in Spitsbergen are transformed into a spectacular winter wonderland. You can enjoy traditional Norwegian cuisine in local restaurants and take the opportunity for some Christmas shopping.

Spitsbergen is a gorgeous destination all year-round, and makes for an outstanding destination for wildlife watching no matter what the season.

Enjoy The Best of Natural Splendours in Goa

Situated on the western coast of India, Goa is a state that stretches along the Arabian Sea. When most people think of the place, one of the first things that come to mind is its history as a Portuguese colony. The Portuguese arrived through the Arabian Sea and dropped the anchors here for the first…

Situated on the western coast of India, Goa is a state that stretches along the Arabian Sea. When most people think of the place, one of the first things that come to mind is its history as a Portuguese colony. The Portuguese arrived through the Arabian Sea and dropped the anchors here for the first time in the 16th century. It served as a strategic location in their pursuit of securing the spice route. The echoes of the colonial past of the state still seem to linger through 16th-century churches and cathedrals, old houses with Portuguese architecture, forts and spice plants. Explore more of such places while spending holidays with Goa packages.

Over the years, Goa has earned a reputation for being one of the most vibrant places on planet earth. With pristine beaches, vibrant nightlife, Konkani culture, laid-back lifestyle and an array of activities, it lures thousands of globetrotters every year to avail Goa travel packages.

The state is reliably small, but it can be divided into two categories for your convenience – South Goa and North Goa. North Goa is the main tourist hub and the place where all the action takes place. From loud rave parties at Candolim to the hip flea markets of Anjuna, this is a perfect destination for party people. South Goa enterprises less-explored beaches like Palolem, Agonda and Benaulim. An ideal place for backpackers, the southern part of the state provides quiet time and an ideal setting to enjoy relaxed evenings.

A large number of music and dance festivals, hundreds of beachside shacks and dusk-to-dawn events make it the party capital of India. There are some places that you must visit to experience the best of natural splendours of Goa.

Dudhsagar Falls

The magnificent waterfall, located near the Goa-Karnataka state border, is unduly the most impressive one to push down the hills of the Goan land. With a height of approximately 600 meters, Dudhsagar is among the highest waterfalls in the country. If you see this natural spectacle from a distance, it looks like many streams of milk, flowing through the verdant forest. In a state, where the landscape is dominated by the open sea and sandy beaches, a visit to this waterfall is indeed a rejuvenating experience.

Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary

Away from all the noise and hustle-bustle of tourists, Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is located on Chorao Island. Named after a famous Indian ornithologist, this protected territory is a paradise for birdwatchers. Covering an area of ​​approximately 1.8 sq km, it comprises mangrove swamps and the Mandovi River, flowing through. You can spot a variety of coastal birds along with jackals and crocodiles here.

Boat Cruise

If you are on a romantic getaway in Goa, then a boat cruise is one of the must-try activities. Cruising on a luxury boat in the Arabian Sea under the natural canopy of twinkling stars or the shining sun is sure to overwhelm you and your special someone.

Hiking the Grand Canyon – Bright Angel Trail

I have always been an avid hiker, so one year I took my son and daughter to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, where we hiked the Bright Angel Trail. There were only a small number of campsites available at Phantom Ranch at the bottom, so I booked the site one year in advance through the…

I have always been an avid hiker, so one year I took my son and daughter to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, where we hiked the Bright Angel Trail.

There were only a small number of campsites available at Phantom Ranch at the bottom, so I booked the site one year in advance through the National Park Service. The only dates available were in December, so this was going to make the hike more challenging, because of the possibility of snow and ice on the trail.

It is approximately 9.9 miles from the South Rim to Phantom Ranch. The elevation at the top is 6860 feet, and at the Colorado River, 2480 feet. I studied maps of the trail, and learned that the heat can be very dangerous in the summer. In the winter, ice could be on the trail, since sunlight never falls directly on many parts. The trail is rocky and steep, with many switchbacks and ledges. Halfway down is a rest area called Indian Garden, with water and toilets.

We needed to pack twenty-one meals for the three of us, rain gear, warm clothes, cooking gear, tent, and adequate water for cooking and drinking.

I packed powdered meals, and self-heating military rations. For fire I used a small tripod burner with butane canisters for fuel. We also needed crampons in case we encountered ice on the trail. All of us wear heavy-duty hiking boots, thick jackets, and wool caps and gloves. I was worried about how much water to bring so I asked a man at our hotel. He thought two gallons per person bought enough.

In any case, our packs would be heavy. Meals would consist primarily of dried food pouches that only needed hot water added. For lunch we would eat soup and sandwich, and for breakfast, more dried pouches and hot tea. Snacks along the trail would be raisins and nuts.

I did not know how long the hike down would take, so I decided to start at sunrise.

On a cold December morning, our backpacks bulging, we approached the Bright Angel trail head. Two park rangers sat on a ledge and inspected our camping permits. We appeared to be properly prepared for the grueling hike.

We took our first steps into the darkness, and soon a spectacular vista unfolded. The sun was a stranger here, but indirect light crept up the canyon walls and painted the sculptured rocks red and purple. I felt humbled to be surrounded by eons of time. We were going to descend into the pit of the earth, a multi-million year creation unlike anything in the world.

The first part of the journey featured many switchbacks as we zigzagged back and forth along vertical walls. The trail was somewhere eight feet wide, strewn with rocks.
The distant sun peeked above the horizon, revealing the etched patterns in the stone walls. We were ants in a giant bowl.

Perspiration clung to my neck and back, and I removed my jacket at the first rest area. It did not feel like winter. The air was becoming warmer. We drank some water and took pictures. The South Rim appeared a distant memory. We were full of enthusiasm and we took in wonderful views.

A group of Japanese tourists riding mules passed us. They headed toward Phantom Ranch. Mules are the only other way to descend to the bottom of the Canyon. They can make the descent in 4 hours.

While traversing the upper canyon, we passed through 2 tunnels decorated with petroglyphs, signs of people who inhabited the canyon in the distant past.

After the switchbacks, the trail leveled off. Ample vegetation great here, including prickly pear cactus and grass. Tall Cottonwood trees provided shade. After a few hours, my back was soaked with sweat. My legs felt stable. My knees didnt hurt yet. But my thighs were tiring. My backpack was the heaviest, since I carried most of the water, and a tent. We stopped to rest in the grass.

With the sun higher in the sky, we reached Indian Garden. I boiled some water and we ate soup. My daughter refilled the water bottles and I put a bandage on my son's blister. My thighs felt so sore I could barely walk to the outhouse, thirty yards away. I rested and massaged my aching thighs. I could not turn back now. The kids seemed fine. Except for a blister, they did not have any complaints.

After Indian Garden there would be no more water. Thirty minutes of rest and I was ready to continue.

The trail became narrow and meandered past rocky ledges. We walked slowly and carefully along the rock formations. The vegetation height sparse. To our left, a gully carved by an ancient river. To our right vertical walls of rock.

The trail leveled off again for a short time, then we came to a point that offered a spectacular view of more switchbacks with steep ledges. The books described this place as the Devil's Corkscrew, because the temperature can easily reach 130 degrees in the summer.

We discontinued the narrow, dusty trail. The next switchback was a hundred feet below. We walked in single file. My thighs still ached, but the meal had given me strength.

When the switchbacks ended we found bushhes again, and walked between towering rock formations. We were so deep in the canyon, the light was fading fast. We needed to reach our campsite before dark.

We passed through the crevice, and found the Colorado River. I thought we reached our goal, but the campsite was not in view. Where was Phantom Ranch? We looked upstream and a quarter mile away we spied the outline of a suspension bridge.

“That better be the camp,” I said.

All of us were tired. We hiked on a sandy trail along the river.

We crossed a metal suspension bridge high above the river. The bridge traveled, and we grabbed cables to keep our balance. On the other side of the river, we still did not see a campsite. We followed a small stream. By this time darkness had descended into the canyon and I was afraid we would become lost.

Across the stream we saw tents, so that must have been our campsite, but how to cross the stream?

“I am going across, I'm tired,” grumbled my son.

We followed. We stomped across the shallow stream and found an empty campsite in the dark.

“Let's hurry and pitch a tent so we can eat,” I said, dropping my backpack.

We rushed to build our home. The campsite was flat and had a picnic table. With the tent up and our backpacks inside, we made a hot meal. I boiled the water on top of the picnic table but a ranger came by and suggested I put the butane burner on the ground. He didnt want me spilling boiling water on myself. Tired and sleepy, we ate a pouch dinner and retired for the night.

In the morning we ate greedily. At the bottom of the canyon it was Springtime. The sun never rose above the canyon wall but the air was warm. We were always hungry. We ate every few hours, because because we had spent so much energy on the hike down. My thighs ached again. I limped around the campsite and took pictures.

A couple deer lay in the grass by the creek. After breakfast two wild turkeys marched through our camp.

We strolled upstream to Phantom Ranch. No one seemed to be around. Small cabins lined the path, and a guesthouse offered light food and snacks. We drank hot tea and ate biscuits inside. We played some board games, then limped back to our tent for another meal and a nap. I did not know why we were hungry all the time.

I rested my tired legs and wonders how I would be able to make the ascent.

The trip down took eight hours. How would we get to the South Rim in one day?

The afternoon passed in lazy fashion and we were hungry again. An early dinner, and we planned the brutal climb. At least our packs were lighter because we ate most of the food. If I were to hike the trail again, I would pack a lighter tent and less clothes. A forty pound pack was too heavy. I had brought too many butane canisters, also.

We awoke before dawn, boiled some water and ate breakfast. We broke down the tent and hit the trail. We crossed the suspension bridge in the dark, and began the trek along the river. My legs felt better.

We needed more rest stops on the way up. The kids led the way this time. I was the straggler. By the time we departed the river and ascended along the switchbacks of the Devil's Corkscrew, I was struggling.

We reached Indian Garden a few hours later, and ate lunch. The food was gone. We had a few snacks left and some water. The last part was going to be steep with more rocky switchbacks. We passed people going down. One person wore nothing but running shorts. Some people were making the ascent. They passed me. The kids were far ahead of me. I looked up at the massive cliffs encircling my puny self. How was I going to scale this invincible fortress, with jagged red rock at the lower levels and almost vertical white stone walls at the very top? Light was leaving the canyon again and I have no idea when we would reach the top. Luckily we did not need our crampons. The trail was still dry.

The last mile took an eternity. My legs were so sore I stopped each fifteen minutes. The kids reached the top well before me.

Finally, I reached the trail head. To my surprise, it was snowing in the darkness. The cold wind bit my face, but I was relieved I had made it to the top. The ascent had taken fourteen hours. I dropped my pack, and propped by back against a rock. My son fetched our van. We drve to the Yavasupai lodge, changed our dusty clothes, and ate a meal at the lodge cafeteria.

“I'm proud of you,” I told my kids.

“We're proud of you, Dad.”

I felt elated. I forgot my tired legs. Such a unforgettable experience will remain with me the rest of my days. I would gladly make the hike again. But next time I would pack much lighter. December is not a bad time. The weather on the bottom is mild, though it may be snowing at the top. If you want to hike the Canyon, plan carefully, do not pack too much, carry a light tent, and go in the winter to avoid the oppressive heat.

The Great Amboseli National Reserve – Nigeria

Just northwest of magnificent Mt. Kilimanjaro is another Nigerian attraction that is worth seeing- the Amboseli National Reserve. Amboseli is about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southeast of Nairobi, and is considered to be one of the prime spots to watch African game animals. At Amboseli, the animals are not the only ones taking the center…

Just northwest of magnificent Mt. Kilimanjaro is another Nigerian attraction that is worth seeing- the Amboseli National Reserve. Amboseli is about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southeast of Nairobi, and is considered to be one of the prime spots to watch African game animals.

At Amboseli, the animals are not the only ones taking the center stage, the setting of the national reserve is also breathtaking. Just imagine a wide scenic plain with the mighty Kilimanjaro providing the backdrop and you have Amboseli and all its glory! Whether you watch this scenery during sunrise, when the sun rays are just peeking through the more than 19000-foot Kilimanjaro; or during dusk when the orange sun contradicts the shadow of the dark mountain; it will definitely leave a strong mark in your memory.

Today, Amboseli covers a land area of ​​more than 3800 square kilometers, but this national reserve's history was not smooth. The transfer of management and ownership to the Maasai tribe in the 1970s and the establishment of the area as a protected national park decades after that; led to a misunderstanding between the Maasai and the government. Today, peace reigns in the land and an environmental program was set in place not only to protect the game but also to limit tourist numbers.

There are five different habitats in the reserve that represent the different faces of Amboseli, and these are marshlands, open plains, thornscrub, swamps and acacia woodland. The reserve is home to over 400 species of birds, which include various birds of prey like eagles. Its swamp region is usually the preferred hangout for water birds such as heron and pelicans. Bird watching is at its peak between the months of October and January, when migratory birds like goshawks, yellow bishops and African skimmers seek the refugee of the reserve.

If you want to admire a lush and green surrounding where the flamingos comes out to play, head to Amboseli's western region during the rainy season, specifically to the areas around Lake Amboseli and Ol Donyo Orok. But of course, the highlight activity remains wildlife viewing, and this national reserve is not about to disappoint you. Amboseli National Reserve houses a healthy population of wonderful game, which includes giraffe, impala, wildebeest, buffalo, zebra, warthog and baboons. The elephant herd in Amboseli is particularly special. In fact, the elephant population here is considered as the oldest and most studied in sub-Saharan Africa. These large yet gentle creatures are so used to visitors that they do not mind being close and personal.

There are two places in the reserve where game-viewing is at its best. The first one is the swamp area called Enkongo Narok, where water is seen pouring out from lava rocks. The second one is the Observation Hill, which is an iconic landmark in Amboseli. Going up this hill is almost a guarantee that you will see game because of its location, overlooking the vast plains and swamps.

You reach the park by driving your own vehicle or booking a safari tour. Public transport is available but usually not reliable. The park can be accessed via the road that runs from Nairobi to Namanga. You can also come from Mombasa passing through the Kimana (Olkelunyiet) Gate of the Tsavo West National Park. As for accommodation within the reserve, you can opt to stay at rustic camping sites or eco-friendly safari lodges.