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Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Book A Holiday To Malta

Malta is a small island state in Europe, in the middle of the Mediterranean and is a popular holiday destination for many Europeans, mostly from the U.K., Germany, Italy, France and Holland. Tourists visit the island for various reasons and the island offers a variety of facets that will be of interest for most types of travellers. This article provides you with the top 10 reasons why booking a trip to Malta is a great idea, not only for next summer’s holiday season but all year round!
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10. Language and money in Malta

The Maltese have their own language (‘Maltese’) but the country has two official languages, with the second official language being English. Malta was under British rule for 160 years, gaining independence in 1964, but leaving the Maltese with a relatively strong knowledge of the English language, although Maltese is much more widely spoken and is the mother tongue for the vast majority of Maltese.
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For English speaking tourists this means that communication is almost no problem, which is definitely a benefit when on holiday. Although at the moment the Maltese Lira is still the only valid currency, the Euro will be introduced on January 1st, 2008 and many retailers in tourist areas already accept Euros for cash payment.
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9. Sports and leisure activities

Malta is a great location for a variety of sports, including hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, para gliding, wind surfing and yachting. Plenty of activities to keep you entertained, no matter the time of year. Most materials needed for these sports are available for low-priced rent and there are various locations on the islands where these sports can be exercised. Gozo is a particularly popular location for rock climbing, thanks to its steep cliffs, and mountain biking thanks to its quiet roads and excellent hill climbs.
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Events, such as pop concerts and theatre shows, but also historical re-enactments such as In Guardia are popular among both tourists and locals and provide great entertainment for the whole family. Are you a fan of watching sports? Don’t worry about missing any big matches or events – satellite reception is widely used by the more popular pubs and there are plenty of appetizers and beer around to enjoy your favourite sports.
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8. Getting around in Malta is easy and cheap!

Don’t you hate it when you go for a holiday and it takes you ages to get to the beach or to visit a few cities, museums? Don’t you hate it when it takes a whole day to take one excursion, when you waste so much time on travelling from place to place which makes you wonder whether it was even worth the hassle? If your answer is yes, then Malta is definitely the holiday destination for you.
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It takes less than an hour to get from one side to the island to the other and there’s such a high concentration of places of interest, beaches, holiday resorts and places for entertainment (restaurants, clubs, cinemas etc.), you’ll wish you’d have known about Malta earlier!
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A lot of tourists decide to visit Malta a second time and sometimes more, simply for the reason that there’s just so much to do and to see, and it takes so little money and time to get around and spend quality holiday time.

7. Gozo offers a peaceful setting to your summer holiday
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Malta is not just about Malta. Yes, that’s right, The Republic of Malta also covers Gozo, which is Malta’s sister island and is said to be the island that Malta used to be a long time ago – rural, quiet and untouched. Gozo is a great place for a peaceful (family or couples) holidays, with beautiful beaches and countryside views. Visit the capital Victoria, with its Citadel in the centre – a fortified part of the village which used to offer the inhabitants of Gozo shelter against foreign invaders, similar to Mdina’s surrounding walls on the main island Malta. The seaside town of Xlendi is a popular tourist destination, offering a beautiful view of its bay surrounded by high cliffs. Ramla l-Hamla and San Blas Bay are beautiful beaches to go for a swim, one being larger and busier, the other being more secluded and more difficult to get to (steep hill descent) but much worth the effort.

As of recent, a shuttle bus service is available, taking you straight from the airport to the ferries in the Northern most tip of the island of Malta, making arrangements for a Gozo holiday a little easier to plan for.

6. Malta has a rich culture and heritage
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Throughout the ages, the Maltese islands have seen various foreign rulers coming and going, and leaving behind their stamps on Maltese culture.
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As a result, Malta is soaked in culture and heritage and offers a large number of cultural and historical sites in very short distances from each other, making Malta a unique place in the world map of culture and heritage. Both in the Maltese language and culture remnants of Phoenician, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Turks, French and English invaders can still be found today and this melting pot of cultures is of interest to many tourists visiting the Maltese islands on holiday.
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5. Good quality hotels and accommodation

Good quality hotels and self-catering apartments are widely available at very reasonable prices. Package deals are usually the way to go, but booked separately the cost versus quality of accommodation is very good. The main areas for holiday resorts are St. Julian’s, Bugibba/Qawra, and Sliema, which are all situated in the Northern part of Malta.
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Accommodation in St. Julian’s is recommended if you enjoy spending your nights going out but, being close to the nightlife hub of Malta, is not advisable for couples and family who are looking for peace and serenity. For those travellers, places like Mellieha and St. Paul’s Bay are much better places to stay.
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4. Malta is an all year round destination

A flight from London to Malta takes less than three hours, but the difference in climate is huge. Mild winters and warm summers with an average temperature of 32C means excellent weather for both hot summer holidays as well as great holiday weather in winter, to escape from the cold back home. There are plenty of activities to keep you entertained all year round and for example hiking is a popular way of spending days out in the countryside in winter, enjoying the scenery and serenity. Most cultural and historical hotspots are open all year round, and although open air clubs don’t open during the winter months, nightlife in Malta goes on throughout the whole year.
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3. Malta offers a great nightlife to complement your daily activities
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Nights out on the town are a ton of fun, since Malta hosts a true clubbing hub that goes by the name of Paceville (St. Julian’s) and which offers a large number of clubs which are situated literally door to door and which play different genres of music to suit everyone’s tastes. Open air clubs, however, are what makes clubbing in Malta rather special. Spending your warm summer nights dancing to the latest club and trance anthems or smooth R&B and hiphop beats under the stars is just something else and a must do on your holiday to Malta.
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2. Malta holidays now come with cheap flights

That’s right – low cost airlines have found Malta and offer dirt cheap flights to the island outside of the high season and regular cheap flights in summer. These airlines offer flights departing from a select number of places in Europe, such as London, Dublin, Barcelona, Oslo, Stockholm, Pisa (Italy) and Bremen (Germany).
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Look for airlines the likes of Ryanair, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Clickair, but don’t forget to check Malta’s national airline Air Malta, which regularly offers low cost flights to a much larger number of European destinations.
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1. Malta offers more than any other Mediterranean destination

You could say that the top reason for visiting Malta is a combination of all other reasons listed above: There are a lot of different things you can do during your holiday in Malta and you’ll never be bored if you get the right info. Baking in the sun on the beach is great for relaxation after a long year of work or school, but most people would prefer adding a little variety to the time they spend on holiday.
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So if you’d like to go somewhere else besides the beach, why not visit on the many places of interest around the island? Visit the old capital city of Mdina, for example, surrounded by bastions and oozing with history and an ambiance you’ll never forget. Why not take a trip to sister island Gozo, with its serene country views and attractions such as the Azure Window, a rock formation sculpted by the sea.
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Evenings will never be boring when you know where to go. There is plenty of choice when it comes to dining out, as quality restaurants can be found in most parts of the island. Wine bars and pubs are also popular in Malta and provide quality wines and both local and international lagers, beers and various popular brands of liquor. There’s plenty of opportunity for clubbing and open air clubs and parties are a must see if clubbing is your ideal night out.
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North West Province, South Africa – World Cup 2010, Big 5 & Sun City

The North West Province of South Africa is situated in the western Magaliesberg and provides plenty to see and do in the popular holiday destinations such as Rustenburg.

Rustenburg, which translated literally means “town of rest”, is the third oldest town of the former Transvaal Province. The city has been chosen as one of the host cities for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2010 and will be staging games at the 40,000 Royal Bafekong Stadium previously used for the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
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Just half an hour’s drive from here will find you at the glamorous Sun City complex and its enormous range of leisure options. The complex providing an excellent combination of golf, game and gambling, as well as world class hotels, is the perfect choice for any holiday in South Africa. Close by the Pilanesberg Game Reserve provides travellers an excellent chance of spotting the “Big Five”.

To appreciate the history of this area then you should visit Mafikeng and in particular its museum, which has exhibits relating to the Siege of Mafeking, the Barolong people and San (Bushmen) which are interesting. In addition, the pretty towns of Lichtenburg, Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom are of particular interest.

At the Pilanesberg National Park, you will discover the crater of a long extinct volcano with an amazing alkaline complex created from activity over 1290 million years ago. This is one of the largest volcanic complexes in the world and its rare rock structure and type make it a unique geological feature. This area has survived ages of erosion and can be seen high above the surrounding bushveld plains. It is possible to see the early existence of man in the numerous Stone and Iron Age sites throughout the park.

On the parks undulating hills and stretching open plains, you can get a glimpse of the ‘Big Five’, an abundance of animals and over 360 bird species. As well as the ‘Big Five’ you may also spot the nocturnal brown hyena, cheetah, hippo, crocodile and even sable.

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South African Travel Tips when traveling in the Free State Province

The Free State Province of South Africa is dry, but far from dull, the Free State with its vast open spaces and cloudless blue skies offers those who like to explore, literally and figuratively, the ideal canvas.

Here outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy birding, game viewing, trophy hunting, hiking, horse riding, biking, 4×4 off-road driving, river rafting, fly-fishing, camping, climbing, spelunking or just relaxing in its more than 80 parks and reserves, such as the scenic Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

History buffs have many significant sites to delve into and those with geological interests will marvel at the meteorite-impact site at Vredefort, the world’s oldest crater.

CLIMATE:

The Free State is hot in summer (Dec-Feb) when most of the rain falls, but can be very cold in winter (Apr-Jul) with heavy frost over most of the province. Snow is often recorded on the eastern mountains and occasionally over the rest of the region.

SHOPPING:

Traditional dress; woven baskets; silk painting; bead work; ‘mampoer’ (alcohol distilled from fruit); red meat, game and ‘biltong’ (dried meat); cherry or asparagus products; original art; beautiful handcrafted items from Phuthaditjhaba; mohair rugs and sandstone products.

TOP TEN ATTRACTIONS DESCRIPTION:

Golden Gate:

Highlands National Park In the Maluti Mountains, named after the golden sandstone cliffs; the scenery is magnificent incl. the imposing Brandwag rock and the climate invigorating; staying over is a popular option for humans and animals alike in this highlands habitat

Bloemfontein:

The ‘City of Roses’, Bloemfontein boasts cultural and political significance, featuring sandstone architecture, important museums and monuments and a busy events calendar; don’t miss the Franklin Game Reserve, only one in the world completely surrounded by a city; the Macufe Festival in Sep; the Loch Logan Waterfront; the historical township jazz performances and the War Museum.

Parys and the Vredefort Dome:

Named after Paris, Parys is situated on the Vaal River in the Vredefort Dome – a crater caused by a massive meteorite which hit earth about 250 million years ago; in Parys, don’t miss the Golf Island in the middle of the Vaal and other water activities and at Vredefort, adventure junkies can go on hiking routes, see untouched San paintings and ruins of iron age settlements, rock climb and abseil; the 200km Dome is best seen from the air.

The Battlefields:

Many historic sites related to the Anglo-Boer War are to be found in the Free State. Explore 13 battlefield sites, 8 military monuments, 2 war museums and 3 war and concentration camp cemeteries. Some of the main battles of war in 1900 are: Paardeberg, Poplar Grove, Driefontein, Sannaspos, Mostertshoek, Jammerbergdrift, Sand River, Biddulphsberg, Yeomanry Hill, Roodewal, Surrender Hill and Doornkraal.

Xhariep / Gariep:

Meaning ‘Great River’; a vast open grassland fed by the 2000km Gariep Dam offering travellers endless vistas of open blue skies, starry nights and unpolluted air; land of farms, parks and reserves ideal for hunters and eco-tourists alike.

Towns of Thabo Mofutsanyana:

Clarens is a picturesque town described as the “Jewel of the Free State”, here artists and art galleries abound and photographers find the scenery a magnet in autumn and spring; Memel is fast becoming a birding mecca with over 350 species including many ‘specials’ and 15 Red Data listed species, other attractions are the scenery and the spectacular Seekoeivlei Wetlands floodplain; Ficksburg is filled with adventure options from the usual hiking, fishing and game activities to the unusual such as altitude scuba diving (2650m above sea level) and ox-wagon adventures!

Eastern Highlands:

Breathtaking scenery in pristine area with snow-capped mountains, densely vegetated valleys and wild gorges; ideal for romantic hide-aways, trout-fishing, bird watching and hiking; don’t miss the Bushmen paintings.

Vaal River:

The inland water mecca of South Africa offering boundless water sport opportunities such as white water rafting, relaxed sailing, powerboating and water skiing; game farms, accommodation facilities, camping sites and a casino also feature; Deneysville and Jim Fouche Resort near Oranjeville are major venues.

Lejweleputswa (Free State Gold Fields):

Go on underground mine tours of some of the deepest mines in the world on the Goldfields Route; visit Welkom, one of the few cities in the world planned to completion before building where you can go on a trip to the world’s deepest wine cellar at 857m below the earth’s surface at St Helena Mine and see the Gold Museum in the city as well as Phakisa Freeway, one of the top 5 motor racing circuits in the world; Virginia was home to the richest gold reefs in 1946 and is a nature lover’s paradise.
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Basotho Cultural Village, Qwa Qwa National Park:

Scenic Qwa Qwa National Park offers an authentic traditional African experience in the form of its Basotho Cultural Village; see the reed-and-stick structures and mud huts, drink sorghum beer, watch the weaving and have your fortune predicted by a local healer.
We’ve seen Android Beam blow the dust in recent months, and it’s probably a replacement. This feature is not yet widely available.
However, due to an accidentally limited beta test, you may be able to subscribe to the beta version of Google Play services. You might remember this as “quick sharing”, which we thought to be called before the launch of Google Pixel 4.
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Some of you may be wondering what sharing is nearby. This is Google’s version of AirDrop, a very useful feature in Apple products that allows you to transfer files quickly and easily over a Wi-Fi connection. This is something that Android users have been begging for for several years, and now it’s finally coming.
We’ve managed to get a couple of our own devices to work nearby so you can know what to expect, how it’s different from Apple AirDrop, and see if it’s really the local sharing solution we’ve been waiting for for years. for a. With Apple taking a lot of design nuances from Android to iOS 14, this could be one of the few imitations Android fans have been waiting for for a long time – if RCS can eliminate iMessage, I’m sure we’ll all be happy.

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Discover Your Destination (Nainital) With The Help Of Your Host

Nainital, also known as the ‘Lake city,’ is nestled comfortably at the foothills of the mighty Himalayas in Uttarakhand. Lake Naini is a pear shaped water body that stretches along the opulence and the beauty of Nainital that seems to have descended from heaven.

The first ray of the sun, spreads a beautiful hue on the shimmering water of the lake, stirring awake the life in the city. The twittering of the birds and the activities on and around the Lake woo the travellers. The lake is alive with activities like Yachting, paddling and boating throughout the day. As the sun hides behind the mountains at dusk, the lake inherits an ethereal appeal.

The tourists have several options for a bed & meal stay in Nainital. Hotels and resorts offer modernised stays, but a stay with a family will give you a unique experience. Nanital has some splendid homestays that stand out as stays with the best services and facilities offered by the host and his/her family. Situated at the most picturesque locations, the homestays in Nainital are reconstructed havelis, dak bungalows, ancestral homes and cottages.

The notion about staying at a Nainital homestay may sound a bit quaint and tempting, but still an experience to attain. To enjoy your stay, choose a homestay wisely according to its setting and the amenities they offer to make your stay comfortable.

A homestay promises the required privacy and unperturbed stay at the village. The homestays in Nainital are found at remote places far away from the city din. The charming simplicity of a Nainital homestay revolves around the simple living habits of the people, their culture and tradition. The hosts are meek and unassuming people, who cater to each and every whims of their guests.

The homestays of Uttarakhand are surrounded by the hills orchards and farmlands. You can take a walk through the terraced fields or take a tour on the beaten path in the forest. The Natural vegetation offers a nesting area for many exotic species of colourful birds. You can spend hours watching these plumaged beauties flittering

everywhere.

These locations also make you feel adventurous. The rugged surrounding and the farm life waits to be explored by you. The hills are a perfect place to trek and to try your hands at rock climbing. You can also spend your day by joining the host or the villagers at their farms, or just stroll in the orchards eyeing the juicy ripe fruits waiting to be picked, or just tend to the cattle on the hillock. These unique experiences and the appealing landscapes will definitely appease both your mind and soul.

The marvellous decoration of the rooms at the homestays in Nainital appeases the guests. Antique and old styled wooden furniture are placed in the rooms. The rooms are spacious having windows that keep the room airy and ventilated. Many of the homestays provide modern amenities like a cable TV, DVD player, a fridge, internet service and 24 hours of hot/cold running water. Apart from these facilities, the guests are served hot homemade food which they can have with the family or in their rooms. The meals are made from fresh organic vegetables grown on the farms.

The charming simplicity of these dreamy Nainital homestays can capture your interest. Your stay here may not be grand like that of a graded hotel or a resort, but still a stay at a homestay can give you sweet memories. Join the host for a ‘pooja,’ or catch up with their dialect or learn about their culture while staying at these affordable homely abodes. Experience a memorable holiday with Nature while staying at a homestay in the valleys of Nainital. A Nainital homestay is a perfect Nature lover’s heaven.

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Half-Naked in Poring Hot Spring, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

One would imagine that a lengthy soak in a secluded natural hot spring would be relaxing and idyllic, or at least that was what I believed when my friend and I visited the Poring Hot Spring in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Located 136 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu, reaching Poring Hot Spring took a 3-hour’s drive, along a relatively quiet, scenic road of hardly any traffic, dotted with lowland vegetation.

Poring Hot Spring is one of the main attractions of Poring, a small tourist resort in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. We arrived without much fun-fare, and I was glad to get off the coach to stretch my legs and shake the sleepiness from my eyes, after having dozed on and off during the drive. Whilst there, I did not see too much bamboo, which is the meaning of the Kadazandusun’s, an ethnic group in Sabah, word for “Poring”; but I saw a number of people, men in their shorts, women in their swimwear and children in very little, either lazing, dipping or playing at the public bath area consisting of 20 free hot tubs built with covered roofs, which could accommodate 2 adults per hot tub at a time.

My first instinct was: I was not going to do that and have everyone gawk at me. My second more rational thought was: I did not bring any swimwear or towel or change of clothing, which were some of the essential items you should bring to a hot spring. Neither was I tempted to buy any of the swimwear, which the tiny gift shop there had to offer.

Besides the hot tubs at Poring Hot Spring, Sabah here was a small Rock Pool near the public bath area as well as a multi-level Slide Pool made up of 7 pools of differing sizes, from big to small, with a 6 metre slide where children, and adults, could slide down and splash around in the cold pool water. Yes, if soaking in hot water was not your cup of tea, there were cold water pools to cool down with, on a hot sunny day.

It was indeed a scorching day and the hot springs did not really help to cool the surrounding temperatures. To relieve myself from the relentless heat, I tried to seek some refuge from the few scattered gazebos around the Poring Hot Spring, while we decided what we would like to do. There is a difference between sunning yourself and being under the hot sun, and I am not a sun worshipper. The public pools were out of the question, but I was reluctant to leave without trying the hot springs, which are known for its sulphuric minerals and therapeutic or healing properties.

Finally, we agreed to rent, for RM20 an hour, a private bath house with two tubs. As there were no towels for rent at the Poring Hot Spring, for hygienic purposes obviously, I bought a bath towel for RM15. The private bath house consisted of a wooden hut with two separate tubs and a simple shower room. There were two taps for each tub, one for the hot spring water and one for cold water, in case the water temperature got too hot to handle.

The tub was big, about 5 feet in length, 2.5 feet in width and 3 feet in depth, enough to immerse the whole body in when filled to the brim. However, it took forever, it seemed for the water, even with two taps running, to fill the tub and the clock kept ticking away. I eventually sort of submerged most of my half-naked body by slinking down the tub, when it was half-filled, letting the hot water lap around me and transporting myself, in my mind, to a private hot spring pool somewhere in the rainforest of Borneo, or in this instant in Poring, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

After 20 minutes of immersion, I had enough as my skin had begun to wrinkle up. I got out of the tub, clumsily as my body felt boneless from the effect of the hot spring water, to take a shower, yelping in surprise when cold water gushed down my warm body, closing all the open pores instantly. I did some speed drying with the new bath towel and dressed as quickly. Then I had great fun hearing my friend experience the same shock in the shower.

We then took a brief walk around the surrounding vicinity of Poring Hot Spring, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jackie O, the resident female orang-utan of Poring Hot Spring, who had made the nearby hill and dipterocarp forest with plenty of wild fruits and plant life her home; but she must have roamed elsewhere more shady as I did not see a single brown-orangey hide or hair of Jackie O. The sweltering heat was probably too much for Jackie O and us as well, and we gladly agreed to leave the hot springs before we melted.

On our way back from Poring Hot Spring, I quietly reminisced on how our ideal expectations could turn out to be poles apart from practical reality. I would strongly advise visitors to here or any natural hot springs, to remember to bring the essential items of swimwear, extra clothing, towels, and slippers too, if you want to try the hot springs in relative comfort and ease. My suggestion is also to do the public baths, if you are not self-conscious, where there were no time restriction and no waiting for the tub to be filled.

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Tourism in Kullu and Manali

The charming valleys of Kullu and Manali epitomize nature at its best. The towering Himalayan hill wrapped in the shimmering white snows of winter, the scenic slopes, sprawling spans of valleys with colorful wild flowers, river running along, meadows of wild flowers spreading their fragrance far and far…all these create a wonderful environment for wonderful holiday. No doubt, Kullu Manali tour deserves the attention of tourists from all over the world.

You will surly left spellbound on tours and travel in the enchanting region of Kullu and Manali by the charming surroundings and fresh-looking delicacy of hilly landscapes. The beauty of the region of Kullu and Manali lies in its breathtaking scenic beauty and panoramic snow covered mountains. And that’s why the region claims to be called the Switzerland of India.

The hill town of Kullu (also known as the Valley of Gods) is located on the banks of Beas River on the western Himalayan region. The remarkable feature of Kullu town is lush meadows of wild flowers and exceptional panoramic views. The town is also known for its religious importance. Travellers can visit the ancient magnificent temples like the Bijli Mahadeo Temple, Raghunathji Temple and Manikaran.

There are several fascinating destinations like Kothi, Rahala Falls, Solang Valley, etc in the hill town of Manali that can be explored on the Kullu Manali tours. You too can explore these destinations with the famous apple orchard and several nature trails on your tours and travel in Himachal Pradesh.

The region of Kullu and Manali is also famous amongst trekkers and adventure sports buffs. The region offer a wide range of adventure and sport options to be played and enjoyed, such as, trekking, mountaineering, rock climbing, river rafting, para gliding, heli skiing, etc. You will too surly to love to enjoy these adventurous activities during tours for Manali and Kullu.

Among various tourist attractions, the Great Himalayan National Park and the Kanawar Sanctuary also deserve the attention of wildlife lovers to Kullu. Clad with Deodar trees and Fir trees, these parks provide wonderful opportunity to spot some rare and native wildlife of Himachal Pradesh. You will too love to explore these parks on your visit to Kullu and Manali.

Tourists can also visit the famous Manali Sanctuary, Arjuna Gufa, apple orchards, Tibetan temple, Hidimba temple, etc as part of tour of Manali. Other tourist places around Manali include Keylong, Rohtang Pass, Raison, etc. These are perfect spot for adventure and sport activities. The places like Kasol, Kaishdhar, and Manikaran are also worth visitng.

In fact, the entire region of Kullu and Manali is very famous for its beauty and serenity. And that’s the reason it is also very popular among honeymooners. It is a heaven for honeymooners. You can too enjoy travel and tourism in Kullu and Manali region with Himachal tour package. Kullu and Manali also provide opportunity to head for Shimla – the capital of Himachal Pradesh, one of the most beautiful hill stations of India. Well, a visit to Kullu Manali definitely makes your trip to Himachal Pradesh memorable.

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Tourists Turned Stove Builders in Peru

Not many trips end with the sense of having made a significant difference to real people in real need. But I’ve recently returned from such an experience in a remote community in Northern Peru. A friend introduced me to the tour, a part of a larger travel company’s offerings of sustainable eco-tourism, back in December. The notion of helping and getting to know others living in a different culture appealed to me strongly.

Our group consisted of 3 travellers from Canada (Heather, David and myself) and a tour guide, from Socio Adventures. The purpose of the trip was to build a brick and mortar stove for a family that currently does all of its cooking over an open fire.

Proper stove saves lives

The World Health Organization reports that the indoor air pollution from the acrid smoke rising from these inside fires is associated with one death every 20 seconds in the world’s poorest countries. The brick stove eliminates the smoke and reduces the amount of firewood needed for burning by 50 per cent.

Our trek began when we flew from Lima to Cajamarca, a northern city in Peru. We were met at the airport by Ben and Celida, representatives of a small outdoor adventure company called Socio Adventures. There was a little time to experience the city before the next phase of our journey. Cajamarca is regarded as one of Peru’s hidden gems and the main square is the very spot where Francisco Pizarro’s men captured Inca Atahualpa in 1532 and brought down the Inca Empire.

Music and mountains

The word “adventure” took on new meaning when we departed Cajamarca on a bus for a 7 hour journey to a smaller northern community known as Chota. Non-stop Peruvian music on the bus was a backdrop to the many stops along the way to let people on and off with their wares, as well as the vendors who board to sell something to eat or drink.

It may also be that the music was intended as a distraction from the scary moments as we careened very narrow roads and winding hairpin turns in the high altitudes of the Andes (and occasionally we had to stop because kids had built rock statues in the middle of the road.) The mountains are quite breathtaking in places and you want to keep your camera handy to capture on film some of the beauty.

Differences enchant

When we finally arrived in Chota I immediately became aware that people were intrigued by our differences and they would stare at our white-faces and/or white-hair. We stayed one night at the El Angel hotel which was very near the main square of the town and the local market. It wasn’t until the next morning, however, that we realized the large square behind our hotel, which was seen from high windows in our room, was actually the prison courtyard!

Our dining experience that evening at a nearby restaurant was our first experience of authentic Peruvian food. Corn, potatoes, rice are mainstays of a meal and there were many interesting choices and combinations of such with differing sauces, vegetables, herbs, and chicken on the menu. “Cuy” (guinea pig) is a specialty in Peru and of course it was offered too.

Early the next morning we climbed into a taxi truck for the last part of our journey to the community of Cadmalca, a 45 minute drive from Chota. Our luggage and two of our travelers opted to ride in the back of the truck to enjoy the scenery and to have direct contact with a couple of passengers who “hopped in” along the way for a short ride to their community. It took a moment at our destination point to realize that there was no road up to our Lodge and that we would be climbing up the green hillside with luggage in hand!

However, Mercedes and Enrique, local staff of Socio Adventures, were awaiting our arrival and they immediately picked up our bags and lead the way. A group of curious children also appeared to greet us and we began our introductions to the families of Cadmalca. Ben and Danielle provided strategic interventions with Spanish/English interpretation, and I quickly saw that language was not going to be a barrier in making connections with these very accepting people.

The Blue Lodge was a welcome sight! I had expected rather rustic accommodation but this newly constructed building had a large dormitory-type room on the ground floor which housed the men and a lovely large room with a hardwood floor, double bed, 2 singles, plus a sink on the second floor for the women. All of us were grateful for the ceramic tile bathroom complete with a large shower with hot running water; toilet; sink; electric plug.

Safe dining

One of the main concerns of people traveling to a third world country is how to avoid illness. Tips include: do not drink the water or ice, avoid raw vegetables and salads, stay away from seafood, only eat fruit that needs to be peeled. At Cadmalca the special needs of travelers are built into the accommodation. There is sterilized water readily available for drinking. The food is prepared in a sterile kitchen by a young woman named Felicita who had attended a cooking school in Lima. Her menu was well-balanced and consisted of delicious Peruvian dishes.

Starting construction

After lunch we began to build the chimney of the stove on the patio of the Lodge. No experience was required. We were given good instruction and diagrams and help from Mercedes and consultation from Ben. The chimney was constructed out of corrugated tin (which had to be flattened and then bent into a circle and riveted closed.) The next morning we trekked higher into the fertile hills of Cadmalca to the home of our family –Nestor and Georgina and our helper, Absilon, carried the finished chimney.

We all felt excited and perhaps a little nervous. Nestor showed us the old cooking shack and the blackness of the walls and ceiling from the smoke. He then showed us a new adobe room which had recently been built especially to house the new stove.

The materials for the construction were already on site and together with Heather, Absilon, Nestor and Georgina we determined the site for the stove. By noon we had completed the first phase (of the 4′ x 2′ brick and mortar stove). The 2 children, Jeanette (8) and Kevin (6) rushed home at lunch to see the progress and we instantly connected with their exuberance and excitement.

We were welcomed into the home for a “coffee break” mid-morning and were served tea, or coffee, and fried corn pieces. It didn’t take us long to warm to one another and we had some great funny moments as we struggled to ask questions and learn about one another with a very small repertoire of Spanish/English vocabulary.

The adobe home had a dirt floor, a table which was covered with a lace cloth, 4 chairs, a cupboard with some dishes and food. Georgina has 3 sewing machines and there was a rack hanging from the ceiling filled with her knitted and woven items for sale. There was no bathroom and no hot water. This family of four has a very small piece of land on a hillside for grazing their 2 sheep and 2 cows.

At the end of the morning in gratitude for our assistance, I was handed a gift from the family–a sack containing 3 live guinea pigs! My surprise, I hope, was balanced with a true understanding and appreciation of the significance of this offering. Guinea pig, or “cuy” as they are called in Quechua, is an important source of protein for these families and has a long history in the Inca traditions. Out of respect for the family we made arrangements with Felicita to prepare the little animals for our lunch the next day!

The next morning we worked diligently as a team, and right on schedule the stove was completed and the chimney erected. Wow! We were all so thrilled with the finished product! The stove is 4 brick levels high, filled with rock with a brick opening built on top for the firewood. The opening is surrounded by stone and mortar and a steel cooking plate fits on top .

Permanent reminder

At completion I asked Georgina if we could engrave our initials in the soft mortar somewhere on the stove. She had already decided that Heather and I should write something in big print right in the centre of the hearth–the hearth that she will be tending day after day. We wrote: “THANK YOU!” with our names on either side.

The highlight of this venture for me came just following our presentation to the family of a few gifts that we had brought from home. Georgina stood up to make a little speech and I found myself crying! She said that she didn’t know how to express her overwhelming gratitude to us for what we had done for them, but that we were to know that no matter where we were or when, we would always be in her heart.

As her words were being translated and I looked around, I saw that we were all in tears. I had come to offer help to a family in need and left feeling so much richer for the gifts of friendship and connection that had been established. The vast differences of language, culture, religion, power, socio-economics, had fallen away and we experienced the true joy of a ‘heart to heart’ endeavour.

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Finding Saskatchewan in the Galapagos

“Why are you going to the Galapagos?” asked my sister in a somewhat exasperated voice, “you don’t even like nature.” Good point as scenery generally bores me after about five minutes. And when it comes to landscapes, I tend to see similarities, rather than differences. My travel checklist is to meet interesting people, try different food, find local markets and collect travel stories.

Still, I had to go to the Galapagos simply because it was there. I’d booked a ticket to Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, so a side trip to the islands was mandatory.

Galapagos, the far-flung islands of Charles Darwin and “Origin of the Species” fame off the coast of Ecuador, has long been the playground of the rich. But, being on a budget, I bought my ticket, booked a one-day cruise and made a hostel reservation well in advance, as December is high season in the southern hemisphere.

As the plane landed at Baltra airport, I peered out the window and speculated it could have been a farmer’s hay field somewhere around Foam Lake. The airport is more like an outback airstrip you would find in, say, Stony Rapids. Everyone lines up to have their bags hand-searched for contraband. No, it isn’t cocaine or marijuana they are looking for, it is plants or animals that could disrupt the delicate eco-system of the islands. Remember that nobody in Australia or New Zealand thinks rabbits are cute.

Representatives waved name plaques for those booked on expensive cruises. For the rest of us, getting into Puerto Ayora – the ‘”capital” of the island – was more of an adventure. I hopped on the free shuttle to the boat dock, paid 50 cents to cross on the ferry and then boarded the bus to town for $1.80. A shared taxi was only $5, but I wanted to travel with the locals. Ecuador, by the way, uses American dollars as its official currency, so figuring out the conversion rates isn’t a problem.

Puerto Ayora is a rather dusty, run-down town that could use a paint job and some street repair. Sort of like the old part of Melville in the 1960s. I sniffed the salty air – shades of Manitou Beach – and enjoyed the intense cobalt blue water as compensation for the dreary architecture. Later I grabbed lunch at an outdoor café that overlooked the harbour and people-watched. In true island style, nobody seemed to be in too much of hurry. Influenced by the slow pace, I exhaled and relaxed.

A white taxi-truck anywhere in town cost $1 so I flagged one as it passed by. Fredy took me to the hostel I’d booked and I rang the bell. No answer. So I knocked on the door. Still no response.

What to do, what to do? Fredy understood my dilemma and in my bumbling Spanish I explained I was on a budget. He asked if $25 was okay and I nodded. Then he took me to the hotel-with-no name where I met English-speaking Cecilia. The hotel was yet to have the final papers processed so she couldn’t advertise. The ensuite room with a balcony and white sheets was heavenly. Really, it could have been a room in an older two or three story hotel in Humboldt or Swift Current.

My concern was that the pick-up time for the cruise I’d booked was 06:00 and it was from the hostel. Fredy promised to collect me at 05:45 the next morning. And, true to his word, he was there right on time. Once all the passengers from the various hotels were accounted for, we headed down the road for the 45-minute trip to the dock. The flat landscape could have been somewhere around Regina. Then we got into the trees and rocks, however, and it was more like northern Saskatchewan, perhaps somewhere close to La Ronge.

We stepped precariously into the dingy that took us out to the yacht. A collection of young, old and middle-aged. And, as so often happens, I was the only solo traveller. Early on I struck up a conversation with Lauren and her mother, Elody from Johannesburg.

Once on board, we ate a cooked breakfast, eased ourselves into the dingy and were ferried to Bartolemo Island. There, we trekked up the boardwalk to the summit for the “classic” view of Galapagos. Yes, the view was “nice”, but observing the way people – strangers who met on board – were interacting with each other was more interesting. A middle-aged women with an old-fashioned name – Ethel or Myrtle or something like that – took an instant dislike to me, barely returned my greeting and shot me killer looks throughout the day. Perhaps she has an aversion to women with red hair.

On our second stop we walked across the island to see the penguins. Except they aren’t there at that time of year, so our only encounter with wildlife was a sea lion who flopped up on beach to take a nap. But, yes, it was a “nice” sandy strip with tumbleweeds rather like, say, Etter’s Beach in the 1970s.

After lunch some of us went snorkelling. Treading water beside me, Kaitlan looked up at the massive volcanic wall in front of us. The composition was slightly different, but it looked a lot like the cliffs along the Churchill River near Stanley Mission. She sighed, “You know, the scenery here is okay, but it doesn’t do a lot for me.” I smiled in agreement. It may have been half way around the world, but it seemed a lot like Saskatchewan, except for the weather, of course as it was about plus 25 in December. It was affirming to know I wasn’t the only person on the boat who didn’t get excited about landscapes.

And people who want to experience some of the scenery of the Galapagos can do it in Saskatchewan. And, if you live in North America, getting to central Canada is considerably less expensive than flying to Ecuador and then on to the islands.

The Galapagos Checklist:

Interesting people. Tick: Cecilia, Fredy, Lauren and Elody.

Different food. Tick: The fare on the yacht was recognizable, but watching the chef whip up meals in a space the size of a closet was entertaining.

Local markets. Tick: While waiting for the return flight – and they are always late – I found a kiosk at the airport that offers a free Galapagos passport stamp. There I bought a cute little shot glass that I regularly use.

Travel story. Tick. The day on the boat is one I’ve told a few times.

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The Most Amazing Attractions of Thailand

Being one of the most popular touristic destinations of South Eastern Asia, tourists who travel to Thailand enjoy the wonderful beaches, the rich forests, and some of the most luxurious hotels in the world.

One of the most remarkable monuments of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is the Grand Palace. Established in 1782, the palace used to be the residence of the royal family of Thailand until the death of Rama VIII in the year 1962. Today it became one of the major highlights included in many travel packages to Thailand.

The complex of the Grand Palace in Bangkok has a distinctive blend of the traditional Thailand style of art and architecture with some western outlines. The palace also hosts one of the most ancient and popular statues of Buddha in the whole world. The palace welcomes hundreds of travelers who spend their holidays in Thailand.

For those who are fond of nature and beauty, Thailand offers you the Similan Islands. Located in the Western part of the Andaman Sea, this archipelago consists of 9 tropical islands featured with their marvelous white sandy beaches. This is in addition to many various diving spots that attract a large number of divers to spend vacations in Thailand.

Shoppers would also be delighted to visit Thailand. The country has some of the most remarkable markets and bazaars. There is for example the Chiang Mai Night bazaar that is one of the major attractions of Northern Island. It consists of many corridors, small shops, and booths that sell handcrafts, various types of arts, clothes and outfits, and many other goods and products.

Since Thailand is featured with its marvelous beaches, the country has quite a notable number of beaches that can accommodate a huge number of tourists who travel to Thailand. There is the famous Railay Beach, this popular peninsula that is not accessible except by boats due to the limestone rocks that surround from every direction. This is among the most recommended beaches that travelers who spend their holidays in Thailand enjoy.

There is also the magnificent Phang Nga Bay. Situated about 90 kilometers away from the Phuket island, this bay is famous for having some of the most breathtaking scenes in the world with many wonderfully looking caves, sea caves, limestone islands, and much more. Travelers who tour Thailand usually visit the Phang Nga Bay using traditional rowing boats as it is the only way to go inside the different caves and explore other attractions as well.

A famous attraction of Thailand is also the Koh Tao Island, or the Island of the Tortoise. This small island located near the Eastern beaches of the Thailand bay is one of the most popular spots in the entire globe to learn diving and enjoy snorkeling as well. This is because swimming around the colorful amazing coral reefs, sea turtles, and many small magnificent fish is quite easy and enjoyable. Many travellers who visit Thailand include a visit to the Koh Tao Island in their travel packages.

There are so much more attractions and activities to practice in the country that attract a huge number of travelers to tour Thailand. We are only shedding light on some of the most popular attractions. Thailand always makes a wonderful vacation for travelers of all ages.

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Cappadocia – Turkey’s Geological Wonderland

Arriving in Cappadocia is like entering a Lord of the Rings landscape. All around, the rocks have been whipped into smooth regular curves like frosting on a cake. Taking a stroll out of Goreme, the region’s epicentre, you pass by slopes shining green with tender vines. Old men and women walk on goat paths doubled over with cargoes of firewood.

Beyond orchards laden in autumn you find yourself in fields of giant petrified toadstools towering high into a crystal sky. Cappadocia’s celebrated ‘fairy chimneys’ are the work of the ultimate sculptor: Mother Nature. Time has eroded this volcanic terrain into a twisted moonscape, a topographical whimsy.

Man has followed in nature’s footsteps gouging homes out of these rocky cones. Some have been upgraded as luxury hotels, so book yourself a cave room and live like the ancients (ensuite bathrooms optional). Walk around the valleys and you discover hundreds of churches, chapels, and monasteries hewn out of the stone. Clamber up a rickety ladder to a dark entrance, step inside, and your gaze will be met by the faces of saints decorating the walls, arches, and pillars carved by local Christians some 700-1,300 years ago.

HIGHLIGHTS

o A balloon ride. Soar up into the azure sky and gaze down on the magical landscape.

o Stay in a cave! Release your inner troglodyte and check into one of the region’s cave hotels.

o Trek through the Ihlara valley. Walk to the edge of this natural chasm and you’ll see a verdant ribbon, an oasis of green, winding its way through a parched rocky wilderness. Hike along its depths and you’ll encounter Byzantine churches carved out of the cliff walls.

o Goreme’s open air museum. Take some time to stroll around the ruins of this vast Christian complex, delving in and out of the bright sun as you discover the cool, dark interiors of ancient churches, painted with frescoes.

o Explore an underground city. Deep under Cappadocia’s dusty soil lie ancient towns, vast rabbit warrens, tens of stories deep, that offered refuge to people from Hittite times to the rise of the Turks.

TRAVELLER INFO

When to go: Spring and Autumn. Mid April to early June, and September to October are the best times to avoid the intense summer heat and crowds. If there’s snow in winter the place shines, glistens, and captivates all the more.

How long: At least three days to see the main highlights, or a week to truly lose yourself in the landscape.

Planning: There are some excellent tour operators who can help organise trips if you don’t have your own transport, but make sure they’re not going to take you to endless carpet and pottery shops. Do allow some free time to wander at will.

Inside information: It’s not all churches. Cappadocia’s landscape makes it a perfect place for outdoor pursuits, and there’s an ever increasing amount on offer from trekking to mountain biking, horse riding to white water rafting.

Local Specialists:

Middle Earth Travel – a Cappadocia specialist, especially good for walking. http://www.middleearthtravel.com

Tel. +90 384 271 25 59. Gaferli Mah. Cevizler Sok. No:20 50180 Goreme, Turkey.

Kapadokya Balloons – the company that pioneered ballooning in Cappadocia. http://www.kapadokyaballoons.com

Tel. +90 (0) 384. 271 2442 TR-50180 Nevsehir, Turkey

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The Alternative Guide to Malta

The Mediterranean island of Malta is an increasingly popular holiday destination with travellers of all ages. It has great beaches, stunning scenery and resorts of all sizes. Like many holiday destinations, visitors often tend to stay close to their accommodation, and only venturing out on a couple of day trips to the best known attractions. That’s a mistake, as Malta has many hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Most visitors to Malta will make it to the capital, Valletta, a tiny city bursting with historic sites, and a UNESCO world heritage site. Most will probably also find themselves either staying in, or playing in the Silema and St Julians area. This is the heart of Malta’s tourist industry, offering a great nightlife and a friendly atmosphere. It can also get very busy.

While these bustling places have their own appeal, Malta offers many opportunities to get off the beaten track and explore the island’s quieter side. Here’s where to head for if you want to see the real Malta:

Fomm Ir-Rih

On the island’s western coast, Fomm Ir-Rih is a world away from the Silema crowds. In an isolated area with no public transport, this secluded bay lies on a fault line, creating some unique rock formations. These form a backdrop to its quiet, horseshoe shaped bay. The rugged beach can be reached by a rough footpath, and is always quiet. It’s a great place for swimming, diving and snorkelling, as the water is crystal-clear. Visit at the end of the day, and you will be treated to a spectacular sunset.

Gozo

The island of Gozo can be reached by boat from Malta. Visits there take you back in time to the Malta of old. Much more rural than its neighbour, Gozo’s population is only 30,000 – while Malta’s is 400,000. A visit could be spent hiking or cycling through its countryside, exploring the tiny villages and admiring the views. There are also historical attractions to explore, such as the Neolithic Ä gantija temples, some of the oldest religious buildings in the world. There are similar temples on Malta itself, but those on Gozo are likely to be quieter.

Zejtun

Zejtun is a small town in the south of Malta, which is little-visited by tourists, and is also one of Malta’s oldest towns. A visit to Zejtun will give you a great insight into what Maltese life is really like away from the busy resorts and beaches. There are some interesting churches to explore, and it is also a great place to try some traditional Maltese food.

Mdina

Although it does get a few tourist visitors, Mdina is off the main tourist trail. It is also a great example of a Medieval walled city, with narrow streets, beautiful palaces and an other-worldly atmosphere.

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5 Effective Ways To Sleep Easier While Camping

You love camping, spending time in nature and doing outdoor activities. But you dread bed time – you just can’t sleep properly or keep waking up in the middle of the night while inside your tent. Many campers, especially new ones, have experienced this. With a little more experience, a few adjustments and the right sleeping gear, you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time!

Here are 5 effective ways to sleep easier while camping:

Choose a comfortable spot to set up camp

Where you pitch your tent impacts your comfort while sleeping, especially if you’re prone to physical discomforts. Choose a spot that is flat, preferably over some grass if possible. Be sure to do a sweep and remove rocks, twigs and other debris that will cause you discomforts (and puncture your tent). Feel free to lie down and wiggle around to test the spot and see how it feels.

Pitch your tent near bathroom facilities and be sure to stay away from potentially noisy neighbors.

Buy a high-quality sleeping bag

Having the right sleeping bag will do wonders for your bedtime at camp. It’s important to use a sleeping bag appropriate to the season and weather of your trip. This makes sure that you are warm when needed or not too warm when the temperatures rise.

Invest in a comfortable camping pillow

You may be warm enough, but are you comfortable? Are your head and neck properly supported? You can bring your pillows from home, however, if you need to pack light or you’re going to do some travelling, you’re going to need a lightweight but durable pillow that will give you the comfort and head/neck support you need.

You can choose between a compressible and inflatable outdoor pillow, whichever caters to your personal needs.

Pack some ear plugs

If you’re used to silence to get sleepy, you won’t get that in the woods. Nature is noisier in the real world. Add the noise from your camp neighbors and it won’t really be easy to fall asleep. Bring earplugs or download a white noise machine on your phone to help drown out the noise from the surroundings.

Keep bugs and insects away

You won’t be able to sleep with a constant buzzing in your ear or if you have to keep scratching insect bites. Keep the insects, bugs and mosquitoes away by using citronella, lavender and other bug spray. You can also bring along a mosquito net for extra protection.

Follow these steps to sleep easier while camping, and you’ll fall into a deep, refreshing sleep outdoors from now on!

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Kruger Park – South Africa’s World Renowned Wildlife Icon

The Kruger National Park, including the many private wildlife reserves around it, offers the visitor a unique African experience. Fencing has been taken down between these game reserves to form a huge area where animals are free to roam and migrate. This large area is often referred to as the “greater Kruger Park area”

The Kruger National Park was established in 1889 to protect the wildlife found in the Lowveld area in South Africa. This national park is nearly 2 million hectares in size and when combined with the private reserves around it, makes it the size of a small country. The park is a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies and boasts a remarkable number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals.

There are also a number of archaeological sites worth visiting in the Kruger Park, highlighting man’s prehistoric occupation in this area. Bushman rock painting and restored iron-age villages add to the pleasure of visiting this area.

The Greater Kruger Park hosts a number of accommodation facilities with many things to do and see, making this a very popular area. The private game reserves offer excellent accommodation and game viewing, where you are most likely to see the big 5. The Kruger National Park, with its affordable self-catering accommodation and self-drive routes, is very popular amongst travellers who like the freedom to set their own travel itineraries. The Park also contains a number of private concessions within its borders. These offer luxury accommodation and have there own safari guides taking visitors on game drives and bush walks.

Visitors to South Africa, who have a few days to go on safari, might be interested in a “Kruger Park fly-in safari,” where no time is wasted getting into the action.

Over one million visitors stay in this area every year at the various lodges and rest camps. Due to the popularity of the park, advance bookings are essential. Some of the camps in the Kruger National Park are booked up a year in advance over peak holiday periods.

The African bush is a place of contrasts. A place where exciting adventures are experienced alongside a deep sense of peace, where the soul can recharge. I would very much recommend a trip to the African bush if you have never been there. It is sometimes difficult to describe a real wildlife encounter in the bush – all one’s senses come alive.

This world-renowned Kruger Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa.

Copyright © 2008 Mark Thomas