Hello from Austria – Medieval History Up Close at the Riegersburg Fortress and Explorations of Styri

Having recovered from my action-packed day yesterday which included a photo safari of my home town, some extreme hiking and subsequent culinary feasting (to counteract any potential weight loss), my final day in Austria had arrived and it was also going to be an exciting one. My brother Ewald and my sister-in-law Anneliese had planned an outing to one of Styria’s true medieval treasures: the Riegersburg, a majestic fortress that was first constructed in the 11th century in the strategically important border region of the Austrian empire.

Styria is one of the lesser known Austrian provinces, most people are more familiar with the area around the capital Vienna; the region surrounding Salzburg (“Sound of Music” country) and Tyrol with its high mountains and the capital of Innsbruck. Styria, although the second largest Austrian province that features the country’s second largest city (its capital, Graz), has largely remained below the radar of most North American tourists.

As far as I am concerned, it is one of the most beautiful spots, and I don’t just say that because I am originally from there. As a matter of fact, one of the explicit goals of my trip to Austria this year was to view the area I grew up in through the eyes of a travel writer and put it in context with some of the other areas that I have had a chance to visit over the last few years.

Styria is composed of eight major travel regions:

– the Dachstein – Tauern Region, characterized by high mountains, great skiing and other outdoor diversions

– the picturesque lake area of the Salzkammergut – Ausseerland

– the Murtal holiday region, a densely forested area offering lots of outdoor activities

– Upper Styria, another mountainous region that features the “Styrian Water Road” , the “Styrian Iron Road” as well as the Hochschwab mountain region

– Graz, the province’s capital, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the 2003 European Cultural Capital

– Eastern Styria, my native region, an enchanting region characterized by medium size mountains, Austria’s largest mountain pasture, orchards, fertile farmland, monasteries and castles

– Thermenland Styria, a region full of gently rolling hills, vineyards and ancient volcanic activity that has created six world caliber spa resorts, and

– The South Styrian Wine Region and Western Styria where gently sloping hills full of vineyards and the famous White Horses destined for the Vienna Riding School invite to an area that is often referred to as the “Austrian Tuscany”.

Today’s destination, the Riegersburg, is located just at the southern border of the Eastern Styria travel region, right adjacent to the volcanic region of the Thermenland area. As a matter of fact, the fortress itself is built on the ancient volcanic cone of a long-extinct volcano. We started our drive from Weiz through the Raab Valley and the rural town of Gleisdorf. There we turned off the major road onto smaller country roads that took us through beautiful rolling hills, many of which feature orchards and vineyards.

Many of these small side roads are official bicycle trails which are conveniently signed and many of the local vintners own little rural restaurants called “Buschenschenken” whose garden terraces invite hikers, bikers and other travelers to sit down and enjoy Styrian culinary delicacies and wine. We encountered hardly any traffic, and on this beautiful warm summer day many cyclists were out there getting a good workout and enjoying the scenery.

After about 45 minutes we had reached our destination: a basaltic rock crowned with the majestic Riegersburg fortress was right in front of us. We parked the car in the village at the foot of the rock and started our ascent up to the castle. The narrow road lacks pavement and is essentially composed of dark volcanic rock that features many narrow grooves and ruts from hundreds of years of use by horse carriages. We entered through the first gate which was one of many. Altogether the Riegersburg has seven major gates and eleven bastions. The defensive wall around the fortress is an impressive three kilometers long. The combination of these features made the fortress the most important fortification at the Styrian border of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

The strategic importance of this border region becomes evident in the context of the 16th and 17th century Ottoman Wars between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire. The area of Eastern Styria in particular was often under threat of invasion by forces from the East. In 1664 a decisive final battle was fought in nearby Mogersdorf which ended the two-year war against the Turks. The Riegersburg itself was never conquered and as a result it came to be referred to as the “strongest fortification of Christianity”. It was part of an entire series of border fortresses along the boundary of the Habsburg Empire.

We walked slowly up to the castle on the rutted road that was surrounded by a crenellated wall that would allow sharpshooters to target potential invaders approaching the fortress. On an open plateau below the actual castle building there are numerous plaques mounted on a wall, providing a memorial to hundreds of soldiers from surrounding villages that fell during World War II. Each village had its own plaque. Another picturesque gate took us to the last part of the path that would take us right up to the fortress. At the foot of the fortress is the “Burgtaverne”, a restaurant with a beautiful large outdoor patio that features a gorgeous view of the surrounding countryside and entices with traditional Austrian cuisine.

As we approached the fortress itself we walked across two moats that were each equipped with a drawbridge and the second inner moat actually still had water in it. We were now truly inside the building complex of the fortress and through a large inner courtyard we approached the central building which features the retail store where we purchased our 9.5 Euro admission to the central part of the fortress.

The name of the Riegersburg fortress was originally mentioned in 1138 as “Ruotkerspurch”, which actually means “Rüdiger’s castle”, so the fortress originally belonged to an aristocrat by that name. It underwent major reconstruction during the late 16th century to include late Renaissance architectural features. The large ceremonial rooms and the arcade in the inner courtyard date back to this era.

Two permanent exhibitions are being hosted in the Riegersburg: the “Witch Museum” in the cellar focuses on the obsession with and persecution of witches which had gripped Central European countries from about 1450 until 1750. About 300 presumed witches and sorcerers were persecuted in witch trials in Styria and many of them were executed. The peak of the witch-hunting frenzy took place during the 30 Years’ War from 1618 to 1648 when the war and the so-called “minor ice age” had destroyed agriculture and decimated the population, much of which of course was blamed on the evil doing of supposed witches.

We were planning to see the other exhibition: “Legendary Riegersburg – Legendary Women”. Two very colourful female characters are associated with the history of this fortress. The first one was Baroness Elisabeth Katharina von Galler (1607 to 1672) who was the lady of the castle from 1648 to 1672. In a time of very traditional male-female role expectations the “Galllerin” was a very unconventional character and strayed from the usual norms. Women, even aristocratic women, were not allowed to own property at the time, and Elisabeth, as the sole heiress of the fortress, would have had to relinquish any property ownership to her husband, but she refused to comply. Even in her prenuptial agreement she ensured the right to decide over her property herself.

Baroness Elisabeth von Galler initiated a complete reconstruction of the fortress which included the stunning baroque White Hall as well as the construction of the numerous bastions, gates and the extensive walls surrounding the castle. Several inscriptions above different gates point out that she spent a lot of money on this construction work. Her husband incurred major debt and in 1649 she paid him out with a substantial sum of money and got rid of him. Altogether Baroness von Galler was married three times and involved in several legal battles with her husbands, and local clergy.

The other interesting female character featured in the “Legendary Women” exhibition is Katharina Paldauf who was an employee of Baroness von Galler for whom she started working at 20 years of age. From 1673 to 1675 she got embroiled in the Feldbach Witch Trial and was accused of having manipulated weather and participated in witch Sabbaths.The legends also say that she was able to grow roses in winter, a talent that earned her the moniker “the flower witch”. For her supernatural powers to grow flowers in the off-season she was accused being a witch and was presumably executed in 1675.

Various displays in the exhibition also shed light on the historical background of the 16th and 17th centuries. Servitude and feudalism characterized the power structures during the Middle Ages, and peasants had a very difficult life while aristocrats formed a hereditary elite that was entitled to hold lands and exercise far-reaching powers over the common people. The mostly agrarian economy at the time obligated peasants to deliver a substantial share of their production to the local lords and noblemen who in turn promised them protection during periods of war. This was an era of extensive exploitation and lords had the right to use peasants’ land as they pleased. Often a peasant would require the permission of a lord when he intended to marry, and onerous taxes were imposed on the peasant class. These harsh conditions actually led to many peasant rebellions throughout Central Europe in the 16h century.

The noblemen on the other hand lived a lavish lifestyle. An inscription at the entrance of the fortress indicates that an excessive feast during the 1600s resulted in 21 days of binge eating and drinking. The opulently decorated Knights Hall was the location of many such bouts and a wooden bridge connecting it with another hall was used for relieving oneself after all this carousing and is commonly referred to as the “vomiting bridge”. Even today the figure of a man bent over adorns the bridge, reminding people of its original purpose.

We were awed by the lavish detailing in the former living quarters of the Riegersburg, in particular by the Hall of Knights with its coffered ceiling and the opulently decorated baroque White Hall. When we walked through the premises, the White Hall still featured table decorations and leftovers from a wedding that had been held a few days earlier at the fortress. The castle today is owned by the Liechtenstein family, an aristocratic family that has been living at this castle since 1972. One of the family members had just recently gotten married. The beautiful flower decorations and wedding menus gave us an idea of what some of these historic feasts must have looked like.

We had enjoyed our first-hand history lesson and were ready to keep exploring so we walked down the long basaltic road into the town of Riegersburg that sprawls at the foot of the fortress. A baroque church and several restaurants anchor the picturesque main square of the village and there is a large pond on the outskirts of the village that features a resort with beach volleyball, a water slide, tennis and eateries.

We then continued our big country drive to our next destination: the Castle of Kapfenstein, about 20 minutes from the Riegersburg, is also located on an extinct volcano close to the Hungarian and Slovenian borders. Its recorded history dates back to 1065 and it was one of the fortresses that protected Austria from attacks by the Magyars and Turks. The castle was owned by different noble families until it came into the possession of the Winkler-Hermaden family in 1898.

Today the castle holds a 15-room upscale hotel as well as a restaurant with extensive outdoor patios that provide a stunning view into the surrounding countryside. We picked a beautiful spot on the terrace and started perusing the menu. A wedding had obviously just happened at the castle hotel because the bride and the groom were still carrying presents out to their vehicles. We decided to taste some local delicacies, and I enjoyed my mushroom soup with roasted buckwheat and a cheese platter with a broad assortment of Austrian specialty cheeses.

Our late lunch had stretched into the mid-afternoon and it was now time to continue our journey. But before moving on we took a little 15 minute stroll through a forest and some vineyards to a small chapel on the plateau next to the Castle of Kapfenstein. From here we had a perfect view northwards and through a magnifying viewer we were able to see our previous destination, the volcanic cone of the Riegersburg.

It was time to return so we started our drive back to Weiz. We had made arrangements with our friends Luis and Isabella to join them for a little backyard get-together on my last evening in Austria. Both my friends are avid motor scooter riders and Luis allowed me to hop on one of their two-wheeled machines and accompanied me on a little test drive. I had ridden a motor scooter for the first and so far only time in my life on the island of Ibiza and was exhilarated to have another go at it. After some initial balancing problems and after getting used to adjusting the gas on the handlebar grip we finally got off to a decent start on our little adventure and took an exciting spin on the local country roads.

Twenty minutes later we returned and sat down in their beautiful garden, admiring the large pond that the two of them had created. We all reminisced a bit about the time in 2005 when my brother, my sister-in-law and these two friends had come to Toronto for a visit. This was the first time that I saw my friends again, this time on their home turf. We were even thinking that one of these years we should do a joint skiing vacation in Schladming in Upper Styria, a phenomenal skiing region that is often the location world cup ski races and a place where my friends go skiing on a regular basis.

The sun was starting to set and it was time for me to get back to brother’s place and to start packing my suitcase. I said goodbye to my friends and invited them to come for another visit to Toronto. Ewald, Anneliese and I spent another nice few hours at their home as I got ready for my departure, feeling rather sad about the impending end of my trip.

Without a doubt this has been my best visit since I left my home town 21 years ago. Nine days just wasn’t long enough to even explore the sights of my immediate area. In addition to the wonderful connections with my family and some good friends, I had learned during the last few days that Styria, the region I was born into, was certainly on par with many other tourism areas that I have visited throughout North America and Europe.

Styria’s beautiful landscapes, the extensive opportunities for outdoor recreation, the architecture, history, music, culture, and last but not least, the delicious cuisine will definitely make me come back again.


4 Easy Ways To Extend The Life Of Your Camping Tent

Your camping tent is not only the place you will sleep in when you’re outdoors, but it also protects you and keeps you safe from outside elements. Having said this, your tent deserves care and attention to help it extend its life.

Here are some ways on how you can care for your camping tent:

Protect the floor of your tent

The key here is the spot where you’ll be setting up camp. An ideal area would be a spot that is smooth and level. Clear the area of small debris like rocks, twigs, pine cones and the like as these might cause cuts to your tent’s floor. To further protect the floor, use a footprint, a ground cloth that will provide the floor of your tent an even smoother surface to be set up in. Lastly, don’t bring any foot wear inside!

Keep away from the sun

Not only are the sun’s UV rays harmful to your skin but to your tent’s surface, too. The UV rays would do damage to both the fabric and the nylon fibers. Your best bet is to set up camp at a shady area, but if you can’t find one, use a tarp to shade your tent. If you’re going to be out for a while (hiking, fishing or backpacking), remove your tent from direct sunlight.

Keep the food outside

Don’t bring food and eat inside of your tent. There are a multitude of insects out in the woods and food attracts many of them. You don’t want insects to be crawling all over your tent and trying to chew their way in through the fabric just to get to the food. And besides, camp food should always be placed in tightly sealed containers to avoid attracting bears and other wildlife to the campsite.

Keep your tent clean

While packing up, give your tent a good shake to get rid of any dust and dirt that may have accumulated both inside and outside. It’s ideal to wash it every after use to ensure that there’s no mildew on any surface and also to remove dirt in the zipper which will help prevent it from malfunctioning in the future. Don’t forget to dry your tent completely before storing it loosely in a bag at a cool, dry place.

Follow these easy tips to extend the life of your camping tent and you’re sure to enjoy its service for many years to come!


Nelson Adventure Travel

Nestled in the top north west corner of New Zealand’s south island is the sunny Nelson region. With its mild climate and abundant sunshine, this rugged wilderness is the ideal location for adventure seekers looking for an action-packed travel experience.

Nelson City, the region’s hub, is a great base for those who want to experience the best adventure tourism this region has to offer. Nelson’s diverse and magnificent landscape is comprised of white sandy beaches, lush forests and rugged mountains. With great centrally located accommodation available like the Quality Inn Nelson this pristine wilderness adventure playground is the perfect destination for your next holiday.

Golden Bay

The secluded coastal waters of Golden Bay are the undisputed hidden gem of the south island. And with so many warm, golden sandy beaches to choose from Golden Bay is a great destination for that family holiday adventure. Why not take a day trip to Ligar Bay or Wainiu for a truly invigorating beach experience? Or if high-energy water sports are at the top of your ‘to do’ list then Abel Tasman National Park is the destination for you. Grab your wetsuit and head down to the deeper waters of Tata Beach or Totaranui, a popular spot for water skiing and kayaking enthusiasts.

Submerge yourself in one of the crystal clear river swimming holes along the 1.5 kilometre track that leads to picturesque Wainui Falls. Along the way, see the majestic nikau palms, rata trees and ferns. Or take a walk through native forests to New Zealand’s largest freshwater springs at Te Waikoropupu, renowned as the clearest spring waters in the world.

A trip to the south island would not be complete without a tour of the Farewell Spit, known as Onetahua by the Maori people. For a superb sustainable-tourism experience why not book a Farewell Spit eco-tour and be amazed by the unique landscape of the south island’s most northerly point. Visit famous Farewell Spit Lighthouse and see the vast vertical cliffs of Cape Farewell – a spectacular site not to be missed. If you’re looking for a sightseeing tour with a difference, why not try horse riding along the secluded Wharariki Beach? The untouched coastal landscape of the Golden Bay region is guaranteed to take your breath away.

Murchison – New Zealand’s white water capital!

Get your action fix with a white water rafting experience at famous Murchison. With seven fast-flowing rivers to its name, it’s no surprise this region is known as the white water capital of New Zealand. In fact, this pristine river region offers some of the best rafting in the world. From family friendly day trips to adrenalin-charged wilderness heli-rafting, Murchison has it all. But there’s more! Murchison is also a prime destination for kayaking, canoeing and jet boating, and out of the water there are top rate mountain biking tracks for off-road cycling enthusiasts to enjoy.

Walking and hiking

Covering 452,000 hectare Kahurangi National Park is New Zealand’s second largest national park and is recognised as a premier hiking region. For committed adventure trekkers looking for a 5 to 6 day hiking trip, the Heaphy Track at Kahurangi is a ‘must do’. From alpine mountain track to glorious palm lined beaches this extensive hike offers a unique view of the New Zealand terrain. See first-hand how this majestic landscape changes from the inland to the sea.

Experience the crystal clear glacial waters and rugged alpine mountains of Nelson Lakes National Park. This walkers’ paradise has a range of tracks suitable for beginners through to experienced hikers. Famous for its native honey dew forests and nectar-eating birds, a visit to Nelson Lakes is a magical experience not to be missed.

Kayaking and fly fishing

Soak up the thrill of a sea kayaking adventure around the famous Split Apple Rock in the crisp waters of the Abel Tasman National Park. Explore the many lagoons and coves and get a close up view of the native sea and bird life. If fishing is your game, then cast a line with the best at the Travers, Sabine or D’Urville rivers. With some of the best fly fishing in the world, keen anglers will not want to miss the opportunity to cast a line in search of a stunning rainbow or brown trout.

The Nelson region is the perfect destination for the action traveller in search of a pure New Zealand adventure experience.


The 10 Best Bangkok Pattaya Tour, Excursions & Activities – D Asia Travels

1. Visit Wat Po to see the Reclining Buddha

Wat Po is the home to the reclining Buddha which is 15-m high and 46-m long. The statue of Lord Buddha is covered entirely in gold leaf and looks magnificent from up close. The temples have 108 bowls located in various places all across the temples and visitors can purchase coins to put in on of these bowls. The Wat Po is a must visit the site for every traveler in Bangkok and is an integral part of our Bangkok Pattaya Tour.

2. A Visit to the Grand Palace

The grand palace is one of the most important and famous attractions in Bangkok and any visit to Bangkok is incomplete without a visit to the Grand Palace, making it an important destination on our Bangkok Pattaya Tour. This palace once served as the official residence of the Royal Family of Thailand. This palace covers an area of 214000 sq. Meters.

3.Shopping in Bangkok

Bangkok is a shopaholics paradise, with a wide array of options from street shopping to high-end malls. The Chatuchak market is only open on weekends and attracts over 200,000 visitors per day. The market is spread across an area of 27 acres and covers more than 8000 stalls selling a wide array of items such as clothing, accessories, electronic goods and gadgets, shoes etc.

For high-end shoppers, the Siam Paragon Mall offers a wide range of attractions from designer stores, the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia, a large multiplex cinema and a wide variety of restaurant offering different cuisines. The mall also houses showrooms for Ferrari and Lamborghini, which attracts a lot of visitors to the mall daily. Shopping excursion trips are a highlight of our Bangkok Pattaya Tour and no trip to Bangkok is complete without shopping.

4. Enjoy a Boat cruise on the Chao Phraya River

Often referred to as the “Venice of the East”, the Chao Phraya river flows through Bangkok and feeds into many canals. The river is considered as the lifeline of Bangkok and provides a source of income for thousands of locals. Many ferries and boat cruises are available which showcase different sides of Bangkok, from high rise condominiums and fancy hotels to wooden shacks and lives of common-resident of Bangkok is a must recommended excursion in our Bangkok Pattaya Tour.

5.Participate in the water fight during Songkran

The Songkran is a traditional Thai New Years festival celebrates between 13th and 15th April every year. In the Buddhist culture, it is believed that sprinkling water helps washing off bad luck and your past sins. Today, this custom has become a full-fledged water fight where no one is spared from getting wet, and the entire festival becomes one big party. Our Bangkok Pattaya Tour can arrange a visit to these water fights during Songkran.

6.Explore the nightlife of the Walking Street, Pattaya

A highlight of our Bangkok Pattaya Tour, the walking street is a 500m stretch of street where entry of vehicles is not allowed after 6 pm and provides one of the most amazing. This street is full of bars, restaurants, go-go bars, adult entertainment, night-clubs where travelers can party all night. While it might be deserted entirely during the day, this street undergoes a 180-degree transformation post-sun-set with the Walking street adorned with bright neon lights, loud music, and adult entertainers hitting the street.

7. Go, Island Hopping,

Our Bangkok Pattaya Tour can arrange multiple tours for island hopping from Pattaya ranging from group tours on large boats to chartering a speedboat. Travelers can visit the Coral Island, Koh Sak, Koh Krok, Koh Phai or the Bamboo Island, Koh Rin or the (Gnat Island), Koh Krham, Monkey Island, Koh Si Chang and Koh Samet.

Travels can enjoy a wide array of activities during their island hopping tours like exploring islands, lazing on the beach, indulging in water sports, snorkeling or enjoy and the beautiful landscape, pristine waters and sights and scenes during hopping from one island to another.

Many boats are equipped with glass-floors which allow visitors to experience and witness the underwater and marine life, and these boats can be arranged in our Bangkok Pattaya Tour.

8.Ascend the Hill at Wat Phra Khao Yai

Also known as the Big Buddha Hill, the Way Phra Khao Yai is the most prominent statue of Buddha in Pattaya and is about 18-m high and is seated at the height of 100-meters above sea level. An important attraction in our Bangkok Pattaya Tour, visitors are required to climb steep steps to reach the statue of Buddha from where visitors can have a panoramic view of the Jomtien Beach. The Statue is located near a temple complex wherein travellers can experience spirituality with inhaling the fragrance of the incense burning all day in the temple complex and chiming of the bells and chanting of prayers by the monks.

9.Be Mesmerise at Tiffany’s Cabaret

One of the most popular activities on the Bangkok Pattaya Tour list of excursions and activities, the Tiffany’s has been hosting shows for over three decades and entertains over 2000 people in the audience daily. This show involves an hour of non-stop excitement with entertaining performances by ladyboys dressed in beautiful costumes and delivering mesmerizing performance that it is difficult for the audience members to spot out that the performers are not women. The show is suitable for children as well with the raunchiness toned down.

10.Visiting Krabi

Krabi is a beautiful island and a popular holiday destination in southeast Thailand and is known for its stunning scenery, both inland and at sea. Krabi has over 150 islands with most of them covered with white sands beaches and turquoise waters, jungle-covered interiors, tall limestone cliffs, caves, waterfalls and exotic wildlife.

We highly recommend travelers of our Bangkok Pattaya Tour to visit Krabi and enjoy a wide range of actives such as island-hopping, snorkeling, rock climbing, trekking, scuba diving, relaxing on the beach, shopping and indulging in fine cuisine. More info visit our site:- or Whatsapp to +60124250469


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.
cheap airline tickets
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.


Bali In Brief – The Ultimate Concise Travel Guide

Bali is a destination offering so much to the traveller that a brief guide explaining some of the facets of the island will help to decipher the many options and hopefully assist with your vacation choices. Any holiday is about maximizing your time, even if that simply means relaxing and doing nothing. You still want to achieve the goals you set in the best possible way and depart with the belief that you maximized your experience. In order to help you achieve those goals I have compiled a brief explanatory guide to the myriad of choices the beautiful island of Bali has to offer.


This has to be one of Bali’s best-kept secrets. Amed hosts some of the islands most enchanting beaches in a peaceful, totally relaxing setting. With very little going on in regard to nightlife, this is the perfect destination for families and mature travellers.


Amlapura is the main town in the Karangasem Regency and is home to some of the islands most alluring attractions including the Tirta Gangga (The Water Palace).


Bali’s clove plantation located 20 kilometres inland from Negara. The lush bold green of the plantation is an extraordinary sight.

Barat National Park

Bali’s largest national park located on the western side of the island and occupies approximately 10% of the islands land mass. The park is considered the last refuge of one of the most endangered birds in the world, the Bali Starling.


Bangli offers remarkable views of Mount and Lake Batur. Situated hundreds of meters above sea level, the breeze in Bangli is both cool and refreshing.


Providing a rare opportunity to witness cockfighting (for those who like that kind of thing) Banjar also offers the chance to experience the regions wonderful hot springs.


Batubulan village is an artistic rural locale in the western part of Glanyar Regency. It is famous for the artistic ‘blessing dance’ of the Barong. The village is sustained by the artistic crafts of woodcarving and stone sculpturing.


This is a small village in the mountains regions between northern and southern Bali.

Besakih Temple

Recognized as the most important and most sacred temple in Bali. Known as the mother temple, Basakih affords spectacular views of the tropical surrounds.

Blahmantung Waterfall

This pristine waterfall is located in the Pupuan area of Tabanan. With a higher than average rainfall the area is extremely fertile. Offers the perfect place for a cooling dip in the clear waters below the falls.

Botanical Gardens

A botanists delight! Eka Karya Botanical Garden in Bedugul was founded in 1959 and is the youngest yet largest of the four Indonesian botanical gardens.

Candi Dasa

Candi Dasa is located in Karangasem Regency just 10 minutes from Tenganan villiage. Originally a fishing village it has recently undergone a rapid transformation into a thriving tourist precinct.


Located in the sub-district of Sukawati, Celuk is considered the home of gold and silver craft in Bali.


Denpasar is the capital city of Bali with an estimated population of half a million residents. A number of Bali’s best museums are located in the islands capital.

Garuda Wisnu Kencana

The islands main cultural park playing home to a giant statue of Vishnu mounted on his ride that is half man and half Garuda bird.


The Gianyar Regency is famous for its artistry and culture. Acknowledged for its beautiful natural scenery form the mountains to the coast.


This is the main port for traffic between Bali and Java Island. The port is located west of Negara.

Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah or ‘The Elephant Cave’ is so named for the shape of its entrance. A skilfully carved depiction of hanging leaves, rocks, animals, ocean waves and demonic humang characters running from the mouth.

Goa Lawah

The name given to a cave inhabited by thousands of bats that spend most of their time hanging from the ceiling. It is also home to one of the most sacred temples in Bali, Pura Goa Lawah.


Jimbaran is a fishing village that also houses some of the finest hotels in the world. The beaches of Jimbaran are lined with hundreds of seafood restaurants.


Mountain village with impressive panoramic views form the plateau atop Mount Batur.


This is a destination that holds a special place in Balinese history and culture. Once home to the kings of Klungkung and their noblemen who developed the music, art and culture that thrives there today.


Perhaps the most recognizable place in Bali. This beachside precinct is known as the centre of nightlife activities in Bali. It is also a thriving shopping area with lines of shops, boutiques and galleries.

Lake Batur

This is the widest lake in Bali and is surrounded by magnificent scenic vistas. Considered a sacred place by the Balinese people, visitors can enjoy the hot springs near by.

Lake Bratan

Located in Bendugul, Lake Bratan is the second largest lake in Bali. Stunning views are seen from the lake of Pura Ulun Danu Temple on its shore.


Lovina Beach is a 12-kilometre stretch of coast to the northwest of Singaraja in northern Bali. Lovina is considered by many to be the best family vacation spot on the island of Bali.

Mount Agung

Agung is Bali’s highest mountain peak. It is believed to be the home of the gods in Balinese culture. Bali’s most sacred temple, The Mother Temple of Besakih is perched on its slopes.


Negara is best known for the famous bull races. This area is remote and rarely visited by tourists and offers a glimpse of the true Bali.

Nusa Dua

Nusa Dua is home to the largest international five-star resorts on Bali. A peaceful, relaxed atmosphere with calm beaches this location is suited to the more discerning traveller.

Nusa Ceningan

This area is home to Bali’s largest seaweed farms.

Nusa Lembongan

A small island located 20-kilometres off the eastern coast of Bali. The island is known as a ‘virgin island’ with crystal clear water and local seaweed farming. It is also world-renowned for its quality surf breaks.

Nusa Menjangan

This is a small diving island off the northwest coast of Bali and is exclusive to a set number of divers per day.

Nusa Penida

Another of Bali’s smaller islands that is renowned for the chances of seeing sharks, turtles and its reef system in crystal clear visibility.

Nusa Serangan

Better known as Turtle Island this small island is used as a turtle sanctuary. Locals house turtle eggs in purpose made huts until hatched and released.


This is a small fishing village in the east of Bali. It is well-known for its beautiful white sandy beaches.

Sengeh Monkey Forest

Located in the south-west of Bali this small section of forest is renowned for its primate population who inhabit both the trees and the local temple.


Sanur is one of Bali’s largest traditional villages and a well-established tourist area. Recognized as one of Bali’s best snorkelling and diving locations.


Seminyak is widely considered to be Bali’s premiere tourist destination with its natural relaxed appeal, world-class accommodation and fabulous fine dining restaurants.


Once the capital city of Bali, Singaraja was the main port during the Dutch occupation of the island and retains a strong colonial feel.


The Regency of Tabanan is home to the dramatic temple of Tanah Lot that is best known as the most photographed temple in Bali.

Tanah Lot

This is one of the most popular places of interest in Bali. Tanah Lot is home to Bali’s most impressive ocean front Hindu temple.

Tanjung Benoa

A beautiful area of Bali best recognized for its large number of coconut palms. It is one of Bali’s most perfect water-sports locations.


Tegallalang is a major arts and craft location with amazing views of the layered rice fields.


This is a small town on the northeast coast of Bali. It is world-renowned for its famous dive site that contains a stunningly diverse underwater eco-system, especially around the wreck of the Liberty Glo, a US Army Transport ship torpedoed by Japanese submarines in 1943.


Ubud is best known as Bali’s centre of art, craft, dance and music. The spectacular views of terraced rice fields make it one of Bali’s most visited destinations.


This site is famous for its magnificent cliff top views and surf break. With its spectacular temple overlooking the clear blue water of the ocean below. Large numbers of monkeys inhabit the area.

Hopefully this concise look at the island of Bali will assist you with planning your next visit. With so much to do and so little time it is highly recommended to forward plan and list some of the key elements you would like to incorporate into your Bali holiday. Whatever your choices, I have no doubt at all that your time spent in this magical slice of paradise will be treasured forever.


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


Our Visit to Aquila and Kagga Kamma Private Game Reserves

An opportunity to bring you details of the nearest safari experience to Cape Town and spend a night conversing with Mother Nature captured our imagination this month. Packing in true explorer style (light & effective) only a small overnight bag, we headed east over the magnificent & majestic Hottentots Holland mountain range into the hot, semi desert of our Little Karoo.

The Western Cape offers a number of Private Game Reserves and exclusive Wilderness experiences to choose from, Colin & I chose two well-established properties to share with you this month, Aquila Private Game Reserve and Kagga Kamma Private Game Reserve, both within a three-hour drive of Cape Town.

The four star Aquila Private Game Reserve offers game drives within a malaria free, Big 5 game territory only 2 hours drive from Cape Town. Surrounded by a semi desert rolling landscape of the Little Karoo, the scenery is spectacular.

Aquila Private Game Reserve actively supports the previously disadvantaged community from the nearby town of Touws River. Under the aegis of the team at Aquila, they employ over 120 people, sponsoring a full time teacher and the local cricket team amongst other generous sustainable development programs so vital within our responsible tourism gambit.

They have made strong inroads to eradicate exotic tree and invasive plant species from the area. This ongoing program assists in water preservation in an area that receives only 400 milliliters of rainfall per year! Throughout their bathrooms they use natural biodegradable bath products supporting their environmental responsibilities. Very positive and laudable actions!

Our experience at Aquila Private Game Reserve left us with mixed feelings though. Having spent time at numerous other African Safari properties in various parts of southern African, we felt that Aquila is over sold as what they term as “Real Africa”, a statement on their website. The cheetah and the lions are in enclosures and you can see them pacing up and down the fence line of their respective enclosures, the crocodiles are in a small water camp at the lodge for all to see and all the game is fed every evening, not quite the Real Africa we feel is authentic and what we could market as ” Real Africa “. However, Aquila Private Game Reserve does have the advantage that you can get really good, close up photos of wildlife which may rate you well with your friends back home when you share your African experience. You do have the opportunity to see four of the Big 5! Even the well-informed rangers very rarely see the mountain leopards, the 5th of the Big 5.

Colin and I met with the General Manager, Leon and the Conservation manager, Patrick. Two fine young gentlemen with passion, knowledge & a commitment for both the environment and guest experience. Aquila is a custom designed day visit product and we both felt it to be very much a “work in progress”. Aquila may well offer a fine safari option in time to come. Right now though, we feel that it is pricey for the overall input for overnight guests staying for a night or two.

The accommodation offered is standard and the meals provided, were pedestrian but well presented. Overall service is good and the game rangers are knowledgeable within their scope of responsibility. It was a disappointment being offered bottom end quality semi sweet South African sparkling wine, marshmallows and biltong on the afternoon game drive at sundown. An opportunity missed to captivate the heart & mind of the twelve guests on our vehicle…….

Aquila offers two adventurous and fun activities at the lodge being a horseback safari and a quad biking safari. Both offer a unique experience. The big advantage of visiting this property is found in their comprehensive day trip. For folks staying in Cape Town & surrounds with limited time to take in African wildlife, valuable photo and close animal encounters abound. Overall thoughts, come for a day! For the future, their conference facilities to be developed over the next six months would make a wise choice of venue.

A hop, skip and a jump took us north from Aquila through some more spectacular scenery, climbing an undulating mountain pass and along some rough gravel roads towards the southern Cederberg region. The four star, 15 000 hectare Kagga Kamma Private Game Reserve was our selected destination. The final 16km to the lodge showed unique similarities to the mesmerising sandstone rock formations found within the Cederberg area. Hot (36 degrees Centigrade), dry and almost moonlike in character and feel.

Kagga Kamma Private Game Reserve offers a wilderness experience with a cultural twist. The general Cederberg area is renowned for it’s Bushmen paintings and Kagga Kamma offers an informative cultural safari guided by a greatly knowledgeable and experienced field guide, Jaco, who is also the General Manager. Jaco is a great host, passionate about Mother Nature and has an expansive knowledge of the Bushmen. Time spent in the Sabi Sands at the inimitable Mala Mala Game Reserve in conjunction with his Namibian heritage made time in his company utterly compelling! The game that roams their reserve is plains game only, bontebok, eland, burchells zebra, red hartebeest, klipspringer and some of the smaller species like the antbear and jackal.

One of the salient selling points here is that being situated so far from town & city light pollution, star gazing is magnificent, has depth and really is exceptional ( almost as good as Sutherland, see our Travel Advisory for September 2007 ). Kagga Kamma Private Game Reserve offers a unique, well-positioned mini observatory with a 10-inch telescope. Close up views of our moon, certain planets, constellations and other fascinating objects in far-flung space can be observed. A worthwhile experience!

Kagga Kamma offers unique accommodation. Ten imitation sandstone cave like structures built up against the towering sandstone rock formations blend into their surroundings. Comfortable beds, fresh crisp, white linen and air conditioning are indeed welcomed. Their ” Outcrop ” sleep out option is special! This simply is a Must Do for you! Imagine if you will, a natural rock outcrop, two shade trees and a vast expanse of an endless vista. Imagine the ingenuity of man adding all that is wanted in the way of luxury amenities needed for human entertainment from sunset to well after sunrise the following day. Well before sunset, we boarded quad bikes and were escorted the three kilometres between main camp and the Outcrop. Our arrival is breathtaking. A truly baronial bedroom equipped with a king sized bed, side tables, lounge area and coffee table festooned with all sorts of culinary delights. The African sun setting directly in front of us, our host prepares glasses, lights our paraffin lamps then discretely vanishes. We are alone to commune with Mother Nature!

For those of you yet to experience this, do so in a vast hurry, for those who have, come here and allow Her to regale you with a story of the setting sun, all the animal actors on the stage before you join in settling down. The evening sky was streaked a vivid pink, turning to crimson, then steel grey, the stars emerged with a brightness and depth. The Black Hole presented herself alongside the Southern Cross, shooting stars abounded. Utter silence roared, the black velvet night greeted our gentle burning fire. Peace, contentment and solitude pervaded. Our picnic dinner was adequate but lacking for imagination, cold meats, some excellent cheeses, chicken legs and a well prepared & presented green salad combined with a potato salad all conveniently boxed in plastic containers. Our African night sky talks to you. Allow the language to permeate your mind and you will hear the mélange of words, dreams, hopes and aspirations. Colin arose in the early hours of the morning to witness the rising moon illuminating everything in waxen white.

The sun arose from behind our rock casting colour, warmth and light on the distant hills, ethereal waking for the experienced traveller, for the first timer simply soul food. A superb honeymoon option if you’re looking to secure a piece of peace and for those wanting to experience fifteen hours of uninterrupted privacy. Due to the naturalness of this option, it is weather dependent.

Overall our experience at Kagga Kamma Private Game Reserve was a pleasant learning curve made special by the Outcrop experience. We would recommend the Outcrop without hesitation, however when gauged against similar focussed properties within the region, their rates in proportion to the overall value for the rest of the property are high.


How to Make a Wonderful Stay in The Mother Nature Paradise

Bhutan is the ultimate tourist attraction where the trekkers, hikers, art lovers, geology buffs, extreme sports aficionados, etc visit to find their respective happiness. The country is well-known for its serene environment, tranquil valleys, daunting mountain ranges, and peaceful monasteries. The people here believe in absolute peace and are very calm. The tourists are heartily welcomed in this country not because it is one of the main sources of income but the rich historic culture of the people depicts so.

Exotic locations in Bhutan

Tourists from all over the world visit this country to witness the art of geography done by Mother Nature in the form of endless valleys and mountains. The rivers and canals meandering through the valleys like the dusty roads on the hillside offer great panoramic views that a visitor will never forget for the rest of his or her life.

A Travel to Bhutan will surely take the breath away from the first timers and they will indulge in returning to this country for sure whenever they will get the chance. From awestruck scenery to formidable trekking tracks, It is the all-in-one package for all types of tourists and adventure seekers.

The friendly tourist guides will take you to the best places to visit including the mesmerizing monasteries, local eateries, treks, cycling, rock climbing, and all other attractions where you can find your interest. The important spots that are included in a tour package are:

  • Thimphu
  • Punakha
  • Phuentsholling
  • Paro
  • Paro Taktsang
  • Jakar Mongar
  • Jomolhari
  • Samdrup Jongkhar
  • Lhuntse Trashigang
  • Trashiyangtse
  • Tashichho Dzong
  • Haa Valley
  • Rinpung Dzong
  • Gangteng Monastery

The best part of the trip to this country is that there is no specific time for a visit. The climate is very pleasant during the summer and the travel experts recommend visiting this country during September to the end of November. The winter season is quite chilly but the snow-clad mountains will be an unforgettable memory. The high altitude of the country, due to its presence in the lap of the highest mountain ranges in the world, The Himalayas, make it one of the best destinations to enjoy the scenic beauties of the mountains and forests.

Amidst peace and nature

A Travel will be the ultimate experience that will offer few days of serenity away from the hustles of the concrete jungle. The cool breeze and the chanting in the monasteries will bring back the lost peace of your mind. Breaking the monotony and taking refuge in the abode on the mountains will be a dream holiday for the peace seekers.

The country is considered as the best place for a great retreat that rejuvenates the mind, body, and soul of an individual. The local gourmets are considered as the best in the north-eastern Indian cuisines. The natural food, good people, relishing food, and unforgettable mountain tracks amidst forest and scantily populated habitations will present you the memories that will be cherished for the rest of the life.


Sumatra: An Untouched Paradise Full of Adventure

Unlike its neighbouring islands Bali or Java, Sumatra doesn’t attract a lot of travellers and even though this is exactly what drew me to the island, it’s hard to understand why. It’s the largest island in Indonesia and it has plenty to offer; jungles, orangutangs, elephants, volcanos, waterfalls,… Briefly: an untouched paradise full of adventure!

Gunung Leuser National Park

Home to the orangutang and the Sumatran tiger, Gunung Leuser National Park is a wonderful place for a jungle trekking. Don’t be disappointed that you – most likely – won’t see any tigers though, as my guide told me no one ever sees one and it would probably be the last thing you’d ever lay eyes on anyway.

Leaving early from Bukit Lawang, it didn’t last long before we were surrounded by orangutangs and Thomas Leaf monkeys climbing the trees. It was amazing to see how well the guide knew how to behave around each orang tang, as they all have their own personality traits and some of them like stealing bags!


This peaceful village at the border of the Gunung Leuser National Park really stole my heart. There’s plenty to do here; washing elephants, river tubing, swimming in the waterfalls,… all this being surrounded by the beautiful tropical forest. A perfect place to connect with nature.

Although Indonesians are particularly friendly people in general, this is undoubtably the place where you will meet the most kindhearted people ever. Always ready to help and keen to tell you about their culture, the guides will do everything to make your stay truly wonderful.

Also, elephants are wonderful animals and I want to see them happy. I’m not an expert but I do think I saw happy elephant faces in Tangkahan.

Sibayak Volcano, Berastagi

Mount Sibayak is one of Indonesia’s active volcanos and the view hiking up to its crater is astonishing. As you climb up to the top, the smell of sulphur gets stronger and there are steaming vents with yellow coloured rocks all around.

Funnily, as I was applying sunscreen my guide asked my why on earth I was covering myself with this white cream all the time. He first looked at me in shock, then started laughing uncontrollably when I said I’d turn red if I didn’t.

Samosir island, Lake Toba

An island on an island! You will not only find beautiful landscapes here, Samosir is also home to the Batak people, an ancient tribe that will gladly teach you about their culture. With their traditional dances, colourful ensembles and beautiful houses decorated with geometrical designs, their culture will astonish you.

Banda Aceh

I was a little hesitant at first to put Banda Aceh in my list of favourite destinations in Sumatra but the culture shock I experienced there and the tsunami remains the city holds turned my visit into an unforgettable experience. One day in this city, as a transit point to Pulau Weh, was enough though!

Being governed by strict Sharia law, this destination is not for everyone but if you decide to go there, it will surely leave you in awe.

Banda Aceh was hit by the tsunami in 2004 very badly and the impact it had on the city is still visible. You will find the unusual sight of boats in the middle of the city or on top of a house, left untouched as a memorial here. The Tsunami Museum offers an insight to the horrifying experience the people endured and it’s worth visiting too.

Pulau Weh

This is a tiny island located right above Sumatra, easily accessible from Banda Aceh by ferry. With its crystal clear water and white sanded beaches, Pulau Weh is a paradise to snorkel, dive or to relax. There are so many exotic fish here that I felt like I was floating around in a natural aquarium!