Africa is home to the iconic Big 5, attracting tourists from all over the world. Did you know that there is also another fascinating group of animals known as the Ugly 5? They may not be the prettiest specimens, but they’re just as intriguing. They can be seen on game drives and walks at many safari and game lodges in South Africa such as Pondoro Game Lodge.
Hyenas are known to be crafty nocturnal scavengers. They feast on the left overs of predators’ kills e.g. if a pack of lions kill a buffalo, they will watch until the lions have had their share, wait for them to leave and eat the decaying scraps. Most frighteningly, hyenas are cannibals. They may attack and eat other hyenas, especially the young.
There are four species of hyenas: the spotted hyena; the striped hyena; the brown hyena and the aardwolf. The spotted hyena is the largest, standing at 87.5 centimetres in height and 41 kilos in weight. On the other side of the spectrum is the aardwolf, which is 50 centimetres in height and 27 kilos in weight.
Hyenas are renowned for their characteristic laughing sounds, which serve as alerts to other hyenas when food is found.
Wildebeests are a type of antelope, native to Africa. There are two types: black and blue
The primary differences are in their physical characteristics: the curvature of their horns and colour of their coats. In terms of size, the blue wildebeest is the bigger of the two types.
The Maasai Mara region in Kenya is famous for the Great Migration of wildebeest. This incredible natural phenomenon that sees millions of wildebeest begin their journey from the southern Serengeti and travel to the Mara – late July / early August is the best time to visit in order to witness this wildlife marvel. It’s guaranteed that you’ll never see anything like this anywhere else in the world.
Vultures are famous for being scavenger birds of prey. Most types can easily be distinguished by their characteristic bald heads. Interestingly, it has been suggested that their bald heads serve to help vultures regulate their body temperature (thermoregulation).
Like hyenas, they eat leftover scraps of animals that have been killed by other predators. Their strong immune systems prevent them from becoming ill after eating rotting meat. Vultures have a translucent third eyelid (known as nictitating membrane) providing the eye with additional protection. In a similar way to some birds, reptiles and sharks.
The description ‘picturesque and regal’ is unfortunately not suitable for a warthog.
There are two species: common warthog and desert warthog.
The common warthog is a member of the pig family and can be found in grassland, savannah, and woodland areas in sub-Saharan Africa; the desert warthog on the other hand, is endemic to Kenya and Somalia.
The warthog can be identified by its characteristic two pairs of tusks that stick out from the mouth and curve 90-degrees or more. The tusks are used for defence purposes against predators.
They are primarily herbivorous, eating mainly grass, fruit, berries, roots and insects, but they sometimes eat other small mammals, reptiles and birds.
The Marabou is an extremely strange-looking bird found in sub-Saharan Africa, living in both arid and wet habitats.
It can be easily recognised by its immense size, bald head, black-coloured back, white-coloured underparts and wingspan of approximately 3.7 metres, which is said to be the largest span of all land birds.
Like other stork families, marabou storks are gregarious, meaning that they live in flocks or communities.
It’s a scavenger by nature, eating termites, flamingos and carrion (rotting meat scraps). In fact, it will eat any animal that it can swallow. It often follows vultures, waiting for them to tear open the carcasses so that it’s easier for them to access the dead flesh.
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Just by hearing the word Trans-Siberian gives you goose bumps, you feel like floating in distant lands and bygone times. The Trans-Siberian route could be the true adventure of your life. How many pages and books have been inspired in the wagons of this railway? The Trans-Siberian has already passed into the category of mythical route, being the longest rail service in the world – from Moscow to Vladivostok – on the shores of the Sea of Japan. In total there are 9288 kilometres, crossing 8 time zones.
And because every great journey begins with good planning. On a trip of these characteristics, planning becomes essential. Here are some tips to keep in mind in your Trans-Siberian railway holiday planning & booking, to have the experience of your life:
1. Plan Your Route
It is important not to confuse the original Trans-Siberian route – Moscow to Vladivostok – with the rest of existing variants, from Transmongolian to Transmanchurian, which runs parallel to the original line, but a few hundred kilometres to the north. Many times it is advisable to hire for this type of trip some travel agency that is dedicated exclusively to organise this route and plan a trip completely designed to your liking.
2. What About Visas And Travel Insurance?
Being three different countries, you have to get three different visas. This can take time and sometimes the process seems endless. If you have ever experienced having to arrange visas, you know what I mean. The easiest way could be to hire a company that is dedicated to organising this type of travel; not only will you get the visas, but you will be insured and advised.
Image Source: Unsplash
3. The Essential Luggage
On a trip of these characteristics, it is necessary to be extra wise at the time of deciding what we should take. What should we take into account? Among other things the time of year, as temperatures can range considerably. It is advisable that you wear several layers of comfortable clothing – ideally one really warm jacket like the ones that are popular among mountaineers – especially during winter travel. In addition to your main bag, I would suggest carrying a daypack, small enough to have on your seat or berth on the train and can be used to keep your valuables and items you need to get hold of most regularly. Don’t forget your multi-country socket adaptor. Also bring with you an extra rechargeable battery, as the power sockets on the trains don’t always actually work. Place all your gadgets and the cables for those gadgets in one bag. There are articles you can find online providing some advice for a long train journey, which might help you to prepare accordingly.
4. List Of Ideas For Enjoying Long Journeys:
– Sleep or rest
– Stretch your legs during long stops
– Plan the next step by reading a travel guide
– Watch a film
– Enjoy contemplating the landscape through the window of the train
When you organise a trip of these characteristics, sometimes you may have the feeling that it can be too much a nightmare. Between the paperwork, booking tickets, hotels, etc. That’s why it’s best to find out the best way to prepare your trip and find a tour operator that has great reviews.
Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, known for its rich culture, museums and an impeccable canal system, which makes the city look even more beautiful. It’s also very tourist friendly, with most hotels offering door to door Amsterdam airport taxi services, and then onwards, you can travel around the city as the locals do, by cycles, as there are cycle paths everywhere in the city. If you’re looking to explore some beautiful museums, enjoy great food and picturesque views, you must head to Amsterdam.
Here are the 5 top attractions for tourists in Amsterdam:
Most of us have read the story of Anne Frank and the injustice committed to the Jewish people during the time of World War II. Take a walk through this historically significant house where Anne and her entire family hid from the Nazi Germans during the persecution period, and get a glimpse of the snippets of her life in hiding as she had written in her diary. Make sure you book your tickets well in advance as this place is a top tourist attraction and tickets are hard to find.
2. Van Gogh Museum
This museum in Amsterdam holds the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world and is one of the most important tourist attractions in the city. People all over the world come to see the artwork of this crazy genius whose madness finally got him to cut his ear off, and marvel at almost 200 of his paintings showcased in one place.
3. De Negen Straatjes
De Negen Straatjes, or ‘The Nine Streets’ as it is otherwise known, is one the largest shopping areas in Amsterdam. These quaint streets are filled with over 200 retail stores, including independent boutiques, and specialty vintage stores as well. Notably, here you will find famous brands and local stores all on the same stretch. Along these roads, you will also find quaint cafes with pleasant interiors, where you can enjoy a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine.
While Amsterdam attracts a lot of tourists every year, a very small number of them actually explore or venture out to the North side of Amsterdam. Take a ferry to the North side and enjoy a relaxing time at the beach by the banks of the IJ, as you soak up the sun while sipping on some cocktails and snacking on some delicious food. Summer is the best time to visit this place so you can enjoy the warm pleasant climate.
5. Artis Zoo
If you are traveling with a family and children, you might want to include this zoo in your itinerary. A house for many rare animals like penguins and lions, a visit to this zoo is a wonderful way to spend an entire day with your family. As with the Anne Frank House, make sure to book your tickets in advance to avoid last minute glitches.
These are only some of the beautiful attractions Amsterdam has to offer, and you will not be disappointed with a visit to this beautiful European city.
Image by Chinh Le Duc via Unsplash
If you and your family are planning a trip to China anytime soon, the chances are that Chengdu is on your list of places to visit and with such a gastronomic diversity, you will be able to experience many of the local dishes. Chengdu is the capital city of Sichuan Province, set in the Chengdu plain, a vast expanse of fertile land that is very productive and with so many fruits and vegetables, the range of delicious dishes that originate from Chengdu are among the best in the country. If you are soon to be arriving in Chengdu, here’s a list of local dishes you simply must sample.
1. Fried Rabbit with Peppers – Shuang Jiao Tu is easy to pronounce and is one of the most popular dishes that Chengdu has to offer. Rabbit is a staple diet in this part of China and with generous helpings of green and red peppers, fresh Sichuan pepper, garlic and, of course, ginger, your taste buds will explode into action. While this dish is hard to find in the city, there are rabbit restaurants in the suburbs that specialise in this tasty dish. Many westerners go on China private tours in 2019 and with an online search, you can locate an established Chinese tour operator who can recommend the best places to visit.
2. Smoked Sausage – La Xiang Chang is a spicy smoked sausage that is cured to perfection and the unique spicy flavour is largely due to the fresh Sichuan pepper that is freely available and used extensively in Chengdu’s kitchens. This dish can either be steamed or fried and can be eaten on its own or with several other side dishes.
3. Sichuan Dumplings – Hong You Chao Shou is served in a delicious chili oil and this special dish is exclusive to Sichuan. The dumplings are wrapped into a crescent shape and filled with pork and ginger and the spicy chili oil perfectly complements the dumplings, with many Chengdu chefs creating their very own chili oil sauce.
4. Fish Mint Salad – Zhe Er Gen is a dish that uses a rare plant in China called Houttuynia Cordata, which has a unique flavour. This particular dish is not to everyone’s taste but while you are in Chengdu, you really should give it a try. Perfect as a spicy salad side dish, this uniquely tasting dish is one of the most popular in Chengdu.
5. Fire Wood Chicken – Chai Huo Ji is an ideal main dish for a hungry family, with a freshly prepared chicken that is first cooked in Sichuan pepper and ginger. It is then stewed in a special paste made from pickled chilies, green beans and garnished with potatoes.
Chengdu is the perfect Chinese holiday destination if you are looking to try some amazing cuisine and with such fertile land, the locals make very good use of their produce by preparing unique dishes that you really should experience while in China.
The Ionian sea, where miles of fields of flowers gorgeously contrast soaring mountains and azure blue waters. Eleven islands – from the smallest to the largest – make up the Ionian sea and it’s an unparalleled blend of Greek, Italian and French architecture and influences. From the six largest islands (including Corfu and Ithaka) to small hidden ones like Ereikousa and Mathraki – the Ionian islands are not just your normal picturesque islands.
Despite their unreal beauty, the Ionian Islands are blessed with a historical past that makes exploring them on land even more interesting. From how their colonization by different empires (including French, Venetian, Roman and British) to their final union with Greece – they remain a blend of mystery and rich culture.
Whether you are looking for an uninterrupted time of relaxation, or if you’re looking for the perfect adventure – sailing the Ionian sea will definitely cater to your needs. It’s the ideal sailing destinations! The good thing about a yacht tour is that you get to see the unseen, visit beaches you wouldn’t normally do if you traveled by land. In this article I will particularly talk about Ionia, secret beaches and advantages of a sailing holiday.
The Ionian Islands are on the coast of Greece,. They’re located at the west of the coast and they are bordered by Greece and Italy (giving them the advantage of a blend of both cultures) and are also bordered by the Mediterranean and the Adriatic.
- The islands have become popular for being the escape everyone thrives for. Untouched by the forces of the modern world, perched in history and beauty and secluded in the middle of the sea; you’ll be getting the vacation you need.
- One picturesque island after the island will serve as diverse destinations and it will feel like you’ve visited at least a few different countries instead of just one.
- Being on an Ionian flotilla sailing holiday gives you a lot of freedom and most of the time the flotillas are ideally suited to different types of travelers including professional sailors and even families and kids.
- Think of spectacular landscapes – from beaches that are untouched to the most lush forests…You’ll be in for a treat!
- A yacht will be the absolute best way to explore the hidden beauty of the isles and you’ll have all the time in the world to discover hidden gems and coves, sail around groves and indulge in the beauty of the Ionian sea.
- You can also indulge in a lot of activities if you don’t fancy just basking in the sun all day long. If you have the right gear, you can dive, explore caves, go to underwater lakes and even windsurf if you’re feeling adventurous.
- The gastronomic delights will be one of the highlights of your trip – try the Kefallonítiki kreatópita which is a meat pie that’s very popular between the locals.
- There are also plenty of historical sights that you can check out if you’re going to be exploring the islands on land.
When to go sailing.
If you’re going to be going sailing, make sure you do this starting from May until September where the temperature ranges from the mid-20s to the mid-30 Celsius.
Zakynthos is a dream-like location and one of the best places to sail around. Proudly boasting a big harbor, Zakynthos is made for people who want to sail. The marina there offers all types of services you might need for your yacht tour and you’ll get the chance to explore a lot of beaches.
If you’re going to be exploring at least one beach, make sure you check out Shipwreck Bay. It’s blessed with really soft sand that makes it easy for first time sailors to anchor their yacht, and it’s blessed with gorgeous water. The best beaches, however, are located at the Bay of Laganas.
Make sure you also check out the Blue Caves!
If you’re a first-time sailor then you’d be happy to know that Kefalonia has one of the safest harbors in the Mediterranean. It’s one of the largest and it’s also one of the most popular so expect it to be filled with tourists. But for good reason. The beaches are incredible, the climate is mild, and the geological build-up of the island makes it extremely unique. You can visit the Kefalonia Caves or the Melisani Caves and you can even go shopping! If you’re going to be exploring the island on land, do not miss out on Argostoli, the capital city.
Ithaca is where Oysseus was supposedly born. Make sure you don’t miss out on the Cave of the Nymph and enjoy the dozens of miles of coastline. Here you can also enjoy adrenaline-inducing activities like kayaking, biking and hiking as well!
Kyllini is home to some dramatic castles, gorgeous panoramic vistas of the sea, and of course white sand beaches and azure waters. Make sure you check out the famous thermal spring – Loutra Kyllinis.
If you want to add a little bit more romance and scenery to your trip, then Nafpaktos is definitely for you. Lush mountains act as the perfect backdrops for blue seas, and the beaches are mostly secluded so you feel like you have the whole island to yourself. You’ll feel that the village feels a bit more “traditional” and you’ll get to explore some of the leftovers of the Venetian occupation. Check out the Venetian Castle and of course, the Venetian Port which is considered one of the most picturesque in all of the Mediterranean. If you want to add a little oomph to your visit there too, go to the top of the Castle of Nafpaktos where you’ll get the best panoramic view of the island.
Of course Corfu is definitely one of the must visits in the Ionian Sea. You will have to check out Pontikonisi Mouse Island, which you’ll immediately know from the hundreds of pictures taken there!
If you’re a keen photographer in the making, then you will love Old Fort. As you float on your boat in the sea, you’ll start to see the citadel coming out of the water in the most magical of scenes. This is where you go to explore the blend of Greece, Italy and France in one island.
Advantages of a sailing holiday.
Don’t even get us started on the advantages of a sailing holiday! It’s everything you’d want in a vacation and more.
- You practically have the biggest playground in the world at your disposal. On the sea, you’ll never get bored.
- You’ll definitely be learning some new things daily – whether in sailing, the seas around you, or the islands.
- It’s a unique way to travel and explore. Instead of the cliché “get on a plane and explore on foot”, you’ll be sailing the seas and just the journey will be picturesque enough.
- You can visit a lot of islands in very little time.
- The solitude, the silence, and the freedom of it all…Very little things can compare to that.
- You’ll be relaxing at every point and it will be a great way to escape the daily life.
- You’ll be getting the complete and full experience of nature and a lot more benefits.
Floating the Ionian Sea is one of the best things you can probably do if you have a sailboat or if you’re renting a yacht. The diversity of the islands will make you feel like you’ve sailed around a whole continent and the experience will be one of the most memorable ones in your life.