Victoria Falls – April 2014

Victoria Falls is best seen from both the Zimbabwe and Zambia sides of the river. The Victoria Falls Bridge crosses the Zambezi River which forms the border for both countries. From the Zimbabwe side you can actually walk across the bridge and technically enter Zambia without going through the border post. Charles Darwin’s son, Professor George Darwin officially opened the bridge in 1905. What has to be one of the shortest International flights in the world is the regularly scheduled flight between Victoria Falls and Livingston.

The indigenous name of ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – literally means the ‘Smoke that Thunders’ – and you will see why this name is appropriate when you stand in front of the falls. However its not just the appearance of smoke (mist droplets) that rises high into the air – you will get drenched in certain places and wearing a raincoat or poncho is a very good idea. Both countries have set aside small national parks – allow about 2-3 hours on the Zimbabwe side and about 2 hours on the Zambia side. A highlight of a visit on the Zimbabwe side is a walk out to the wet, slippery and windy so called “danger point”. This is an appropriate name for this potentially lethal jut of rock that sits above the falls with a nasty looking vertical drop all around it. The Zambia side has its own highlights – including the Knife Edge Bridge which crosses a steep gorge with both excellent views of the falls and the historic Victoria Falls Bridge. When the water level is low enough there is a swimming area called “Devil’s Pool” that allows one to swim right at the edge of the plummeting falls! Tourism activities relating to the Zambezi River and the falls about on both sides of the river.

The falls are one of the seven natural wonders of the world – visit: www.sevennaturalwonders.org/the-original/victoria-falls

Victoria Falls

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Dolphin Encounters, Ponta do Ouro – Mozambique- March 2014

Dolphin Encounters is located in Ponta do Ouro in southern Mozambique just across from Kosi Bay in South Africa. There are several companies here that offer swims with the Dolphins but Dolphin Encounters is the oldest in the area and also the only non profit and dolphin research organization here. They were Africa’s first Dolphin Interaction and Research Center. The organization was co founded by Angie Gullan in 1994 after she experienced seeing Bottlenose Dolphins near where she was swimming. Her intrigue and curiosity had led her to dedicate her life to researching and campaigning against exploitative dolphin tourism.

Typically you book your excursion in advance and often the trips leave in the early morning. Allow several hours – including a pre trip briefing which takes place in their main office. Your boat launches from a sandy beach (everyone helps push it out) and the driver expertly maneuvers through the surf zone into the open ocean. You typically will head to the South African border and then drive along the coastline looking for pods of dolphins.

When you find a pod, the boat will stop ahead of the dolphins and everyone will quietly enter the water and swim towards the coast waiting for the dolphins to arrive. Its an amazing thing when the dolphins spot you and swim over to you. During a recent swim, several dolphins just kept circling us – watching us, almost playing. Visit: www.dolphin-encountours.co.za

View video here:

Photos courtesy of Dolphin Encounters from Author’s dolphin swim

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Kruger National Park, South Africa – February 2014

For big game viewing it doesn’t get much better than Kruger National Park in South Africa. This is a well loved park and to avoid some of the crowds try to visit during the weekdays. The southern part of the park is the most visited and there is accommodation both inside the park and next to its borders. Accommodation outside its borders tends to be cheaper. The National Park Service of South Africa maintains a number of lodges within the park. During busy weekends these should be booked in advance however, often you can book at any of the park’s entrances. If you plan to stay in the park you must stay at one of these rest camps. Note that the park is closed each evening at a certain time depending on the time of year and the rest camps shut their gates and may not allow you to enter if after hours. To respect the wildlife, no headlights are allowed at any time. Food is available at select rest camps and locations within the park.

There are a number of tar and dirt roads that lead through the bush – and these are all suitable for self drives (weather permitting) four wheel drive vehicles are not necessary. Kruger boasts an amazing variety and amount of wildlife. One is guaranteed to see animals in this park, regardless of the time of year! The one animal that is prolific is the impala – elephant and giraffe spottings are fairly common and you have a decent chance of seeing rhino, cape buffalo and perhaps a lion. This is also a park born for “bird lovers”! For more information visit the official guide: http://sanparks.org.za/parks/kruger

Kruger National Park Rhinocerous

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Lek and Rut Seafood, Bangkok – January 2014

A dining experience here is as pure and raw a street dining as you will find in Bangkok. This restaurant is located in the middle of Bangkok’s Chinatown and is open daily from 6pm to 3am. On Friday or weekend nights this place is packed and people mill around just waiting to get a seat. It can stay totally full until at least 11pm when the crowds start thinning somewhat. This is not high society (hi so) dining – rather you sit on metal tables right on the street, with all sorts of traffic buzzing right by you – or as the case typically is in Chinatown, barely moving at all! Beggars may stop by to request money and or vendors. However this chaotic atmosphere is part of the experience! Oh, and of course the seafood. Their most popular tasty items are the large prawns with spicy dipping sauce, crab, in shell scallops/pork and the steamed fish. Be sure to order some beer to! Located on the corner of Yaowarat & Soi Texas. Note a number of other small street-side restaurants are located here and Rut and Lek is by no means the only crowded restaurant here!

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Kon Tiki Museum, Oslo Norway – December 2013

The Kon Tiki Museum in Oslo Norway is a tribute and summary of International explorer Thor Heyderhahl’s life. Thor and his crews sailed the world in primitive vessels to prove that during ancient times people could have crossed the oceans and settled “new” lands. The original vessels that Thor sailed are on display in the museum including the famous Kon-Tiki balsa raft that Thor built from natural resources in Peru. He and his crew sailed from Callao (Lima) to the South Pacific, crash landing through the breakers on the Tuomoto Islands in 1947. This journey was celebrated by Thor in a book he wrote (translated in over 70 languages) and a film he directed which won an Oscar award in 1951 for best documentary. The name of the raft spawned Tiki Bars and Tiki resorts world wide.

The museum celebrates his life and his accomplishments. Exhibits cover each of his major expeditions, show artifacts and explore his theories about human migration. Thor was not only a sailor but an archeologist and adventurer – with archeological expeditions in Easter Island, Peru and the Maldives.

The museum is located about 15-20 minutes from the city center in an area of the city called Bygdoy – you can get here by either bus or boat. Allow at least an hour here. For more information visit: www.kon-tiki.no

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Wieliczka Salt Mine – November 2013

Wieliczka Salt Mine is located nearly 90 minutes from central Krakow in Poland. Take bus number 304 across from the main Krakow Galleria Shopping Center. This mine was the world’s longest continuously operated mine – open from about the year 1300 to 1996 when it became no longer economically viable to keep the mine open commercially. Today 3 hour tours are conducted through less than 1% of the total area of the mine (in a variety of languages). The mine was one of the first 12 UNESCO sites.

You will descend about 60 levels via a wooden staircase and by the end of the tour you will have walked nearly 3km to depths of 135 meters – the mine actually goes deeper than 300 meters in places. All chandeliers and statues along the tour are carved from natural salt rock and one of the true highlights is the huge chapel. There are a number of hand carved statues here as well as cool carvings in the salt rock of the walls including of the “last supper”. A visit by famed astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus to the mine was documented about 500 years ago and there is a statue on the tour in tribute to him. Looking to check email at 135 meters under the ground – its possible in one room of the cave with what is probably one of the world’s deepest wifi hotspots!

For more information about the mine and visiting go to: www.kopalnia.pl

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