Daily Archives: 06.04.2014

The Lovely Palm Islands: Dubai



The Lovely Palm Islands: Dubai

These set of beautiful palm islands named Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali are two artificially made islands in the shape of palm trees. Intended to boost tourism in Dubai, these lovely islands are quite the work of art. They are also a mark of man’s progress alongside the improvement of technology over the years. Though the idea of the formation of these islands was credited to the Prince of Dubai, the islands were completed under the contract of two major companies, namely the Belgian Jan De Nul and the Dutch Van Oord. The creation of the islands was an extraordinary and long process but today one can say that it was definitely worth the wait. With beautiful scenery, amenities and facilities the Palm Islands of Dubai have today become an interesting and unique tourist attraction.

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The Palm Jumeirah Island

In June of 2001 the creation of this beautiful palm shaped island began to take place. It consisted of a thick trunk, seventeen fronds and a long crescent shaped breakwater to prevent erosion by the sea. Often called as the eighth wonder of the world, this spectacular place has the pleasure of receiving as many as twenty thousand guests every day. The island also became an excellent residential area when residents started moving into their villas and houses on the island in the year 2006.

The island has a superb variety of themed hotels and villas. It also offers excellent beaches, apartment buildings, charming restaurants and Marinas. The palm island of Jumeirah would be a perfect vacation destination for romantic or family vacations. Its many attractions include excellent artificially made reefs for keen divers, beautiful sandy beaches for sun bathing and swimming, and also a thriving shopping scene.

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Palm Jumeirah Island also has a large number and variety of hotels, resorts and hotel residences available for its many tourists. The Fairmont Palm Hotel and Resort, Atlantis the Palm, and The Rixos are currently some of the most popular ones on Palm Jumeirah Island. They are held in high esteem by the tourists and locals alike. There is also a Palm Jumeirah Monorail available for transportation purposes which can be easily availed by the tourists to move around in comfort on the island.

In the year 2007 The Palm Jumeirah Island had already become the world’s largest artificially made island with about five hundred different families residing comfortably on it. By 2009 there were about twenty eight hotels on this relatively small piece of land that catered to the various needs of the tourists. One can say with complete certainty that the Island has indeed been quite a success in boosting Dubai’s tourism.

Palm Jameirah

The Palm Jumeirah Island also employs the use of many eco friendly practices such as solar panels to minimize its impact on the environment. In fact, the entire island was built completely of sand and rocks. No cement was used in the making of the Palm Jumeirah Island as it was supposed to be as natural a construction as possible. The breakwater has surprisingly helped in increasing the marine biodiversity of the region by encouraging many different species of fish to migrate into these waters. Diving in these beautiful waters would be a true delight for the divers!

Palm night

The Palm Jebel Ali Island

Being twice the size of Palm Jumeirah, it has twice the fun to offer! With six spectacular Marinas, numerous water theme parks, and beautiful boardwalks encircling the fronds of the palm, the island is a marvellous retreat for all tourists. A lovely little sea village and some homes built on stilts over the water are proposed to be its very own speciality. The boardwalks that encircle the fronds of the palm spell out a beautiful Arabic poem by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The Palm Jebel Island would make for an excellent day outing with its beautiful sandy shores, clear blue waters, entertaining resorts, lovely weather and theme parks. Adults and children alike would love to enjoy a stay here. It is quite an excellent place to relax and to spend some leisurely time with your loved ones. You can always go exploring the city or head to the boardwalks to enjoy the scenery or just have a lavish and luxurious stay at one of the many resorts here.

Palm Jebel Ali

The Jebel Ali Island is also home to about 250,000 people who consider themselves quite lucky to live in such a wonderful place. Also, with the island being so close to the mainland of Dubai, one can still enjoy the many benefits and comforts of having a large flourishing city close by while also retaining the leisurely pace of the island life.

Palm Jebel Ali also offers some beautiful infrastructure such as the many wonderful and iconic bridges in and around the island. Its marvellous infrastructural and architectural progress is a modern sight to behold. The islands were made by a very fascinating process called ‘rainbowing’ because of the rainbow like arcs which were caused because of spraying the sand. Many million tonnes of sand and rock was used in the building of this magnificent man made wonder.

Visit the City of Many Colors: Oslo, Norway



Visit the City of Many Colors: Oslo, Norway

This place is hugely populated but manages to attract more and more tourists because of its uncompromised beauty and dynamic culture. There are a lot of names given by people to this city like the Viking City, the culture city, the winter capital and the city of rolling green hills. You guessed it right; it is Oslo, the capital of Norway. Oslo is located in the southeastern part of Norway. It is also the largest city in the country with highest population. There is a lot to discover in this city for a tourist, like museums, restaurants, great nightlife, shopping and a lot of outdoor activities.

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Oslo city is surrounded by forests so the climate here is fairly mild and it shares the same latitude as Alaska, Greenland and Siberia. From June to early August the weather is warmest and the days are quite long and bright. The temperature during this period can easily reach 25 c to 3 0c. In winters, the city turns into a snow clad paradise and the temperature can reach below bone chilling -40 C. The best time to visit Oslo is from March to August when the weather remains calm.

How to get here?

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Oslo’s International Airport is located 47 km northeast of the city and the Flybussen Bus departs every 20 minutes all days from the airport to the downtown. If you are arriving at  TORP Airport then you can take the train from Torp Sanderfjord Lufthavn to Oslo. The journey takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The Torp Express bus service also corresponds with most international flights from the airport.

Accommodation and Food

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Oslo offers accommodation in almost every price range including hotels, youth and family hostels, guest houses, camp sites and private accommodation. There are more than 50 hotels for every taste and budget and the serving quality is excellent. There is Hotel Continental which is only Norwegian member of the Leading Hotels of the World and well known Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel with 37 floors. If you have a bit tight budget then there are a lot of guest houses and hostels located near the city centre like Perminalen Hotel, Anker Hotel and Oslo Youth Hostel. You can pre book these hotels online also.

food

Oslo can be described as a hub of eating and drinking within budget. You can enjoy salad, hummus, bean casseroles, potato gratin and fresh baked bread at famous 100 Kroner vegetarian buffet at Vega. There are many good options in Oslo of Reindeer, moose and lutefisk. If you wish for a restaurant with a delicious food and some views of hills surrounding the city then you can choose between Holmenkollen Restaurant, Finstua at Frognerseteren and Ekebergrestauranten. You can also find some high quality seafood at Lofoten, Louse and Tjuvholmen Sjomagasin.

The Attractions

Frogner Park

Vigeland-Sculpture-Park

Frogner Park is the first choice of people visiting Oslo as it is a popular recreational area and the biggest park in central parts of Oslo. It is home to 227 granite and bronze sculptures by Norway’s famous sculptor Gustav Vigeland. The park covers an area of 75 acre and consists of sculptures related to many religions.

park

The Frogner Park was completed between 1939 & 1949 and Gustav Vigeland was in charge of the design and architecture of the park also. There are five units along 850 meter axis where most of the sculptures are placed. These units are The Main Gate, The Bridge with the Children’s Playground, The Fountain, The Monolith Plateau and The Wheel of Life. There is no entrance fee and it remains open 24 hours.

Viking Ship Museum

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Some great Viking ship discoveries from Gokstad are preserved at Viking Ship Museum of Oslo. The museum is located at Huk Aveny in Bygdoy. The main attraction in Viking Ship Museum is 70 feet long and 16 feet wide, Oseberg Ship. The ship was very well preserved and it could be entirely reconstructed. Right now, it is placed at the center of the museum and remains the center of attraction for the visitors. It had a single square sail and fifteen pairs of oars. It is believed that this ship could reach a speed of upto 10 knots and it is the world’s most complete ship ever found.

Oslo Opera House

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Oslo Opera House is Norway’s largest arts institution which holds Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. It has over 650 employees working in about 50 professions and trades. It is located in the old harbour area of Bjorvika and was designed by the Norwegian architects Snohetta. It was opened in 2008 and since then it has been the landmark of Oslo. It has mainly three stages which include the Main house with 1369 seats, Second House with 400 seats and the Studio with 200 seats. There is also Opera Roof and Foyer which is used for concerts.

Oslo Cathedral

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Oslo Cathedral is a beautiful church at Karl Johans gate in Oslo and remains open every day all week. It is a piece for mass, music, silence, conversation and lighting candles. Oslo Cathedral was first consecrated in 1697 and restored back to its original interior in 1950. There are large ceiling murals painted by Hugo Lous Mohr between 1936 and 1950, which are quite famous among visitors. Cathedral is used for the public events by the Norwegian Royal Family and the Norwegian Government. However, the church remains open for pre booked guided tours on weekdays.

There are many other places to visit in Oslo like Nobel Peace Center, Fram, Oslo Spektrum, Tryvann and more. So, just plan a visit and experience Oslo city.

Of World Heritage Sites: Urbino, Italy



Of World Heritage Sites: Urbino, Italy

Urbino 1

Founded by an ancient civilization of Italy called the Umbrians, Urbino (Urbinum Hortense in Latin) is a vibrant town in the northern part of La Marche in central Italy. The city was later occupied by the Etruscans, Celts, Gauls and finally the Romans in the 3rd century B.C. However it was in the 12th century B.C when the power was handed over to the Montefeltro family that Urbino became popular as a centre of artistic and literary activity under the rule of Federico da Montefeltro. Birthplace of the famous artist Raphael, Urbino is a World Heritage Site that has a rich legacy of Renaissance culture. Around 15th century, the dukedom and its neighbouring towns became a part of the Papal States.

This small but beautiful town nestled between the Apennine mountains and the Adriatic Sea was one of the pioneers of the Renaissance movement. The duke’s twin turreted palace still holds some outstanding collection of period art. History says that it was at Federico’s court Piero della Francesca wrote on the science of perspective, Trattato de architettura (Treatise on architecture) was written by Giorgio Martini and Giovanni Santi, Raphael’s father wrote about the chief artists of his time. In fact it was Federico’s court that set the standards of what we call a modern European ‘gentleman’. It was the splendour of this picturesque hill town that inspired UNESCO to mark the entire region as a World Heritage Site!

Urbino 2

The route to Urbino is also a wonderful experience. Though there are no trains going to Urbino, the city is easily reachable by bus. The closest airports are Ancona and Rimini, Italy. The closest train services are till Pesaro and Fano. From here a number of buses are available to Urbino. The Pesaro based Adriabus runs upto 15 services between Pesaro and Urbino. Bus services from Urbino connect with other smaller regions in the town. And if you are arriving by car, you will have to park at the foot of the hill as motor vehicles are banned from the city. You can either walk up the hill or take a bus. You can approach the Urbino tourist office located in the town’s central square for further queries. There is also a small office near the main bus station where you can pick up a map.

The outstanding beauty of the hill-town has attracted the attention of not just humanist scholars and artists but also millions of tourists and voyagers. Urbino’s huge Ducal Palace, also called Palazzo Ducale is a microcosm of Renaissance architecture, art and history. It is today the National Gallery of the Marches and is an important centre of medieval paintings. The house in which Raphael was born and raised is only a 10 minute walk from the Ducal Palace. The place is worth a visit though today, it has only one work by him; a touching fresco of Madonna and her child. At the top of Via Rafaello, a short stroll along the city wall leads to a massive gate. Up the stairs takes you to the Fort of Albornoz (today a library and public park). One also gets to witness a splendid panorama of the town, ducal palace and the surrounding countryside.

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The Duomo or cathedral of Urbino was constructed in top of a sixth century religious building. It was rebuilt in the Neoclassical style after an earthquake in 1789. The cathedral is home to several artworks including the Last Supper by Federico Barocci. Piazza Rinascmento, Piazza della Republica and Piazza duca Federico are the important squares in Urbino where you can find café’s, stores, shops and a lot of people. Urbino also house a well laid out botanical garden with many plants, ponds and pathways. The modern residential town constructed outside the walls is but different from the structure and layout of the ancient town. Though Urbino still has not enough room for development, the town was famous for the manufacture of majolica (tin-glazed pottery) until the 17th century.

Food at Urbino needs no description. To put in simple words: delicious and mouthwatering! Ca Andreana is a cheap country inn, about a ten minute drive from Urbino. Master dishes of the inn include tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms, lamb al forno (oven-crisped lamb chops) and rabbit with fennel. Albergo San Domenico is another inn which lies very close to the Ducal Palace. Al Cantuccio serves hot pasta and pizza while Trattoria del Leone provides 20-euro fixed price dinners. The menu has omelets with pumpkin and pecorino and a local crispy flatbread called Crescia Sfogliata. There are also quite a number of books featuring the hill-town of Urbino. ‘Urbino: The Story of a Renaissance City’ by John Osborne covers the city’s art, architecture and history and also includes references from another book on the town called “The Book of the Courtier”.

Urbino 4

The town where ‘gentle discussions and innocent pleasantries were heard’ is today a ‘new’ Urbino. With changes in the street pattern and recent buildings that came up, Urbino has tried to adapt itself to the modern culture. Chefs, bakers, cheese makers, wine and olive oil producers are the best artists available in today’s Urbino. Yet the town has not lost its legendary charm. Urbino was, still is and will forever be the quintessence of Italian Renaissance.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul



Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul

“A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.” This majestic mosque of Istanbul, definitely stands tall in the sands of time. The beauty, grandeur and brilliance that are associated with this great monument make it everlasting.

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The Sultan Ahmed or Sultan Ahmet mosque is considered to be one of the finest examples of the standards of the majestic Turkish architecture. It was built by Mehmet Aga, the student of the greatest Turkish Architect known to the world, Sinan. The plan of this mosque was actually a plan used by Sinan on a smaller scale previously which Aga adapted for the Sultan Ahmet Mosque orthe Blue mosque. The name, Blue Mosque comes from the blue tiles that adorn the interiors of this wonderful mosque. This place is believed to be one of the most beautiful places of worship in the world. With its magnificence, this mosque attracts a large number of visitors to Istanbul. The Sultan Ahmet mosque is situated right opposite to the World famous Hagia Sophia which is known for its long history and architectural styles. These two almost compete against each other.

hagia sophia and sultan ahmet mosque
The construction of this mosque was started by Sultan Ahmet I as a rival to the Hagia Sophia. Just as all the other mosques, this mosque also houses the tomb of its founder. It took seven long years to complete the construction of the mosque which was started in 1609. Sultan Ahmed did not live long enough to enjoy the marvel. He passed away about a year after the construction was completed. This is one of the two mosques in turkey that have six minarets. each minaret was pencil shaped and had two to three balconies. Legends say that Sultan Ahmet actually wanted to build a minaret of gold which was ‘altin’ in turkish, it is said that Aga heard it as Alti which meant six an built this. When it was completed, Aga was scared that he might get killed when the Sultan sad that he loved minarets too. It was a time in the world when a mosque with six minarets was a rare sighted scene. The mosque is one of the most important landmarks of Istanbul. It has a small market building to its east, a mausoleum which is single domed and is of Sultan Ahmet. The medrese or the religious school building is to the north where the famous Hagia Sophia is situated.

aerial view
The mosque has more than one entrance, the main one being the one from the Hippodrome side which is grand and shows the domes rising one above the other. The mosque also comprises of two courtyards where, the outer one is leveled. The courtyard which is on the inside and the edifice are elevated. The interiors of the mosque and decorated with intricate and exquisite designs to aptly complement the grandeur of the exterior. The domes are risen by four long columns which support pointed, broad arches.

interiorthe domes
The interior walls are decorated with special Iznik tiles. The space accounted for by the domes is about 23.5 meters in diameter and 43 meters in height. The interiors of the domes and beautified with sensational paintwork. Just as all the other mosques, the floor is covered with carpets. The interiors have about 260 windows that illuminate the holy place.
The minarets of this mosque and the domes of this mosque are covered with lead. The tops of all the minarets are made of gold plated copper which add to aesthetic aspect. Highly skilled craftsmen are employed to assure the structures maintain their charm. The minarets are classic examples of the turkish style of architecture. The balconies of the minarets and reached by spiral staircases on the inside. The announcement of prayer timings is done from these balconies.

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The religion of islam requires of the followers to pray five times a day. The announcements made from the minarets tell the believers that its time to pray. When they hear the call, they wash themselves and sit to pray. The main prayers on holidays, or important days are performed at the mosque where as the other days, the believers can perform the prayers anywhere. In the prayers performed in the mosque, the imam is the one who takes the lead by chanting verses from the koran. They maintain separate areas for both men and women. When it comes to the central area, only men pray there whereas the women occupy the places near the galleries.

after sunset
The monument has been maintained very well by the turkish government. Over the years, this monument has become one of the symbols that represents Istanbul and the country itself. Every evening, when the sun sets, floodlights are used to exhibit the class of this wondrous monument. You are not allowed to wear shoes and walk into the mosque, the ladies are supposed to use a shawl to cover the hair on their head and there is not entry fee for the mosque. This place is known for its well-maintained boundaries and disciplines. Nevertheless, visitors could always donate in the name of the mosque which i used for the development and to cater the needs of this mega structure.

 

The Hidden Treasures of Santorini: Greece



The Hidden Treasures of Santorini: Greece

This tiny island, hidden away in the southern Aegean Sea, is a charming beauty to behold. Famous for its delicious food, stunning scenery, romantic sunsets, and gorgeous beaches, Santorini is one of those rare tourist locations that offers a completely unique experience to any traveller. Having a large number of exotic beaches such as the red beach, white beach, black beach and Monolithos beach, Santorini is an ideal tourist destination. This dramatic and exotic island is rich in history, architecture and arts. Located in the Cyclade group of islands, Santorini is well connected by sea and also boasts of having an airport located a few kilometres away from the village of Kamari.

Santorini is a rare location in Europe which has a hot, desert-like climate. First half of the year from April to October is warm and dry and the second half from November to March is cold and wet. This picturesque island with its white washed houses and churches with blue domes perched atop the island is a breath-taking view.

Fira

The Town of Fira

With its impeccable white washed houses sitting atop the cliff of Caldera, this is the main town of the Santorini island. It offers a terrific panoramic view of the city to the tourists. You could stroll through the beautiful shopping district of Fira and enjoy delicacies offered in the delightful bakeries in the town. You can also enjoy an adventurous Catamaran tour of the volcano and swim in the hot springs there. Visiting the beautiful beaches and the church for its historical art work is something you simply should not miss. A visit to the Old port by either the cable cars or by enjoying the amusing donkey rides, is extremely fun. You also get to cherish some beautiful pictures of the sea and the setting sun. Amongst other things to do in the city of Fira, you can enjoy a trip to the vineyards, a walk around the town, explore incredible photo opportunities, and try out the delicious local cuisine at many different restaurants.

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The Kamari Village

This lovely seaside village Is not quite far away from the town of Fira. Its main attraction is the black sand and shingle beach where tourists love to sunbathe. One generally hires a rental to travel around town though it is not always needed. Other attractions include the outdoor cinema which is barely twenty minutes away from the beach and Alexander’s Restaurant. The Restaurant offers a high quality of food which is extremely delicious. There are also a number of taverns around the village which offer great drinks.

Santorini

The Town of Oia (or La)

This beautiful and architectural town of Oia sits elegantly on the cliftop of the Caldera in the Santorini island. Famous for its stunning sunsets, the town of Oia is a major tourist attraction on the island. The town is characterised by its white and blue domes houses. Many of the houses are built directly into niches or cave like structures which means that the interior of the houses is usually larger than what the exterior suggests. You should also visit the ruined castle (or Fort Londsa) at Oia which offers an enchanting 360 degrees panoramic view. The Naval Maritime Museum at Oia is also worth a visit. Tourists are encouraged to explore the many alley ways for unique photo opportunities and views of the Caldera. This picturesque town has also been featured in many films such as Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (1 and 2)

Akrotiri

The Village of Akrotiri

Akrotiri was a Minoan Bronze Age settlement which was destroyed by the volcanic eruption in about 1627 BC. Hidden under debris and covered by layers of time, this site was only discoveres in 1967 once the excavations had begun. Similar to the site of Pompeii, the city of Akrotiri offers tourists an almost unique experience of this 1.2 hectares of well-preserved archaeological site. The debris has played an important role in protecting the many wall paintings and frescoes of the ancient times. Guided tours are also available at the archaeological site. This hauntingly beautiful tragic place has become quite the tourist attraction over the years. You can also head down to the red beach after a long day at the site, to enjoy some leisure time.

Pyrgos

The Town of Pyrgos Kallistis

With just a few hundred people occupying this territory, the beautiful and picturesque town of Pyrgos is a village built on a hill that offers dynamic views in almost every direction. This amphitheatrically built village offers a beautiful panoramic view from the monastery. Hiking down the mountain to the Kemari village can lead you through the ancient Thira where you can still see some of the ancient architectural wonders standing tall.

Vothonas

The Vothonas Village

This eerie village is considered to architecturally be the strangest creation on the island of Santorini. It is believed that all the houses were cut out from the ravine that it was located on. The residents had built their homes in this fashion in the earlier days. In 1827 the church of St. Ann was built here. Its wooden screens has pictures from the Old Testament adorning it.

The Thriving Diversity of Okavango Delta: Botswana



The Thriving Diversity of Okavango Delta: Botswana

Nestled in nature’s lap itself, this magical Delta region of Botswana is a must visit for everyone. It offers to tourists a unique and heavenly experience with its extraordinary scenery, its majestic wildlife and beautiful weather. The Okavango Delta has consistently reserved a spot amongst the seven natural wonders of South Africa. Because of its natural beauty and diverse wildlife, the Okavango Delta has also become a major tourist attraction especially for those who are looking for a more adventurous vacation than the average man. Once, at the site of Okavango an ancient lake named Makgadikgadi used to take residence before it dried up due to various geological reasons. This majestic and large Delta is amongst one of the largest inland Deltas in the whole world. Despite the harsh climatic conditions, a large number of wild beasts reside in this habitat, making it one of Africa’s most diverse regions.

Some sights and places that you must not miss are the remarkable Moremi Game Reserve, the astounding Kalahari Basin, and the salt pans of the ancient Lake Makgadikgadi. These beautiful wonders of nature are an absolute delight to experience!

Moremi Game Reserve

The Moremi Game Reserve

The Moremi Game Reserve is a wonderful National Park located on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta. It offers tourists the wonderful opportunity of exploring the area, spotting rare wildlife and bird watching. The Game Reserve is home to almost four hundred species of birds and a vast variety of other wild beasts including giraffe, African wild dogs, lions, leopards, red lechwe and jackals. The diversity of the area gives rise to some startlingly unexpected contrasts combining the permanent waters with the drier areas. The Game Reserve offers fantastic views of the Savannah and provides ample opportunity to tourists for observing the wildlife of the region. Being eco-friendly, the Reserve follows the policy of high yield but low impact quite strictly. It offers tourists various means of transportation such as a 4X4 vehicle and a Mokoro (which is a sort of canoe) for exploring the area. It also allows tourists to go exploring on foot with their personal guide. Game viewing at the Moremi Game Reserve reaches its peak around the months of July to October.

Kalahari Basin

The Kalahari Basin

The Okavango Delta is almost an oasis of sorts in the giant Kalahari Desert. Located in the Kalahari Basin, Because of Africa’s suitable position near the equator it has remained largely unaffected by the ice ages and thus has faced much less extinction than what other places like Europe might have faced. This has led to an astonishingly large and thriving diversity of flora and fauna. The Okavango Delta located in the Kalahari Basin itself has as many different species of trees as the whole of Western Europe, perhaps. This comparison shows us truly how diverse the region is and how much the tourists visiting are to gain from this natural beauty.

Salt pans

The remains of Lake Makgadikgadi

Lake Makgadikgadi was an ancient lake that once occupied a large part of the Kalahari Basin. Many great rivers drained into this lake but about 50,000 years ago a great number of factors caused most of the rivers to change their course and this in turn drained the lake. Only the Okavango river continued to pour into the lake. Later on even the Okavango river was forced to change its course leaving Lake Makgadikgadi to dry up into the largest salt pan complex in the world. Today these wonderful white salt pans are almost the size of Switzerland! With its beautiful salt pans spread out over a vast area, the tourists are sure to be mesmerized by the beauty of this place.

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Flora and Fauna of Okavango Delta

Despite being a popular tourist destination, the Okavango Delta region of Botswana is a permanent as well as a seasonal home to an astonishingly large variety of birds, animals and fishes. The Delta boasts of having over four hundred different species of birds in the region including the remarkable African Fish Eagle, Crested Crane, Lilac-breasted Roller, Hammerkop, and Sacred Ibis. This extremely diverse collection of birds is almost a delicacy for keen bird watchers.

The inland delta region has a diverse marine life with about seventy one different species of fish including the revered tiger fish, Tilapia and also catfish. It also has the privilege of hosting some of the most marvellous and majestic animals of all time including African Bush Elephant, African Buffalo, Hippopotamus, Lechwe, Tsessebe, Sitatunga, Cheetah, Springbok, Greater Kudu, Sable Antelope, and of course the Chacma Baboon. Much of the region’s wildlife is endemic to the region.

wildlife

With such a diverse range of animals, the plant life here is also very flourishing. With Papyrus and reeds occupying most of the region, many other types of grass and roots grow in this region. The plants are quite helpful in providing much needed cohesion to the sand in the Delta region.

Truly the Okavango Delta region of Botswana is full of life and tourists shall not be disappointed by the amazing diversity that our planet can provide with in just one small piece of land.

Paradise for Bird Watchers: Chilika



Paradise for Bird Watchers: Chilika

Chilka_Rail_Station

The Chilika Lake is spread over three districts of Odisha, namely, Puri, Khurda and Ganjam, along the eastern coast of India. Covering an expanse of 1100 km2,  Chilika is, in fact, the world’s second largest coastal lagoon. The coastline has moved eastward over the period of time. Though widely thought to be a saltwater lake, the Chilika is actually a brackish water lagoon. Which means that it does have more salinity than fresh water, but not as much as sea water. As it is an estuarine lagoon, it supports a unique ensemble of freshwater, brackish and marine species. Over the year, as awareness has grown and measures have been taken to preserve the ecology of the lake, there has been a rise in aqua-cultural activities.

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The legend goes that once a pirate tried to attack Puri with huge fleets of ships. As a way of avoiding detection, he slyly anchored the ships at the mouth of the river. However, his deception was discovered and all the people of the village escaped. He was enraged at seeing the abandoned village, and directed his fury towards the sea. The sea parted to let the pirate’s army in, but as soon as the army entered the water flooded back in, drowning the pirate and is army and creating the lake.

The Brahmanda Purana, a 10th century text, the Chilika Lake is mentioned as a significant center for trade and commerce. The lake was also a shelter for ships departing for China, Java, Malaya, Singhala and other distant lands.  This shows that the lake was deep enough for harbouring sea sailing ships and had a channel big enough for loaded ships to pass through.

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Today, the lake is home to many endangered plants and animals. The ecosystem of the lake sustains a large resource of fisheries, thereby providing a livelihood for almost 150,000 fisher-folk, living on the small islands in the lake.

chilika-lake fishermen

The lake is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds in the Indian sub-continent. In the peak season, as many as 160 species of birds can be found! Birds seeking wintering ground come from as far as the Caspian Sea, Aral Sea, Baikal Lake, remote parts of Russia, Central and South-east Asia, Himalayas etc. It is one of the best places to go bird-watching. The birds you are most likely to spot are sea eagles, greylag geese, purple moorhen, jacana, herons and flamingos. The lake is one of the world’s largest breeding grounds for flamingos.

flamingo

Chilika is the only place in India where sightings of the Irrawaddy Dolphins have been reported. It has been classified as a “Critically Endangered” species. Chilika is also home to Bottle-Nose Dolphins.

irrawaddy

The water-spread of the estuary varies from 1165 km2 in the monsoon to 906 km2 in the summer. A narrow channel, which is 32 metres in length, connects the main lagoon to the Bay of Bengal.

sunset at chilika lake orissa

In the past few decades, the ecology of the lake has indeed seen several glitches not only due to intervention of humans, but also because of natural processes that recur over the ages. As a consequence of waves converging with the sea at a particular angle, beach material are steadily shifted. This has resulted in siltation from the inland river system. There have been reports of blockages in the inlet channel. The mouth of the channel that connect the sea and the lake has been gradually shifting. This may create a serious problem as the channel was way of releasing silt and other natural wastes into the sea, so as not to choke the lake, thereby endangering the thousands of animals and plants that are dependent on the lake’s ecology. Surveys have also revealed there has been deterioration in the salinity of the water, thus reducing the fishery resource. Reports also show that there has been a steady and unhealthy increase in the procreation of fresh water invasive species, due to the decline of saline water. This is not only harmful for the balance of the ecology but also endangers the survival of the fishing communities living nearby, as these fishery resources are their only source of income. The major reason of the waning of the fishery resource is the commercialisation of the prawn cultivation. Big companies come in with their heavy machineries and exhaust the fishery resources. This not only takes away source of income from local fisher-folk, but also denies nature the chance of replenishing the fishery resource.

fishing in chilika

Concerned about the steady deterioration of this beautiful ecology, the Odisha government took reformative actions. In 1992, the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) was set up. The main function of this organisation was to look into the matter of the degradation, come up with plans of restoration and the overall development of the entire region. This body functions with the Chief Minister of Odisha as its head. The body also has the representatives of the local communities and the fisher-folk, people’s representatives, and also experts, scientists, etc. who guide the functioning of the organisation. In November, 2002, the CDA was felicitated with the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award for “Outstanding achievements in the field of restoration and wise use of wetlands and effective participation of the local communities in these activities”.

birds

The natural beauty pulls people with a fetish for eco-tourism, which has also developed over the years and provides a viable source of income for people in nearby villages. It is astute use of the scenic splendour of the lake and also spreads awareness about keeping environment pollution free. A number of islands in and around the lake have been identified for tourist activities. For example the Breakfast Island, Ramba Bay, Honeymoon Island are some of the islands that travelers will enjoy immensely. The Beacon Island gives a view of the Eastern Ghats. The Birds’ Island, as the name itself suggests, is the site where one can see hundreds of thousands of birds flocking around.

CHILIKA_BIRDS_

 

The Kalijai Temple, which the locals believe to be the abode of Goddess of Kalijai, is also worth a visit.

kalijai-temple-

 

The Satapada village, which is a few kilometres away from Chilika, can be accessed by boats and ferries. It is this village, where all the dolphin sightings happen.

Boat_ride_on_Chilika_Lake,_

The best time of the year to visit Chilika is in the month of December. The migratory birds and the dolphin sightings are truly a sight to behold. So, the next time you want an overload of nature, Chilika is the place for you. Nature lover or not, Chilika is a must visit, at least once in a life time.

Chilika-lake-Dolphin