kunzum VOL . 1, ISSUE 1 - MARCH 2016
We travel. What do you do?
6IN JORDAN DAYS Headhunters
of India BELOW FREEZING
TRACKING THE POLAR BEAR FOURWHEELING OVER GLACIERS IN ICELAND
A WILD TIME Postcards From Masai Mara Selous: The Wild Gem of Tanzania India’s Leopard Villages
PHUKET’S ‘BLOODY’ VEGETARIAN FESTIVAL
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FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
Kunzum: The Journey Continues… Kunzum has been a journey, literally and metaphorically, since the summer of 2007. That is when I woke up one morning and decided to be a travel writer. With only a rough sense of the professional path I would take, I hit the road to Lahaul Spiti in the Indian Himalayas. And when I crossed the stunning Kunzum La (pass) at nearly 15,000 feet height, I knew I was on the right track - pun intended. I came back to the plains and branded my blog Kunzum.com. It has been one memorable journey since then. Brand Kunzum has published books (electronic and digital), e-mags, and rich photographic and video content. At one of our pitstops in 2010, we opened the Kunzum Travel Café in New Delhi’s fashion district, Hauz Khas Village. It is our most famous offering so far, emerging as what we call the Face-to-Facebook of travel. Not one to always conform to popular wisdom, we have taken another step which may seem counter-intuitive to current publishing trends: We have launched a print travel magazine. Who invests in print today? We do. The business logic? Flipping (real) pages is still a great way to discover stuff you are not looking for; ink on paper still makes lasting impressions on the mind. For those who differ, the magazine is available digitally too. Travel is beautiful because a surprise could be waiting at every milestone. You also make new friends, and their stories find their way into your journals. This is what we are doing with the magazine. We are reaching out to travellers, and getting them to share their experiences. In the first issue itself, we have reached out to those in over 15 countries including Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Iceland, Norway, Georgia, Thailand, Jordan, Singapore and India of course. We publish from India, but that is only a logistical boundary. Our travels know no borders. We travel. What do you do?
SOULITUDE IN THE HIMALAYAS
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VOL. 1, ISSUE 1 - MARCH 2016 08 Cruising in the Arctic on the Tracks of the Polar Bear 10 Four-Wheeling Over Snow and Glaciers in Iceland 15 Twelve Months in Georgia 18 Thirty Six Hours in Glasgow 22 Kenya: First Time in Masai Mara 28 Selous: The Hidden, Wild Gem of Tanzania 32 Botswana: The River Less Taken 34 Five Reasons to Visit Zambia 38 Going Vegetarian in Phuket, Thailand 42 Six Days in Jordan 48 Nagaland, India: When Headhunters Celebrate 54 Seven Reasons to Go Road-Tripping in India 56 Road-Tripping: Kunzum Route K17 in Madhya Pradesh, India 64 Velavadar, India: Meeting Blackbucks, the Sweetest Ones 68 Bera, India: Leopard Country - Wild and Free 72 Kunzum 500: Delightful Hotels to Check In To 76 Mustang, Nepal: Himalayas’ Best Kept Secret 79 Nepal is Open for Business 80 Responsible Tourism: Better Beach Holidays 83 Photography: 7 Things to Keep in Mind Before You Pick Up Your Camera 84 Photography: Gear for Wildlife Shoots 86 Food: Party Secrets from Japan 87 Food: James Nesbitt’s Culinary Guide to Wellington, New Zealand 88 Movies: Under the Tuscan Sun + Tracks 89 Movies: Out of Africa - Travel With Karen Blixen 90 Books: Antarctica 1991-12 91 Five Fantastic Journeys by Jules Verne 92 The Big 5 Women’s Summer Safari Essentials 94 Travel Hub
TEAM KUNZUM Ajay Jain Editor / Chief Travelling Officer Anubhuti Rana Executive Editor madpaule Art Director Rajesh Ojha Honorary Editor-at-Large Gautam Mehra Business Head / Trips Curator Rishabh Jain Holds the Fort Together Ambika Goel Events Manish Walia Editor - Videos Joshi, Jagdish & Shekhar Key Runners
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On the Tracks of the Polar Bear
KUNZUM â€˘ MARCH 2016
ANGIE BUTLER claims to take clients on life changing expeditions to the Arctic and the Antarctica. If this first person account of her recent voyage does not inspire you to undertake similar journeys, little else will.
Sailing out of Longyearbyen, the ‘capital’ of Spitsbergen in the Norwegian Arctic with a population of 3,000, we had barely reached 79° N when the voice of our expedition leader crackled through the ship’s tannoy, “Beluga Whales at one o’clock!” Having given the passengers the positioning of these extraordinary cetaceans, we grabbed our polar jackets and crowded on the foredeck of our small but perfectly formed ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. Sure enough, a pod of some 25 ghostly white whales cavorted in the bow wave of our ship, their natural curiosity giving us a truly grand opening to our Arctic odyssey. The passengers, 85 in total, the oldest a high spirited 82 year old grandmother and the youngest a 15 year old gangly lad, hailed from every continent in the world other than the Antarctica where, of course, population is limited. This made for an intriguing and eclectic group of people whose passions included photography, bird watching, ecology, geology, hiking and, in some cases, swimming in very cold water. With Captain Valery Beluga (trained in the Soviet Baltic fleet) our itinerary could and would change at any given moment. “This is an expedition, not a cruise!” was a favouriteretort by everyone on board. SPOTTING OF A POLAR BEAR: A SAD DISCOVERY Heading north-west in bright sunshine, a polar bear was spotted on the tundra but there was
something eerie about the sighting. Several staff took to the zodiacs (inflatable dinghies) with an onboard polar bear expert leading the charge. On arrival, it was found to be dead. The passengers were summoned to follow. We now had the opportunity to see a polar bear up close and personal - a large male, painfully thin, with a tag
The dead polar bear
pinned to its ear, straddled on its stomach, as if it had collapsed while walking. Once back on the ship the information on the tag was relayed to scientist Dr. Jon Aars at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromso. We would have to wait for a reply to learn more about this cheerless yet fascinating find. CLICKING AWAY IN 24 HOUR DAYLIGHT We had much to fit into our expedition and each morning, no sooner was breakfast finished, with the help of the wonderful international staff, we climbed into our Arctic suits and took to the zodiacs to cruise or make landfall. The 24 hour daylight between July and October proffers a frenzy of all living creatures on Svalbard and we were hell bent on recording it. Point and shoot cameras jostled with lenses as big as bazookas as everyone snapped away at their favourite critter. We bounced on the swell beneath sheer cliffs peppered with thousands of kittywakes, glaucous gulls and the kleptoparasitic (food stealing) Arctic skua. Skuas are virtuoso eggsnatching, chick-crunching flying machines that terrorize seabirds into disgorging their food to produce ready-made meals.
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Hoity-toity puffins perched on rocks appeared to look down their red, yellow and blue beaks at us. The jittery Arctic fox scavenging for fallen chicks could only show off its brindle summer coat having lost its much coveted white winter fur a few weeks earlier. Once hunted in thousands but now trapped under regulation, this surprisingly small weasel-looking creature weighs between 2.5 – 5 kg. The walrus devotees had several opportunities to pay homage to the 1,500 kg beached slugs that lie around flapping their flippers to scratch and scratch and well…just scratch. Hunted virtually to extinction for their ivory they are making a slow comeback. The ‘flying penguins’, the black and white Brunnich’s guillemots lay their eggs on sheer cliff ledges, pear shaped so as to not roll off the edge. Parental duties such as egg-sitting and chick watching are shared. The sky is awash with flying penguins as they undertake fishing forays many kilometers out to sea. By the time the chick is three weeks old and not yet fully fledged, it must leave its precipitous ledge and launch itself into the open sea hundreds of meters below. Sometimes several adults join it, shrieking encouragement as
it glides and flutters during this perilous descent. Some may plop on the ground and have to run the gauntlet of the rapacious arctic fox and glaucous gull. If it reaches the safety of the water it is joined by father guillemot and expected to swim as much as 50 kilometers to the wintering areas. Mother guillemot takes the shorter route by air. THROUGH FOG AND ICE We continued north-east for the next four days, dipping into nooks and crannies, making landfall and hiking across the permafrost, scrambling up moraines to gaze down magnificent glaciers riven by crevasses. By the time we left Texas Bar, a hunting hut built in 1927 on the northern coast of Liefdefjorden, we had seen very little sea ice. We turned our bow northwards and headed into the frozen wastes. At 80°, 1110 kilometers from the North Pole, we entered into a fog, an icescape of smoke and mirrors. It swirled about the ship, the bow just visible, cut effortlessly through the ice as easily as a knife through fondue icing. Suddenly, theatrically, the miasma lifted to reveal a perfect specimen of a magnificent fully grown healthy female polar bear upon its kill on an iceberg.
Polar bear looking up during a meal (Photo by Linda Fourie)
Out in a zodiac (Photo by Guy Tritton)
Walrus (Photo by Linda Fourie)
This is what we had come to see and for several hours we had the privilege of watching her sniff the air before getting back to her feast. Finally, the expedition leader decided the bear deserved the isolation that seal hunting demands. Stealth and concentration could bag another unsuspecting ring seal asleep on the ice.
We sailed into Recherchefjorden, south west of Longyearbyen and joining the expedition leader and a few of his staff on the early morning ‘polar bear sweep’ (making sure there were none in the area before bringing passengers on land) I had a preview of where some of Wild’s mining exploits took place.
A LILLIPUTIAN WORLD FOR BOTANISTS We turned south to continue our island hopping. Svalbard is a Lilliputian world for botanists. Trees amount to the dwarf birch and polar willow. To study them at close quarters requires sinking to your knees and peering bug eyed at the few centimeters of height they have so gallantly achieved. They are barely taller than the 165 species of flora that survive the sunless winters in wait for the brief window of spring. Poppies, bluebells, buttercups, saxifraga with names such as Whiplash and Yellow mountain will suddenly and miraculously burst into life displaying a profusion of delicate flowers.
As a biographer you need only to share the same landscapes, no matter how many years have intervened, to bring you closer to your subject. I had gazed at Wild’s farm that in 1923 had nestled at the foot of Ghost Mountain in Kwa Zulu Natal. Here I was on the other side of the world looking at soaring snow-tipped mountains and Wild’s mining project scattered with rusting iron mine carts.
A PERSONAL MISSION Personally, I was on my own mission. Three years ago, I wrote a biography called The Quest for Frank Wild based on one of the greatest explorers of the Heroic Age of polar exploration. He was Sir Ernest Shackleton’s right hand man and, after Shackleton’s death in 1922, he immigrated to South Africa where he died 16 years later. Little was known of his life in South Africa and no one knew where he was buried. Wild was lost in life and in death that is until I found his ashes in Braamfontein cemetery in Johannesburg. Two years ago we returned his ashes to South Georgia to be buried along side his beloved ‘Boss’, Shackleton. In 1918 at the end of the World War I, at the behest of Shackleton, Wild spent more than a year in Svalbard working for the Northern Exploration Company in a bid to mine coal.
NEWS OF THE DEAD POLAR BEAR: A WARNING TO ALL OF US? Finally news was in from the Polar Institute regarding the dead bear. The 16 year old male had been captured four months earlier and was then in reasonable shape. It had been tagged and recaptured in previous years along the western coast of the southern end of Spitzbergen. It was unusual for bears that lived in the south to travel to the north. Starvation appeared to be the most likely cause but without a necropsy it was not a forgone conclusion. However, what was evident this year was the lack of late winter ice in the channels and fjords. Without ice, polar bears are unable to hunt seals, its prime food source. Our voyage had been thrilling, informing and inspiring but was the dead bear a cautionary warning of a changing landscape, an imbalance that threatens its very existence? Sailing in Arctic waters is an opportunity to understand and judge for yourselves the threatened equilibrium of this harsh but glorious frozen landscape of the Svalbard Archipelago.
Angie Butler was born and educated in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the author of Ice Tracks - Today’s Heroic Age of Polar Adventure and co-founder of the polar expedition cruising company Ice Tracks Expeditions (www.icetracks.com). Her most recent book, The Quest for Frank Wild, is a gripping biography of one of the greatest yet forgotten polar heroes of the Heroic Age, who died in South Africa in 1939. The book is the subject of a recent one hour BBC documentary. Join Angie Butler on the Akademik Sergey Vavilov on a 12 day Spitsbergen voyage: June 10 - 22, 2016. Prices from $3,345.00.
FOUR-WHEELING OVER SNOW AND GLACIERS IN ICELAND Trust SANJAY MADAN and TUSHAR AGARWAL, partners at Adventures Overland, to take their car where few have ventured before. They recently led a group from India to explore Iceland - driving modified trucks across the white landscape of Iceland, braving snowstorms along the way. Kunzum chatted with them about their unique experience.
KUNZUM â€˘ MARCH 2016
What was the trip all about? It was an adventure drive in Toyota Hilux AT38 trucks designed to handle snowy and icy terrains. Modifications included high ground clearance, jumbo 38” tyres with spikes, snorkel, winch anchor, auto air inflate and deflate system, wireless radio sets, GPS, highlift jack and more.
Do drivers need any training or orientation? Yes, there was a half day professional briefing session allowing drivers to get familiar with the machines. Everyone was excited to play with these ‘toys’. Of course, those used to adventure drives learnt to handle these quicker.
It was the first time that 25 Indian participants, including eight women, attempted such a drive to the remote corners of Iceland.
What are the handling tips for such vehicles, especially for those not used to adventure driving? Four-wheel drive vehicles like these enable you to go to places where ordinary ones would fail. But one can never be too careful when driving these monster trucks. Big tyres increase the turning radius - you have to be extra cautious while taking sharp turns, especially at higher speeds, lest you topple due to the high ground clearance. Maintaining right air pressure becomes critical during different driving conditions. For example, you need to drop it to as low as 5 psi when over thick snow. You cannot abuse the vehicle as it may do the same to you!
What route did you take for the drive? The trip covered major attractions in the south-west of Iceland including the highlands which can only be navigated in such vehicles. We started from capital Reykjavik going on to the Hraunfossar series of waterfalls, Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, Landmannalaugar with volcanoes and lava fields nearby, Thjorsardalur valley, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the geothermal Blue Lagoon (Geothermal lagoon), Langjokull glacier and the Strokkur fountain geyser.
MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
What were the highlights of the terrain that you drove over? We drove over snow every single day with temperatures dropping to upto nine degrees below freezing. This was the most incredible element of the drive. We also navigated lava fields, crossed rivers and went over rocky outcrops. The beauty of Iceland is virgin - if there is paradise, we were there. What risks come with such an adventure? As long as one follows the rules and guidelines, it is a relatively safe drive. We had good local guides - absolutely essential in the highlands. You have to brave the cold though - we needed upto four layers of clothing to stay warm. You met with a snowstorm on the way. What happened? We were greeted by a fierce snowstorm on the first day of our expedition. Of course, we were not anticipating it but what better way to start an adventure trip. Many participants were not used to driving in the snow, let alone in zero visibility conditions with wind speeds of 80-100 kmph. This did pose a challenge, but we were all in constant communication over radio sets. Our Icelandic guide, Ingo, was super efficient in talking to everyone personally, instilling confidence in everyone. Of course, the storm eventually quietened down allowing us to reach our destination safe. What was important was the immense faith that the participants had in us as a team - everything was taken in the spirit of a real adventure trip.
KUNZUM â€˘ MARCH 2016
What times of the year can these drives be undertaken? Iceland is an all year round destination but snow drives are best undertaken in November and April. The rest of the winters can be quite severe, and only well trained drivers should venture out in their four wheels on such terrains. How does someone get to do this with you the next time? What will it cost? We plan such trips twice a year, with at least one in late March or early April. An eight day trip should cost about US$ 4,500 (depending on prevailing exchange rates) per person ex-Iceland to include the vehicle, fuel, accommodation, meals and all activities.
Map of the route taken by Adventures Overland
Those who know Georgia associate it with the sun, mountains, old churches, warm hospitable people and Georgian wines. And skiing of course - the season lasts from December to late April. Not to forget rich cuisines, hipster cafes, waterfalls, glaciers, architecture, music, dance and more. The country has something for everyone - here are some highlights of what await in each month of the year: JANUARY In January, Georgians celebrate… Christmas. Yes, the Eastern Orthodox tradition makes our holiday season pretty long! You can come here to taste awesome local food anytime, but Christmas time is something special for each Georgian. It is also the time to ski. By the way, you can come to the Goderdzi resort to ski, and then drive two hours to subtropical conditions in Batumi on the Black Sea. FEBRUARY Winters continue in the mountains, and you can learn skiing in Bakuriani or zip down the steeper slopes of Gudauri.
MARCH Spring starts creeping up the plains even as the mountains remain snow covered. If you are done with the winters, explore Georgia’s UNESCO protected sites in Tbilisi, Mtskheta or Kutaisi. Visit their ancient fortresses and churches, walk along cobbled streets and savour the delicious foods on offer. APRIL Even though it starts getting warmer, it may be too early to go hiking. But you can explore the cave town of Vardzia and the cave monastery David Gareja. Hire a jeep or a buggy to go around the Vashlovani National Park where blooming trees and flowers showcase the natural diversity of Georgia. MAY Georgia celebrates its Independence Day on May 26 - come to capital Tbilisi and be a part of the festivities and events that bring the city alive. JUNE Time to don your hiking boots and head to Kazbegi, Khevsureti or Borjomi-Kharagauli – these offer just some of the many trails for beginners and advanced hikers alike. If walking is not for you, cover these tracks on horseback. MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
JULY This is the month of festivals. Jazz lovers should mark the dates for the Black Sea Jazz Festival while those into folk music, dance and art should head to the Art Gene. Georgian dances are beautiful - make sure you witness these at least once in your lifetime. You can also go to one of the oldest observatories in this region, which is located in a small resort of Abastumani. Not easy to reach, but super interesting! AUGUST Head to the seaside town of Anaklia for the Gem Fest - a convergence of the best of electronic music from different corners of the world spread over four sleepless days and nights. If you are looking for a challenge, head to Tusheti located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains - this region is accessible in July and August only. And it’s unforgettable. SEPTEMBER With summer into its fourth month, you may want to head to Batumi, Kvariati or Gonio to enjoy the sea. Or participate in the Rtveli in Kakheti region - this is when you harvest grapes and enjoy the feasts
KUNZUM • MARCH 2016
and events alongwith. Grapes and wine are almost holy here. You could book yourself a spa weekend in Kvareli or Lopota Lake. OCTOBER Finish the harvest and have fun at Tbilisoba – a celebration of the diversity and history of the capital Tbilisi. It is usually held on the last weekend of the month. A treat awaits the eyes at the Tbilisi Fashion Week - check the schedules online. NOVEMBER Winter has still not set in. Explore the cave town of Uplistsikhe or enjoy the weather in Sighnaghi, the cute town of love. DECEMBER The early part of the month usually feels more like autumn, even as New Year festivities pick up during the latter half. Visit the sulphur baths of Tbilisi, check out the beautiful Marionette Theatre or Movement Theatre, explore the courtyards of the Old Tbilisi or take a pre-New Year trip to Batumi to enjoy the winter sea and visit the subtropical areas in the Botanical Garden.
Daria Kholodilina is a travel writer and also works for the Georgian National Tourism Administration. She was born in Ukraine but considers herself Georgian. She enjoys showing her fascinating land to its guests and sees tourism as a contributor to her countryâ€™s development.
MARCH 2016 â€˘ KUNZUM
36 HOURS IN GLASGOW ANUBHUTI RANA
For years, I had heard mixed reviews about Glasgow - and was expecting a version of Gotham City. Nothing could be further from the truth - what awaited was a cheerful landscape accentuated by pink banners proclaiming, “People Make Glasgow.” Join me in knowing the city better - in 36 hours. 18
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WEDNESDAY Check In at Grand Central | 13:00 Train from London Euston to Glasgow Central departed at 08:30 to arrive at 13:00. The journey was uneventful and comfortable. I travelled second class but should have upgraded myself to manage a snooze - I was a tad jet-lagged after a full day flight from India. But the excitement of the trip provided the necessary adrenalin. Checked into the Grand Central - a heritage property located within the station itself. Saved myself a cab ride and did not have to drag my luggage. A recent 20 million pound refurbishment showed - my suite was exquisite and charming to say the least. Hop-On, Hop-Off | 14:00 Dropped the bags, freshened up, grabbed a sandwich and a coke from Greggs, and went looking for my red City Sightseeing Glasgow hop-on, hop-off bus. Got on at George Square West and sought an upper deck seat for better photographs. Figured this would be the best way to get acquainted with the city in one go. I was tempted to hop off at all 28 stops of the bus but the shadows were getting longer and entry to many attractions about to close for the day. And this was not a timeless trip. The Tall Ship | 15:00 My first stop took me aboard The Tall Ship berthed on the river Clyde. The name of the
from times gone by to appear and get about the job of cleaning, cooking and navigating the boat. The early evening skies were experimenting with stunning hues of blues and yellows, casting a golden glow on the ship. It was also time to put on a jacket. The Riverside Museum | 15:30 Alongside the ship is the Riverside Museum, home to some of the world’s finest cars, bicycles, ship models, trams and locomotives. Interactive displays and the hugely popular historic Glasgow street scene bring the objects and stories to life. If there is one collection I would want to invest in, it is vintage transport that I saw at this museum, regarded as one of the best in Europe. I had to rush through the exhibits before the gates closed. University of Glasgow | 16:30 With a checklist awaiting tick-offs, next stop was the University of Glasgow campus. I spent half an hour looking at exhibits in The Hunterian, Glasgow’s oldest public museum. The Hunterian Art Gallery houses one of the most important collections of the work of Scottish architect, designer and artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) and his artist-wife, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864-1933). This family name seems to be synonymous with Glasgow. The Mackintosh House, located close by, is a meticulous reassemblage of the principal interiors from the Mackintoshes’ Glasgow home. Pity I could not visit it as it was undergoing renovation. Dinner | 18:30 When you are in Europe, attractions close early - I had to leave Glasgow Cathedral for the following day. I got off at George Square, had an early hot dinner of minestrone soup and vegetarian pizza, and was in bed early.
Dinner at Café Andaluz
boat itself is the Glenlee, a three-masted barque (a sailing ship) - the names are a tad confusing because the Tall Ship is the name of the exhibit of which the Glenlee is a part. Let’s just leave it at that. It first set sail in 1896 as a bulk cargo carrier. I walked around the ship, expecting characters People make Glasgow. True. MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
THURSDAY Pollok Country Park | 10:00 I did not rush out in the morning - had a leisurely breakfast in the hotel before catching a local train to Pollok Country Park - reminding me of Glasgow roughly meaning ‘Dear Green Park’ (from Celtic ‘glas’ and ‘cu’). It is truly a city of parks, with over 90 of them - the largest being Pollok located about three miles from the city centre. With over 360 acres of woodlands, open countryside, paths, trails and streams - I could have stayed on for a few more days at least. I had cows to play with (safer with a fence separating us), and endless tea and carrot cake (and lots more) to savour in the tea rooms of the Pollok House - a grand country home with rare art collections showing how the affluent lived in times gone by. Located close by is the Burrell Collection housing over 8,000 objects donated to the city of Glasgow by Sir William Burrell in 1944. If I didn’t have attractions to tick off, I would have spent the whole day at Pollok. And probably joined in a game of cricket in the greens as the joker in the pack - but I promised to be back in Glasgow sometime soon in the future. Glasgow Cathedral | 14:00 A taxi ride took me to the Glasgow Cathedral, a stone structure going back to the 12th century. Its relatively new, post-war collection of stained glass is a work of art in itself. Tea Rooms | 16:00 I left the cathedral to explore the rest of the city by foot. Starving by now, I expected to find an eatery soon - but it would be an hour before I found my way to The Willow Tea Rooms on Buchanan Street - one of the four designed and owned by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the early 1900s. A hot pot of tea with traditional English tea cakes 20
KUNZUM • MARCH 2016
smothered with butter and cream cheese made for a lunch cum afternoon tea. When in the UK, I can drop everything to be in one of the numerous tea rooms. Shopping | 17:00 The rest of the afternoon was spent looking at shops in the area including those of Merchant City, the 18th century quarters boasting cool boutiques, bars and restaurants. I would have
The Museum of Transport
loved to pick up stuff but needed to keep my bags light - I had many more days to explore the UK. Sunset | 18:00 Sunset is best spent on the bridges over the river Clyde. For a busy city, it was very quiet along the riverside. I spent an hour walking along and across the river as darkness descended and the lights came on. Dinner and Walk | 20:00 I finally allowed myself a relaxed dinner at Café Andaluz with its smacking tapas with a fine selection of red wines - I was lucky to get a table without a reservation. I dawdled and lingered over dinner, admiring the decor and enjoying the buzz of the restaurant. I walked around till late into the night - the city felt very safe. Finally slept off after midnight despite needing to wake up early for a morning train to the Lake District.
The Hunterian Art Gallery in University of Glasgow
The Tall Ship
Any time is tea cake time
Inside the Glasgow Cathedral
Checking in at the Grand Central
Lawns of Pollok House
Setting sun over the Clyde River MARCH 2016 â€˘ KUNZUM
POSTCARDS FROM KENYA
First Time in
Masai Mara When I was leaving for the Masai Mara for my first trip to East Africa’s wilds, friends told me I would be oberwhelmed with tears of joy when I first set my eyes on the vast grasslands teeming with animals. My eyes did not go wet - while one was closed, the other stayed glued into my camera’s eyepiece all through. By the end of the trip, I knew I will be spending a good part of my travel time and budget in the continent for years to come.Here’s reliving just a part of thetrip with postcards from Mara.
AJAY JAIN 22
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CONSERVANCIES ARE YOUR PRIVATE RESERVES
Conservancies in Kenya are like public - private partnerships where large tracts are managed in a sustainable manner. Most have only one lodge or camp; in other words, you are usually by yourself. I stayed at the Porini Mara Camp in the 18,700 acre Ol Kinyei Conservancy - it seemed like oneâ€™s private reserve. In conservancies, there are fewer restrictions on going off-road - this allows you to get much closer to the animals. And you can be out for game drives at any time of the day and night. What else can you ask for?
Breakfast in the Masai Mara
THE THUNDERSTORMS CAME - AND THE ANIMALS FROZE
We had been warned of wet outings in the park since we were travelling during the short rains season - considered off-season. The rains kept their appointment on the first afternoon itself. It poured cats and dogs (no pun intended), with strong winds sending sprays deep inside our vehicles.
A pair of black-backed jackals took cover under some bushes while it rained - they would have been better off with a raincoat for all the shelter the bushes provided.
The reaction of animals was interesting during the showers - herds of wildebeest and zebras did a group huddle and became stationery during the time it rained. Breakfast in the Masai Mara MARCH 2016 â€˘ KUNZUM
THE MASAI ARE A WONDERFUL LOT
Most of the camp’s staff and guides were Masais - the wild seems to be a part of their lives, so knowledgeable and in sync are they with Nature. Their service is impeccable,and they are fun to be around - always ready with a joke or an anecdote.
Fixing a tyre gone flat during a game drive
DRIVING WITH A PUNCTURED TYRE - LEST THE LIONS GET US
An antler lying in the undergrowth punctured one of the tyres of our vehicle - but we had no choice but to drive for over 15 minutes before we could change the same. Why? A group of adult lions was resting close by - and it was not safe to get off the vehicle with them around.
Don’t be lulled into thinking you are safe on foot around lazy lions
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LIONS SLEEP. AND SLEEP.
Are lions really dangerous? Doesn’t look like it from a distance. Because they seem to just want to lounge and sleep all day - getting animated only when hungry or to stretch their muscles once in a while. Other photographers had told me lions are a very boring lot to shoot - yes, it does test your patience waiting for them to give you the desired shots.
A pride of lions, without a worry in the world
PLAY TIME FOR LION SIBLINGS
Lions can sleep for hours, but can also be quite animated when awake. At least the cubs are. Not having stirred all afternoon, I witnessed a pair of siblings come alive in the evening. It was play time - they rolled over each other and got into mock fights with some teasing and love thrown in for good measure. Children will be children.
That’s a big yawn!!. MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
No matter the species, mothers love their children - and show it. Even if it is the ‘ferocious’ cheetah. For close to two hours, I witnessed a cheetah and her cub at their dinner time. Between bites, the two would lie down, roll over, laugh (yes, they did), stretch in yoga postures and cuddle. Isn’t Nature wonderful?
IS IT AN AEROPLANE? OR A TAXI?
I feel unsettled at the thought of flying - especially in small planes. But one has to overcome such misgivings in Africa; flying is often the best option to get to places. What makes these flights interesting are their schedules - they would take off from, say, Nairobi and then hop at airstrips around Mara dropping and picking passengers. Runways are usually no more than flattened mud tracks. You may have to wait up to an hour beyond scheduled pick-ups. Why? Pilots change the order of ‘airports’ they visit. On my return, I was booked to take off from a strip two hours drive from my camp. The lodge manager called the airline, and told them to pick me from one closer by. Simple. No change of tickets, no charges. Just like calling a taxi.
Who wants a hippo for a pet?
A leopard cub
MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
Selous : The Hidden, Wild Gem of Tanzania
KUNZUM • MARCH 2016
LYNDSEY FAIR has the best of all worlds - a career in the wilds of Tanzania. As marketing and operations manager of the Selous Safari Company, she lives a dream life. Especially when she is at their flagship locations the Selous Game Reserve, one of the biggest and richest parks in the world, yet off the map for most travellers. Lyndsey chatted with Kunzum about Selous - the reserve and the company - and what makes it a hidden gem. What prompted you to set up camp in the lesser known Selous Game Reserve? Our founder Charles Dobie, who is still at the helm, grew up in Kenya with a love of wild remote spaces. When planning his first safari camp, he went looking for remote, virgin landscapes - untouched and unseen - and open them to the world. He saw this business as a means to create positive partnerships between tourism and conservation and to generate funds so vital to protecting our wildlife and to support local communities. How does the experience of Selous compare to other reserves and national parks in east Africa? The Reserve is the largest in Africa, spanning 55,000 square kms and is four times larger than the Serengeti - comparisons are not easy to make! Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Selous’ riverine wilderness and diverse habitat creates the perfect environment for a wealth of animals of all kinds; it also supports over 2,100 species of extraordinary plants. Selous is home to over 400 varieties of birds, more than half of Tanzania’s elephant population, and over 120,000 buffalos. The reserve’s 40,000 hippos and 4,000 lions are probably the largest populations on the continent; the planet’s largest population of rare wild dogs reside here too. Due to the local topography around our Siwandu camp, its location is considered the undisputed prime position for superlative game viewing. Selous is often compared to Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park - because we offer the added feature of boat safaris not available anywhere else in Tanzania. We also offer game walks, not common in other parks. How do experiences change at different times of the year? June to October are dry and warm months of the year, with temperatures ranging from 16 degrees Celsius at night to 35 degrees in the day. Animals are drawn to dwindling
water supplies in the lakes around the river and, with vegetation sparse, this is the perfect season for viewing larger concentrations of game. Spring comes in this coastal area of Tanzania with short rains in November and December plant life and flowers burst into life, attracting insects and a stunning variety of birdlife. The game during this green season may be more scattered than during the winter months but sightings remain good around water sources. It is also the main reproductive time of the year - it’s a wonderful opportunity to see baby animals. Temperatures rise sharply between November and March ranging from the high 20s at night to low 40s in the day. This is what makes Siwandu’s shaded swimming pools so inviting. The camp is closed during the long rain season in April and May. How many days should one plan to be in Selous? Guests usually stay for 3 - 5 days but you may want to plan a longer trip if tracking the Wild Dog or to explore the empty landscape for incredible photography opportunities. Most guests add Ruaha National Park to the itinerary and stay at Siwandu’s sister camp of Jongomero - offering a truly contrasting safari experience. After three or four days at each of our bush camps, you can relax at the Ras Kutani, our stunning beach retreat on the Swahili Coast.
How is a reserve like Selous important to the conservation efforts in Africa? Like all protected land in Tanzania, Selous is also vital to conserving wildlife, especially the endangered ones. How else will our children feel the thrill of seeing a rhino or an elephant, or of watching a lion hunt or a wild dog chase? Revenues from these reserves are needed to support anti-poaching patrols and rangers. Tourism contributes a critical 13 percent to Tanzaniaâ€™s GDP. The effort of all stakeholders is to promote sustainable tourism as it can be a perennial source of revenue unlike diminishing resources like gold, oil and gas. How are you making an impact on conservation efforts? Selous Safari Companyâ€™s policy is to financially support organisations which have renowned success within their specific conservation area. Currently, we are supporting SeaSense, a NGO working closely with coastal communities in Tanzania to conserve and protect endangered marine species including sea turtles, dugongs, whales, dolphins and whale sharks. We also work with STEP (Southern Tanzania Elephant Project), an elephant conservation project based in Southern Tanzania. Conservation cannot happen without community development - you cannot do one without the other. We strive to create jobs for local communities around protected zones either at our camps or with our vendors. This keeps them
away from poaching and fishing. We also educate the younger generation about the importance of conserving reserves and parks as a revenue source for them in the future. One such initiative in this direction is the Selous Safari Kids - we invited 13 children of our own staff to camp to see their parents at work and to appreciate the work we are doing. Is there an anecdote that you love sharing with everyone? Our Selous Safari Kids initiative at Siwandu turned out to be a wonderful one, allowing children a chance to dream of a future by getting timely career advice. Such mentoring is not common in Tanzania - but something as easy and inexpensive as telling someone what they need to do to be an accountant or mechanic can have such an impact. From that first pilot, we have a young man aspiring to be a chef - he is saving money to go to a culinary school. And a beautiful girl wanting to break Tanzanian cultural barriers and become a guide. Incredible! Share a secret about Selous. Most people do not know that Selous is home to the largest population of Wild Dog in the world - with less than 7,000 surviving globally, Selous is the best place to see these endangered animals. Watching packs of these wonderful hounds hunt, play and cavort is simply fabulous and something exceedingly special and rare.
Tents at Siwandu
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Boat cruises allow you to get up close and personal with wildlife
Deserted beauty of southern Tanzania
Walking safaris for those over 16
Lyndsey Fair is Operations and Marketing Manager at the Selous Safari Company. She pursued a career in events and hospitality after leaving Edinburgh University but her heart was in Africa where she grew up with her parents. She joined an island resort in Mafia as camp manager in 2010 before taking up a position at the Selous Safari Company in 2012
All photos courtesy Selous Safari Company
MARCH 2016 â€˘ KUNZUM
THE RIVER LESS TAKEN MARNUS curates an itinerary for a wildlife safari on the Okavango Delta, a World Heritage site, in Botswana, southern Africa. He claims more people have summited Mount Everest than navigated the Trans-Okavango. Title of the itinerary The river less taken. Locations to be covered The trip starts and ends in Johannesburg/ Pretoria in South Africa en-route to the Martins Drift border crossing between South Africa and Botswana. Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Kubu Island on the Makghadikghadi Pans and Maun in the Okavango Delta in Botswana are the main attractions. Arriving in Maun, we will have a rest day to prepare for the Trans-Okavango. The Trans-Okavango stretches from Shakawe in the north to
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Maun in the south. It covers roughly 400 kms of unspoiled wilderness through some of the best wildlife areas in southern Africa. Duration The entire duration of the trip is around 12 days, but can be extended to include more destinations to and from the Trans-Okavango. The TransOkavango takes six days with the remaining six days spent at other places mentioned along the route. Best time to go One in June and July as water levels are too low at other times of the year in the delta.
Transportation We travel in luxury 4x4s - Nissan Patrol and Toyota Land Cruiser - when on ground and aluminium T-Craft boats during the Trans-Okavango. The guides from AdventureMerc. are also the guides and drivers to ensure safety and client satisfaction. Highlights You get ample photographic opportunities along the way from rhinos at the sanctuary to red sunsets through baobab trees over endless stretches on the Makghadikghadi Pans - as well as the unspoiled nature and wildlife of the TransOkavango. Resting and relaxing at the pool with a cold beverage is the order of the day at the Island Safari lodge before and after the Trans-Okavango. Accommodation along the way We stay in 3-star lodges in the Khama Rhino Sanctuary; the Island Safari Lodge is also 3-star. There is semi-luxurious camping on the Kubu Island. Camping during the Trans-Okavango is wild camping with the emphasis on wild. This is how one gets the best opportunities to capture nature in all its raw beauty. General tips for travellers * Visa: Check if you need visas to South Africa and Botswana.
* Currency: Rand in South Africa and Pula in Botswana. * Safety: This is of topmost importance for AdventureMercâ€™s. Every safety measure is taken throughout the trip with radios, satellite phones and an expedition medical kit. Personal medical insurance and malaria madicine is recommended. * General personal safety: This must be taken into consideration when entering a wild big 5 territory. Wear safari clothing suited for the environment and also to blend with the environment. Sunscreen helps as southern Africa can get hot in the day even as temperatures drop at night. * Packing: Travel light, and carry accessories like flashlights and personal medication. All other expedition gear are provided by AdventureMerc. * Tipping: You are expected to tip the guides, porters and cooks - recommended is upwards of US$ 10 per day for each depending on service. Estimated costs This itinerary with accommodation mentioned works out to be about US$ 1,800 per person for a group of 6 - 8 people. This includes all transport, meals, border crossings, accommodation, park fees, concession fees, game drives, guide fees and other expedition related costs. Flights to and from South Africa, personal medical insurance, visa fees, alcoholic beverages, souvenirs and other personal expenses are not covered.
Travel with Marnus Botha Marnus Botha, the founder of AdventureMerc, is a tour guide, adventurer and expeditionist for hire. Join him on his next journey at http://adventuremerc.com.
MARCH 2016 â€˘ KUNZUM
5Visit Reasons to Zambia MINDY ROBERTS 34
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Over the years I have heard guests confuse Zambia with Zimbabwe and Zaire. A guest actually said to me last year, “I am so happy to be here in Zaire, I have always wanted to visit.” I have even been asked, “So whereabouts in South Africa is Zambia?” Zambia deserves to be taken seriously in its own right, thanks to its unbeatable wildlife viewings and the Victoria Falls - these are just a few of the many attractions. As someone who has lived here for seven years and calls the country home, I wanted to put together my top five reasons to visit one of the continent’s lesser known countries.
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1. The guides: Zambia has some of the best guides in the world, with companies winning best guiding teams awards internationally every year. Most guides in the country are born and bred in the Zambian bush; knowing the wild is second nature to them. They genuinely love what they do and have a passion for wildlife. I have often seen a guide of 15 or 20 years come back more excited than the guests with their sightings. There is never a compromise on safety issues, and Zambian guides have to regularly pass stringent exams for walking in the bush, canoeing and boating and also maintain advanced driving and first aid skills. 2. Remote, vast, magical and unique – Liuwa Plain National Park: The Liuwa Plain National Park is not very well known but a few facts will astound anyone. It is so exclusive and remote that there is only one permanent camp, Matamanene Camp, in over 3,600 square kms of land. You can witness the second largest migration of wildebeest in the world. The bird life is extraordinary. Liuwa is also a photographer’s paradise with internationally acclaimed photographers like Will Burrard-Lucas visiting frequently. And the hyena pups… they are just so cute! 3. Perfect camps for family travel: The travel industry in Zambia is very family friendly. Many camps offer family units in the form of private villas, houses and interconnecting tents. All these feel small and intimate like a bush home, not a hotel in the bush. While children under 12 may not be able to walk or canoe, there is plenty to keep them entertained. I have children in the kitchen cooking with our chefs, on poo walks in
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an open area near camp or just learning things from guides or waiters! Most camps offer pretty good rates for kids, as does Proflight for all scheduled flights within the country. 4. One of the last great wilderness experiences: National parks account for over 33 percent of the country thus offering a rich picking of different habitats, activities, animals and vistas – you don’t need to go anywhere else to get the complete safari experience. Zambia is a lot less commercialised than other parts of Africa; wildlife spottings take place without jostling with too many vehicles or tourists. Even though one can check into 5-star accommodation, the soul of Zambia is still to be found in the smaller, remote bush camps that use natural materials as part of the construction and offer a much more intimate experience with nature. 5. Owner operated: There is a legacy in Zambia that the camps and companies are owner operated and this is still the case for many of the top camps around the country. This means that the people who manage the company, own the company. Why does this make a difference? Guests can have a meal with someone who lives and breathes the values of the business, creating long-term friendships. As the people who own the camps, we feel a personal responsibility; issues are sorted quickly and there is pride in giving you the best safari of your life. And in effect, you are being invited into a ‘home’, which provides for a relaxed and very personal stay.
Mindy Roberts is the sales and marketing director at Norman Carr Safaris in Zambia. Being from Australia, she has always loved the bush. She met the company’s managing director, Dave and his wife Kate in London, attended their wedding in the South Luangwa National Park in 2008, went for her first safari and realized the corporate rat race was not for her. She has been in Zambia since then. She still pinches herself every now and again, especially when elephants walk past her bedroom window and thinks, “Wow, I’m living in Africa – who would have thought I’d end up here!”
MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
Going Vegetarian in
Phuket, Thailand AJAY JAIN The Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, Thailand is not for the faint-hearted, even if the name suggests otherwise. A nine-day event held annually usually in October, it is marked by processions, festivities, religious ceremonies and of course lots of food usually. The most quirky (and gruesome for many) part is what the devout do to invoke the Gods: they puncture their cheeks with knives, skewers, chains, tools, fans and almost anything that imagination allows. There are instances of firewalking and walking up 38
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steps made of blades. The devout believe that their Gods will protect them from bleeding, scarring and pain - but this cannot be the case, medically speaking. This does not stop anyone from getting increasingly daring every year - you can see any number of such believers marching in a trance during street parades. Loud and smoky burning of firecrackers is an integral part of the parades. Monks and nuns join in, showering blessings on those standing by.
THE ORIGINS The Vegetarian Festival in Phuket takes place in the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. Legend goes that a wandering Chinese opera group set up base in the region, and several fell ill due to Malaria. They offered prayers to the Nine Emperor Gods and adhered to a strict vegetarian diet for ten days. They were cured. Inspired, tons of devotees have been gathering in Phuket to celebrate this festival for the last 150 years who believe this will help them obtain good health and peace of mind. Entire streets are blocked for food stalls - all serving vegetarian dishes. These look, and taste
closely, like the meats and fish that are a part of the Thai / Chinese regular diet, but are made of soybean and protein substitutes. The ceremonies of the festival take place in the vicinity of the six Chinese temples scattered across Phuket. Locals bring their household Gods to the temples, along with offerings of food and drink. It is assumed that the household Gods will benefit from an annual injection of spiritual energy that fills the temple. A final word: Mind the firecrackers and jostling crowds; stay away if the sight of blood turns you off.
MARCH 2016 â€˘ KUNZUM
The ceremonies of the festival take place in the vicinity of the six Chinese temples scattered across Phuket. Locals bring their household Gods to the temples, along with offerings of food and drink. It is assumed that the household Gods will benefit from an annual injection of spiritual energy that fills the temple.
A final word: Mind the firecrackers and jostling crowds; stay away if the sight of blood turns you off.
A PERSONAL CODE DURING THE FESTIVAL Devotees also try to follow a personal code during the festival days that includes: * Personal hygiene. * Using clean kitchen utensils not to be used by those not participating in the festival. * Wearing white. * Keeping thoughts pure. * Abstaining from non-vegetarian food. * Avoiding sex. * Not consuming alcohol. * Those in mourning and pregnant / menstruating women stay away from ceremonies.
Anyone can be a part of these festivities as these are held on the streets. There are no tickets to be purchased separately. Do check the schedules - these change every year. Processions take place in different parts of the city during the nine days - your guide or concierge will be able to advise you on the same. Phuket offers enough choices of hotels for every budget. 40
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6 Days in Jordan AJAY JAIN 42
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I have been to Jordan twice and can go back a few more times. Not just to re-visit the wonders I have already experienced but also to discover new ones. And to meet even more Jordanians - they are a wonderful lot to put it simply. You should visit too - you may find this 6-day itinerary a handy reference. DAY 0: LAND IN JORDAN This is likely to be the day you land in the capital Amman, located on a hill between the desert and the fertile Jordan Valley. Depending on the flight timings, you may or may not have time and energy to go around the city. If you have the evening free, head to The Citadel. In any case, go for a traditional Jordanian / Arabic meal in the evening - you will love the cuisine. Sleep well at night. DAY 1 This will be your first full day of excursions. Head to Jerash - one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. You can easily spend half a day here. Drive to Ajlun Castle from there - an hour should be enough for the visit. Head back to Amman for an evening at The Citadel if not done the previous day. Spend the evening on Rainbow Street for a restaurant and bar crawl - it is ok to feast while on holiday. DAY 2 Start the day with religious tourism in Madaba, Bethany and Mount Nebo. After a few hours there, head to Petra, truly one of the wonders of the planet. How the Nabataeans carved such a gigantic city out of rock faces confounds the mind. You can never get enough of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Recommend you spend all daytime hours here - and then go in for a night viewing too; the latter is not always an option as it is open only on select days of the week. Walk the short market street of Petra town in the evening, and grab a bite in one of the many restaurants there.
DAY 3 Spend the full day in Petra, and also make a side trip to Little Petra - it is, as the name suggests, a smaller version of Petra and has its own charm. DAY 4 Head to the Red Sea port city of Aqaba - for a day of water sports and snorkelling to get a closer look at corals. Spend the night here. DAY 5 You could spend the morning out in the sea in Aqaba. And then drive to Wadi Rum for its maze of monolithic rockscapes rising upto 1,750 metres from the desert floor. T. E. Lawrence of Arabia and Sharif Faisal Bin Huessin based their headquarters in Wadi Rum during the Arab revolt against the Ottomans in World War I - those who have seen the film Lawrence of Arabia will know. Wadi Rum was in the news again recently depicting the planet Mars in the film The Martian starring Matt Damon. Wadi Rum is best enjoyed in the evening when the sun is setting - if you can, spend the night stargazing in one of the camps in the desert. Pity I missed out on a night under the skies. Head to the Dead Sea if not staying overnight here. DAY 6 Spend the last day of the trip floating lazily in the Dead Sea - the lowest spot on the planet. You could be here for a few hours or overnight; donâ€™t forget to get yourself pampered in one of the many spas in hotels along the sea. Head out to Amman from here to catch your flight back.
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Located on the highest hill of Amman, The Citadel or the Jabal al-Qala’a gives a bird’s eye view of the city and also a symbolic sense of the history of the region. There is evidence of settlements going back to the Bronze Age (3300 1200 B.C.). Excavations there have revealed numerous Roman, Byzantine, and early Islamic remains. You can spend hours here but the most striking sights are the Temple of Hercules and the Ummayad Palace. Seen in this image are the hand and elbow fragments of a colossal statue from the Roman period with the Temple of Hercules in the background.
THE ROMAN THEATRE
This 6,000 seater structure was built in the 2nd century A.D. when Amman was known as Philadelphia. Many cultural activities still take place here.
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The Graeco-Roman city of Jerash, formerly Gerasa, is situated in a fertile valley, less than an hour’s drive north from Amman. Known as the ‘Pompeii of the East’for its extraordinary state of preservation, Jerash is the largest and best-preserved Roman city outside Italy. It was hidden for centuries in sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years. Its outstanding architecture is clearly visible in its paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates. If you are lucky, you might get to see mock chariot races or a performance in one of its theatres. Every year, during July, this ancient city comes to life when the annual Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts takes place.
Ajlun Castle (Qal’at Ar-Rabad) was built by Saladin’s general in 1184 AD to control the iron mines of Ajlun, and to counter the progress of the Crusaders by dominating the three main routes leading to the Jordan Valley and protecting the communication routes between Jordan and Syria. It is a fine example of Islamic architecture dominating a wider stretch of the northern Jordan Valley. It is perched high on a hilltop surrounded by pine forests and olive groves. Close to Ajlun is Anjara, a Christian pilgrimage site where Jesus Christ, hismother Mary, and his disciples passed through and rested in a nearby cave now commemorated as the Church of Our Lady of the Mountain.
Madaba is one of the most memorable places in the Holy Land. Dubbed “the City of Mosaics,” most of which are at least 1,400 years old. The most famous of them is the vivid Byzantine mosaic map of the Holy Land (c.560 AD) in the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. It contains over two million pieces of stone tesserae and is believed to have taken six years to make. Clearly visible on the remarkably detailed map are Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, Jericho, Nablus, Hebron, the Nile Delta in Egypt and southern Lebanon. The image here shows a part of this map. You can walk the streets of the town seeing artisans making, repairing and restoring mosaics. Buy some for yourself. Two millennia ago, the area opposite Jericho was identified as the place where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, making it one of the focal Christian pilgrimage sites. The area known as “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” was discovered between the Jordan River and Tal Al-Kharrar (St. Elijah’s Hill), not too far from Madaba. A cave was discovered where John was living when he baptized Jesus. It is from this hill that he ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire. Findings from the early 1st century AD confirm the site was inhabitedduring the lives of Jesus and John the Baptist. MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
Moses is believed to have been buried at Mount Nebo and it is therefore the most revered holy site in Jordan. When atop this mountain, one can see as Moses did the vastpanorama after leading his people from Egypt across the Sinai Desert to the Promised Land. The view encompasses the Jordan River Valley, the Dead Sea, Jericho, and Jerusalem, often referred to as the Holy Land. Mount Nebo’s first church was built in the late 4th century to mark the site of Moses’ death. It remains a place of pilgrimage for Christians as designated by Pope John Paul II.
A modern day sculpture at Mount Nebo
If there is a man-made wonder on this planet, it is the Nabataean city of Petra going back 2000 years. Your trip to Jordan cannot be complete without Petra. The journey into Petra starts through the Siq, a very narrow gorge, about one kilometre in length, flanked on both sides by towering rock walls that reach a height of 70 metres. At the end of the Siq is the Treasury (the Khaznah) with its massive façade carved into thesolid rock face - this is the defining image of Jordan. The rose-red city of Petra lies beyond, with its endless tombs and temples, its huge theatre and fascinating high places. Petra was an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India, and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Rome. The Nabataean Kingdom existed for centuries, and Petra became widely admired for its refined culture, massive architecture and ingenious complexof dams and water channels. Ultimately, however, the Roman Emperor Trajan annexed the Kingdom. By the 14th century, Petra was completely lost to the West, and so it remained for almost 300 years. Then in 1812, a Swiss traveller, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, persuaded his guide to take him to the site of the rumoured lost city. Secretly making notes and sketches, he wrote: “It seems very probable that the ruins at Wadi Musa are those of the ancient Petra.” The Treasury in Petra
‘Lost in Petra’ - yes, that’s the name this Bedouin goes by; look up Lost in Petra on Facebook!
Donkey ‘taxi’ anyone to get around Petra?
Follow these steps in the Wadi Rum
Want to hire a camel to explore the Wadi Rum? Don’t rely on GPS though - take a guide with you.
Out in the sea in Aqaba
All afloat in the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea mud can be a natural spa
The Red Sea in Aqaba MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
When Headhunters Celebrate The Konyaks, known as the headhunters of Nagaland in the past, sure know how to celebrate. You only have to attend the annual Aoling festival in their villages to see for yourself.
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The Aoling Festival is the annual ‘Spring Festival’ of the Konyaks, the once feared headhunting tribe of Nagaland who reside in the Mon region in north-eastern India. With the sowing season over, it is a time to celebrate, make merry and welcome the spring. Drinking locally brewed rice beer (there is no alternative anyway; Nagaland is ‘officially’ a dry state), smoking opium and eating heartily are acceptable in excess during the week long festival. Guns fire (with real gunpowder, thankfully pointed away from breathing species) all day and night to serve as a reminder of the hunting past of an otherwise peaceful tribe. What attracted me to the festival was the absence of stage managed programs and corporate logos taking over the landscape – in other words, it is as authentic as it gets. I was with real people living in their real world celebrating their real occasions. It
also meant I did not have any comfortable tourism infrastructure waiting for me. For all the hardship, it felt good to be only one of a handful of outsiders witnessing the festivities.
Mr. Leiwang of Wanching village is ‘happy’ during the Aoling festival, dancing and drinking rice beer from a bamboo tube
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A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THE AOLING FESTIVAL • The festival marks the end of the sowing season; farmers practice the ‘Jhum’ or Slashand-Burn form of agriculture on the rolling hills of the state. Crops include rice, yam, pumpkins, chillies, tapioca, cucumber, maize, job’s tears and millet. Sites for these are rotated every two years. • This is a time for jubilation and making merry; everyone dresses in their traditional best sporting headgear, colourful dresses and ornaments. Dance, music, drinks and food are in abundance all day and well into the night. • Guns, with real gunpowder, can be heard going off at all times of the day – these are symbolic of their headhunting days of the past. Konyaks have been making their own guns and gunpowder long before coming in contact with the outside world. • A special Rice Beer is brewed from sticky rice a week in advance which is consumed (in excess) in bamboo mugs.
People also identify this festival with the blooming of the red coral tree flowers and red lilies. Our host pointed out to two men in Wanching village singing a song celebrating the blooming of the Coral tree flower in their local dialect. The festival is celebrated in villages across the district with no defined schedule. You have to ask around about events taking place when you get there.
THE LAST OF THE TATTOOED FACES AND BODIES The Konyaks have been tattooing their bodies all through their history. However, this practice slowly when out of favour coinciding with conversion of much of their society to Christianity over the past century. One can still see such tattoos, especially facial ones, only amongst the older generation. It may be a matter of not more than 20 years before the last of the tattooed Konyaks are lost to this world.
Gathering before a battle cry.
Singing and dancing during the Aoling festival in Lungwa village
Tattoos on legs of old lady in Wakching.
An old lady in Wakching village in Mon. Seeing my camera, she promptly went to an inner room and came back all ready for some good portraits.
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DO YOU WANT THESE NECKLACES? Konyaks love colour, their favourites being red, yellow and orange. The Aoling festival flowers are the red coral tree flowers, red lilies and yellow orchids. Men can be seen wearing necklaces made of tusks of boars and teeth of deer as minor trophies. They also show these off as a sign of their ‘manhood’ and hunting skills; women don’t hunt so wear plastic beads. I bought a necklace with deer teeth. It hangs in my living room.
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The lone warrior walks bravely to face the ‘enemy’ during the Aoling festival in Lungwa village
Battle action during the Aoling festival in Lungwa village. That’s real gunpowder.
See the yellowing bracelet around Mr. Leiwang’s elbow? It’s probably made of ivory – a family heirloom going back to the time when it was legal to own one.
Gathering for the ‘battle’.
* Getting there: Take a flight to Dibrugarh and hire a taxi from there. It will take you 4-6 hours to get to Mon town, about 150 kms (95 miles) away, depending on road conditions and weather. * Weather: Winters can be cold, with a very pleasant spring and autumn. It gets extremely wet in the monsoons from May to September. * Clothing: It is a good idea to keep a light jacket and rain protection gear and umbrellas handy at all times of the year. Wear sturdy and comfortable walking shoes. * Accommodation: Basic at best. Homestays are better than hotels. Carry your own bedsheets and towels. * Amenities: Water supply and electricity can be erratic. Charge your computers, phones and cameras at every opportunity. * Connectivity: Surprisingly, mobile networks work well here. * Food: Eat what locals do, or pick bread, eggs and simple food from the market. * Inner Line Permit: Indians need one but foreigners don’t. It’s a simple formality but can take a couple of days
KUNZUM • MARCH 2016
Waking up in Samar under a sky full of stars and hiking up a nearby peak in order to watch the sun rise up over the Himalayas... that's MyGHT
National Geographic Photographer
ANNAPURNA AND MUSTANG region is accessible along a selection of well-maintained trails that snake in and around the 55-kilometre Annapurna massif, separated from the gargantuan Dhaulagiri (8167m) by the Kaligandaki, the deepest gorge in the world. While the valleys around Pokhara receive high rainfall forming stunning glaciers, the rain shadow produced by the Annapurna Massif creates a high-altitude desert to its north. It is as if all this immensity is meant to protect the mystical Kingdom of Lo, one of the last examples of living Tibetan culture in Nepal. GET INSPIRED AT WWW.GREATHIMALAYATRAILS.COM OR SEARCH FOR #MYGHT ON INSTAGRAM OR FACEBOOK
HIKE REFLECT 8,848M YOGA LIVE SCRAMBLE CLIMB ECHO VILLAGE SUMMIT SNOW LEOPARD NAMASTE RUN INSPIRE PEAKS GEAR DISCOVER LIVE TEA YETI SNOW BIKE HIGH PASS WALK BELAY PHOTOGRAPH VALLEYS BEND CAMP FLAGS TREK COMPETE STUPA DREAM FLY PRAYER SUNRISE STARS RED PANDA HOME SLEEP MEDITATE PUSH JUMP GLACIER SHARE ROCKS RIVER TEMPLE RAFT WILDLIFE EXPEDITION BREATHE BLESS GORGE MOUNTAINS MASSIF CULTURE CIRCUIT FOOTSTEPS IMAGINE FRIENDS PEACE BACKPACK NEPAL ADVENTURE LODGE FESTIVAL EXPLORE BASE CAMP
Road Tripping >>>
7 REASONS TO GO ROAD TRIPPING IN INDIA AJAY JAIN If you love travel, you have to explore India. By road. In my case, it was the opposite. I first hit the road, and then fell in love with travel. Yes, you read that right. A weekend photography trip to the Himalayas happened to come my way in 2004, and I self drove the entire way. The only time I have looked back since has been to reverse my car! And now I recommend road tripping in India to whoever cares to pay attention. Why? For the same reasons that I love to myself. Here we go: 1. You can still be an explorer in India: It seems every point on this planet has been mapped and documented. True, in a way. But not for the traveller in India. Bar a few popular places, most still get talked about amongst a niche crowd. You only have to drive through the country for surprises to like with every milestone. You will truly feel like an explorer here. Driving through regions like Ladakh, the North-East, and states like Gujarat and Karnataka left me agog with the unanticipated. 2. The roads, they are so much better now: Highways became a priority for successive Governments as we entered the new Millennium. National and state highways are mostly in a very 54
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good shape, making driving a pleasure. Sure, there are bad stretches but take them in your stride. And you always have to watch out for bad drivers in India. I recently did a thousand kms (625 miles) journey from Pench National Park to New Delhi in 11 hours driving time – no kidding!! 3. The food: Roadside eateries or dhabas in India are like no other in the world. Cooked fresh while you wait, you get the real food of India on its highways. Punjabi daal makhni, south Indian dosas, Maharashtra’s vada pav, cutting chai and lots more will leave you satiated and salivating for more. I carry a tuck for emergency hunger, but rarely have I needed to consume it all.
could not have imagined: landscapes, streets, events, portraits, wildlife, road signs, colours, shops, eateries and every other conceivable theme on this planet.
4. Home to so many people, such different people: If you want to meet the real Indian, you can do so only on the road. From modern youth to tribals in their traditional attire, from plush bungalows to old world village homes, from businessmen to farmers, vast settlements to nomadic camps – you will meet everyone as you drive. Talk to them, and you are sure to be enriched with their life stories. There is no other way to. You only have to see the collection of portraits shot by me on the road to know what I mean.
5. Set an itinerary, and change it over and over again: No matter how much you research your trip, you will be offered temptations prompting you to change course. A hidden fort, a beautiful lake, apple plantations, a religious festival, marriages, local fairs – the more you ask around, the more to-dos will get added to your list. You will eventually have to sacrifice many sights if you want to make it to your final destination in good time. But then again – isn’t the drive the destination in itself?
7. The infrastructure is improving: There is no need to fear how you will survive while on the road. Hotels are coming up all across your routes, you will be connected over mobiles at most places, fuel is usually not a problem, food and water are easily available. Yes, a lot is still missing. And you may not want to drive at night especially in remote areas. Emergency aid might not always be forthcoming. But plan well, and take your precautions, and you will do fine. The thrill and romance of driving in India is waiting for you. Is your engine purring?
6. A treasure trove of images: It is for nothing that photographers find India the richest place to shoot in. You will come back with images you
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Pradesh lies in the centre of India, KUNZUM ROUTE Madhya but many a traveller gives it a miss while
K17 Madhya Pradesh,
KUNZUM â€˘ MARCH 2016
criss-crossing the country. Few regions in the world offer as incredible an offering as MP. History, culture, wildlife, landscapes, tribal settlements, water bodies, forests, birds â€“ to be found within a few hours of each other.
What adds to the joy are the roads. The state has a well developed network of quality roads in most places for a smooth drive. MP also boasts of a good transport infrastructure air, rail and road - as well as hotels to suit all budgets and travel preferences. The flexibility and options allow you to design an itinerary of your choice. Of course, travellers must handle MP with care. The flora and fauna of its forests are under constant threat from human development, greed and callousness. The tribals and other traditional communities need to be treated with respect. And we all know how fragile historical remains are. It is for all stakeholders to ensure tourism is sustainable. And while you are doing your bit, hit the road on Kunzum Route K17. The route here does not cover everything on offer for the traveller - but we will update the same every time we visit the state. Happy driving. LOCATIONS AND ATTRACTIONS ON ROUTE K17 New Delhi The route has taken New Delhi as the starting point - you could be coming from other locations too. Agra & Gwalior Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, is not covered in this route but you will cross it on the way. You could stop in Gwalior for the Gwalior Fort. Orchha Located on the banks of the Betwa river, the town was established in the 16th century by the Bundela Rajput chief Rudra Pratap Singh. Known for its exquisite temples and palaces, the town comes alive at sunset and sunrise with the golden hues of the sun. Go boating or rafting on the pristine river if water levels are good.
Khajuraho Khajuraho is a town of Hindu and Jain temples known for their architecture and erotic sculptures. Most of these were built between 950 - 1050 A.D. by the Chandela dynasty. Panna National Park One of the most beautiful yet lesser visited reserves of India. The good news is that you have the park mostly to yourself, and safaris are easy to book. Hike up to the Ajaygarh Fort if you have half a day to spare. And don’t forget to row a boat on the serene and clean Ken River teeming with birdlife. Bandhavgarh National Park When in Bandhavgarh, you can never be too vigilant. Tigers can come calling - even in your lodge. This is tiger country. By many standards, Bandhavgarh is a relatively smaller park, yet rich with its offering of flora and fauna. Being watched over by the majestically located Bandhavgarh Fort. Kanha National Park If you love the wild, you cannot skip Kanha. Just the drive to the park relaxes your senses: the terrain is hilly and serene, cutting through fields and villages. Closer to Kanha, you will see settlements of the Baiga and Gond tribal communities, their lifestyles resonating with the times gone by. Satpura National Park Satpura is the best kept secret in town. Tourist numbers are limited by design. The park is home to a diverse variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and plant life - incuding leopards and sloth bears. It’s undulating terrain is marked by hills, thick woods, meadows and water bodies including the Denwa river. The park also spoils you for choice between jeep, foot, boat, canoe and elephant safaris – and then there is the night safari too. If you are in a mood to be pampered, Satpura has some of the finest jungle lodges to check into including Reni Pani, Forsyth’s and Denwa Backwater Escape.
Bhimbetka If you ever needed evidence of the existence of man a long time ago, you will get it at the rock shelters of Bhimbetka. Yes, our ancestors go back a long way – at least 10,000 years!! With over 700 rock shelters, Bhimbetka is the biggest rock painting complex in India. Bhojpur The Shiva Temple at Bhojpur is yet another architectural marvel of central India. Held in high reverence by Hindus, it is often referred to as the Somnath of the east; the temple itself is called Bhojeshwar Temple. For some reason, it has been left incomplete – but that does not take away from its beauty. Bhopal Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, is a city of lakes and hills. And a wonderful hub to explore the many attractions within a few hours drive from the city. Sanchi A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sanchi is the site
of some of the finest built and preserved Buddhist stupas in India. Sanchi draws us to itself not only for its architectural and design finesse, but the site itself is very serene and calming for the soul. Vidisha Vidisha, earlier known as Besnagar, occupies an important footnote in India’s history, one that is largely ignored. It was a thriving trade centre, located on the banks of the Betwa and Bes rivers. Its rich merchants funded most of the structures at Sanchi and the surrounding areas. Some of the buildings to look out for are Vijaymandir (Bijamandal), Heliodorus’ Pillar and the Udaigiri Caves. Gyaraspur Gyaraspur is a surprise no one will tell you about unless you ask – even then, most will be ignorant of the existence of architectural marvels here. These include the Maladevi Temple perched on the edge of a hill, the Bajramath Temple, the Athkhamba or the 8-pillared pavilion and the Hindola Torana.
A Leopard Cub in Satpura National Park
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TIME - DISTANCE CHART From
Khajuraho / Panna National Park
Panna National Park
Bandhavgarh National Park
Bandhavgarh National Park
Kanha National Park
Kanha National Park
Pench National Park
Pench National Park
Satpura National Park
Satpura National Park
Sanchi - Vidisha - Gyaraspur
New Delhi Gwalior
NOTES: Khajuraho and Panna National Park are like twin locations, separated by a distance of about 14 kms (9 miles). Sanchi, Vidisha and Gyaraspur are usually covered in one day as they are all along the same highway from Bhopal. All times indicate actual time to travel, not accounting for traffic delays and breaks.
17 DAYS ON ROUTE K17 This itinerary will allow you to cover the entire Route K17 with ample time at each location. Of course, you can always modify the same to suit you. • • •
• • • •
Day 1: Reach Orchha by lunch time. Explore the town during late afternoon and evening. Day 2: Explore Orchha early morning and leave for Khajuraho to reach by lunch time. Explore. Day 3: Explore Khajuraho till late morning, and then head to Panna. Plan an afternoon jungle safari or an evening boat ride on the Ken river. Day 4: Go for two more safaris in the forest. Or use one half of the day to visit the Ajaygarh fort nearby. Day 5: Leave for Bandhavgarh in the morning to reach by lunch. Safari in the afternoon. Day 6: Two more safaris in Bandhavgarh. Day 7: Morning safari in Bandhavgarh. Drive to Kanha in the afternoon. Or skip the morning safari, reach Kanha by lunch and go for a safari there.
• • • • • • •
Day 8: Two safaris in Kanha in different zones. Or use one half of the day to visit tribal villages. Day 9: Morning safari in Kanha. Drive to Pench in the afternoon. Or skip the morning safari, reach Pench by lunch and go for a safari there. Day 10: Two safaris in Pench. Day 11: Leave for Satpura in the morning. If you leave early enough, you could be in time for a safari in the afternoon. Day 12: Safaris in Satpura. Choose between foot, jeep and boat safaris. You can never have enough of the park. Day 13: Suggest spend another day at Satpura for more safaris. Day 14: Drive from Satpura to Bhopal with stops at Bhimbetka and Bhojpur. Reach by evening. Days 15-16: Visit Sanchi, Vidisha, Gyaraspur and explore Bhopal and its beautiful lakes. Day 17: Drive from Bhopal to your home. If headed to Delhi, you may want to take a night halt in Gwalior.
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TIPS FOR DRIVING ON ROUTE K17
• • • • • • • •
Road Conditions: The roads are mostly very good all across Madhya Pradesh bar a few stretches. You could travel in any kind of vehicle. Fuel: Not a problem - there are enough gas stations all along. But it is always a good idea to tank up when the gauge falls below half. Food: You may not find too many good places to eat on the highways. But if you are not too choosy, there is enough to eat at dhabas (roadside eateries). Or you could pack a snack. Safety: The state is very safe to drive around in, with crime rates being low. But like any other place, do take your precautions. And night driving is always avoidable in India as assistance in case of breakdowns and mishaps is not easily available. Routes: Directions are quite well marked on the highways but always a good idea to ask for the best routes - locals can suggest alternatives that are better. Driving around forests: Madhya Pradesh has an extensive forest cover, with roads cutting through these. Drive carefully and do not overspeed - you don’t want to run over any animals. Toilets: A big problem on the highways. Request fuel stations, hotels and restaurants if you can use theirs. Go behind the bushes and rocks for a more hygienic option. Best time to go: Summers can be very hot - thus avoidable. Unless you are going to forest reserves where wildlife sightings can be at their best. Late October to February are what you should look at.
DOWNLOAD the complete Kunzum Route K17 guide at http://kunzum.com/books
Temples in Orchha
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The Buddhist Stupas of Sanchi
Erotic sculptures on the exterior walls of temples in Khajuraho
Why are the Indian Gaurs fighting in Kanha National Park?
Rock Art at the Pre-Historic Shelters in Bhimbetka
Mala Devi Temple in Gyaraspur near Bhopal MARCH 2016 â€˘ KUNZUM
Bija Mandal in Vidisha near Bhopal: This religious site is testament to the meeting of different faiths in the trading town of Vidisha. Bijamandal is a 11th century structure that may have been a Hindu temple earlier before being converted into a mosque in 1682.
Hindola Toran at Gyaraspur near Bhopal: One look at Hindola Torana, and you cannot help but wonder at its magnificence during its glory days. Located at the base of the hill leading to the Maladevi temple, what stands now are the ruins of a 10th century Vishnu temple. The exquisite pillars of the mandapa (hall for public rituals) and the torana (gateway) still survive. The latter are noteworthy for the detailed depictions of the 10 incarnations of Hindu God Vishnu.
One of the caves of Udaigiri Caves in Vidisha. A group of 20 caves – 18 Hindu and the others Jain – were carved into the sandstone hillsides around the 4th-5th centuries A.D. An inscription in Cave 6 suggest that the caves were excavated during the reign of the Gupta king, Chandragupta II who ruled from 382 – 401 A.D. The caves are an intricate work of art, with beautifully chiselled entrances, architraves and pillars. Some caves have richly carved doorways guarded by figures of dwarapalas and other mythical figures.
A Gond lady in Kanha breaking into an impromptu dance. Notice her tattoos? The villages of Baigas and Gonds in Kanha are clean with aesthetically designed houses painted in bright blues, whites and greens. The Baigas and Gond tribes in Kanha still maintain much of the lifestyle of generations gone by; they also believe they were the first humans to inhabit the planet.
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VELAVADAR BLACKBUCK NATIONAL PARK, GUJARAT - INDIA
Meeting Blackbucks, the Sweetest Ones
As far as sanctuaries go, Velavadar in Gujarat is the sweetest one. It is home to blackbucks, beautiful members of the deer family. Velavadar has the highest concentration of the endangered Blackbuck anywhere. But don’t let the gentle beauty of blackbucks fool you. They always take home the silver medal in running events, clocking speeds upto 80 kmph (50 miles per hour). Only the cheetah pips them to the post.
AJAY JAIN I happened to call upon the blackbucks during their peak fawning period of March – April (the other being September – October). When the males are not mating, they are locking horns to attract the females. Each male has its territory, but we know how politics works. But do they really need to spar? It seemed there were more than enough females. But then again, men will be men. The open grasslands of Velavadar suit the blackbucks just fine. They have a life span of up to 15 years, can be 120 cms long with shoulder heights of 73-83 cms and weigh between 32 64
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42 kilos (70 - 92 lb). The male blackbucks sport horns; the younger ones have a brown coat that gets blacker as they mature. Females are brown. And they all like to live in large herds. The reserve has no predators like tigers and lions - leaving the animals largely free from danger. Romance blooms, and the population increases. Good for them! Velavadar is also mostly off the tourist circuit. All this means animals and birds lead undisturbed lives - and visitors generally have terrific sightings. I did.
Vanity on display, or just fixing a crick in the neck?
A female Blackbuck: They never cross a road, they fly over it!
A male Blackbuck chasing a female. Will he succeed?
Antelopes and Blackbucks: Living in harmony together
Say Hello to the Blue Bulls After Blackbucks, the highest population in Velavadar is of Indian Antelopes, known as Nilgai or Blue Bull. Herds roam the park, and make a graceful sight as they trot away when they sense
people close by. Like the Blackbucks, they have reasons to fight too - saw a few sparring head-tohead. I really wonder what animals are thinking while fighting. Any clues? MARCH 2016 â€˘ KUNZUM
Hereâ€™s looking at you mate
A pair of female Antelopes
Surprisingly I also saw many wild boars up close. They are easily found in Indian forests - but not easy to click. They really know how to disappear fast at the slightest hint of danger. Wild Boars look like they could pack quite a punch, so why the disappearing act? Maybe they know what happens to their domesticated cousins, the pigs, in the human food chain. Wild Boars
THE HYENA CUB
I was keen to see a Hyena too - and I convinced my guide to take me to their home. It was a hole in the ground - with bones of consumed animals scattered around. The species found here is the Striped Hyena. We waited - and waited. And then, out of the blue, something darted out of the hole into the grasses. It was a Hyena cub - quite big for a kid - who was home alone. Mom was out to pick dinner. The cub would run a few yards, stop, look back, and then be off again. Did not quite know how to react to intruders in the neighbourhood. Mom, hurry up will you!
THE JUNGLE CAT GOES ON A HUNT
Another elusive species is the Jungle Cat. Camera shy, I was not just lucky to spot one, but it also stayed put. Why? It was out hunting for food. Rats specifically. As I watched, the Jungle Cat stood still in a crouching, alert position for a long time. And then it jumped. Literally. High up in the air to grab its prey. But missed. And walked away - pride hurt, stomach empty. It did look in my direction, embarrassed with the miss.
Springing up in the air to grab a prey
And here she is coming down. She would miss her prey.
The cat has a sheepish, silly grin for having missed especially when she had an audience waiting to applaud. Pride hurt, stomach empty.
• • • • •
Approximate Distances: Ahmedabad - 200 kms (125 miles), Bhavnagar - 52 km (32 miles), Palitana - 110 kms (70 miles), Lothal - 125 kms (80 miles), Alang - 107 kms (67 miles). Getting there: Take a flight to Ahmedabad or Bhavnagar, and by road from there. Safaris: You have to take your own vehicle, the park does not have any. Or ask your hotel to arrange one. Guides are usually available for a nominal fee. When can you visit: The park is open from sunrise to sunset. It closes from June 16 - October 15 for the rainy season. Accommodation: The best option is The Blackbuck Lodge, a wonderful property a mile from the park gate. Contact them at www.blackbucklodge.com.
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A female leopard resting in her cave; we both surprised each other when I walked into her lair
BERA, RAJASTHAN - INDIA
WELCOME TO LEOPARD COUNTRY IT IS WILD AND FREE AJAY JAIN
The female leopard gives me one final look before slinking away into her cave where her cubs were waiting
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Believe it or not: There is a village in Rajasthan called Bera, where leopards roam free. Along it flows the river Jawai, with the Jawai Dam built on it. And the resulting beautiful lake is home to some of the biggest crocodiles you will ever see. These are not a part of any National Park or sanctuary; most people don’t know about it, not even Rajasthanis. You will not see any madding tourist crowds here – go wildlife spotting freely, but remember you are on your own here. With leopards for company.
WALKING INTO A LEOPARD’S LAIR There is no count of the leopards in Bera, but there are more than a few. My first sighting was of a mother with two cubs - not very close, but I could clearly see them along a ridge through my long lens. They could be seen walking, stopping, playing on trees, and showing their love to one another in a way only mothers and children can. As the sun set and they walked away into the dark of the forest, my guide highlighted two ‘diamonds’ glowing in the spotlights trained on them – these were the shining eyes of a male leopard perched on a peak. Awesome! And then I walked into a leopard’s lair - literally. My guide was aware of a cave where a female leopard and and her two cubs were residing; we were passing close to this cave to park ourselves at a good vantage point for the photography. Suddenly, we were upon the mother - literally
not more than 20 yards away. She was relaxing early morning on a rock outside her cave - we were both taken by surprise. Within 25 seconds, she had walked away - leopards are shy animals. I was lucky too - one should never come so close to such cats, especially when they are protecting their cubs. I went on to have more sightings of adults and cubs alike - but none came close to this experience. UNETHICAL PRACTICES There are some travel operators who will offer to put up a leopard spectacle for you. They tie a goat to a tree, get you into a safe position for a good view and wait for a leopard to come for the bait. Many tourists get thrills with a close up view of the leopard killing its helpless prey. Do you want this for yourself? Make the right choice.
Leopard on the move
Leopard cubs playing in the morning
A leopard having dinner at night, disturbed by the presence of people like us around
After dinner stretch for the leopard MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
Villager with his flock
A view of the lake by the Jawai Dam
A female antelope drinks water at a watering hole while her beau watches her back
A male antelope
KUNZUM â€˘ MARCH 2016
THE SAFARI CONTINUES There is more game in the area than just leopards and crocodiles. If you are lucky, you will spot sloth bears - but they usually come out at night to feast on berries. I saw two bears climbing up a mountain in the early morning hours. It seemed more like they were rolling uphill! Other sightings include those of Antelopes (also known as Nilgai or Indian Blue Bull) – some alone, others in groups. Males are distinguished with their dark grey coats, while females are brown. Agile leopards feast on them; the lazy just help themselves to goats and cows belonging to the neighbouring villages. The forests are also home to hyenas, hares, foxes
and birds like Pelican, Greylag Goose, Robin Accentor, Demoiselle Crane, Barheaded Goose and Indian Partridge besides others. Hope you are lucky enough to see them all! THE LAKE BY THE JAWAI DAM The crocodiles too make for an unforgettable sight. Big, chunky fellows at over 15 feet in length, they were busy doing what they do best – nothing. But don’t be fooled with their sleepy demeanor – they are man-eaters. Ask the poor shepherds who take their herds to the edge of the water. Not too long before my visit , two shepherds are believed to have lost their lives. I saw crocodiles sun-bathing safely far out on the islands in the lake. Incidentally, the lake is full of fish, and locals disturb the crocs when they go fishing in their small row boats.
A shepherd in Bera
* Best time to go: Summers can be very harsh in Rajasthan - it is best to go between September and March. * Getting there: You can go by road from the nearest railhead or airport in New Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur or Udaipur. It is best to have a car to yourself during your stay to get around. * Accommodation: You have many options for all budgets - and more coming up as the destination gets popular. * Name of the place: Leopards are spotted on many hills in the area, each referred to by the village close by. The destination is thus referred to by many names, Bera and Jawai being the most common. * Safaris: Since the region is not protected, there are no safari bookings or fee to be paid. Your hotel will usually arrange suitable vehicles and guides for the same and charge you as appropriate.
Delightful Hotels to Check In To
The greatest reward for those in the hospitality business is the sight of beaming travellers. Such companies spread happiness. And deserve to be recognized. Kunzum 500 is a biannual award for all such enterprises and includes hotels and other travel service providers. The criteria is simple: Customers should come back from their trips feeling delighted. Featured here are some of the hotels who qualify to be included in Kunzum 500 for 2016 - 2017.You should check into these - you will come back beaming.
PORINI MARA CAMP
Masai Mara, Kenya
If you are out for game drives, you need your lodge to set the mood right. Thatâ€™s what the Porini Mara Camp is good at. The lodge is luxurious without being extravagant - they conserve power and water to give you that sparse wilderness feel without causing any discomfort. Being the only camp in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy, you have 18,700 acres of wilderness to yourself - with an abundant population of the big cats and other birds and mammals. The naturalists seem like they are a part of the forest life itself, so good is their knowledge and sense of the place. Chefs will prepare meals to suit you, with an old world charm to their service. If you want to explore the wild, Porini is your friend and guide in the jungle.
Check in at porini.com
THE ROYAL LIVINGSTONE
Victoria Falls, Zambia
If there were Oscars for hotels, The Royal Livingstone would have their cabinet full of trophies. It is difficult to imagine how anyone can improve upon the standards set by them. The hotel itself is a fine work of architecture, luxuriously fitted out with impeccable service. The restaurants and lounges can pamper you no end - you only draw a line to be able to carry yourself out for boat, jeep and helicopter safaris. But the cherry on the top is the setting: It is built along the Zambezi River overlooking the majestic Victoria Falls - sprays from the rush of water can be throughout the day with rainbows forming in them with the changing light. If you want to write a book, contract a long stay at The Royal Livingstone - even if it is not a bestseller, you will be in Nirvana land. 72
KUNZUM â€˘ MARCH 2016
Check in at suninternational.com/royal-livingstone
Lake District, England
Sharrow Bay might well be a reflection of plush country living in the times gone by in England. Located on the banks of Ullswater in Lake District, Sharrow Bay is one of the finest hotels in the world. The views could inspire a thousand postcards. The décor and furniture is old world and the ‘house’ is full of antiques even as fittings are modern. Meals and afternoon teas are an elaborate affair, every dish being a work of art. Walk around its well manicured lawns - they look like a museum of flora. Life slows down after you check in, and you can live ‘happily ever after’ without being connected to your devices. Check in at sharrowbay.co.uk
KEMPINSKI HOTEL AQABA
Red Sea, Aqaba, Jordan
When you check in to the Kempinski in Aqaba, ask for a room on the higher floor overlooking the Red Sea. You can spend your day just looking out from the balcony, so serene and blue is the setting. Despite its scale and being a part of a global chain, Kempinski feels very personal. The rooms are luxurious by any standard - it is very spacious too, something missing in real estate starved hotels around the world. The restaurants and coffee lounges are inviting - as are the bars by the poolside overlooking the beachfront. Go to Aqaba, and pamper yourself at the Kempinski. Check in at kempinski.com/en/aqaba/hotel-aqaba
Diani Beach, Mombasa, Kenya
Check in to Mzima House, cross the pool, go under the arches, walk over its lawns, step onto a white sand beachfront lined with coconut trees, hop on to a waiting boat, head out to a reef in the Indian Ocean and find starfish and other sea life up close. When you come back, a luxurious room awaits with beverages and snacks of your choice - and handcrafted meals you will relish. That’s Mzima House for you - with perhaps the best location on the pristine and unspoilt Diani Beach in Kenya. The architecture is a fusion of Tunisian and Moroccon styles, and the charm shows. Check into a double room, book the family cottage closer to the beach or take up an apartment for longer stay -Mzima has something for everyone.
Check in at mzimahouse.co.ke
Including arrangements for you to get married on its lawns.
MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
5 Jungle Lodges to Check In To in Madhya Pradesh
The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is big cat country - it also boasts the finest collection of luxury lodges in the forests. You could check in to any of them and not even step out and yet have a great holiday. What is also common to them are their naturalists all trained to make your game drives a memorable experience. The list is much longer, but here are five you are sure to love.
JAMTARA WILDERNESS CAMP
Pench National Park
Isolation defines Jamtara. The camp itself is away from any decibels other than those of birds and the occasional passing animal. And each of its tents feels like an island in itself. And then there is the Star Bed - a bed for two raised on stilts set in neighbouring fields. Unless you opt for a guard to keep an eye out, you will be more alone under the skies than you ever have been. In other words, Jamtara is designed to make you feel you are in the wild. The tents themselves are a labour of love, each element carefully selected for a comfortable feel. You may want to walk off with the planks used on the decks - they are made of highly seasoned wood that were once part of ships. Meals are not lavish, but more than you can ask for. The sit-outs in the evening - under a roof, or under an old banyan tree, are the time to exchange stories and make new friends. And yes, their naturalists know the forest like few others do. Check in at www.jamtarawilderness.com
Pench National Park
Some of us may not be fans of big chains, but Taj Safaris deserve any accolades they receive. A part of the global Taj Group of Hotels, their lodges in forests are a class apart - including Baghvan in Pench. The accommodation is exquisite. Each unit has a well furnished bedroom, with a corridor leading to the bathing area that is a suite in itself. If you want the birds to keep an eye out for you while you shower, you can bathe in the open courtyard. A flight of steps takes you to a sit-out where you can hear scores of birds competing to be heard. Meals are an elaborate affair, with live counters serving a different fare daily, and table service where you can choose from a vast selection. Their chefs do a good job, and you will not find any reasons to grudge customer service. Their naturalists are very well trained, with some having been exposed to the ways of the forest both in India and in Africa. Check in at www.tajhotels.com
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RENI PANI JUNGLE LODGE
Satpura National Park
Reni Pani is actually in the middle of a jungle. There is nothing but tree cover within, and beyond, bar some clearings for the lodge. Mobiles donâ€™t work here - you are truly in the wild. A leopard hunting an animal in the vicinity does not make news. What you have is sheer luxury in the forest. Every bit of the lodge has been thoughtfully put together by the owners who, incidentally, love and know the forest very well. Dinners are held at different locations within the lodge - under the many trees, or by the pool. Service feels royal to say the least. Satpura is a wonderful reserve, made even more so because of Reni Pani. Check in at www.renipanijunglelodge.com
THE SARAI AT TORIA
Panna National Park
If there is one lodge that seems in sync with its surroundings, it is the Sarai at Toria. Truly earth-friendly with minimal use of power and water, each cottage blends with the grasses on the property. The owner couple, Joanna and Raghu, are renowned conservationists; the lodge may be their business now, but is also reflects their love and respect for the natural world. Located near the village of Toria, and along the Ken River, The Sarai is your perfect option when exploring the wilderness of Panna, or the history of the surrounding attractions in Khajuraho, the Ajaygarh Fort and other attractions. The owners may appear modest, but they have a wealth of stories to share except when they take a break to put together the most delectable meals you would have had. Check in at http://saraiattoria.com
KANHA EARTH LODGE
Kanha National Park
You fall in love with the Kanha Earth Lodge even before you get there - the last few miles leading to the lodge take you through tracks in thick forest. And when you check in, you know you would be happy spending days here. Each unit is elaborately furnished, with its own deck and extended shower and wardrobe areas. The staff is courteous, and always at hand to serve your needs. And they have a great chef, who caters to your tastes and appetite, often serving himself. The naturalists are not only knowledgeable, but always eager to show you around. When not out for a game drive, they will readily take you on nature walks to spot birds and reptiles around. Check in at www.kanhaearthlodge.com MARCH 2016 â€˘ KUNZUM
The highlight of the Yartung Festival is the horse races which attracts local riders from all around the region (Photo by Mohan Duwal / instagram: @mohgraphy)
Mustang, Nepal Himalayas’ Best Kept Secret MADELEINE DOLLING The beauty of the scenery as we approached Jomsom airport was rivalled only by the incredulity that a plane could possibly land there. Flying into the deepest gorge in the world requires a complex U-turn manoeuvre, potentially disconcerting for a nervous flyer but, fortunately, a routine procedure for our experienced Tara Air pilot. In any case, it was well worth it to have arrived in Mustang, one of the most stunning and intriguing sections of the Great Himalaya Trails. Our group was headed for Lo Manthang, the heart of the rugged and spiritually rich world of Upper Mustang. Hidden behind the soaring peaks of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, this remote and isolated part of the Himalayas remains very much the forbidden kingdom of the past. Mustang, or the Kingdom of Lo as it was known back then, was once an independent fiefdom closely tied by geography, language and culture to Tibet. Its strategic location on an ancient trade route enabled the kingdom to control the commerce between Tibet, Nepal and India, amassing substantial wealth from the taxes levied on the traded goods. Foreign visitors to the region were few and far between and the Upper Mustang region 76
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remained a restricted area till as late as 1992. Its relative geographical and political isolation from the outside world has contributed to a highly preserved Tibetan culture and unspoiled nature adding much to its allure as a travel destination today. While the region has been open to foreign tourists for over two decades now, tourism remains limited and regulated. Trekking permits are expensive ($500 for the 10-day permit) and limited to a certain number each year. Until recently the area was only accessible by foot or mule, making it one of Nepal’s most exclusive trekking areas with only a few thousand tourists passing through each year.
Today the main tourist entry point to Mustang is by air through Jomsom. Most visitors start the trek from the airport and travel the 80 or so kilometers to Lo Manthang by foot, along the same route that has been used for centuries. In April every year it’s also possible to run the circuit with Trail Running Nepal (http://trailrunningnepal.org), a highly recommended trip for those who like sightseeing at a faster pace. Fortunately for us, a well-trodden goat trail was recently widened to accommodate 4×4 vehicles which, since we were on a tight schedule, became our transportation of choice. The 7-hour journey took us on a very bumpy, sometimes alarmingly narrow, dirt track from the bottom of the Kali Gandaki gorge to the top of 4,000 meter mountain passes, through sparsely scattered Buddhist villages, along the rim of steep canyon walls carved out by the rushing waters of the river below. Past hidden caves, red-walled monasteries, colorful chortens festooned with prayer flags, and all this with the dramatic backdrop of impressive 8,000 meter peaks. At every resting point we were greeted by friendly locals offering delicious daal bhat, chia and Tibetan fried bread. Not keen on attempting the precarious jeep track after dark we settled down for the night in one of two guest houses in Samar. Rising with the sun we admired the stunning views of the snowy peaks of Annapurna Himal in the distance and the canyon landscapes in-between. The drive from Samar to Lo Manthang was one of ever-changing beauty. After kilometers of arid high-altitude desert lands the village of Tsarang magically appears as an oasis with colorful buckwheat fields and waterfalls overhead drawing water from the Dolpo glaciers. We stopped to admire the longest mani in the world and marveled at the grey, red and yellow cliffs towering above us. The final pass before descending into Lo Manthang offered a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the walled capital and the Tibetan plateau 50 kilometers yonder. Ancient monasteries, royal palaces and ruins of fortresses surrounded by a 6-meter white-
washed wall reveals a history of prosperity and grandeur. The walls also protect some 200 earthen households, built close together, creating a labyrinth of stone-walled tunnels and passages. The city seems almost frozen in amber, untouched by time and modern development. Street life within the gates grow more active in the late afternoons with children and young monks playing games of cricket in the courtyards and farm animals causing occasional traffic jams in the narrow streets upon returning from a day of grazing in the fields
Stunning views from the village of Samar (Photo by Shikhar Bhattarai / instagram: @nepal.travels)
We were also sharing our stay in this confined city with a few hundred Mustang ponies and their riders. Unaware of our luck, we had perfectly timed our visit to Lo Manthang with the yearly Yartung Festival. The festival takes place every August to celebrate the end of the summer season. The highlight of the three-day celebration is the horse races which brings in locals from all around the region. Riders and their spirited steeds gallop back and forth down the main pathways of the city, trying to impress the judges with speed and daring stunts, often coming perilously close to the spectators. The event was a special and rare insight into the local culture. While there are not that many frontiers left to discover in this world, trekking along the Great Himalaya Trails gives adventurous travelers a rare opportunity to encounter hidden gems like Mustang. Before it is unlocked to the rest of the world, be one of few travelers fortunate enough to experience this remote and seldom visited corner of the Himalayas.
Madeleine Dolling is a Swedish writer based in Kathmandu, Nepal. She is the online community manager for the Great Himalaya Trails, and an avid trail runner and trekker.
MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
NEPAL IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Nepal needs tourism dollars. And travellers will be glad they visited Nepal. By the Great Himalaya Trails Team Rough Guides recently named Nepal the #1 place to visit in 2016:“With varied landscapes – from the Himalayas to jungles inhabited by tigers, elephants and rhinos – Nepal should be your first choice for travel in 2016”.
afforded wonderful opportunities to connect with Nepalis along the way. And while you have one of the great adventure experiences of your life, your tourism dollars will filter down and have a positive impact in the communities that are hosting you.
As a team that has the good fortune to work and live in Kathmandu - we couldn’t agree more with their assessment. But we know that for many readers, this accolade may come as a surprise. Indeed, Nepal has had a tough 2015. The earthquake, and the current fuel crisis have put undue strains on the economy – but tourism has the potential to alleviate some of that strain.
WAIT, WHAT ABOUT ALL THAT EARTHQUAKE DEVASTATION? The earthquake of April 2015 will surely stick out in the minds of some readers and questions about safety and security may also be connected to that memory. Out of 75 districts in Nepal, only 11 were affected by the earthquake. We can tell you with confidence that reconstruction efforts are well under way and our tourism businesses are (and have been for some time) open for business. Various organizations have been working in Nepal to support the industry to ‘build back better’ and encourage tourists to return. Our team at Great Himalaya Trails has focused on getting the message out. After the disaster, we first ensured that our message was true. Our funder (Samarth-Nepal Market Development Program) hired Miyamoto International to inspect key trekking routes in Everest and Annapurna. Their assessment: the trails (and infrastructure along the trails) sustained minimal damage and are unequivocally safe for tourists.
Tourism in developing countries is often one of the largest income and job generators. This is particularly true of Nepal, where the tourism sector contributes about 9 percent to the GDP and employs more than a million people. Tourism dollars in Nepal don’t only benefit the airline, the hotel or the guide, they trickle all the way down to the seamstress who makes the waiters’ uniforms or the vegetable seller who provides produce to hotels. At the Great Himalaya Trails, we have set out to capture fresh content, so that tourists can see with confidence that, despite negative coverage in international news, the country is ready to welcome tourists. We have created a short film, we post blogs regularly and are constantly updating our Instagram and Facebook posts. Tourists can contact us at any time for up to date information about trails and conditions. We encourage trekkers to share their experiences with us by using the hashtag #MyGHT. Search for it on social media, and you’ll find real time photos of folks out on the trails from Kanchenjunga to Humla. Now is the time to visit Nepal. You will witness the reconstruction work in progress in places like the ancient cities of Patan or in Kathmandu Durbar square, where artisans are rebuilding heritage buildings using their age-old traditions. You’ll likely have the trails to yourself and be
INTRODUCING THE GREAT HIMALAYA TRAILS Great Himalaya Trails is a network of trails that makes it possible to hike in the Nepali hills and mountains from Humla and Darchula in the West to Kanchenjunga in the East. The GHT is a brand that has large national and international support and recognition. The concept of a diverse network of trails forms an iconic product that attracts many visitors to Nepal year after year. From the popular trekking areas of Everest and Annapurna to the more secluded treks in Dolpa and Makalu Barun, the GHT is the banner that covers the entire Himalayas. Web: www.GreatHimalayaTrails.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Instagram: @greathimalayatrails MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
BETTER BEACH HOLIDAYS JEREMY SMITH
Ask someone what their dream vacation looks like, and more often than not, they will describe a beach. Images of pure sand and clear waters have been the staple of tourism marketing across the world since the first people took their holidays. However, the very things that make beaches so attractive - holidaymakers arriving at that liminal point where land meets sea, seeking out unspoiled, deserted, pristine environments are also at the root of many of the issues that threaten them. Those perfect sands become a magnet for ever more and ever bigger hotels, until what first drew people there becomes but a distant memory. Places that were once used by local communities for pleasure and for their livelihoods become privatised, exclusive resorts restricting public access. Mangrove forests and wetlands are removed to make room for development, resulting in coastlines that are less resilient in the face of
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the increasing storms and sea rises that accompany climate change. Coastal areas whose infrastructure was designed to service a small number of villagers, rapidly struggle to cope with the energy needs of and waste created by seasonal tourists. The pristine beach may well be the most iconic of tourist images. The litter strewn, heavily polluted seashore is its negative - and equally emblematic counterpart. Thankfully there are a growing number of hotels and destinations around the world who have understood the importance of protecting their prime natural asset. Places where tourism works together with local communities to protect marine wildlife and maintain the coastline so that everyone benefits. Where clean-ups and coral planting programmes ensure tourism results in a better beach the next time you visit. Because of efforts like these, and of the examples below, there are still places around the world where everyone’s vision of the ‘perfect beach’ can come true.
FIVE GREAT BEACH HOTELS SONEVA FUSHI Taking the idea of the Maldives Coral Atoll Escape to another level, Soneva’s luxury hotels have won every award going. Not only do they provide some of the most luxurious ways to enjoy these islands, they are among the most sustainable too, with approaches to carbon and waste reduction that are a benchmark for what the rest of the industry might achieve. For example, all guests pay a compulsory climate levy on top of their bills, which has so far raised millions of dollars towards clean energy projects in places such as Darfur and Burma. Check out www.soneva.com/soneva-fushi
GULUDO Breathtakingly designed luxury tented accommodation on a wild and windswept beach in northern Mozambique. Divers will be aweinspired by the unspoilt reefs of the Quirimbas offshore, while foodies will be salivating over the fresh seafood served up each day. There’s also whale watching and the chance to head off with the fishermen on their traditional dhows. And no other tourists for miles. Barefoot luxury at its best. Check out www.guludo.com
MARARI BEACH A veritable paradise for nature lovers, CGH Earth’s Marari Beach transports visitors back to a Kerala before it became a world famous destination. There are no TVs or watersports to
distract, the beauty of the beach is shared with fisherman and waterbirds, and the property’s 55 acres ensure everyone has time and space to escape. And for those who still need something to do to help unwind, there’s ayurveda, yoga and cooking classes. Or hop on to a bike and head off to explore the local villages. Check out www.cghearth.com/marari-beach
EL NIDO Four sustainable luxury island resorts hidden away amid the many topical atolls and inlets of Palawan in the Philippines. Everything from the locally-sourced food to the low-impact activities are chosen with a deeply held commitment to keeping this pristine environment as it always has been. For guests it means this is the most magical retreat imaginable, truly an escape to another world. One where the rainforest starts at the edge of the beach and soars up the steep limestone slopes behind. And where if you stick your mask on and step into the sea you’ll soon be marvelling at the myriad corals and fishes to be found here. Check out http://www.elnidoresorts.com
THE READING ROOMS The first beach tourism evolved a couple of hundred years ago when British holidaymakers began leaving the cities for a short break at the seaside. Victorian towns like Margate sprung up to serve brief respite from the fumes of the Industrial Revolution. Cheap flights and foreign travel changed all this during the Twentieth Century, and these once grand towns fell on very hard times. But the Brits are coming back to Margate, which is enjoying something of a cultural rebirth to compliment its wild and beautiful beaches. The best place to stay is the Reading Rooms. There’s just three beautiful bedrooms in a funkily restored old Georgian townhouse. And you’ll wake up each day in your regal old bed looking forward to the most incredible breakfasts to be had. Check out http://www.thereadingroomsmargate.co.uk
Jeremy Smith (@jmcsmith) is the editor of sustainable tourism news website Travindy (http://www.travindy.com). He consults tourism companies around the world on how to deliver and communicate successful responsible tourism.
Ice Tracks Expeditions is dedicated to making Polar Adventure Travel a life-changing experience and give you a trip of a lifetime!
JOIN US ON OUR JOURNEYS AS WE MAKE TRACKS TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD….
Shackleton Centenary Voyage 2016! The grand ﬁnale of Shackleton & Endurance Centenary Mind blowing 22 day expedition cruise…Falkland, South Georgia & Antarctica including “The Crossing of South Georgia!” in the footsteps of one of the greatest polar explorers, Sir Ernest Shackleton!
October 30 - November 20, 2016
Further fantastic trips planned to Galapagos, Chile, Argentina, Namibia (train ride!)
“e whole trip was simply outstanding and far exceeded all my expectations. ey say dreams don’t come true but Angie, Caro and Cris together with the whole team worked their magic and fulﬁlled many dreams” - Reena Shah
ICE TRACKS EXPEDITIONS www.ice-tracks.com info@ice-tracks Tel (UK): +44 (0) 1926 641938
7TO THINGS KEEP IN MIND
BEFORE YOU PICK UP YOUR CAMERA AJAY JAIN The camera is the last piece in the photographic process. Seriously, I mean it. If you want to be a good photographer, as an amateur or a professional, do ponder over the following: 1. The camera does not matter: You do not need an expensive camera to start taking good photos. Make do with what you have – smartphones, point-and-shoots or basic DSLRs - and master these first. In over 70 percent of the cases, your entry level DSLR will give you results similar to a high end one. Upgrade only after you have been shooting enough with what you have first. 2. Technology does most of the work for you – but only you can compose: Today’s cameras are advanced enough to give you great results even in the auto mode, or by just adjusting the Shutter or Aperture settings. No need to fret about knowing all camera functions initially – just understand the essentials. But no camera can compose for you the art is your own. And that is what you need to work on most – what goes into your frame. Learn to observe the world around you – you can compose images in your mind without your camera. 3. Always be a student: Never stop learning. The Internet is a great resource for blogs, magazines and other repositories of knowledge. Go through this content regularly - understand what the experts are saying. Look at a lot of photographs – online and in galleries. Your senses will get more artistic sub-consciously. Talk to other photographers don’t hesitate to ask questions. We have all learnt from each other. A simple tip can do wonders for your photography. Learn from the Masters but don’t imitate them – develop your own style. 4. The 20:80 rule of classroom learning: No matter how many lessons you take, that is only 20 percent of the job done. The rest is what you do yourself. If you don’t practice regularly, and put in
the hard work, you might as well not waste your time and money attending classes. The teacher can only teach you the vocabulary – you have to forms words and stories yourself. 5. No substitute for hard work and odd hours: Photography is not for the lazy. You have to be on your feet – and at times when your subject can be shot best. If you want to shoot in the first light of the day, you have to be up when the world is still asleep. Sunrise will not change its schedule for you. Be willing to explore and wait for surprises to pop up - for example, if you are a travel or street photographer, spend hours walking around and observing. You cannot always pre-plan what you are going to shoot. 6. Prepare yourself in advance for best results: Advance research is very important. Research your subject before going out to shoot. For example, if you are travelling, find out the best time of the year to shoot. Try to coincide your trip with events. Browse the Internet to see what others have shot – get ideas, but don’t just imitate. Come back with your own unique shots. If you need permissions, have them in order. Carry back-up batteries, memory and even cameras if going to remote locations. Go fully prepared - but keep your mind and eyes open to shooting what you have not visualised. 7. Travel light: Burdening yourself like a mule with equipment is not sexy. Travel light.Carry only as much as you need. You don’t want to be weighed down with gear – and also be worried about losing something. You need to be free in the mind to shoot better. MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
MY GEAR FOR WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY AJAY JAIN
Since I shoot a lot in the wild, I am often asked about the equipment to carry. Here is a list of essentials - not all. Of course, all photographers have their own take on what works best for them.
CANON 5D MARK III
The dynamo of all my photography, not just wildlife. A full frame sensor, it not only captures brilliant pictures, but is also very sturdy. I have accidently dropped it with the 200-400mm lens mounted on it, exposed it to rain showers, been in dusty conditions, and jostled and tossed it around on my many journeys - the Mark III has taken it all.
CANON 7D MARK II
Another powerhouse from Canon, it is fast, super fast - ideal for freezing action in the wild. It may not be full frame, but its APS-C sensor works in my favour. My zooms become longer by 1.6x. Imagine what it does to my Canon 200400mm lens with the 1.4x Extender built in. I get an effective focal length going up to 400 x 1.4 x 1.6 = 896 mm. Birds and animals never seemed so close.
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CANON EF 200-400MM F/4 IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender
A relatively new lens from Canon, the jury is still out amongst photographers if a prime lens like a 400mm f/2.8 is better. Maybe, but the 200-400 works for me. Why? The optics are brilliant. And I can zoom in between 200 to 896 mm depending on the camera body (full frame or APS-C) it is mounted on without losing any stops. With animals and birds rarely still, it allows me to zoom in and out quickly without needing to change lenses and capture that ‘decisive moment.’
CANON EF 70-200MM F/2.8L IS II LENS
Another must-carry lens for me - for wildlife, street and portraits. An astonishing lens, it is probably the sharpest and the fastest zoom out there in the market. On a full frame, I get 70mm, sufficient for many landscape shots as well as shooting bigger subjects close by. And it goes up to 320mm on the 7D Mark II. At 2.8, the aperture is quite wide for low light situations in the forest. The manual focus ring allows me to instantly override autofocus - handy not only in low light and for video but also when elements like plants and trees shift auto focus away from the bird or the animal.
ZEISS TERRA ED BINOCULARS
How can I be out in the wild without a pair of binoculars? Nothing less than a ZEISS would do - the Terra ED range to be precise. Its fibreglass-reinforced, waterproof casing makes it almost indestructible in my clumsy hands - the compact, light and sturdy design means I do not add much to my payload when out shooting.
ZEISS MILVUS 2.8/21MM LENS
No photographer should move without a ZEISS camera lens in the bag. They are a class in themselves - for their looks and form factor, as well as optics. To capture landscapes that the eye beholds, it is new Milvus 2.8/21mm lens for me.
MANFROTTO NEOTEC MONOPOD 685B
Heavy lenses need stability. Tripods may be recommended but they are not always practical during game drives. Space is a constraint if in a vehicle, and you need to manoeuvre quickly to follow animals. A monopod works better, and that too Manfrotto’s Neotec with its rapid opening / closing mechanism safety lever and foot pedal. I can extend or close it in a sliding action, stopping it at any point without the need for levers, screws or knobs. MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
PARTY SECRETS FROM JAPAN
“Tell us about your customs and traditions,” we asked. Writer TED YONASHIRO GRINEWICH gave us the answer in his inimitably charming way: he threw a party! I was excited to greet the autumn and winter months in Japan with a warm heart and a large appetite. Eating from a shared pot in Japanese culture is believed to strengthen relationships and bring new friends together. This strong sense of community building is why home dinner parties are extremely common in Japan and, in the colder months, are often centered around a Japanese-hotpot known as ‘nabe.’ Since the weather had grown cold, Nobu and I invited our friends over for stone-fish nabe (known as ‘okoze-nabe‘ in Japanese). Join me as I recount the evening of our okoze-nabe party and give you some pointers into the common Japanese customs used when visiting someone’s home for a meal. When our guests begin to arrive, Nobu and I greet them at the entrance of our home. Each person removes their shoes and arranges them neatly with the toes of the shoes pointing towards the exit. This makes them easier to put on when you depart and is seen as a sign of good manners. Washing of hands and gargling after entering someone’s home is a common custom - especially during the winter months. Since the custom of washing is so important, guests are given a damp towel to wipe their hands before eating- this towel is called ‘oshibori’ in Japanese. Since napkins are not commonly used in Japan, a box of tissues is often available in place of napkins. Using the oshibori as a napkin is not seen as sanitary, so carry a travel pack of tissues with you to ensure that you can always wipe your mouth during a meal. We had a box of tissues available on our table. After our guests wash up, they help us cut vegetables for the nabe and pour the drinks. Pouring a drink for another person and then allowing that person to pour the drink for you is a way the Japanese believe to grow closer and show respect and care for one another.
Once everyone has something to drink, glasses are raised for ‘kanpai,’ the Japanese way to say cheers (literally meaning ‘dry cup’). Some people drink beer, wine, tea, or even water. Some just want a little bit of the beer or wine opened for the kanpai and sometimes request to be poured a taste - ‘hitoguchi’ in Japanese (literally meaning one-mouth). Eating with one end of your chop sticks and using the opposite end to take from the nabe is a good way to begin a meal with people who you have just met or do not know very well. In this way you are taking from the nabe with the end of the chopsticks that has not been in your mouth. This polite act requires a lot of chop-stick flipping. Most of the time, people will tell you not to bother, signalling the move to a closer relationship as friends or family. After my friends and I have shared jokes, stories, and eaten all the fish and vegetables in the ‘okozenabe’ we put ‘udon’ (a type of Japanese noodles) in the remaining broth for a final treat. The udon noodles soak up all the flavors from the okoze-nabe broth and have a deep flavor that runs throughout each noodle. Once the party is over, Nobu and I see our friends off at the door, helping them put on their shoes and thanking them for spending a wonderful night with us. Okoze-nabe is just one type of nabe and the flavours and ingredient combinations are numerous and varied - trying each one is a new adventure. When you get the chance to try nabe at someone’s house or a restaurant I hope you will feel a little bit more acclimatised to the customs of Japan. TIPS • Wearing a pair of clean socks when you arrive at someone’s house is considered good manners. • It is a common custom to carry a gift when visiting someone’s home in Japan.
JAMES NESBITT’S CULINARY GUIDE TO WELLINGTON Wellington’s café scene reflects the quality, passion and culture of the city and its people, according to The Hobbit star James Nesbitt. Alongside other British actors such as Martin Freeman, Stephen Fry and Richard Armitage, the Northern Irish star best known for his work in Cold Feet and Bloody Sunday plays the Dwarf Bofur in Sir Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy.
FAVOURITE COFFEE SPOTS Cafe Polo (corner Para Street and Rotheram Terrace, Miramar) and People’s Coffee Espresso (12a Constable Street, Newtown) FAVOURITE NIGHT SPOTS Havana (32a-34 Wigan Street), The Library and Hawthorn Lounge (upstairs, 82 Tory Street).
Based in Karaka Bay just a stone’s throw from Wellington’s film-making hub of Miramar during filming, Nesbitt quickly came to love the city’s hospitality and cuisine.“It’s very sophisticated – they really understand flavour really well,” he says of Wellington’s eateries. “It’s obviously done with love; you can always taste it when food is made with passion and love as opposed to a means to an end. That matches perfectly with what Wellington is all about as a whole – Wellington’s like that, the people are like that.” FAVOURITE CAFÉ/RESTAURANT Cafe Polo (corner Para Street and Rotheram Terrace, Miramar)
FAVOURITE CHOCOLATE SHOP Bohemein Fresh Chocolates (35 Waitoa Road, Hataitai and 109 Featherston Street, Wellington city). ALSO LOVES The Larder (133 Darlington Road, Miramar), Zak’s Cafe (27 Dundas Street, Seatoun),Chocolate Frog Cafe (inside Palmers Garden Centre, 6971 Miramar Avenue, Miramar), Bellagio (3 Moxham Avenue, Hataitai), Floriditas (161 Cuba Street, Wellington city), Ortega Fish Shack (16 Majoribanks Street, Wellington city), and Capitol (10 Kent Terrace, Wellington city).
Want to head to New Zealand and Wellington in particular after reading this mouth-watering piece? Start your trip planning at wellingtonnz.com. The Larder
Floriditas (Photo by Nicola Edmonds) MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
Under the Tuscan Sun Life offers you a thousand chances…all you have to do is take one. Thus reads the tagline of the Diane Lane starrer Under The Tuscan Sun.You never know where this chance will take you. Who would know better than the protagonist of the movie, San Francisco based writer Frances Mayes (Lane). She is offered ten days in Tuscany, Italy by a friend who has booked the trip but cannot travel herself; she summons all her courage to take up the offer during a very low phase of her life. However, once she finds herself in beautiful Tuscany, she ends up buying a dilapidated, though tasteful, villa on an impulse. This purchase is a metaphor of sorts signifying her letting go of her past life, and starting afresh, by literally and figuratively going back to the drawing board. In the months to follow, during the time it takes to renovate the villa, she strikes lifelong friendships, explores hitherto unknown facets of her personality and finds love...once again. Beautifully filmed in Italy’s incredible Tuscany, the sights, sounds and smells of this region will make you want to embark on a new journey. Starting with Italy!
Tracks Tracks is a phenomenal film with a phenomenal tagline: Leave everything behind. An adaptation of Robyn Davidson’s memoir of the same name, the Mia Wasikowska starrer chronicles the author’s nine-month journey on camels across the Australian desert. Tracks is a story of self-discovery. With extremely limited resources, Robyn sets out on a 2,000 mile long solo trek in the expansive Australian desert. Her companions on this journey were her dog and four camels which she acquires by doing back-breaking work on camel farms in preparation for this journey. Beautifully filmed, it captures the dangerous and rugged beauty of the Australian outback, as well as the journey of the protagonist who is quite literally on her own. Yet, her experiences along the way, where she is guided by the local tribe elders - without understanding each other’s language - are just some of the many haunting episodes. Don’t expect high adrenalin drama, but this slow paced story will keep you hooked nonetheless. You will feel like clapping when she reaches her final stop. Perhaps an adventure too extreme for most, the lesson however remains simple. Leave everything behind. And discover something new in life! 88
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Out of Africa: Travel Back in Time With Karen Blixen It does not take much to fall in love with Africa. Watching Out of Africa just reinforces this emotion for the continent. The movie, winner of seven Academy Awards, celebrated 30 years of its release on December 18, 2015. It is based on an autobiographical account of the wealthy Karen Blixen (played by Meryl Streep) who moved from Denmark in 1913 to enter into a marriage of convenience with her friend Baron Bror Blixen. When the marriage does not work out, she falls in love with Denys Finch Hatton, played by Robert Redford. She eventually moves back to Denmark, heartbroken and lonely, and established herself as a renowned author. The movie inspired a whole generation of people to travel to Africa - and continues to. Abercrombie & Kent will put together a custom luxury trip for you where you can trace the life of Karen Blixen in Kenya. The trip includes stay at some of the finest lodges on the circuit including Hemingways Nairobi, Finch Hattons Camp (Tsavo West), Lewa Wilderness (Lewa Downs) and Angama Mara (Masai Mara).
Are you ready to board the flight to Kenya? Contact Abercrombie & Kent India at www.abercrombiekent.co.in.
• Ride like royalty: A vintage car from the 1920s will drive you to the Karen Blixen Museum, her old home, and then on to the Giraffe Centre. • Denys Finch Hatton’s grave: A well kept secret from most visitors, this offers a unique perspective into the story of these two lovers. • Up, up and away: See a replica of Finch Hatton’s biplane in Lewa Downs and go on a little joy ride over the savannah. • Africa on horseback: Gallop among the herds of zebras and giraffes on the open plains of Lewa Downs and experience the thrill of the wild. • A lovers’ picnic: Sit in the exact spot where Meryl Streep and Robert Redford sat for their picnic and marvel at the stunning view of the Masai Mara whilst enjoying delicacies from the wicker hamper.
MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
Books / Great Journeys >>>
The Journey That Killed a Great Explorer NIMISH DUBEY
Of all the journeys that have been undertaken, few have been as tragic as the “race to the pole” between Britain’s Robert Scott and Norwegian Roald Amundsen. Both Scott and Amundsen were reputed explorers and each wanted to be the first human being to set foot on the South Pole. It was a bitter race and one that was tinged with controversy – many supporters of Scott claimed that Amundsen had not revealed his plans of setting out for the South Pole in an attempt to ensure he got there first. Both men used different techniques of travel in the dodgy snow – Scott and his team preferred using manhauling techniques to get their sledges across the snow while Amundsen had no qualms in using dogs. After arriving on the frozen continent, Amundsen and his team set out for the Pole on October 19, 1911, with five men and 52 dogs. Scott’s team was a larger one and started out on November 1, 1911, but was trimmed down to five men with sleds for the final push to the pole. As this was a time when communications were primitive and both teams had started out for the Pole from different parts of the continent, neither knew how well or poorly the other was doing. It was a bleak landscape with nothing other than vast stretches of snow to see. Food was in short supply and breathing far from easy
as the temperature dipped below zero time and again. It was perhaps the greatest race in human history with two teams attempting to claim a prize without knowing where the other was, using different techniques. Scott’s team made it to the Pole after travelling through some very bad weather on January 17, 1912, only to find Amundsen’s team’s tent there with a letter in it, announcing that the Norwegians had reached the Pole 35 days earlier. “The worst has happened,” a distraught Scott wrote in his diary, adding “Great God! This is an awful place.” It was a place through which he and his teammates had however to trudge more than a thousand kilometres, pulling heavy sleds. As the weather worsened, they found themselves moving at a very slow pace and using up supplies much faster than they had planned. Their odds of surviving were reducing. One of the team members, Lawrence Oates, was so badly affected by frostbite that he could barely walk. Knowing that he was slowing down the team, he suddenly walked out of the tent on 16 March, telling his teammates, “I am just going outside and may be some time.” He would never return, having opted to sacrifice himself to give his team a better chance of survival.
His sacrifice would be in vain. On March 19, Scott and his friends found themselves trapped in a snowstorm, still 11 miles from a depot that contained fuel and food. They tried to start out every day but were kept inside by roaring winds and as their food finished, they literally froze to death. On March 29, Scott made the last entry in his diary: “Last entry. For God’s sake look after our people.” He is believed to have perished shortly thereafter, a mere eleven miles from safety. The weather was so bad that those of his team who were on the other part of the continent could not even form a rescue party to save him. The bodies of Scott and his friends were discovered on 12 November 1912, when a team finally made it to their tent. It was more than a year since he had started out on the race that had claimed his life. There has been a lot of subsequent analysis of the tactics followed by Scott and Amundsen, with some blaming Scott for using too heavy sledges and others accusing Amundsen of being unfair
by starting out early and using dogs, but the fact remains that the race to the Pole in Antarctica in 1911-12 was one of the most dramatic – and tragic – journeys in its history. Amundsen won in the end, but at a great cost. The world had lost a great explorer. SUGGESTED READING: BOOKS
• Scott and Amundsen: The Last Place On Earth by Roland Huntford • The South Pole: An Account of the Norwegian Expedition in the Fram, 1910-1912 by Roald Amundsen • Journals: Scott’s Last Expedition by Captain Robert Scott • The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard • The Coldest March: Scott’s Fatal Antarctic Expedition by Susan Solomon • Captain Scott by Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Five Fantastic Journeys by Jules Verne NIMISH DUBEY
When it comes to fictional travel, few can match the skill of Jules Verne, the French author who wrote about expeditions and journeys people thought impossible in his day and age (1828-1905). And these five books saw him at his narrative best. A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Tunneling down a volcano to reach the centre of the Earth? Who would have thought of it? Verne did. And described it brilliantly. Nerve wrecking and spectacular. Don’t go by the film! AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS
An eccentric English and his moody valet attempt to travel across the globe in eighty days, chased by a detective who thinks he is a bank robber. Quite brilliantly readable.
TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA
Imagine talking about travelling under the sea in a submarine, even before one had been invented. Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues...does just that with a compelling character to boot, Captain Nemo. FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
To talk of travelling from the Earth to the Moon in the nineteenth century was considered pipe dreaming. Verne however, described it in stunning detail and with even near accurate calculations. FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
The book that made Verne famous talks about the exploration of the African continent. In a hydrogen balloon. Unputdownable!
Women’s Summer Safari Essentials Ladies, when out on a safari, why not do it in style? Add comfort and practicality to it, and you have just the right packing list when out tracking the Big 5 - and everything else - in the jungles of Africa and India.
1. THE KIKOY COLLECTION
Kikoys were originally worn by Swahili sailors on the East African coast. Though kikoys are commonly worn as sarongs, these versatile beach wraps can be used as scarves, pyjamas, turbans, table cloths or even bed throws. Kikoys are ideal for a safari. They are lightweight and don’t take up much space and can be used to keep you warm, protect your neck from the sun or cover up after a dip in a safari lodge pool. 92
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2. MERRELL SHOES
Merrell shoes provide the perfect combination of style and practicality. Comfort and grip that is ideal whether you are walking around camp or taking a stroll on the beach. This selection of casual Merrell shoes are perfect additions to your summer wardrobe. These shoes aren’t just pretty to look at as they are designed with practical features such as odor control and memory foam foot-beds.
3. THE KRAFT COLLECTION
Handcrafted from a variety of woods, Kraft sunglasses are unique in style and rich in quality. Kraft source their wood predominantly from offcuts and re-purposed salvaged pieces. Kraft glasses are essentially made from wood that would typically be unused because of its size or shape. This means that you will get a pair of premium hardwood glasses at a better price and with the satisfaction that you have done a little something for the environment. Due to the variation in wood used to craft these glasses every pair will be unique.
4. WALLAROO HATS
A brand new addition to the hat family! The Wallaroo Company continues to expand its selection by bringing back favorites and designing new styles and collections each year. While offering protection for your face and neck from the harmful rays of the sun, it also adds a little flair to your safari.
Your safari packing is best done in ‘soft and squashy’ luggage. Why? The majority of safari lodges and camps within Africa are accessible only by light aircraft; fitting your luggage into the small, cramped hold means that it must not have hard sides. Fortunately, form does meet function sometimes; the Mara&Meru range of bags made of canvas and leather are tough as nails and look great too. Add or detach the right attachments to these - like side pockets that come off to serve as satchels - and you could well have one bag for all your needs. WANT TO GO SHOPPING? Order all these and much more from The Safari Store (thesafaristore.co.uk) - they ship worldwide. MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
TRAVEL HUB MOUNTAIN GORILLA TRACKING IN UGANDA
Is a meeting with Mountain Gorillas on your travel wishlist? Then go tracking the apes in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, a UNESCO site in Uganda. The reserve is home to about 350 Mountain Gorillas, that’s half the remaining population of this species in the world. You will have to navigate the undergrowth and thick creepers of the dense Bwindi rainforest - worth the effort to be in the company of the most peaceful, rare and most endangered of all the apes. It is believed to be both a fascinating and humbling experience. Check in to the Silverback Lodge, a Marasa property. They will handle all arrangements for you. For more, visit www.marasa.net.
GO TANDEM SKYDIVING IN NEW ZEALAND
Are you seeking thrills up above in the skies without any fear of heights? Call up Taupo Tandem Skydiving when in New Zealand and soar to heights of upto 15,000 feet!! And when you come racing down at 200 kmph towards the Southern Hemisphere’s largest lake, cheeks flapping, Earth would never feel so good after the landing - so say past participants. Don’t just look down, look all around, enjoy the experience. Don’t feel unsafe - there is nothing to worry about. Over 170,000 people have done this - with no prior training. Oh, those over 100 kgs cannot go up. Time to diet folks! And your time up there is all recorded on HD videos and photos. More information at: www.taupotandemskydiving.com
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TRAVEL HUB SLEEPING IN A BUBBLE OVER A VALLEY
Imagine staying in a completely transparent hanging bedroom at 1312 feet with an impressive night view of the Sacred Valley Cuzco in Peru below and the Milky Way above. At Skylodge Adventure Suites you can do just that!
Check into a vertical hanging module - each has four beds, a dining area and a private bathroom - and is made of aerospacealuminium and high resistance polycarbonate. These are 24 feet in length and 8 feet in width and height. Solar panels light up your ‘home’ along the cliffs. You can draw curtains for privacy from the curious gaze of passing condors (your sky neighbours). You can get to the Skylodge by way of the Via Ferrata, crossing the hanging bridge, or the intrepid path of the ziplines. Only the world of travel can offer such wonderful choices! Check in at www.naturavive.com
HAPPY BIRTHDAY INUKA!! First polar bear born in the tropics turns 25 Inuka was the first polar bear born in the tropics on December 26, 1990. Born and bred in the Singapore Zoo, he turned 25 recently amidst celebrations to mark the occasion. Did you get a bite of the cake? Inuka last measured 2.5 metres from nose to tail and weighed 581 kilos. Officially in his golden years, he will need that extra care to ensure he continues to enjoy a great quality of life. He is already showing age-related conditions like arthritis and dental issues.
MARCH 2016 • KUNZUM
TRAVEL HUB FREEZING AND MELTING AN ICEHOTEL When a village is short of accommodation for guests, what do you do? If you happen to be in Jukkasjärvi – pronounced ‘you-kas-yayr-vi’ - located 200 km north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, you simply cut blocks of ice from the frozen Torne River to make…an ice hotel. It all started in 1989 when Jukkasjärvi hosted an ice and snow sculpture art course - one of the installations was a snow house. When the village ran short of beds, there was no choice but for some folks to sleep in this ‘hotel’. Of course, they got sleeping bags, survivalist advice, tips on toilet trip management on ice - and a much-needed sauna in the morning to burn off the frostbite The Icehotel was thus born. Now, every winter, builders and artists get to work with mammoth sized ice blocks and at the end of frenzied months of chopping, cutting, sculpting and probably a lot of schnapps drinking, you get one Icehotel and Icebar. With a few tendonitis injuries thrown in for good measure.To add insult to injury, it melts every spring! For a new one to come up the following winter. If you want to check into one, book well in advance.
NO HIBERNATION IN THE SWEDISH WINTERS Sweden is beautiful in the summers - but the traveller should not miss out on its winters either. Here are six reasons why you should fly north this, or the coming, winter: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
The Big 6 of Sweden: Head to the wildnerness, forests and tundra regions of the Laplands to spot the ‘Big Six’: moose, wolverines, wolves, brown bears, lynxes and musk oxen. Go Ski: You have 200 ski resorts to choose from. Including in the popular ski village of Åre in central Sweden to ski facilities in the provinces of Dalarna, Jämtland, Härjedalen and the Swedish Lapland. Check Into an Ice Hotel: That’s right - these come up in winters, only to melt every spring. Off-Roading in a Dog Sled: Pick from a day trip to a multi-day tour in a sled pulled by Siberian Huskies to take you across the Swedish Lapland, the spectacular mountain regions of Padjelanta and the Sarek National Park. Snowshoe through the Wilderness: Hike - in special shoes made for trudging through tonnes of compact snow. Along the Kebnekaise mountain range and the foothills of Mount Kebne in the Swedish Lapland, or along Kungsleden (‘King’s Trail’) located 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Snowmobiling across Frozen Rivers: Try an invigorating ride across the frozen Kalix River, Lule River or Torneträsk in Swedish Lapland - in a snowmobile!! This does not demand skills and fitness levels like other activities, thus meant for anyone.
KUNZUM • MARCH 2016