Clearwater is a Clear Choice for Your Next Vacation Rental

When you think of Florida you may imagine all if its coastline and its array of beaches to be pretty much the same. Think again. When choosing a stretch of sand as the focus of your visit, you’ll have options galore. You probably won’t go wrong with any of them, but if you’re leaning towards the Gulf Coast rather than the Atlantic, which can be a little rough sometimes, choose a location in the heart of the action; choose Clearwater.

Clearwater is the home of some of the country’s top beaches, and is close to Tampa, Gulfport, and St. Petersburg. It’s the kind of place where you wouldn’t mind spending a few days just doing nothing, nothing that has to do with work, school, or running errands, that is. You’ll want to get busy with some fun stuff, though, like swimming, snorkeling, and anything else beach-related. Sand Key Beach is nationally-renowned for its beauty, and Pier 60 hosts a Key West-style celebration of the sunset every night. Don’t miss either of these beauties, and save some time to discover your own favorite stretch of sand as well.

Intersperse your hours spent on the water with other engaging delights, like a few nature-themed ones that will give you a glimpse of Florida’s wild side. Moccasin Lake Nature Park is a 51-acre preserve with trails, exhibits, and organized events like night hikes and a Fireside Concert Series. You’ll be able to catch glimpses of birds, butterflies, native plants, and reptiles while getting some exercise and learning about the side of Florida that exists beyond the beaches. The Botanical Gardens and the Florida Aquarium are two more of the many wow-inducing points of interest that should be on your list, so give yourself the chance to rediscover Mother Nature.

Clearwater tends to be a bit quieter than spring break favorites like Miami and Fort Lauderdale, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing fun to do. Plenty of restaurants, shops, and ocean side businesses are welcoming of tourists and accommodating of all needs, so you’ll never go hungry or feel bored. Strike out on an adventure of your own design, or plan to take an eco-tour, dinner cruise, or book a spa day. Pamper yourself, indulge in a tropical drink, and certainly get your fill of fresh seafood, as this is the time to make up for all those long hours at work and diet-conscious dessert skipping.

To truly take advantage of this opportunity, you’ll want to start planning early in order to book the vacation rental that will best suit your needs and tickle your fancy. That’s right, a vacation rental will allow you to see, hear, feel, taste, and do everything that gulf coast Florida has to give. Slip away to your own space, wake up when you feel like it, walk barefoot on the beach at a moment’s notice, and feel as if the sun rises each morning for your own personal pleasure.

Around the Clearwater area, you’ll find several properties that will likely intrigue you. A restored villa, perhaps, with hard wood floors and brightly painted walls. This cheery charmer has three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a large porch with a barbeque grill, making it family-friendly without being cheesy. Modern, clean, and spare yet filled with amenities, you’ll feel right at home as soon as you walk in the door.

If Clearwater sounds like the kind of place you’d like to visit, blessed with Florida’s best features without any over the top antics, you’ve got good taste. As you’re probably not alone in your future plans, it would be best to give yourself ample time to pull everything together, so go online today, scope out a few Clearwater vacation rentals. It doesn’t really need to be said, as it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion, but enjoy your stay on the gulf coast.

Shark Cage Diving – The Heart of the Cape Town Adventure Tourism Industry

Over the past 350 million years sharks have dominated the oceans of the world. The fiercest predators in their domain, sharks have earned their reputation as the hunters of the sea. Humans have become fascinated by them and have a healthy combination of fear and respect for these beautiful creatures.

South Africa, more specifically Cape Town, is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best destinations worldwide for experiencing sharks, especially Great White sharks, at close proximity. The population of sharks is unparalleled elsewhere, and the locations are so accessible and in close proximity to land, that you are virtually guaranteed to witness numerous animals engaging in what they were born to do.

The Adventure of a Lifetime
Shark cage diving and surface viewing has become increasingly popular within the adventure tourism industry over the past decade. It is the experience of a lifetime being able to witness these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.

Each year thousands of people travel the globe to see and dive with the 400 species of shark in our oceans. Each year they undertake this adventure with apprehension and excitement and each time return with a passion and deep seated respect for these fascinating creatures.

Swim with the Sharks
Shark cage diving is a strictly regulated industry, with only a few operators having been granted a license to engage in this activity. Great care is taken not to interfere too much with the natural behaviour patterns of the sharks. The feeding of sharks is also strictly prohibited, to prevent them from associating boats with an easy meal.

Passengers on the shark cage trips are most likely to experience Great Whites as other sharks tend to keep a low profile in their territories. The Cape Coast is one of the most famous Great White territories world wide.

On boarding the boat for the trip out to sea, the passenger’s anticipation is overwhelming. It can take up to an hour of chumming before the first shark appears. Once the sharks have settled down, the first group of cagers prepare to enter their cage while the rest retreat to the back of the boat or viewing platform to witness the spectacular proceedings, eagerly awaiting their turn in the cage.

The bait line is slowly drawn towards the cage. As the bait line approaches so too does the Great White. The cage experience has been described by some as an emotional, heart-stopping and truly thrilling experience.

The experience is not only thrilling for those in the cage. The passengers on the boat are able to enjoy the surface viewing from an unparalleled viewpoint and to observe and photograph the Great White sharks from only a few feet away. Surface viewing here is amazing as passengers get an all-round view of the sharks attacking, circling and descending.

Shark Cage Diving Locations
There are two areas where Great White diving is done, Gans Bay and Mossel Bay. Both these destinations are easily reached by land or air from Cape Town International Airport. Both destinations are also major tourist hot spots and accommodation and restaurants are of an excellent standard.

The best time of year for Great White viewing is between April and November mainly due to the mass-pupping of seals. Sharks are a little less active between December and March but are not completely absent from the areas. During caging and viewing trips Great White sharks are encountered 95% of the time, on a good day upwards of a dozen Great White sharks ranging between 2, 5 and 4, 5 meters may be encountered.

There are a multitude of companies operating shark tours in and around Cape Town many specialising in specific sightings because of where they are based. On most of the tours you will be able to experience many other aspects of marine life apart from the sharks: schools of dolphins; seals; penguins; bird life and occasionally whales.

Experience the Thrill
Whether sharks intrigue, fascinate or frighten you, it is the experience of a life time being so close to them and observing them in their natural habitat. Being with these mighty kings of the deep is one of the most popular activities in adventure tourism at the moment. Whether you wish to dive with Great Whites or simply view them from afar, Cape Town is the perfect location for you.

Timbavati Game Reserve – an African Adventure

Do you dream of the ultimate safari experience? Escaping to one of the most natural locations in the world whilst viewing zebras galloping across the plains, troupes of Monkeys grooming and playing and hearing the roar of the Lion is one of the most exquisite ways to spend a holiday.

Kruger National Park
Each year approximately half a million domestic and international tourists visit South Africa’s premier game reserve. The Kruger National Park is a 2 million hectare park that was established in 1898 to protect South African wildlife and is today an unrivalled leader in biodiversity and environmental management. Most chose to visit the game park in the dry, winter season as the quality of game viewing is heightened. The grass at this time of year is low and the bushes and trees have lost their leaves this provides game viewers with an unobstructed view of the kings of Africa. Because it doesn’t rain in winter the animals tend to congregate round the waterholes to drink in the mornings and evenings, a site which is can be viewed closely in the safety of a vehicle.

Beyond Borders
Surrounding the Kruger National park are several smaller game reserves such as Timbavati and Sabi Sabi. There are no fences between any of these reserves allowing the animals to roam free they way they were intended to. On a visit to the Kruger and its surrounding reserves you will see and astounding array of flora and fauna. The reserves are home to 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. The area is most celebrated due to the fact that it is Big 5 country, during your stay you will have the opportunity to observe every one of the members of the Big Five: the Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Cape Buffalo.

Timbavati Game Reserve
Timbavati Private Game Reserve lies on the western boundary of the Kruger Park and forms part of the Kruger’s lowveld ecosystem. The lack of borders with the Kruger facilitates excellent game viewing and the accommodation offerings range from luxury to roughing it. The Timbavati was established in 1956 but really only made its name in the 1970’s with the discovery of the parks rare “White Lions”. In the winter months (April-September) game viewing is excellent as the vegetation is less dense. In summer (October-March) the park is lush and green and whilst game viewing is not at its best bird watching is excellent. Of all of the reserves wildlife you should easily be able to spot Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Buffalo, Lion, Spotted Hyena, Hippo, Impala, Kudu, Wildebeest, Klipspringer, Genet, Vultures, Owls, Eagles, Hornbills and Shrikes. Slightly harder to spot are the Leopard, Wild Dog, Cheetah, Fox, Rhino, Porcupine and Caracal.

Timbavati Activities
A range of safari options to suite all tastes are available at this magnificent reserve. Whether you prefer a walking, fly-in, guided, sunrise or sunset safari or whether you prefer to view the reserve in the comfort of your own vehicle in your own time the Timbavati can accommodate you. Apart from all of the excellent game watching activities why not indulge in some pampering spa treatments and massages or an alfresco dining experience under the vast star filled African sky. Traditional singing and dancing are firm favourites amongst visitors to this reserve as are the guided environmental hikes. During your stay at the Timbavati you can spend your days game viewing and your nights singing, dancing, eating traditional meals and sipping on fabulous sunset cocktails.

Timbavati Accommodation
Accommodation within Timbavati includes colonial style game lodges, traditional thatched bush lodges, and luxury tented safari camps, providing a range of styles to suit your dream safari holiday. Timbavati accommodation offers an extremely child friendly atmosphere and provides facilities for children of all ages. From sheer luxury to roughing it the Timbavati Private Game Park offers it all.

Holiday Escapes to Beautiful Botswana

Botswana is internationally acclaimed for its supreme and unforced combination of tourism and wildlife. 17% of the country is proclaimed protected and a further 20% made up of wildlife management areas. With its eclectic mix of serenely beautiful landscapes and some of the largest populations of wildlife species found in Africa, Botswana is a premier holiday destination amongst adventure and eco-tourists. Although the country is rich in cultural and historical heritage Botswana’s main tourist attractions are the national parks.
Of the many parks and reserves which make up this magnificent country there are three definite must sees when travelling to Botswana.

The Okavango Delta
Undoubtedly the most striking region in the country the Okavango Delta is situated in the Kalahari Desert and is the greatest inland delta system in the world. A natural wonderland of a thousand islands in a thousand streams, born of a great river’s determination top meet the sea which it never will, as its strengths are captured by the desert sands which surround the delta.

The delta ranks amongst the finest of wetlands in the world and from above it is a vast, fan shaped, emerald wilderness of waterways, lakes, lagoons and lush forests. Over 1000 species of plant can be found in the delta and the rivers are teeming with fish, 80 species overall which in turn draws many birds to the area, the Delta is in fact one of the most celebrated bird watching and angling regions in Africa. The few people who in fact permanently live here are mainly fishermen. Undoubtedly the best way to view this natural wonder is by means of a mokoro which is a dug-out canoe that manoeuvres swiftly through the waters near impenetrable areas. The waters are crystal clear and crocodiles, hippos and hundreds of fabulous birds can be seen as well as elephants, zebras and giraffes. The only area in the Okavango that is protected is the Moremi National Park; the rest of the delta is carved up into giant private concessions, sprinkled with luxury lodges.

The Okavango Delta has three main areas, the Panhandle which a 15km wide fault in the northwest offers superb fishing but less spectacular game viewing; the central permanent swamp, with its maze of pans and water meadows and the arid seasonal swamps to the south and east. In the months of August to November the Okavango is hot and dry which makes for magnificent game viewing but low waters which often prevent mokoro trips. From December to March the region is hot and wet prompting game to disappear into the undergrowth but this is when bird and plant life is at its best.

As independent travel is very difficult in the delta region the majority of visitors get to experience these amazing swamplands with the help of tour operators who offer package deals to the region.

The Moremi Wildlife Reserve
Acclaimed for its sheer beauty and intense variety of wildlife, this park covers 1812 sq km and is located in the northeast corner of the Okavango Delta. Comprised of lush wetlands, forested islands, lagoons, woodlands and grasslands the Moremi Wildlife Reserve offers spectacular game viewing accompanied by gorgeous landscapes. There are no artificial borers and human encroachment is kept to a minimum, which facilitates game viewing of such excellent nature. Some of the animals you will be able to view are Elephant, Buffalo, Zebra, Kudu, various herds of Buck, Lion, Leopard and Wild Cats. The parks dry months which span from April to October are the best months for game viewing; it is also during this time that the impressive herds of Elephants converge on the Khwai River.
The park is home to over 400 species of bird making it one of Botswana’s prime birding areas. The Pelicans, Ibises, Herons and Storks are only some of the species which bring gorgeous splashes of colour and sweet melodies to the area. The reserve is one of the most beautiful unmarred spots in Botswana and a trip to its tranquil plains is highly recommended.

The Chobe National Park
Botswana’s common border with Namibia’s Caprivi region has been set aside for one of Africa’s premier wildlife conservation parks. The Chobe National Park occupies 10,566 sq km of land and is home to a splendid variety of wildlife. The park is comprised of rivers, swamps, scrublands, grassy savannah and natural pans.

One of the most magnificent sights to behold here are the elephants who move in their thousands along the well-worn paths of the Chobe River every afternoon to drink. Boasting the highest elephant population in the world (approximately 45,000) is but one of the Chobe National Park’s drawcards. There are also large herds of Buffalo, Blue Wildebeest, Bushbuck, Kudu, Impala and Sable while the wetlands are home to impressive numbers of Hippo and Crocodile as well as an eclectic range of birds. The Savuti area of the park marks what was once the massive super lake which covered most of Botswana, its flat dry lakebed is now a sea of grass which is renowned for spotting Leopard, Cheetahs, Hyena and Lion.

With the exception of certain sections, which are closed in the rainy season during November to April, the park is open throughout the year. The best time to visit it is between May and September when it is possible to see several thousand animals each day. Even though the Chobe National Park is one of Botswana’s most developed reserves, many of the roads in the area are only accessible by 4X4 vehicles. Many visitors to the park chose a package option which includes luxury accommodation; safari drives various other guided expeditions.

With the wide range of activities, accommodation and travel option on offer in this magnificent country, a holiday in the wilderness regions of Botswana is made easy and accessible for all tourists. Many tour operators offer exceptional package deals which allow you to experience the true essence of Africa.

Budget Safaris in South Africa and Namibia

The boom in tourism to Southern Africa has led to increasing numbers of visitors from overseas looking for budget safaris in South Africa, Namibia and the neighbouring countries. At the same time we have seen more and more budget safaris becoming available, and this has now brought wildlife viewing in Africa within the budgets of many more visitors to the region.

In order to get the most from your safari budget there are a number of number of key points to keep in mind.

Go In The Low Season

Go in the low season if you are looking to get the best game viewing at a budget rate in South Africa – prices at most safari lodges are up to 30%-40% cheaper over this period and this is also arguably the best time of year for game viewing in the Kruger area (animals are more reliant on rivers and waterholes as it is the dry season, and therefore easier to find…they are also easier to see as the vegetation is not as thick).

Low season is May to September, however you should keep in mind that whilst this is the best time for animals and weather in the northern regions, it is the cooler / wetter winter period in Cape Town and along the Garden Route.

Find A Good Inexpensive Safari Lodge

Staying at a lodge will give you a better chance of seeing big game at close quarters than you will have on a self-drive safari, therefore I would always recommend staying a night or two at an inexpensive safari lodge if you can afford to.

If you stay a couple of nights at a safari lodge, you will be taken out by an experienced guide and tracker who will be able to identify and explain the animals and can drive off the road network to get closer to some animals than is usually possible on a self-drive safari. The guides are also in radio contact with other vehicles to help find elusive species such as leopard which are very difficult to track down independently.

The quality of food, lodges, guides, and wildlife can vary greatly amongst less expensive lodges, and you should always take care to get independent advice from a good safari specialist or a travel forum.

Nothing is guaranteed, but with some lodges in the Kruger area coming in at around $150 per person per day in the low season (including accommodation, and 3 meals, 2 games drives, and a guided walk each day) it is a very attractive option for the serious wildlife enthusiast on a budget.

Look Out For Low Season Special Offers At Safari Lodges

For people looking for a serious bargain on a safari lodge and Cape Town holiday, keep an eye out for special offers where a discounted stay at a safari lodge also entitles guests to free accommodation at a Cape Town hotel or elsewhere. These are generally only available from the more expensive lodges in the low season (May – September) but do offer exceptional value.

Be Careful About Very Small Private Game Reserves

There are a number of places with only 1,000 – 2,000 hectares of land that position themselves as private game reserves – be aware that this is not enough land for them to have a decent amount of wildlife living in a natural environment, and unless they do their game drives on a much larger property visitors may well feel disappointed in the experience.

Generally speaking visitors should look for a minimum of around 5,000-7,000 hectares, but the larger the better (Kruger is 2.2 million hectares!)

Drive Yourself In A National Or Regional Park

This is definitely the least expensive option and the freedom of driving yourself around one of Africa’s great reserves such as Kruger, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, or Etosha is intoxicating and highly recommended if you have the time.

Having said this, it is important to be realistic about what you might see on a self drive safari – you will be restricted to the road network, have to find the animals yourself, and also have to identify the species and their behaviours for yourself – if animals are 200 meters away from the road and you are not sure what they are because you cannot see them clearly this can be very frustrating!

Self-drive can be great fun, and is certainly less expensive than staying at a lodge, however many budget-conscious travellers will spend a night or two in a relatively inexpensive lodge before venturing out on their own.

Finally, remember the golden rule: if something looks too good to be true it probably is! If a safari lodge or self-drive camp looks very inexpensive compared to the competition try and find out why this is. It may be that it is new and they are aiming to attract business, they may be running a fabulous special offer, or they may have simply done away with some of the luxuries offered by more expensive lodges, but it is also possible that they may be in a poor area for game viewing, have access to too little land, have run-down rooms or a poor reputation for food and service.You can research these facts online, and any reputable specialist safari company should also be able to give you honest, impartial advice.

Enjoy your safari!

African Safari Lodge – What to Expect

The safari lodges in the game reserves and National Parks of the Africa offer visitors an outstanding wildlife experience and what is, for many, a once in a lifetime opportunity to get close to some of Africa’s most exotic and dramatic animals in their natural environment.

Most lodges offer a fully inclusive rate, which includes outstanding accommodation, all meals, and morning and afternoon guided game drives in 4×4 open safari vehicles each day. Some may also include unlimited drinks or other activities such as guided walks, but whatever is included, there are 2 elements that you will be certain of, wherever you stay – the hospitality and the service.

The lodges all go to incredible lengths to make sure that their guests feel welcome and comfortable, and nothing appears to be too much trouble for your hosts.

In terms of a recommended length of stay, a minimum of 2 to 3 nights is ideal. This gives you time to relax into the experience, get to know your fellow guests, and gives you at least 4 game drives to enjoy the wildlife.

Generally speaking you should aim to arrive at lunchtime on the day you check in to give you time to settle into the lodge before going out on your first game drive that afternoon/evening.

Getting Close
The main attraction for wildlife enthusiasts is that, unlike self-drive visitors to African National Parks, the guides who take guests out on their morning and evening game drives from safari lodges are permitted to take their vehicles off-road in order to get closer to the wildlife.

While some restrictions do apply to avoid damaging some of the more fragile ecosystems, the thrill of tracking a leopard through the bush in an open Land Rover is unsurpassed.

Many lodges have agreements with their neighbours regarding driving rights, and therefore the area your guide can drive in can be extremely large.

Your Guide and Tracker
Your guide and tracker are highly knowledgeable about the bush and the animals, and will be more than happy to share their knowledge with you and answer any questions that you may have.

All the game drive vehicles are in radio contact with each other, so whenever something exciting is spotted or tracked, everyone else in the area is notified of its location.

Only 2 or 3 vehicles are allowed at any one sighting at a time, so don’t get too impatient if you have to wait your turn, or be too disappointed if your guide asks if you are ready to leave the sighting after a while to let another vehicle come in.

What will your Day be like?
Each day is very structured, and this can feel quite regimented to begin with. Early morning game drives begin with a wake up call at around 5.30am, and from then on, your entire day is meticulously planned out for you.

After a refreshing cup of strong coffee and biscuits to help you fully wake up, you leave on the first game drive of the day at around 6am. If the coffee hasn’t woken you up yet, the crisp morning air certainly will!

Depending on what there is to see, the game drive is normally 3 to 4 hours long, and most times will involve a brief stop for another cup of coffee and a chance to get out of the Land Rover and stretch your legs.

When you return to the lodge, a delicious breakfast will be waiting for you – normally buffet style, followed by a cooked offering if you are still hungry!

Between Game Drives
The next few hours are yours to spend as you wish. The lodges generally all have their own waterholes, and watching a herd of elephants drinking or wallowing a mere 10m away is a lovely way to relax between game drives and eating!

Many lodges also offer a guided walk on foot to explore the African bush with your guide or tracker, which usually lasts for about an hour. Walking in single file, you will be introduced to how to spot tracks in the sand or mud, the uses of many different types of trees, and much more.

If you are extremely lucky, will come across wildlife such as impala, giraffe or even rhino. Don’t worry, though – your guide or tracker will be armed with a gun, just in case the animal you stumble across happens to be a agitated lion – but this adds to the excitement and anticipation of what you may see on your adventure.

If you have the chance to go on a bush walk, make sure that you take a sunhat and some water with you, as walking through the bush in the late morning sun is hot and tiring – but definitely worth the experience.

Lunch is generally served from 1 – 3pm, and then it is out again for your afternoon / evening game drive at around 4pm.

Afternoon Game Drive and Sundowner
At dusk, your guide will normally stop at an open area, and unpack the cooler box and offer to mix you a sundowner. There is something magical about enjoying a cold beer or chilled glass of wine while standing beside your Land Rover, watching the sun setting over the African bush.
You generally return to the lodge at about 8pm, where you will find a sumptuous dinner awaiting you.

The Evening Dining Experience
Sometimes, this is served outside under the stars in a ‘boma’ around an open fire, with candles or lanterns as the only form of lighting.

Chatting about your experiences and adventures during the day with your fellow guests is a perfect way to round off the day, and a great feeling of camaraderie soon begins to exist between everyone. Many lodges will seat everyone on the same tables for all meals, which gives you the opportunity to really get to know each other.

You do have to be prepared to be sociable all day – you are generally only alone for a few hours, and the rest of the time you are in the company of your hosts and the other guests.

What Else?
For the keen photographer, make sure you take rolls and rolls of film or have plenty of space on your memory card, as a photo opportunity is around every corner. The lodges generally have a small curio shop where you can buy extra film and memory cards, but they may not have exactly what you want, and prices are usually higher than you would pay at home.

Finally, it is customary to tip your guide and tracker when you leave, and also leave something for the housekeeping staff, especially if they have done an exceptional job of looking after you! The lodges normally leave envelopes in your room, so the amount you give is not on ‘general view’ to everyone else. What you leave is totally at your own discretion, but the lodges will generally give you a guideline if you ask them.

Enjoy your safari!

Jet Over to Kauai

Kauai is Hawaii’s northernmost isle and is known for its lush vegetation, array of activities, and scenery that can shift from mountains to deserts to beaches in the blink of an eye. The Aloha State is hardly lacking in picturesque, postcard-worthy scenes, but Kauai stands out as a true winner when it comes to choosing your vacation destination.

An interesting feature of Kauai is that it’s not the typical resort-dotted island. Yes, if you want to dance the night away at a luau while sampling the traditional fare or lay out on a spectacular beach, you’ll find places to do so. However, don’t be alarmed if you find yourself practically alone on the craggy shores of North Shore or catching a glimpse of a rare species of flower within a nature preserve.

Kauai is also a family friendly place to be. Kapaa is home to the Children’s Discovery Museum, which educates visitors about the roots of the island’s inhabitants as well its natural features. The friendly beaches of the South Shore make for great places to swim, take a surf lesson, and build sandcastles, so pack lots of sunscreen and bring the camera along, as great family memories are sure made.

Appreciators of nature will be thrilled by Kauai’s offerings. The west side of the island is where you’ll find Kokee State Park, where acres of beautiful land will reveal flora and fauna like you’ve never seen before. Waimea Canyon makes for a great stop as well, as it is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Between the mountainous interior of the island and all the hike and bike opportunities that you’ll find there, your adventurer’s soul will never be disappointed during your visit to Kauai.

Many beaches make for great surfing and swimming, but some have the potential to pose a danger to even experienced travelers. When lifeguards are not present, it is important to exercise caution if you decide to take a dip. Visitors reluctant to take risks should stick to beaches like Hanalei Beach Park, Anahola, Wailua, and Kekeha, which are all overseen by life-saving professionals.

As mentioned before, Kauai’s North Shore is definitely a point of interest for those looking for an authentic experience. The striking cliffs of the Na Pali coast and the heart-stopping Lumahai beach have both been immortalized on the big screen, so there must be something appealing about them. If your interest has been piqued, don’t forget to head north at some point during your trip.

Other activities include golfing, helicopter rides, snorkeling, and whale watching. Each season has its bright spots, so be sure to check with the locals as you plan your itinerary. Watching a pod of whales during their migration period or feeding a school of tropical fish will no doubt end up being standout moments in what’s already shaping up to be a phenomenal trip.

Lodging can be found on all parts of Kauai, so whether you seek a beachfront condo or a quiet mountain retreat, you’ll surely be satisfied. Think Vacation Rentals Kauai if your goal is to escape the influence of the outside and world and establish your own schedule. A villa with plenty of bedrooms, showers, and its own kitchen means you can avoid contact with the outside world as much as you want.

This garden isle is filled with secrets waiting to be discovered, so stray from the beaten path on your next vacation. In other words, while a trip to Kauai will offer the traditional Hawaiian sights and sounds, be prepared to end up wide-eyed and breathless on more than one occasion due to the surprises that it also holds.

Chiang Mai General Information

Experiencing the merging of the past into the present in Chiang Mai where locals are proud of the city’s 700-year history. Its rich traditional heritage and unique culture is a perfect foundation for the development of the city. Chiang Mai is one of the few places in Thailand where it is possible to find in the heart of the city centuries-old chedis and temples next to modern convenience stores and boutique hotels. The original city layout still exists as a neat square surrounded by a moat with vestiges of the fortified wall and its four main gates offering prime access to the old town.

For years, tourists have mistaken Chiang Mai as the northern junction and the base from which they can explore other provinces. The phrase “a day in Chiang Mai is enough to see things around” was common. Today, tourists are surprised by the fact that there is always something new to discover Chiang Mai. Intriguing diversity among ethnic tribes coupled with breathtaking scenery makes Chiang Mai one of Asia’s most attractive tourist destinations. Two weeks in Chiang Mai may not be long enough for serious travelers.

The old city of Chiang Mai with its fascinating indigenous cultural identity such as diverse dialects, cuisine, architecture, traditional values, festivals, handicrafts and classical dances is a prime location in its own right. In addition, the presence of hill tribes and their wealth of unique cultures enhance Chiang Mai’s distinctive diversity.

Chiang Mai is also blessed with pristine natural resources of mountains (dois), waterfalls, and other nature-based tourist attractions. At the same time, Chiang Mai residents are warm, gracious and congenial providing authentic hospitality making visits memorable and meaningful. Moreover, visitors from all walks of life can collect handicrafts of silk, silver and wood produced locally as timeless souvenirs. Chiang Mai is a place where both backpackers and luxury tourists can enjoy themselves to the fullest.

The Past
Chiang Mai literally means new city and has retained the name despite having celebrated its 700th anniversary in 1996. King Meng Rai founded the city as the capital of the Lanna (A Million Rice Fields) Kingdom on Thursday, 12th April 1296 during the same period of time as the establishment of the Sukhothai Kingdom. King Meng Rai the Great conferred with his friends, King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai and King Ngam Muang of Phayao before choosing the site where the capital of the Lanna Kingdom was to be founded.

From then, Chiang Mai not only became the capital and cultural core of the Lanna Kingdom, it was also the centre of Buddhism in northern Thailand. King Meng Rai himself was very religious and founded many of the city’s temples, which are still important today.

At the height of its power, the Lanna Kingdom extended its territory far into Burma and Laos, and southwards to Kamphaeng Phet a province above Sukhothai.

The Burmese conquered the Lanna Kingdom in 1556 ending the dynasty founded by King Meng Rai that lasted over 250 years. As Burma had occupied Chiang Mai for nearly 200 years, Burmese architectural influences are visible in many temples. At the end of the 18th century, King Taksin the Great regrouped the Thais in the south and finally drove the Burmese out with the help of King Kawila of Lampang thereby regaining Thai independence from Burma. Chiang Mai was then governed by a succession of princes who ruled the north as a Siamese protectorate under the Chakri dynasty. In the late 19th century, King Rama V appointed a high commissioner in Chiang Mai and it was only in 1939 that Chiang Mai finally came under the direct control of the central government in Bangkok the same time the country was renamed Thailand.

In the past, Chiang Mai was only accessible by river and elephants. More convenient access was achieved only when the railway line was completed in the late 1920’s. Moreover, the first motor vehicle driven directly from Bangkok arrived in Chiang Mai in 1932. Such isolation was more favorable to Chiang Mai as it helped to nurture and preserve the unique Lanna culture.

When we look at Chiang Mai today, it is the economic, cultural and communications hub of northern Thailand complete with excellent infrastructure, good roads, by passes and road tunnels, and reliable communications infrastructure.

The Setting
Chiang Mai, with an altitude of approximately 310 meters above sea level, is situated approximately 700 kilometers from Bangkok on the Mae Ping River basin. Surrounded by high mountain ranges, the city covers an area of approximately 20,107 square kilometers and is the country’s second largest province. Chiang Mai borders Myanmar on the north, Lamphun and Tak Provinces on the south, Chiang Rai, Lampang and Lamphun Provinces on the east and Mae Hong Son Province on the west. The terrain is mainly comprised of jungles and mountains, which are home to the hill tribes. In addition, wildlife and exotic flora may be found in the national parks.

Most of Chiang Mai’s mountains are oriented from north to south. Together they create a multitude of streams and tributaries including Mae Chaem, Mae Ngat and Mae Klang. One of Chiang Mai’s distinctive features is Doi Inthanon, Thailands highest peak, which is 2,575 meters above sea level. In addition, the province boasts flat, fertile valleys, which spread along the banks of the largest and most important river in Chiang Mai Mae Nam Ping (Ping River) which originates from the Chiang Dao mountain range.

8 Things Not To Forget When Traveling To The Tropics

Sometimes it is hard to pack for a place or climate that is new. When packing to go to the tropics there are some items that you don’t want to forget.

1. Appropriate Identification: With tighter security these days it simply makes sense to carry a passport and photo ID. Also be sure to have identification for your children traveling with you.

2. Contraceptives: Well… If you think you will be getting down and dirty on your trip you should bring contraceptives.

3. Appropriate Clothing: Yes the tropics are warm but if a sudden storm rolls in it can get quite cool, fast. Always bring good shoes, pants and even a light jacket.

I find it is better to pack lightly, You never know when you will need to carry your luggage for a distance. 3 or 4 full changes of cloths will often be enough.

4. Sunscreen: SPF 30 minimum. Any less and you stand to get burned. A sunscreen should also contain either zinc oxide or titanium oxide.

Before leaving on your trip it is a good idea to spend some time in a tanning bed. This can give you a good base to withstand the intense sun near the equator.

5. Medication: Obviously bring any prescription medication but you should also think about Aspirin, Pepto Bismal and other pharmacy items.

Be sure to carry any medicine in the original package and carry copies of your prescription as well.

6. Guide Book: A guide book to the area that you are visiting can come in real handy. Besides showing you the attractions in the area it will also have important phone numbers in case of an emergency.

7. Cash: Having a credit card and travelers cheques with you is a must. Also carry enough American cash for 2 days of emergency living. You never know when a storm will knock out the power.

8. Snorkel: If you have any plans to go snorkeling you may want to bring you own snorkel and mask, or at least a snorkel. Rentals are shared by many people. If you are packing light a snorkel takes up almost no space.

Travel to Barcelona, Spain – Picasso Museum

Spain is a country, a part of the European continent, both of which are over flowing with museums, living and/or established specifically for this purpose. So why do I single out this average size museum amongst all the living Castles and large museums with very recognizable names. Could this be due to the single artist that this museum represents? Or is it possibly due to the 3,500 works that make up its permanent collection. As you read on, the answers should become crystal clear.

To fully understand an artist, Pablo Ruiz Picasso, and why his art pieces are associated with such a continually increasing demand while the supply remains finite, then The Picasso Museum in Barcelona becomes indispensable. This Museum is also key point in understanding Picasso’s genius as a young artist along with his solid and intimate relationship developed with the City of Barcelona. This relationship that was originally shaped in Picasso’s adolescence and youth, continued until his death in 1973.

The museum boasts, and rightly so, to have acquired the most complete collection of Picasso’s youthful works found under one roof, that remains open and available for the visual consumption of the general public. Barcelona must thank a friend of the artist, Jaume Sabartes, along with Picasso’s wishes, which were made very clear in 1970 with his own donation of all his early works to this museum. This very large donation now makes up a large part of the museum’s present total collection, which includes representations of every period of the Artist’s life, up to his death in 1973.

The museum also possesses a large and fairly complete representation of his works starting with an important chapter in Picasso’s life. This chapter begins in 1917, the year that the artist met Olga Kokhova, kicking off his most important relationship with a mate. At this point, to stay with Olga, the artist went to Rome along with the Diaguilev’s ballet company. Later, Picasso, with Olga at his side, traveled to Barcelona. The purpose of this trip was to introduce her to his Spanish based family.

His stay in Barcelona was long. This period was marked by his transition from Cubism to the reencounter with classicism. The museum also has a priceless group of works from his later Blue Period.

Therefore, I hope that after reading my short article, the traveler can appreciate how a visit to this exciting and cosmopolitan city of Barcelona cannot be considered as worth mentioning without highlighting a crucial visit to one of the most important 20th century born European museums, The Picasso Museum In Barcelona.