Saturday, 25 July 2015

Botswana Chobe National Park, Wildlife Sightings

Chobe National Park from the Light Aircraft, Water and Land ©Solange Hando

Rich in wetlands, savannah and forest, the Chobe National Park lies in Botswana, a haven for wildlife, close to the border with Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

This is the only place in the world where four countries meet and it happens in the middle of the Chobe river, at the Kazungula crossing.

 Fun in Chobe ©Solange Hando

In the dry season, wildlife migrates from across the borders, attracted by the river and surrounding wetlands.

Elephants come top of the list, with up to 160,000 recorded at that time, the world's highest concentration. You find them in the forest and along the banks of the Chobe where in the late afternoon, some swim across to Sedudu island for the night.

Having a Snooze on Sedudu Island ©Solange Hando

Sedudu means the 'hippo pod' and there are plenty of these massive and seemingly placid creatures both in the water and on land. This mother and her 6 months old young took no notice of us but the ranger was as excited as we were. This was the first baby hippo he had spotted in 10 years.

The island was once disputed territory with Namibia but when the channel on the Botswana side was measured and proved shallower, it was granted to the latter.

Giraffes by the Chobe River ©Solange Hando

Theses giraffes were also spotted by the river, the young one splaying its legs, as giraffes do, to drink or nibble short wet grass.

The iconic entwining of necks often seen at mating time is not romantic at all but indicates rivalry between two males.

Too Close for Comfort? ©Solange Hando

Rather more awesome are the myriad crocodiles swimming in the river or sunning themselves on the banks, mouth wide open to cool down.

The picture was taken from the relative safety of a small boat but these crocs have been known to snatch humans who strayed too close to the water. This is no place for riverside picnics, or even a stroll.

Prowling in the Sunset  ©Solange Hando

The park supports large numbers of birds, impala, buffaloes, baboons and other creatures, large and small, but for many visitors, the greatest thrill is seeing a lion, or lioness as above.

After a kill, scores of vultures gather in the tree tops, waiting for their turn to feed, and on any game drive, looking up, not down, is probably the best way to find the king or queen of the Chobe jungle. 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Victoria Falls Zambezi Sun Hotel

All Welcome at the Zambezi Sun in Zambia ©Solange Hando

Set within the Victoria Falls National Park, this spacious hotel has lush open grounds where wild life is free to roam.

These zebras are regular visitors keen to feast on tender grass but guests might also spot a giraffe or two, plenty of baboons and crocodiles by the lake though it would be wise to keep away from the bank.

Swimming Pool at the Zambezi Sun ©Solange Hando

On the other hand, the pool is perfectly safe and irresistible for a swim, followed by a light lunch at the waterside bar.
There's plenty of shade if you want it or sun to work on your tan. It's also a popular meeting place for pre-dinner drinks.

Twin Room African-Style ©Solange Hando

The Zambezi Sun claims 212 guest rooms and suites with all mod.cons. from tea and coffee making facilities to TV and free Wifi.
Furnishings are a mix of soothing and bright African colours enhanced by traditional Zambian crafts such as woodcarving on headboards.

Besides the poolside bar, local and international food is available in the steakhouse, the buffet restaurant and the Crocodile Café near the activity centre.

The Victoria Falls near the Zambezi Sun, Zambia ©Solange Hando

But wild life and comfort aside, the greatest asset of the Zambezi Sun is its location, just a few minutes' stroll through the grounds to the Victoria Falls, with unlimited free access when you present your room card.

 On the Zambian side, you can view the upper Zambezi rushing towards the cliff's edge, the Eastern Cataract (pictured above), the Boiling Pot down in the gorge and the Victoria bridge which marks the border with Zimbabwe and the rest of the falls.

Sunset on the Zambezi River ©Solange Hando

Guests who feel like a change from the falls can book various activities at the hotel such as land safaris, either jeep, elephant or horse back, or river cruises for wild life viewing and spectacular sunsets over the water.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Hiroshima, Miyajima Island across the Bay

Japan's Iconic Landmark, Miyajima ©Solange Hando

A short ferry ride across the bay of Hiroshima, Miyajima, the 'Island of Shrines', claims World Heritage status. It's one of Japan's most sacred places and you are sure to see the deer roaming free along the shore and up in the hills.
Rising out of the sea, the traditional red gate, or torri, marks the approach to Itsukushima, the Shinto shrine built on stilts along the shore and surrounded by water at high tide. The gate only dates back to 1874 but pilgrims have worshipped on the island for centuries.

The Daisho Temple, Miyajima ©Solange Hando

The main shrine may hold you spellbound for a long time but it's worth taking a look at the nearby five-storey pagoda, the 'hall of 1000 mats' and the Daisho Temple nestling on the luxuriant slopes below the Misen Mountain.
With its pagoda roofs and steep wandering paths, it's a fairytale sort of place sprinkled with stone statues from tiny figures in fancy hats to a giant man-bird or rows of images glittering in a cave festooned in lanterns.

Cute Little Men ©Solange Hando

Down by the waterfront, the 'high street' is a bustling little place lined with souvenir stalls and barbecues where skewered oysters, grown in the bay, mingle with all sorts of delicacies.
The Japanese are fond of all things 'cute'  and the visitors follow suite,easily tempted to step inside and pick up a traditional koi banner or a wooden spoon to eat Ramen. The spoon, also used to scoop up rice, was invented on the island, they say, and half-way down the street, there's a giant model on display to prove it.

Going Local on the Island ©Solange Hando

Beyond sightseeing and shopping, Miyajima has much to offer, especially if you enjoy the great outdoors. Minutes from the shore, the hills beckon with pristine scenery and quiet trails and a week on the island could simply fly by, leaving you refreshed and relaxed.
If time is short, a cable car can take visitors almost to the top of Misen or for those who would like to take a close look at the gate, there are canoes and local boats.

Guardian of Itsukushima ©Solange Hando

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Want to Be a Travel Writer? One Year on...

Want to be a Travel Writer?
This little book will show you how

Don't take my word for it
See what the readers say

'A fantastic starting point for any keen travel writer'
'As good as it gets, best guide on the subject you're likely to find'
'Grabs your attention from the off and holds it'
'Packed full of really essential tips and advice'
'Brilliant. I had ideas entering my head at the early stages '

One year on, these are just a few of 45 reviews on Amazon,..
5 star: 42
4 star: 3

So if you love travel and have a story to tell, why not give it a go?
It could change your life