Jun
05

If you want to see a lot of wild animals in their natural habitat and have an awesome experience, go to Africa’s Kruger National Park. Expect to stay at least two days since it is the largest game reserve in South Africa, covering 7,332 square miles.

You most likely will be staying in Johannesburg before you go to the park. The weather may be significantly different than from where you departed, so be prepared for climate changes. Plan for a 4-5 hour drive (pack snacks and plenty of water), depending upon which gate (entrance) you choose to go to first. The more popular southern gates to enter from Johannesburg are either the Crocodile Bridge Gait or the Nambit Gate – and traveling between the two to get a glimpse of the park.

Expect to pay about $15 (120 Rand) a day per person (children are half price) for entrance into the park. If you plan to stay overnight at one of the camps, you will pay prices similar to staying in hotels. Most people tour the park in private or rented vehicles, but tours are also available. You must be careful to get to your planned destination before the gates close. If you arrive at a gate or camp after they close, you will not be permitted to enter, exit, or receive accommodations.

If you are equipped with a map, you will have no difficulties navigating the park. You will more often than not run into a park ranger who can give directions and offer guidance as to where to find the game.

As you tour through the park, you can expect to see giraffes grazing along the road, warthogs darting in and out of the brush, and impalas by the thousands. When you pass by pools of water, be sure to drive slowly to see if you can’t spot the hippo poking their snouts out of the water.

Don’t be hesitant to ask the park rangers where the wildlife is located since some game tends to not to stay fixed in one area. The ranger’s job is not only to care for and protect the animals in this sanctuary, but also provide assistance to visitors. After all, without visitors, there would be no revenue, and they also want to make sure you have a fabulous, naturalistic experience.

If your heart is set upon seeing elephants, ask the park rangers where they have been spotted recently. You might get lucky and even see the baby elephants. You can observe the elephants grazing or taking mud baths and spraying mud all over themselves.

However, as fun as elephants are to watch, the only protection you have is your vehicle. Please remember not to get too close and give the animals their space. Be sure to retreat if they show signs of aggression such as shaking their head, flapping their ears, and trumpeting their horn. They are surprisingly quick and fast for how big they are and extremely protective of their young.

You can’t help but be impressed by the kudus and other wildlife not commonly known. Even the warthogs, which were so ugly and yet so cute as they run around with their tails pointed straight up in the air, will give you great entertainment when you spot them.

Don’t forget to keep your eye out for groups of rhino, herds of zebras, sables, and hordes of wildebeests throughout your visit. As you keep your eyes are peeled looking for wildlife out in the grass, don’t forget to look up now and then to spot birds and monkeys in the trees.

It is difficult to even get a taste of the park if you only tour it for one day. Consequently, lodging is provided at over 18 camps within the park. Most camps have a fence all around to keep the animals out. Dinning is available at the camps for a reasonable price with excellent service.

You need to take special note that Kruger Park is a Malaria region and you will be required to take anti-malaria medicine. The infected Anopheles mosquito carries the protozoan responsible for Malaria. The mosquitoes may not seem bad during the day, but at nighttime they become especially aggressive and numerous.

You may feel forlorn to leave this great, once-in-a-lifetime experience behind when you exit Kruger Park. To express the thought that it is well worth the time to visit Kruger National Park would be a severe understatement.

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May
27

If you spent any time researching night vision devices, you have probably noticed that prices seem to be all over the board. One unit can cost several thousand dollars while a unit that appears to be similar in size and magnification costs a couple of hundred dollars. It can become very confusing as to why the prices could be so vastly different. The reason why prices vary so much is primarily because different ‘generations’ of technology are being implemented into the many devices that are available.

There are currently 3 generations of night vision technology available on the commercial market. Each generation has brought about improvements in the performance of the unites, but the improvements have also increased the retail prices of these units considerably. Do the improvements justify the cost increments? That is really a personal decision you will have to make depending on your needs, and what you are willing to spend.

Night vision technology was initially developed for military applications, and over the years the technology made its’ way into law enforcement uses. Today this technology is available to anyone that can afford to use it. While the most common uses of these devices are still military and law enforcement; they are becoming increasingly popular with security companies, private investigators, hunters, photographers, and nature enthusiasts.

First generation instruments are most common, simply because they are the most affordable. It is hard for most people to justify spending over $2,500 for a night vision scope to be only used recreational use, especially when 1st generation technology provides a passable image for most applications.

One distinctive characteristic of a 1st generation unit is the high pitched whine that is heard when turning it on. This sound is usually very soft, and it is not a problem for most users. You may also notice that the edges of images are slightly blurred or distorted. Both of these features should be expected with 1st Generation Technology.

Second and third generations are very similar, and many times you will see them included together within the same product description. Beginning with the 2nd generation the “micro-channel plate,” or MCP, was added to the image intensifier tube. The addition of the MCP resulted in a clearer image, and reduced the amount of natural and infrared light that was necessary in order to see an image.

The most current 4th generation has made giant strides in improving the technology. It has made significant improvements in contrast levels, and has reduced the amount of light needed even further. As this technology becomes commercially available, you should expect even more of a drop in 1st and 2nd generation products.

At the end of the day, picking the right unit is mainly a matter of preference. Think through what you need, and what you can afford, and then find the right unit for you. Take the time to do your research. In the long run, it is well worth your time.

May
20

Day 3 of our ride to Montana started early. I couldn’t wait to be up-and-about to check out ‘Big Sky Country’. An I’ll tell you, ‘Big Sky’ is exactly right. I felt like I was spared from falling into the wide open blue by some magical glue that kept me anchored to earth. I expected to be sucked skyward, a feeling akin to the awe I felt when I first witnessed the majesty of the Grand Canyon. The morning was incredible – not a cloud in the sky – just the golden glow of another stunning sunny day to ride.

While we didn’t make an exhaustive tour of Missoula, we did see enough to know we’d love to stay, but the road was calling, so we headed out. My passion to see Montana was triggered by a movie, ‘Last of the Dogmen’, starring Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey. The story centers on a broken-down but skillful bounty hunter [Tom Berenger] who is hired by his estranged father-in-law [Kurtwood Smith] to hunt three armed escape convicts loose in Montana’s Oxbow Quadrangle. I was overwhelmed by the splendor of the mountains and resolved to make my way there. And dang, here we were right at the proverbial doorstep of the Oxbow. YeeeHawwwww!

It wasn’t until we arrived in Missoula and took a closer look at the map that we realized a town in Montana bore our family name – Rollins. So we HAD to get there and check it out. To get there, we took I-90 west to MT-93 north bound for Flathead Lake and Rollins. The ride was kind-of pretty, but unremarkable. Yet, the promise of viewing the ‘Dogmen’ mountains and our namesake was almost as motivating as the sheer pleasure of riding..

The jaunt to Rollins of fewer than 100 miles, took about 2 hours. Rollins is a quaint little lakeshore resort town with Post Office, gas station/convenience store and burger stand [just south of the town]. The later caught our attention, advertising ‘Buffalo Burgers’. So, we made a stop and frankly enjoyed our first and only ‘Buffalo Burger.’ We ask about the origins of the town and learned that a ferryman by the name of Rollins founded the settlement in the early 1900s. He ferried customers across Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. In addition to tranquil splendor, the lake offers world-class fishing with rainbow, cutthroat, bull, lake, and brook trout, as well as arctic grayling, bass, perch, and pike. We didn’t have gear, but if you’re into fishing, Flathead sounds like a great place to spend a weekend or a week!

We left Rollins south, back down MT-93 roughly 11 miles and took a right onto MT-28. This was a very enjoyable ride. The road was old but solid with virtually no traffic. About an hour down 93, you’ll pass just east of a local hot spot, literally, Hot Springs, MT. We didn’t pause to the enjoy the springs, but were told it’s wonderfully relaxing.

MT-28 intersects MT-200. We took a left and then about 5 miles south, we took a right onto MT-135. Now, prepare yourself for one of the most beautiful rides of your life. MT-135 cuts through the mountains and runs alongside a gorgeous mountain river – and oh what beauty. The river is perfect for ‘tame’ tubing, and we observed watched a number of families inner tubing in the Montana sunshine. I’ll bet there’d be some good fishing there too. From time-to-time we’d pass a mountain resort, and I thought more than once, a family retreat here would be fabulous. I was disappointed when we left nature’s beauty and returned to the concrete reality of I-90 at St. Regis, MT.

St. Regis is a typical truck stop community. We gassed-up, enjoyed a snack and were on the freeway north for Coeur d’Alene, ID. The ride to Coeur d’Alene is 95 miles on I-90, which runs east and west across the United States from Chicago to Seattle. The stretch from St. Regis to Coeur d’Alene lopes through the Montana-Idaho mountains with stunning vistas and pine-laden mountain-scapes. What marvelous beauty. What humbling greatness.

Appearance of the placid resort waters of Coeur d’Alene Lake, the area’s keynote attraction; heralded our arrival to Coeur d’Alene. The city of over 50,000, is devoted primarily to tourism and enjoys a full complement of hotels, motels, restaurants and services. We stayed in a popular discount chain I’ll not mention nor recommend. In subsequent trips we’ve continued on to Post Falls, ID. – a smaller, but more inviting community. In Post Falls, there’s a cool 60’s restaurant – the Hot Rod CafĂ©. Bike night is Thursday from May through September. The Hot Rod menu features a great selection of burgers, sandwiches, appetizers, desserts and beverages. And the food is as great tasting as the atmosphere is fun.

That brings us to the end of the third day of our trip – a day of ‘Big Sky’ vistas and riding tranquility – the conclusion of Leg 3 of our BEST first ride to Montana.

May
13

Lucknow is the capital city in Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the Minority Concentrated Districts and the most populous state. The place is metaphorically called the Constantinople of India, being 497 km away from New Delhi. Lucknow is a vibrant city that promises interesting features of wildlife such as the hog deer, rhino, swamp deer, chital and sambar. Various attractions include parks, forests and sanctuaries which are also a favorite among tourists.

Dudhwa National Park
Dudhwa National Park was established in 1958 as the wildlife sanctuary. In 1977 it became a national park and a tiger reserve in the year 1988. The park lies on the borders of India and Nepal along the foothills of the Himalayas.

The thick forest has huge Sal trees, mosaic grasslands, swampy marshes, tall termite mounds and the Suheli River along the southern boundary. The main attractions are its 1,600 species of swamp deer and 98 different kinds of tigers.

Billy Arjan Singh is India’s leading conservationist who created the sanctuary of the swamp deer species. He also introduced zoo-born leopards and tigers in the Duhwa wilds. The Indian rhinoceros was reintroduced, coming from Nepal and the Assam Forests. Five of them were allocated but the 2 died. Four females were replaced in 1985.

The park has over 350 to 400 species of residents and migratory birds, including the Great Slaty Woodpecker, Bengal Florican and Storks as well as the Swamp Francolin and many more. There are 37 mammals, 16 reptiles and 101 tigers to see.

Tree species are scattered throughout the park like the Bombax Malabaricum, Adina Cordifolia, Shorea Robusta and the Terminalia Belerica as well as the Terminalis Tomentosa, Eugenia Jambolana and the Dalbergia Sissoo.

Dudhwa National Park provides elephant rides for only Rs100 per head lasting for 3 hours. No jeep safaris or guides are available that is why visitors tend to hire a jeep or mini bus just to go around the park. They only ask for a Rs150 entry fee. Other attractions are the waters of Ganga, Varanasi and Agra.

All visitors are required an entry permit fee of Rs 50. The park is divided into nine ranges such as the Bankati, Salukhapur, Sathiana, Belrayan and Kila, offering great accommodation facilities. The best time to visit is during the months of November to May.

Kukrail Reserve Forest
Kukrail Reserve Forest is a picnic spot built by the Forest Department. It is 15 km from Lucknow. The deer farm and crocodile nursery are its main attractions which can be seen in their natural habitat. This reserve houses the black buck, spotted deer, sambhar and a variety of birds. The place also includes a rest house, a children’s park and a cafeteria for a whole day of sightseeing. The Science Museum and the Regional Science Center provides innovative programs about wildlife understanding.

Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary
The Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh is the main hub for migratory birds during the winter months. It is one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries spread over a 3 square km area. The sanctuary was declared as a protected area in the year 1984 by the Indian government.

A shallow lake is the main area which serves as the place for water birds. Most rare birds come from Siberia and Europe, traveling around 5000 kilometers every year. This includes the Pintail, Gadwall, Coo, Mallard, Graylag Goose and the Cotton Teal. Other local birds are the Sarus, Peacock, White Ibis, Bronze Winged Jacana, Tern Vulture, King Crow, Bee Eater and many more. The Bird Interpretation Center gives lots of information about birds and their behavior.

Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary is just 35 kilometers away from Lucknow. It is best visited from November to March.

Lucknow today has many places the whole family can visit and enjoy. Wildlife attractions in Lucknow are one of the major contributions in upbringing the city’s economy. It is also known as one of the world’s greatest wildlife sanctuary.

May
04

The beautiful and friendly island of Paros Greece belongs to the Cycladic group of islands and is located almost in the centre of the Aegean Sea. Over the last years, Paros has developed a lot its tourism facilities and today attracts millions of tourists every summer. The picturesque architecture and the golden sandy beaches, ideal for windsurfing, are the main features of this island.

Paros beaches are very clean and fully equipped with tourist facilities. Some have been awarded the Blue Flag for the cleanness of their water. The golden sandy beaches with pristine blue waters against the backdrop of a mountainous region at a distance give moments of unique serenity.

The most famous beach of Paros island is Golden beach, on the south eastern side. This beach took is name from its golden sand and is famous for its windsurfing conditions. In fact, strong winds blow there mostly in the afternoon and make this beach very popular among windsurfers and kite surfers. Every August, the Professional Windsurfing World Cup is organized on Golden beach, attracting many athletes and visitors. The New Golden Beach is found in a close distance, much smaller than the original and much quieter.

Another famous beach of Paros is Parasporos, a large coast with emerald waters. Parasporos is organized with wooden umbrellas and sun beds for visitors. The beach bars that work there serve light snacks and drinks for the hot summer days. Many of these beach bars stay open till the early hours, organizing beach parties after the sunset.

If you like Parasporos, then you will love Pounda beach. It is found on the western side of Paros and although it is in distance from the other popular beaches of the island, it is close to Parikia, the capital town. Pounda reminds a bit Super Paradise beach on Mykonos: crystal water, sandy coast, beach bars with loud music, many water sports clubs and hotels around it. Pounda gets very crowded in summer and is popular especially among young people.

Apart from these crowded beaches, Paros also has numerous calm coves to relax and avoid noise. Agia Irini and Marcello beaches are some, while you will discover many more if you drive around the island. Driving is probably the best way to see every corner and enjoy each unique beauty of Paros island.

Apr
27

Joe Pool Lake is a U.S. Corp of Engineer’s lake that is located just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Since it first opened in 1989, the lake has been a popular destination for anyone interested in boating, fishing, hiking, camping or wildlife watching. Here are some of the highlights of what is available for you to enjoy this great lake.

Camping. There are two public parks that offer overnight facilities. Cedar Hill State Park (Cedar Hill, Texas) has a large campground that is typically full during the busy summer season. It is part of the Texas State Park system. There is a few walk in primitive camp sites, regular camping sites with electric and water, and full hook up RV sites. The second camping area is Loyd Park. It is run by the city of Grand Prairie. In addition to the normal tent and RV sites, there are also a number of fully furnished cabins available for rent.

Boating. There are two full service marinas on the lake. One is within Cedar Hill State Park and the other is just outside of Lynn Creek Park (Grand Prairie, Texas). The marinas offer slip rentals and also have boat launch areas. There are also additional boat launch sites around the lake, some within city parks or in areas run by the Corp of Engineers. During the summer weekend mornings and evenings the boat ramps can be full and the wait may be long to get your boat in or out of the water. Be prepared and plan accordingly.

Fishing. The Lake boasts bass, crappie and catfish. Along the banks of the lake there are numerous public parks where you can fish from the bank. Cedar Hill State Park even has lighted fishing docks and a fish cleaning station. Both marinas also offer floating pay-to-fish covered docks.

Hiking. The bulk of the hiking trails are found in Cedar Hill State Park. The largest, the Dorba trail, covers more than 10 miles and is a shared biking/hiking path. You can also find a few trails in Loyd Park. The trails offer great opportunities for birdwatching and viewing some of the fabulous wildflowers that grow in the natural areas around the lake. The bluebonnets are usually spectacular in the early spring, creating wonderful carpets of blue.

Swimming. There are numerous beaches in the parks (Cedar Hill, Loyd, and Lynn Creek) that offer a nice place to take your small children. Each has a real sandy beach, bathrooms within easy reach and an adjacent playground area.

There are other facilities and amen

Apr
21

Exploring the woods, mountains, hiking trails, and other fun camping sites has been a beloved outdoor activity for ages now. There are so many ways to fully maximize nature that it would be impossible to enumerate in one article. But one thing that’s a must to have make this an excellent experience is to have the right outdoor emergency kits and supplies.

If you look all the way back in early history, you might be surprised to find that there have always been some kind of ointment or creme used specifically for someone who may have suffered some type of insect or animal bite, a scorching burn, or even from protection form harmful UV rays. Outdoor emergency supplies didn’t just pop onto the scene in recent decades, since very early cultures would make their own from items they found within nature itself.

You can pretty much count on the fact that, being that you all will be active in the outdoors, the terrain will result in one of the individuals in your pack will end up cutting, scraping themselves, or getting a hematoma. Insects can be a pretty big irritant as well. Whether you would think so or not, something as small as an insect bite, such as that of a fly, can make was at first an awesome camping excursion turn into a nightmare if you aren’t prepared to treat them.

Well stocked first aid kits should always include essential outdoor emergency supplies such as a flashlight with extra batteries, as it will be crucial if you are out hiking and night falls faster than you anticipated or if you become lost. A sharp knife should also be included because it will come in handy for a variety of things such as cutting string for the tent, cleaning fish, and for countless other situations you may not even realize.

A whistle is a great addition to your kit in the event you become separated from your camping party. Fire starters are useful, specifically if the area you are camping in has had rain recently and the kindling and small branches you would normally collect and use for starting a fire are damp.

A variety of over the counter medical supplies should always be stocked in first aid kits. Band aids and gauze for wounds, punctures or cuts are a must have. If someone experiences this type of accident, then an antibiotic that you can manually apply on the skin and injured area would be great to have on hand. Aspirin, antacids and ibuprofen are good for headaches and muscle aches. Creams to relieve burns and itch relief from rash or bug bites are good to have, also.

Perhaps none of the things that you pack in your first aid or survival kit ever be used, and that’s what you hope and pray for, but better to be safe than sorry. One of the most intelligent things you can do in your prep work is to be sure that all that are on the trip remain in optimal health and that any accident be taken care of immediately with the correct supplies.

Apr
13

The Kokoda track runs from Owers corner about 50 kilometres from Port Moresby for 96 kilometres over the Owen Stanley ranges to Kokoda village. Hiking the Kokoda track takes you through a variety of environments ranging from low lying swamp to dense rainforest. There is also a lot of history from the second world war as Australian diggers fought to stop the Japanese from invading Australia. The Japanese fought their way from Kokoda village all the way to Imita ridge where the Australians finally stopped the advance. There are still wartime relics to be seen at most of the villages.
You can walk the track in either direction, which means either going by bus to Owers Corner from Port Moresby and walking to Kokoda village and then flying back to Port Moresby or alternatively you can fly to Kokoda village and walk back to Owers Corner and then by bus back to Port Moresby.

When I did the walk it was in August 2008 and we flew to Kokoda village and started the trek from there. As you have to fly over the Owen Stanley ranges by light aircraft the weather can and does cause delays. We lost the first day of the hike due to weather preventing us flying to Kokoda village which meant having to make up a day over the period of the walk. If you start hiking the Kokoda track from Owers Corner and walk to Kokoda village then the weather may cause you a delay in flying back to Port Moresby. We had planned to have a short day in the middle of the trip (3 hours) which turned into a long day (11 hours ) to make up the time. It is important to have insurance to cover extra accommodation or missed flights as well as getting evacuated by air in case of injuries.. It is possible to carry your own pack, although most people opt to pay local porters to carry their gear which makes the hike less strenuous. There are some huts in the villages but most people camp in tents. The walking times can vary immensely as they are dependent on fitness levels, the amount of weight carried, the amount of sightseeing that is done and the track conditions to mention a few.

Hiking the Kokoda track can be done in eight to ten days and is classified as moderate to hard but is a very satisfying achievement to complete.

Apr
03

The Overland Track runs for 65 kilometres from Cradle Mountain through the Tasmanian wilderness world heritage area to Lake St. Claire. Hiking the Overland track is quite spectacular with a variety of different areas ranging from rainforest to moors with mountains, lakes and waterfalls to see. The Overland track is classed as a moderate walk and there are numerous side trips that can be done. On these side trips you can either leave your pack at the huts if the side trip is nearby or leave the packs on some of the timber platforms that have been specially built and do the side-trips with just a day pack These side-trips provide some spectacular scenery and it is highly recommended that you plan to do as many as possible. Hiking the Overland Track takes four days but another four days can easily be used up on the side-trips. As the track is growing more popular every year a booking and fee system is in place. During the summer months the Overland track must be walked from north to south.

December to March is about the best time to do the walk but at all times you must be prepared for bad weather conditions. Rain and low cloud with overnight temperatures below zero are not uncommon. It is best to prepare for winter blizzard conditions at all times for the sake of safety. Although the track is well marked and there are park rangers and huts to shelter in you must be prepared for the poor weather conditions just in case you have to spend the night outside due to injury or getting lost

The Overland Track is becoming increasingly popular as each year goes by. It is certainly on the list of the worlds best walks and attracts numerous hikers from all around the world.

Mar
29

State Parks are an excellent place to go on vacation. There are literally thousands of state parks in the United States. Many of these protected places are in the Michigan. Holland State park is one such place. It is a beautiful expanse of beach and sand. It is a stunning place to put on your flip flops or sandals and take a long, relaxing walk while enjoying the sunrise or sunset. In the winter, it is a fantastic place to visit for some cross country skiing, or ice fishing.

What is a state park? You ask, and how do they differ from their national counterparts? According to the encyclopaedia a it is “an area of land preserved on account of its natural beauty, historic interest, recreation, or other reason, and under the administration of the government of a U.S. state. Mexico and Australia have the same designations. They are very similar to national parks, but under state not federal regulation. Usually, they are smaller than national ones, with a few exceptions such as the Adirondack Park in New York.

In America, state parks have an older history than national ones. In 1864, when the federal government saw the need to protect the Yosemite Valley, President Abraham Lincoln ceded the land to California as a state park. The reason behind this was that, at the time, preservation of land for the public was seen as a proper role for the states rather than the federal government. Later the state park was incorporated into Yosemite National Park. It is believed that the oldest state park is Georgia’s Indian Springs State Park.

Holland Park is the perfect definition of a government protected park. It offers an expansive, sandy beach along Lake Michigan, two large campgrounds and a beautiful, beautiful view. The land is divided into two separate units; one along Lake Michigan and the other along Lake Macatawa. The green space was acquired from the City of Holland in December 1926. Since then it has been intensively used for its great beach and excellent campgrounds.

We recently had a very nice visit to Holland State Park in Holland Michigan. We rented a house as close to the lake as possible. We spent our time swimming, hiking, boating and fishing. From the look of things, we could have hiked all the way up the left side of Michigan until we would pass Traverse City and go on to Mackinaw City and not come to the end of the beach. Or maybe head south until we hit Chicago. The beach at Holland State Park in Michigan must be reached by hiking for one mile along a sandy path through the woods. This beach normally has a very small number of swimmers and sunbathers and can often be found empty. August is the best time to visit this beach so that the water has time to warm up. At night we would watch the sun set make a fresh fish dinner and end with a night cap while playing cards.

Each beautiful, green expanse of land and water offers its visitors different ways to enjoy nature. With almost 3,675 state parks in the United States, there truly is something for everyone!