“For the next few months I’m going to be highlighting some of paradises.com favourite holiday destinations starting with one of the worlds most popular, Fiji”
BULA= Like the Hawaiian word aloha,bula actually has a variety of meanings and uses. Its literal meaning is “life,” and when used as a greeting it implies wishes for continued good health (the official formal greeting is “Ni sa bull vinaka,” meaning “wishing you happiness and good health,” but it is almost always shortened to just plain “Bula!”
From the moment you step foot on Fijian soil you’ll be greeted with a vigorous friendly Bula and until the moment you leave, Bula will be ringing in your ears.
Fiji is one of Australians favourite holiday destinations for a variety of reasons and has been for many years.
And these are some of the reasons…
The close proximity to Australia makes this exotic holiday destination so accessible.
The variety of hotels and resorts mean there is something for every budget from backpacker hostels, village homestays, to five star resorts on private islands where butlers are at your beck and call.
Activities abound including secluded island boating tours and private deep sea fishing
Multiple water sports activities which include kayaking, jet skiing, jet boating, parasailing and much more
Diving and snorkeling adventures
Village tours, which can include volunteer work at a local village school or hospital
Zip lining and boundless off road adventures
I could keep listing activities to do or I can suggest you find a daybed by the pool with your favourite book and a cocktail and enjoy the
exceptional ambience and family like feel of one of the world’s finest holiday destinations.
We’re love exploring new places on earth, and we’ve outdone ourselves this time. We’re bringing you one of the most interesting and exclusive places for adventure and exotic holiday seekers in the Pacific. Known for decades as a hotspot for adventures, Papua New Guinea remains true to form. Today we’re covering four places you should visit there. Check out the photos and learn more about how to get there here.
Photo Credit HarryGreenWell
Known for being one of the most beautiful towns in all of the South Pacific, Mandang is home to about 30,000 residences. It’s got a stunning coastline and is arguably the best scuba diving in the area. It’s a must see for anyone in the region.
Photo Credit Travvde.com
This is the capital city and is great for a quick getaway if you live in the area or Australia. Because of the terrain, it’s best to take a guide to this capital city. The locals, sights and accommodations are one of a kind.
Photo Credit CorbisImages.com
An almost untouched civilization that links the new and old worlds. Ancient rituals like manhood initiation, markings and much more signify this part of society still today. Guides, tours and accommodations are all exciting and easily available.
More than 200 islands make up this region of the area, all risen from the ocean with volcanic rock. A sight that not many people get to see, that you must visit if you’re in the area. The adventurous, those of you with wanderlust, come here, and see what this corner of the world has. It’s sure to make an unforgettable holiday. Find out how you can do that with our complete guide to these destinations.
Because we specialize in exotic destinations, we feel like it’s our duty to bring you coverage of the most beautiful places, in the most tucked away locations in the world. Today, we’ve found an amazing one. Yes, we’ve been there.
Somewhere between New Zealand and Australia sits a small island only home to 800 people at a time. Rising out of the ocean from a volcano in a previous lifetime, this island is home to some of the most stunning views on the planet.
Photo Credit About-Australia.com
Lord Howe Island looks like something from Lord Of The Rings, and it very well could be.
To visit, you’ll need a good tour guide, and the right person to help you book accommodations. Surprisingly, there are some great places to stay on the remote island. Specifically, Pinetree Lodge, Ocean View Holiday Apartments are great.
Photo Credit Baillielodges
But if you know where to go, this can be the most unforgettable vacation you’ve ever taken.
Photo Credit Reddit
You’ll see sites here that not many people on earth get a chance to look at, and photos just don’t do them justice.
Photo Credit Australian Travel
If you ever get the chance, visit this mysterious wonderland set off the coast of Australia, you’ll never regret it. find out more information about where we specialize in holidays on our website.
This was an action packed week on our honeymooning adventure – Who said anything about them being romantic?! Here is a day by day run down as it seems a bit easier due to the amount of activities!
Our journey started with a full day transit in Guam which I always love to visit, it feels like a second home, but for Garth it was all new and exciting. Our tour guide Ed from Discover Guam was fantastic and had so much local information to pass along. He took us to a range of places across the island to give Garth and myself a good overview of the history of Guam from Chamorro origins to the Spanish and Japanese occupations in the battle grounds World War II.
We got on a flight to Palau late in the evening and checked into the Palau Plantation Resort. Bright and early the next morning we were up for our intro to scuba diving. We started off in the harbour at Sam’s Tours, where there were still a lot of exciting sea creatures to see; the famous Palauan cabbage coral, hermit crabs plus loads of fish. Once we got the hang of the basics our guide and instructor LiLi took us out to the Japanese Jake Seaplane wreck in the rock islands not too far away. An amazing experience to descend to 45 feet (15 meters) and see an almost intact plane and piece of World War II history sitting on the sea floor that you would never know was there otherwise.
Our next adventure was an all day snorkel and Rock Island tour with Fish ‘n Fins. We were with a group of experienced divers who went to dive Blue Corner and Blue Holes, but as we (and a few others) lacked the experience and certification required, we snorkelled off the boat instead. It was here, out on the island’s barrier reef, where saw the whole cast of Finding Nemo, while we watched the divers descend down to 30 meters. Even despite our relative shallow aquatic experience, we still saw sharks large and small, turtles, a Moray Eel lurking in the coral, schools of fish and smaller tropical fish going about their daily chores, it was quite spectacular!
The second part of our second day was the Jelly Fish Lake. It was a bit irksome and slimy at first, but they are so sweet swimming and bobbing along, following the sun as it moves around the lake over the course of the day. There were thousands of the little creatures clinging together either for warmth or safety, not to mention the many visitors that came through. It makes you wonder if they notice us swimming amongst them at all. The final stop of the day was the Milky Way, a protected area in the Rock Islands where the sand is actually limestone dust and is so fine that it feels like a smooth mud silt. It is believed to be the fountain of youth and many claim it has restorative properties. But in reality is smells terrible (sulphur) but does feel nice and smooth and is fun to put it all over your body!
The following day we went to Dolphins Pacific where we got to get up close and swim with a Dolphin. I have always loved them, they are so graceful and playful, but when you’re close to one to look it in the eye you see how intelligent they really are. Beautiful creatures worth valuing more than just doing tricks. Having said that the song that immediately sprang into my head was “So long and thanks for all the Fish” from the Hitchhikers Guide! When you can look into the eyes of such a graceful and powerful creature your know that the dolphins know what’s up and are definitely smarter than us!
Later in the afternoon we went tearing through the jungle at Palau Adventure Park on the zip-line – lots of fun even if it was brief! The ziplines were arranged in four stages, from short and slow to long and blindingly fast, through the jungle down to the river where we jumped on a boat for a cruise (at first!) and then very fast mangrove river tour with some locals. The quiet but confident ‘Palauan Steven Irwin’ to look for crocodiles on his small boat, but with a 200 horse-power outboard motor it was more fast and fun than slow and contemplative!
The next day was a day specifically organised for Garth but one that I also enjoyed because he was having so much fun! – the ATV Off-road Jungle tour with our Fish ‘n Fins guide Kent. An incredibly knowledgable local Palauan man, who had spent most of his life before becoming a tour operator as a subsistence fisherman. We could have talked with Kent about the history of humanity for hours, but he is also a bit of a reckless thrill seeker so if was into the ATV and back into the action! Secretly I think he likes to get muddy and thrown around in the ATV by tourists in the jungle! A super fun day learning about the history of Palau and its natural ‘supermarket’ of life while tearing through muddy tracks in the jungle at high speed and ending up at a beautiful waterfall for lunch and a swim.
Our final day was a ‘chill out’ day which we spent at the Palau Pacific Resort. It’s the only hotel in Palau with a beach and it’s a great beach too; calm and full of fish and corals to snorkel and swim. We ended our day and holiday with Piña Coladas and a beautiful orange sunset over the water.
Palau is incredible! Warm (even when it’s raining), beautiful and kind locals who are always happy to help and informative guides only too happy to impart their knowledge and promote their wonderful history and culture. It truly is a paradise.
Citywide exhibitions, events, talks and sales, focusing on TCDC and BACC.
Elle Fashion Week
When: Mid Oct
Navaratree Hindu Festival
When: 8 Oct 2010, 28 Sept 2011, 16 Oct 2012, Where: Maha Uma Devi
A Ganesha procession and Hindu rites precede the dramatic Uma procession, passing dozens of petal-carpeted shrines around Silom and Sathorn, with fevered rites, blessings, mediums and self-mortification. To fit in, you should wear white.
When: Oct , Yellow pennants indicate food stalls and restaurants going veggie for this ten-day Chinese purge of meat and heating foods by white-clad devotees. Chinatown explodes with activity and Chinese opera around shrines, notably in Charoen Krung Soi 20.
When: 23 Oct 2010, 12 Oct 2011, 30 Oct 2012 . The rainy season officially ends, and with it the three-month Buddhist Lent, with wat rituals such as the shaving of monks’ scalps and brows. It’s followed by the Kathin month of robe giving and temple fairs.
King Chulalongkorn Day
When: 23 Oct , Where: Royal Plaza, Thousands gather to worship at his equestrian statue.
Run by the Nation newspaper, this major cinefest focuses on auteurship, Asian films and themes.
Bangkok Pride Festival
When: Oct or Nov , This week of cabarets, parties and events around Silom has faded quite badly, so ‘Pink in the Park’ at Lumphini Park pool and the closing parade may not happen in the future.
When: Nov-Jan, Lager-laced al fresco fun with food stalls and live bands at plazas, bar strips and malls like Central World.
Golden Mount Temple Fair
When: Nov, Bangkok’s best loved fair rings Wat Saket for ten days around Loy Krathong. Other fairs during this period are less crowded.
When: 26 Nov 2010, 10 Nov 2011, 28 Nov 2012
Thai’s crowd waterways to cleanse sins by offering the water spirit a delicate, candlelit Krathong float made from banana tree trunk, leaf, incense and flowers. This is a magical night, with many temple fairs.
When: 1st weekend in Nov, Tel: 0 2641 5234
Run by Fat Radio, this effervescent indie gathering attracts youth tribes with dozens of bands, art installations and countless stalls of homemade books, art, music and fashion.
Bangkok Theatre Festival
When: Nov , A charming mixture of modern and traditional performance at Santichaiprakarn Park and city venues. It’s partly free and fairly accessible to non-Thais.
When: late Sat in Nov Where: Shrewsbury International School Huge expat charity event with funfair, bars and shows run by the British embassy since the 1950s.
When: late Sun in Nov Tel & website: National Jogging Association (0 2628 8361, www.bkkmarathon.com
Full, half and mini-marathons are run through the old town.
When: (see Nov)
Trooping the Colours
When: 2 Dec , Where: Royal Plaza The Thai armed forces march past royalty arrayed in plumed dress uniforms of brilliant hues.
When: 5 Dec, The Thai people’s deep reverence for King Bhumibol is on display on what’s also Father’s Day (and a national holiday). The King addresses the crowds at Royal Plaza in the morning. Thousands light candles after dark in Sanam Lung, where fireworks, and traditional music and dance carry, on until late. There are decorations strewn along Thanon Ratchadamnoen and throughout the city.
This open-air ‘free space’ enables ‘indy’ youth to present their publications, music, artistry and short films.
New Year’s Eve
When: 31 Dec Say ‘Sawatdee phi mai’ at parties citywide, the Central World countdown or while watching the fireworks at Sanam Luang and riverside hotels. There are late bar hours and, a real help, the BTS/MRT run all night.
Honolulu’s Waikiki beach is renowned for its sparkling and gentle waves and framing the vista of the beach is the jaw-dropping panorama of Diamond Head. The beachfront and the surrounding boardwalk are sheltered by a multitude of high-rise apartments, hotels, shops and restaurants. Of all the hotels on Waikiki beach, one stands out more than any other and that is the Royal Hawaiian Hotel affectionately known as the Pink Palace. Most afternoons Waikiki beach turns on amazing sunsets and ‘The Pink Palace’ is the place to be while sipping a Mai Tai cocktail as the sun disappears and melts into the ocean.
Elvis Presley made the Mai Tai cocktail very popular by featuring the drink prominently in the movie Blue Hawaii.
As I near the beach for the first time I see cameras flashing and tourists buzzing around a large bronzed statue of legendary Hawaiian surf God, Duke Kahanamoku. The Duke first surfed the waves of Waikiki beach in 1908 (approx) and is known adoringly throughout the world as the father of modern day surfboard riding. Little did the Duke know that one day Waikiki would be the mecca for tourists to learn to surf.
Just behind the Duke statue on the sand, you’ll find the ‘Hawaiian Oceans Waikiki’ where you can hire surfboards and also get lessons to surf by professional instructors.
One of the instructors is one of Waikiki’s most colourful characters, 64 year old grandmother Karen Shmidt who is Waikiki’s only full time female licensed surfboard riding instructor (there are other women instructors but none operate full time). I was introduced to Karen through a friend of mine and over a long lunch was soon to find out that this was no ordinary woman.
Karen was born in Chicago to a very strict middle class family. When she was a teenager, they moved to California’s Huntington Beach and it was not long before this wild and active young girl rebelled against her conservative family. This was the 60’s, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Free love was the norm and surfing and commune living was beginning to flourish. Karen quickly adopted her new lifestyle and as she quoted, “ I tuned in and dropped out.”
Karen immediately fell in love with the ocean and after leaving school got a job as a crewman on a 50ft yacht. Her love of adventure soon saw her heading to Colombia where she again found work crewing on a boat on the Buenaventura coast. In the early 70’s there were a lot of Americans living in Colombia and it is here that she met her future husband, who also happened to be the captain of the boat she worked on.
While in Colombia (1970-1978), Karen travelled the country extensively and eventually got married, had her first child and started up a yacht chartering business together with her new husband, taking tourists to Panama and the many surrounding outer islands.
During this time, their mutual love for partying led them to an exorbitant lifestyle that caused their lives to spin out of control, so eventually they packed up and headed back to California where they attempted to settle down.
They only lasted in California for one year and with their young child in tow were on the road again. This time they headed to Mexico where they once again started up a chartering business out of Club Med and as a bonus imported local weed to California. During this time her second child was born. They partied continuously made and spent lots of money but their lifestyle again got out of hand. Her husband was becoming very abusive which led to a marriage breakdown, so Shmidt packed up and headed back to California where they finally got divorced.
Karen stayed in California till the mid 80’s and then made a decision to move to Waikiki for a more serene lifestyle.
Landing in Waikiki with little money and no friends, Karen soon befriended the local beach boys due to her love of the ocean and instead of getting her life together as planned she started drinking and partying excessively yet again.
It was at this time in 1986 on Waikiki Beach that she met Hawaiian local beach boy legend Bobby Ah Choy. She first noticed him out in the surf taking photos from a stand up paddleboard, long before stand up surfing became popular.
After years of ‘being sick and tired of being sick and tired,’ Karen turned her life around with a complete healthy lifestyle change and commenced a relationship with Bobby Ah Choy. Surfing from this time on would become a major part of her life.
Ten years ago and with Bobby’s guidance, Karen became a fully licensed surf instructor, which proved difficult to achieve as she was a “Haole,”(a non local), but with her determination and perseverance she achieved this goal and today is the only full time, fully licensed female surfing instructor on Waikiki Beach.
Many years of challenges and tribulations has made Karen the most inspirational person I have ever had the privilege and pleasure to meet. So, whenever you are in Waikiki beach Honolulu and want to learn how to surf or just get some tips or a refresher course on surfing, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to one of Hawaii’s premier surfboard riding instructors.
*Pack plenty of sunscreen, as lots of time will be spent on the beaches of Waikiki, Wiamea Bay, Sunset and Pipeline
*To discover Honolulu at a leisurely pace take a Redline bus tour
*Ensure you visit Pearl Harbour
*There is so much to see and do in Hawaii I advise you seek assistance from hotel staff for best local attractions available.
WHERE TO STAY
www.paradisesonline.com for all your accommodation
Whenever Hawaii is mentioned, images of cloudless sunny blue skies and world famous surfing beaches come to mind.
So it is so hard to comprehend that one of the most historical World War Two catastrophes happened on this island paradise.
The attack on Pearl Harbour occurred in the early hours of December 7th1941. The might of the Japanese war machine led by the imperial Japanese Navy attacked the U.S. naval base in a surprise air raid on the unsuspecting Americans reeking devastation as never been seen by America in their history of war.
The damage and loss of life for the U.S. unleashed by the Japanese on this day was immense. By the end of the air raid this is what had happened:
4 battleships sunk
3 battleships damaged
1 battleship grounded
2 other ships sunk
3 cruisers damaged
3 destroyers damaged
3 other ships damaged
188 aircraft destroyed
159 aircraft damaged
2,402 lives lost
Civilian casualties included:
The result of this attack was a major Japanese tactical victory.
What came about after the Pearl Harbour attack was:
United States declaration of war on the Empire of Japan
Germany and Italy declared war on the United States
Visiting Pearl Harbour is quite a moving experience. There is a museum at the naval base including audio and visuals detailing this tragic day in1941.
There is also an informative and captivating movie you watch before being taken out by boat to the memorial that has been built above the sunken wreck of the battleship ‘USS Arizona.’
The USS Arizona was torpedoed by the Japanese and sunk with all 1,177 crewmen aboard. The ship remains untouched to this day and is now the tomb and sacred site to all those that perished on this vessel. This memorial is also the viewing platform that you can walk on to and look down to see the wreck of USS Arizona. At one end is a marble memorial wall with every name of the deceased crew that was onboard that fateful day.
A naval officer is on hand to answer any queries that visitors have.
The attack on Pearl Harbour had a very profound effect on USA and President Franklin Roosevelt described it as “A date that will live in infamy.”
The Island of Oahu has so much to offer as far as sightseeing and adventuring goes, but a visit to Pearl Harbour is a truly amazing experience and should be on the top of your “to do” list.
A clever way to visit Pearl Harbour is on an Aloha Double Decker touring bus. Prices start from $10 USD.
It’s a great way to discover a new city and the bus stops at every major landmark. You can get on and off the bus as many times as you like whilst your pass is valid.
Maui is one of the world’s supreme holiday destinations and is renowned for its beautiful beaches and stunning scenery and for the past 17 years has been voted the “Best Island” by the Conde Nast traveller magazine. When you are there, it is very easy to see why.
From the months of December through to May the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean turn on a display of whale watching that is mesmerizing. Welcome to humpback heaven! This is where these massive and beautiful beasts come to play, breed and for mother whales to teach their young calves ocean management skills such as: breaching, flapping, slapping and the exciting humpback sport of krill fishing.
From the beach you can see whales all day as they play and cavort in the distance. But to experience the best whale watching display that I’ve seen, I advise you go on one of the many whale watching boat tours that are available.
THINGS TO DO
There is so much to do in Maui, so in no particular order, here are my
favourite and fun things to do:
*Whale watching on one of the many boat tours (Dec till May)
*Take a beautiful drive to Hana (a must do Maui excursion)
*Learn to surf at the many surfboard-riding schools that are available
*Waimoku waterfall hike, Haleakala
* The Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea Resort (for major pampering)
*Honolua Bay is great for swimming and snorkeling
*Makena beach; swim with turtles
*Wailea beach; relax and swim in this very friendly family beach and also enjoy a spectacular coastal walk.
*Wailea golf club (3 championship courses)
(Check with concierge of your hotel to help book some of these activities).
THE GRAND WAILEA RESORT
Accommodation was always going to be a difficult and important decision to make due to the huge amount of resorts and hotels that are available. After much research, I chose the Grand Wailea Resort for the following reasons:
Set in 40 acres of prime real estate, this Polynesian style resort sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by lush landscaped gardens and views to die for. In 2011, The Grand Wailea was voted ‘The Best Resort Accommodation’, ‘The Best Resort Restaurant’ and ‘The Best Resort Spa’ by Maui newsreaders. Not a bad rap coming from the local community considering the huge amount of amazing resort accommodation available in Maui.
The Grand Wailea has an array of accommodation to suit all budgets and at different times of the year they offer great deals.
WHAT TO DO AT THE RESORT?
*To ensure that you stay fit while you’re on holidays, the resort has a very comprehensive fitness center which can be utilized to keep the kilos at bay (personal and group training available).
*Pamper yourself at the Grande Spa that has beautiful facilities
*A 3km breathtaking coastal walk adjacent to the hotel emphasizes the island’s beauty. Walk in the afternoon while the sun is setting for spectacular views.
*The resort has two swimming pools available: one for children (noisy, slides and fun) and an adult pool where peace and serenity reigns supreme.
*Beautiful Wailea beach is the backyard of the resort and is also one of Maui’s finest and most popular beaches. It is the ideal beach to swim, relax, whale watch and sip a cocktail whilst watching the sun disappear into the horizon.
*The Grand Wailea has an array of cafes, bars and restaurants to choose from. One of the restaurants is the award winning and unusually named Humuhumukunuapua’a, which is actually the name of a local reef fish. The name alone is a conversation piece and the food is exquisite. A beautiful restaurant for that special or romantic occasion.
*Ensure you have a camera for whale watching photos and spectacular scenery everywhere!
*Pack a good pair of walking shoes to enjoy the coastal walk
*Temperature is always warm, so ensure you pack your summer wardrobe and plenty of sunscreen.
Hawaii instantly conjures up images of swaying coconut palms, azure blue water, perfect waves and white sandy beaches. For the surfing enthusiast, it also brings to mind an icon that is always thought of and that is the legend of Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern day surfing.
On the promenade adjacent to Waikiki beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Duke’s larger than life bronze statue with outstretched arms is there to greet all tourists who venture down to the beach for the first time. Images of the great Duke Kanamanoku and his massive old wooden board surfing off Honolulu’s Waikiki’s beach are well known around the world.
Waikiki Beach is famous for its gentle rolling waves and upon arrival you are not disappointed. The beach and promenade is a beehive of activity filled with surfers, sunbakers and day-trippers. It is a kaleidoscope of colours and activity and overseeing all of this is an array of high-rise hotels and buildings that line up and guard this famous strip.
If you take a stroll to the southern end of the beach you will come to the world renowned and iconic hotel The Royal Hawaiian (a.k.a the pink palace). At sunset there is no better or more tranquil place to be in Waikiki then here, sipping a cocktail and witnessing sunsets that will be etched in your memory for a lifetime.
Here are my top attractions in Honolulu in no particular order:
The north shore of Hawaii
The world mecca of surfing which includes Wiamea Bay, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. In the winter months you will be able to see the world’s best surfing some of the planet’s largest and most perfect waves.
*Hire a pushbike, a great way to discover the north shore.
During WW11 on December 7th1941, Pearl Harbour was attacked by the might of the Japanese air force. 360 planes carried out this surprise attack and nearly 92 vessels were destroyed including the USS Arizona. Today all sailors who were on duty on that fateful day on the Arizona are still entombed on board this vessel.
A historical and very emotional must do attraction in Honolulu.
Hire a surfboard and get out and surf some of the most famous small and gentle waves in the world. Surf lessons are available by some of Waikiki’s best surfing instructors including Waikiki’s only full time licensed female surfing instructor Karen Schmidt.
*Go to The Hawaiian Oceans Waikiki located just behind the Duke Statue on the sand.
Other major Honolulu attractions:
*Aloha Tower is an iconic Honolulu landmar
*Diamond Head, a very famous dormant volcano in Waikiki
*Aloha Moana Shopping Centre and the many shops on Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu Swap meet markets (near Pearl Harbour), to only name a few
*The oldest Chinatown in the USA
*Night time buskers on Kalakaua Avenue
*Redline bus tours will take you to nearly all the major attractions in Honolulu and is the best and fastest way to learn the layout of a newly arrived town
WAIKIKI RESORT HOTEL
Location, location, location… that’s what Mr. Hooker real estate legend used to say and that reason is obvious when you first arrive at the Waikiki Resort Hotel.
Only a 50 metre walk from the very impressive foyer and there you are standing on one of the world’s most iconic beaches.
Everything you need in Waikiki is in walking distance from the hotel including restaurants and shops.
The hotel has a great variety of accommodation available and the rates are very reasonable.
The hotel staff is very accommodating and friendly and can pretty much answer any question you may have.
WHERE TO EAT IN HONOLULU, HAWAII
*The Seoul Jung (Korean BBQ restaurant) at the Waikiki Resort Hotel
Bouncing around in the back of an open top jeep being driven down a dusty dirt trail in Sigiriya on a sunny late afternoon, I’m on my way to Minneriya National Park located in central Sri Lanka. I’m about to embark on an elephant safari and I feel like John Wayne in his famous African adventure movie “Hatari.”
Regulation requires that upon entry to the reserve every vehicle must be provided with a guide. At first I did not understand why a guide was required, but I would soon find out.
Our guide whose name was Sugath Liyanage, explained how he lives close by in a local village and all his life has loved elephants, which are a sacred animal in Sri Lanka. He is currently going through a voluntary five-year period of guide work before he becomes a fully paid guide.
Sugath informed us that there are up to 300 elephants that reside in this reserve and if we are lucky, today we may also encounter a herd of buffalos and many different types of birds such as storks, jungle fowl and the brown and black-capped bulbul. Also birds of prey including the grey-headed fish eagle and the white-bellied sea eagle also call Minneriya their home. Toque and grey Langur monkeys and herds of spotted deer can also sometimes be seen.
Look very closely we are told and you maybe lucky to see a Jackel or two lurking in the shadows.
If we do encounter these animals then that will be a bonus, but today we are on a safari and looking for elephants and for the first 20 minutes we see none. I have this horrible sinking feeling that today will be the day all elephants on this reserve will be in hiding and will not appear. I’m thinking, you know that old classic line, “you should’ve been here yesterday.”
Well 20 minutes into our hot and dusty trail ride and amongst the thick undergrowth we suddenly make out a few elephants, my heart skips a beat and a few moments later we come to the end of the trail and the park suddenly opens up, we now could be in any game park in the world. It is beautiful, miles of open land surrounding two massive lakes. Elephants, massive huge elephants are everywhere all sizes and ages. It was amazing to be so close to these majestic animals, some were in packs, younger elephants were playing, others were lying in mud baths and some were swimming. Further down the park elephants were roaming in the bush and there were little baby elephants sticking close to their mums and even some large males were hanging around. The reason they are hanging out, its mating season and the big bucks are hoping for some “elephant fun”. Generally the large males do not hang out with the herd unless its time to mate. Elephants generally live in close-knit family groups, led by a matriarch.
The dominant female is usually in charge and literally, when I say charge, get to close when there are young and baby elephants around and that is what they do, charge. Our guide explained to us that there were a few angry elephants in the reserve, that were known to charge quite often and from a distance at one time we witnessed one of these aggressive beasts charge a jeep that had encroached to close. As our safari continued, we got caught in a precarious position while we were a watching a group of elephants. Without our drivers or our guide’s knowledge another pack appeared from the bush behind us and were not happy we were invading their space. For a moment we were eyeballed by two angry herds, there were maybe 20 massive elephants, then, suddenly two charged our jeep. Then I realized why each vehicle must have a guide on board because in that instance the guides experience saved us from maybe getting attacked, an incredibly frightening but exhilarating moment.
*When the elephants charged, our guide stood up tall in an aggressive stance and yelled out to let the elephants know that we were not moving and in that instance they both backed off and returned to their herd.
The herd moved on, our heart rate slowed and the safari continued. Seeing these magnificent beasts so close in an environment where they can roam wild and not locked up in a cage in a zoo is a truly wonderful experience
*We organized our elephant safari through the staff at the Sigiriya Hotel.
*Safari duration is approx. 4 hours.
*Ensure you wear comfortable clothes, a hat, walking/trekking shoes, and take sun block, insect repellant and a camera.