Wildebeest Migration Update 2

Today’s update from Governors’ Camp in the Masai Mara:

This week it has been all about the river crossings as wildebeest and zebra took the plunge and crossed the Mara River in their thousands.  There were dramatic scenes as crocodiles snatched a meal and wildebeest struggled to cross the mighty Mara River.  The migration covered the plains and there were wildebeest as far as the eye could see.  In these time of plenty with abundant prey around the big cats of the Mara have been busy raising the next generation and our guests have enjoyed regular sightings of Malaika the cheetah and her cub and the newest additions to the famous Marsh pride of lions.
There are still some tents available for this year’s migration season, so if you would like to come on safari and see this incredible wildlife spectacle then contact World Discovery to book your Governors’ migration safari.
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Bali – all roads lead to Kuta

The 9th International Kuta Karnival – one of Bali’s largest tourism festivals – will be staged from 10th to 14th October this year.   The event will get underway at Kuta Beach with the ceremonial release of turtles on the beach.   Other highlights include a kite festival, Balinese arts, cartoon exhibitions, movie screenings, sand sculpture competitions, beach sports, including a surfing competition, a paddle for peace, Balinese wrestling on the sands, “Morning of the Earth” yoga sessions, a Bali Hotels Association’s bartender competition and a variety of musical performances.  As part of the overall Kuta Karnival 2012, the Bali Food Festival will also run alongside the main event and will feature cooking demonstrations, culinary competitions and food stalls with a variety of world cuisines on offer.  This event will also have movies, DJ sessions, a children’s playground and other entertainment activities.   The festival will end with a street parade and a colourful closing ceremony.

Cambodia – No smoke without fire

Cambodia has banned smoking at the Angkor temple archaeological site in order to promote the health and comfort of visitors and prevent forest fires.   The ban was formally imposed last month, but the Apsara Authority has stringently begun enforcing the new law, although authorities currently do not intend to fine those who break the ban.   Although an Angkor Park official said that he could not recall any serious fires caused by smoking within the park boundary, more than 10 hectares of forest near to the World Heritage Site complex burned in February during a blaze in Siem Reap’s Norkor Thom commune which spread to within a few kilometers of the ancient temples.  Over two million domestic and foreign tourists visit the site in Siem Reap in the northwest region of the country every year.   The Angkor region served as the seat of the Khmer Empire from around the ninth to the fifteenth centuries.

Virgin to launch first UK domestic service

Virgin Atlantic will launch London to Manchester flights from March 2013 in its first foray into the UK domestic market.   The airline will operate three daily flights to Manchester using Airbus A319 aircraft from March 31.   The airline says the move signals the start of a new network, providing regional feed to its long haul service and a key point-to-point service.  Virgin will use some of its existing slots to service the Manchester to London route.   Chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “Flying between Heathrow and Manchester is just the start for Virgin Atlantic’s new short haul operation.
“We have the means to connect thousands of passengers to our long haul network as well as to destinations served by other carriers.  “Our new service will provide strong competition to omnipresent BA; keep fares low and give consumers a genuine choice of airline to fly to Heathrow and beyond.” Manchester is a key regional airport with over 65% of passengers to London connecting onwards to other destinations.   “Operating a London to Manchester route will provide an invaluable feed to our existing long haul network for both business and leisure passengers,” added Ridgway.  Virgin is expected to launch more new services on the back of its application for all of the remedy slots being awarded by the European Commission following the IAG takeover of bmi.

New London-Singapore link

Singapore Airlines has announced that it will introduce a fourth daily flight between Singapore and London from October this year.   The increase in frequency will be carried out progressively, starting the week of 9 September when the number of flights per week will rise from 21 to 25.   The full complement of 28 flights per week will take effect from the week of 21 October.   The additional flights will also allow for more convenient connections beyond London to other points in Europe, and beyond Singapore to other destinations within Asia and the South West Pacific.   The additional late-night departure from Singapore will be operated with a Boeing 777-300ER featuring the luxury Raffles Class.  The current three flights between Changi and Heathrow are operated with Airbus A380s.   Singapore Airlines last increased flights to London in 1998 and has been trying to find landing slots to increase this air link for years.

Malaysia’s greens getting greener

Malaysia is rapidly emerging as South-East Asia’s latest golfing haven with almost 200 golf courses currently available nationwide.   Golfers have the option of driving off in the cool lush greenery of the Cameron Highlands, or along the shores of a tropical beach on the fringes of the South China Sea.   Ernie Els Design, headed by the South African golf great, is currently carrying out work to add to Malaysia’s stock of courses.   The two developments are an 18-hole course at the eco-destination resort Teluk Datai, Langkawi, and a 27-hole course at the upcoming integrated luxury destination Desaru Coast, Johor.   The 27-hole course will be one of the main attractions at Desaru Coast, a 17-km beachfront integrated destination on the west coast of Johor that features an array of luxury resorts, hotels and golf residences, complemented by facilities including retail malls and theme parks.   The site is easily accessed by a short drive from Senai International Airport, Johor Bahru.   In Teluk Datai, Langkawi, upgrade work on the 18-hole course at The Golf Club, Datai Bay is underway and this will be completed in 2013.   In addition to the two courses, Ernie Els’ design team is also providing technical services for fellow golfer Vijay Singh’s course at Desaru Coast.

Vietnam International Hot Air Balloon Festival

Vietnam’s first-ever international hot air balloon festival will be held in the central resort town of Phan Thiet from August 29 to September 3.   Balloons of various shapes, including a golden cat and a dragon fruit, will be operated by pilots from countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Thailand.  The performances are scheduled for early morning (6-7 a.m.) and late afternoon (5 p.m.) each day of the event.

Other parts of the festival will be air sport performances, including paragliding and kiting. On September 2 there will be another highlight of the event: a night performance of over 20 big air balloons to celebrate Independence Day.

Wildebeest Migration Update

balloon

Today’s update from Governors’ Camp in the Masai Mara:

In the last few days there have been some very good crossings on the Mara River. Yesterday many zebra and wildebeest crossed from east to the west at the main crossing points along the River. There are many wildebeest spread out across the plains surrounding our camps.  Huge lines of wildebeest were seen this morning filing over Rhino Ridge and towards Paradise Plains.  The lions of the area are doing well, there are two cubs up on Paradise Plains which are the same age as the new Marsh Pride cubs and the two large males are back on Paradise Plains, no doubt attracted by the large herds of wildebeest and zebra. And the male lion Morani has been mating with one of the young Marsh Pride females. Yesterday evening Siena another of the Marsh Pride females managed to tree a young male leopard at Lake Nakuru and the leopard was kept high up in a Teclea tree for most of the day, it had moved out of the tree by this morning.  People flying on the Governors’ Balloon have been enjoying spectacular views of the herds of the great migration.

There are still some tents available for this year’s migration season, so if you would like to come on safari and see this incredible wildlife spectacle then contact World Discovery to book your Governors’ migration safari.

Tiger population increases in Nepal

The WWF reports that the tiger population in Nepal’s Bardia National Park has doubled

The Bardia National Park was once home to a lowly 18 tigers but a recent report by the WWF has reported that the current population has now more than doubled to 37.   The park covers an area of 400 square miles and the recorded increase provides evidence that the battle against tiger poachers in Nepal is currently being won.

Nepal has experienced many problems with illegal wildlife trafficking, and tigers in particular have suffered greatly from poachers, with many being killed for their parts, almost rendering them extinct.  In 2000, Nepal had a total tiger population of 350 but within eight years this had plummeted to 121.  The Bardia National Park was expanded in 2009 in order to protect the tiger population.

Although the new figure of 37 is still low, it is a step in the right direction in the midst of strong government support and hard work from local rangers.   The WWF report identified the tigers via camera traps and counted 15 male and 22 females roaming in the park.  It is hoped the numbers will continue to increase and the current tigers go on to produce more numbers in the coming years.

This commitment to wildlife from Nepal follows last month’s news that India’s Supreme Court has banned tourism in core areas of tiger reserves (see World Discovery ‘India Holidays’ blog dated 25 July 2012).

Egyptian tombs to reopen

The tomb of Meresankh has been shut from public view for almost 25 years, but in a bid to attract more visitors Egyptian officials have decided to reopen it

The tomb of Queen Meresankh III – located at Giza close to the world-famous Pyramids and Sphinx – is set to open later this year.   The tomb,  discovered in 1927 by the American archaeologist George Reisner, boasts vivid wall paintings and inscriptions.  Five further tombs of both Pharaohs and ancient high priests are also set to reopen to the public in the near future.

Also due to reopen is the well-known Serapeum at Saqqara – a huge underground temple dedicated to sacred bulls, which were buried in huge granite and basalt sarcophagi.   The Serapeum used to be a staple on the tourism circuit before its closure, although not all visitors grasped the full significance of the experience, as the writer Evelyn Waugh observed in 1929:

“…I came upon a large party of twenty or thirty indomitable Americans dragging their feet, under the leadership of a dragoman, across the sand from a charabanc.  I fell in behind this party and followed them underground…. into a vast subterranean tunnel called the Serapeum, which, the guide explained, was the burial place of the sacred bulls.  It was like a completely unilluminated tube-railway station.  We were each given a candle, and our guide marched on in front with a magnesium flare.  Even so, the remote corners were left in impenetrable darkness.  On either side of our path were ranged the vast granite sarcophagi; we marched very solemnly the full length of the tunnel, our guide counting the coffins aloud for us; there were twenty-four of them, each so massive that the excavating engineers could devise no means of removing them.  Most of the Americans counted aloud with him.

One is supposed, I know, to think of the past on these occasions; to conjure up the ruined streets of Memphis and to see in one’s mind’s eye the sacred procession as it wound up the avenue of sphinxes, mourning the dead bull; perhaps even to give licence to one’s fancy and invent some personal romance about the lives of these garlanded hymn-singers, and to generalize sagely about the mutability of human achievement.  But I think we can leave all that to Hollywood.  For my own part I found the present spectacle infinitely stimulating.  What a funny lot we looked, trooping along that obscure gallery!  First the Arab with his blazing white ribbon of magnesium, and behind him, clutching their candles, like penitents in procession, this whole rag-tag and bobtail of self-improvement and uplift.  Some had been bitten by mosquitoes and bore swollen, asymmetrical faces; many were footsore, and limped and stumbled as they went; one felt faint and was sniffing ‘salts’; one coughed with dust; another had her eyes inflamed by the sun; another wore his arm in a sling, injured in heaven knows what endeavour; every one of the party in some way or another was bruised and upbraided by the thundering surf of education.  And still they plunged on.  One, two, three, four… twenty-four dead bulls; not twenty-three or twenty-five.  How could they remember twenty-four?  Why, to be sure, it was the number of Aunt Mabel’s bedroom at Luxor.

‘How did the bulls die?’ one of them asks.

‘What did he ask?’ chatter the others.

‘What did the guide answer?’ they want to know.

‘How did the bulls die?’

‘How much did it cost?’ asks another. ‘You can’t build a place like this for nothing.’

‘We don’t spend money that way nowadays.’

‘Fancy spending all that burying bulls…’

Oh, ladies and gentlemen, I longed to declaim, dear ladies and gentlemen, fancy crossing the Atlantic Ocean, fancy coming all this way in the heat, fancy enduring all these extremities of discomfort and exertion; fancy spending all this money, to see a hole in the sand where, three thousand years ago, a foreign race whose motives must forever remain inexplicable interred the carcasses of twenty-four bulls.  Surely the last laugh, dear ladies and gentlemen, is on us.

But I remembered I was a gatecrasher in this party and remained silent.”