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Nature

Against the tide

Garial1

The gharial is among the largest crocodile species, but it faces a fight to survive.

With its long, saw chain-like mouth, the gharial reminds of an unusual pre-historic or extinct species. Soon it might be one. In 2007 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the reptile as ‘critically endangered’. In 2006 it conducted a survey of breeding gharial adults in the wild. It found less than 200.

The gharial is native to the Indian subcontinent. Its appearance is unmistakable. Its narrow snout becomes shorter and thicker with age. At the end is a small lump called ‘Ghara’ – which is Indian for ‘pot’. It is a vocal resonator present on all adults, and a visual sign to females. The gharial is one of the largest crocodile species, just behind the saltwater crocodile. Males can become six metres long and weigh 180kg. The average lifespan is between 40 and 60 years.

The gharial’s habitat mainly consists of deep, fast-moving riverstreams. On land it is clumsy and its short, weak legs give it poor locomotion. The only times it leaves water is when basking or nesting. But in the rivers the gharial is king. It is too thin and delicate to attack large prey and therefore feeds on fish, which it grasps from the water with razor-sharp teeth. Continue Reading…

History and culture

Castle of Love

Ukraine1

The Swallow’s Nest is a romantic symbol of Crimea and has a compelling history.

 

Perched on the edge of a cliff on the Crimean south coast, the Swallow’s Nest is the postcard picture favourite of Ukraine’s southern peninsula. This miniature medieval castle hoovers some 40 metres above the water, but the more compelling view is the horizon towards the Black Sea. Beyond its touristic appeal it has featured in several books and Soviet films. “It’s very popular,” says Sergey Sorokin, a private tour guide on the peninsula. “Swallow’s Nest is the symbol of Crimea.”

The castle looks as if it could tip into the sea any minute. Once it went close. But it has stood its ground since 1912. The foundations were laid earlier. At the end of the 19th century a wooden cottage was constructed here in commemoration of a general of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 and 1878. It looked nothing like the castle of today. But that did not stop it from acquiring the name ‘Castle of Love’, which is still used by some. Continue Reading…

Adventure, Asia

Hitting the road

Japan1

Corridors of snow tower 20 metres above the highway along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

The mythical Mount Tateyama is a place of extraordinary sights – and none more so than the corridors of snow. From mid-April when the route opens, a 500-metre path is cleared where people can stroll between giant walls of snow. They are formed by the mountain’s excessive snowfall, which averages seven metres per year. Some years 20 metres arrive. The corridor shortens towards the end of June, and virtually disappears by August.

The sight is part of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, which connects Toyama City, in the Toyama prefecture, with Ōmachi, in Nagano (the prefecture that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics). The route, completed in 1971, crosses the 3,015-metre-tall Mount Tateyama in the Japanese Alps. It ascends 1,975 metres from the bottom to its highest point. To say the journey is ‘varied’ is an understatement: across its 90 kilometres (55 miles) it uses six different modes of transport and changes method eight times. Continue Reading…

Luxury

Credible comfort

Costa

Costa Rica is renowned for its ecotourism, but how does one enjoy it in luxury?

‘No artificial ingredients’ goes the slogan of Costa Rica’s tourism campaign. Since the 1990s the Central American country has promoted sustainable tourism and invited travellers to its exotic terrain. It has worked. Ecotourism is now one of its fiscal cornerstones.

The strategy is logical. Costa Rica cannot sacrifice natural resources in order to develop its society, because nature is the only resource available. And what nature. There are active volcanoes, grand mountain ranges, pristine beaches. Kayakers and rafters swoosh down riverstreams while explorers negotiate rich rainforests. Wooden huts and lodges are nestled in jungle close to the coastline.

Costa Rica is not stupid. It knows that protecting its assets pays off. One-fourth of the entire country has been made national park. Despite its relatively small size, Costa Rica contains five per cent of the world’s biodiversity. In addition, the government aims to go carbon neutral by 2021; the same year Costa Rica celebrates its 200-year anniversary as an independent nation. Continue Reading…

Adventure

Cambodia – Community Spirit

Contemplating Monk, Angkor Wat, Siam Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia has emerged as one of the most popular tourist destinations in South East Asia, an explosion that has necessitate the development of ecotourism sites to help maintain the stunning environment that attracts people to the nation.

Cambodia boasts more than 60 species of rare and endangered wildlife, with many of these having reached extinction in other South East Asian nations. The extinction of species in neighbouring countries has heightened the need for action in Cambodia, with both the tourism industry and the natural environment relying on a plan to protect the country’s diverse and unique ecosystem.

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Ecology

Kerala (India) – Nature Reserved

Kerala India  travel background - houseboat on Kerala backwaters

In a nation as large as India, it can be difficult for one small region to stand out from the crowd and establish itself as a bona-fide tourist destination on its own reputation, but that is just what the beautiful ecology of Kerala has allowed one of the nation’s smallest states to do.

In the past, Kerala was an important hub for the spice trade and it still contributes significantly to India’s national output of spices, tea, pepper and natural rubber, but tourism is rapidly taking over as the most important factor to the local economy.

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History and culture

Key West – To Have and Have Not

Key West Sunset

Located closer to Cuban capital city Havana than it is to Miami, Key West is one of the most curiously located towns in the USA – and it certainly has a cultural history that reflects its unique position. The last major settlement of the Florida Keys, before reaching Cuba, Key West seems at first to have more in common with its closest Caribbean neighbour than it does with the mainland.

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Food and drink

Morocco – Street Eats

Selection Of Very Colorful Moroccan Tajines (traditional Cassero

Morocco has long been the most popular destination for tourists looking to visit North Africa, as one of the most beautiful and stable nations in the region. Many flock to Morocco for the pristine beaches and the fascinating cultural history, but just as enticing is the range of flavoursome street food that has come to define destinations such as Marrakech.

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Ecology, Nature

Norway’s Fjords – Lighting The Way

Tourism And Travel. Mountains And Fjord In Norway.

When one thinks of the landscape in Scandinavian country Norway, it is almost certain that the stunning fjords, carved through steep banks of rock along the Norwegian coast, will immediately spring to mind.

Not only are the fjords beautiful structures of natural engineering, however, but they are also some of the most ecologically responsible tourist destinations in Europe, if not the world. Norway has made a significant effort to ensure that people can enjoy the nation’s landscape in a sustainable manner, which has led to the practice of eco-business certification.

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Nature

Oman – The Dead Of Night

Green sea turtle eggs in sand hole on a beach

Leaning the furthest out into the Arabian Sea of all the nations perched on the Arabian Peninsula, Oman has some of the most beautiful, pristine beaches that the world, let alone the Middle East, has to offer and is a haven for astonishing wildlife and natural beauty.

That Oman remains largely untouched by the behemoth of modern tourism is largely down to its location, with many wrongly believing that all countries in the region are beset by political instability and rising tensions, but this neglect from the mass market has opened up a cornucopia of relatively unexplored paths for the more adventurous tourist to explore.

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