West Coast, Sri Lanka ( What to do and What not to Miss !! )


For Packages write us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or visit us at http://www.adler-tours.com

Snapshot

Sri Lanka’s west coast covers the coastal belt just south of Colombo all the way down to Hikkaduwa. From that point on, Red Dot prefers to refer to the Galle coast, which is increasingly influenced by the famous old fortress town. The west coast is more frequented by holidaymakers due to its closer proximity to the island’s capital and the main airport, and offers tropical beaches and mangrove-lined lagoons The sandy beaches are the main attraction in the string of small towns such as Kalutara, Beruwela, Bentota, Ambalangoda, Ahungalla and Hikkaduwa, but they also share a vibrant cultural heritage including folklore, music and dance as well as architectural influences from the Dutch period. Many temples, kovils, churches and mosques are situated along the coast. Cottage industries such as basket-weaving, mask-carving and antique restoration provide for interesting shopping.

Don’t Miss:-
• Great sunbathing at excellent-value tropical hotels
• Water skiing in Bentota
• Dancing the night away in Hikkaduwa
• Surfing and deep sea fishing
• Stroll through Bevis Bawa’s Brief gardens
• Kosgoda’s marine turtles
• Traditional mask dancing in Ambalangoda
• Elephant Foot Drummers of Hikkaduwa
• Boat ride down mangrove-filled rivers
• Ancient temples & churches.

Getting There:-

Little more than an hour south of central Colombo, as you cross the Kalu Ganga Bridge, Sri Lanka’s West Coast really begins. From this point on all the way to Galle, the tiny main coastal road, known as the Galle Road, hugs the picturesque coast line and runs parallel to the rickety old railway which limps all the way to Matara. The trains stop at all the main town including Kalutara, Aluthgama, Hikkdaduwa and Galle, but the hill-country line is far more recommended. From Panadura, just before the west coast begins, you can most easily also head to Ratnapura, Sinharajah and the Southern Highlands.

Useful drive times include:

Colombo to Bentota (2 hours); Airport to Bentota (3 hours); Bentota to Hikkaduwa (45 minutes); Bentota to Galle (1.5 hours); Kandy to Kalutara (4 hours); Nuwara Eliya to Galle (6 hours); Uda Walawe to Galle (3.5 hours).

Historical Background

The west coast’s traditional beach hotels first began to spring up in the 1960s, and have become a significant factor in the island’s economy. But about 1,000 years earlier another influence first arrived on Sri Lanka’s shores – the ubiquitous coconut tree which has countless uses as well as adorning thousands of holiday pictures. Kalutara, named after the Kalu Ganga (Black River) that winds through this town, was an important spice trading centre during Colonial times. First the Portuguese in the 17th century followed by the Dutch were enticed by the cinnamon estates in the area and built a network of canals that were used to transport these spices. During the 19th century, the British converted these spice estates into Rubber plantations which remain to date. A canoe ride along the old Dutch Canals will take you past rural villages and old houses that are reminiscent of the colonial period.

Sights

Wadduwa & Kalutara, the first beach settlements along the west coast coming from Colombo, have a reputation for fine mangosteens – a luscious small purple colour fruit found in abundance along wayside stalls in July/August. Explore Kalutara’s colonial past with a visit to the Richmond Castle, an old spice-plantation mansion which can be reached by canoe down the old Dutch canals. Take a cycling trip inland through spice, fruit and rubber plantations. These are available for serious mountain bikers as well as families just wanting a leisurely afternoon ride. The beaches widen at Beruwela, which has a golden strip of mile-long beach, largely favoured by mid-range beach hotels of traditional style. For an unusual outing here, consider the Brief Gardens – a 25-acre estate which was the lifelong work of the celebrated landscape artist Bevis Bawa. A day excursion to the central rainforests of Sinharaja is also possible.

Bentota is blessed by the lazy waters of the Bentota River, ideal for watersports and boat trips. Bentota’s broad sandy beach with gently-shelving sands offer safe swimming making it one of the most appealing Sri Lankan destinations for a traditional and relaxing family holiday. Continue your journey further south to Ambalangoda where the mask carvers and puppet makers predominate. The turtle hatchery at Kosgoda plays a vital protective role for the turtles that lay their eggs on the beach annually, and is well worth a visit. The characterful town of Hikkaduwa attracts the backpackers, independent travellers, and generally a younger crowd. Its range of budget accommodation, scattering of simple but decent restaurants, beach bars, and beachside nightclubs gives it something of the mood of a resort in Goa or Bali.

Accommodation

The choice is widespread and value for money largely excellent, but be wary of some special offers that you may see in the package-hotel sector, especially outside peak times. Special offers can either be a bargain or a hint that a hotel is faltering. Check our profiles, decide on your priorities and ask us for advice. We generally recommend the beaches of Bentota (especially the southern end), Induruwa, Kosgoda, Balapitiya and Ahungalle. Wadduwa and Kalutara have several appealing properties for those wanting to be closer to Colombo and the airport. Beruwala, in our view, have been scarred by the 1970’s development of large scale “package resort” hotels, although the Eden Hotel is a sound choice and can offer some splendid special offers.

There are several Geoffrey Bawa designed hotels along the west coast, including Heritance Ahungalla, Lighthouse Hotel in Galle, Blue Waters in Wadduwa, Bentota Beach Hotel and Lunuganga – Bawa’s country retreat and tranquil landscaped gardens – which is open to guests for just four months of the year from December to April. Families travelling with children might like Max Wadiya or Sri Villas in Induruwa; Amaya Reef – a mid-range hotel in Hikkaduwa; or several hotels close to Bentota’s watersports, such as the 5-star Taj Exotica, Bentota Beach Hotel or the simpler Serendib. Among the best budget options are Garden Beach Hotel and Cinnamon Gardens. For those seeking the benefits of Ayurvedic healing and wellness, we recommend the Siddhalepa Ayurveda Holiday Resort in Wadduwa. Lotus Villa in Ahungalla and Paradise Island Health Resort in Bentota takes in guests only for Ayurvedic treatments.

Food & Drink

Hikkaduwa offers most independent dining options, primarily simple beach restaurants, the best of which can offer excellent food – especially fish and curries — at great prices. For good rice and curries try Homegrown. Harbour, Refresh, and Spaghetti & Co also serve international cuisine. For something more casual right on the beach, try Top Secret. The jumbo prawns here are fabulous. The happening night clubs in Hikkaduwa include Vibrations generally on a Friday night and Mambo on Saturdays.

Shopping

Cottage industries such as basket weaving, mask carving, and small shops selling Dutch antiques – furniture, lamps and ornaments, makes for interesting wayside shopping along the west coast especially in Hikkdaduwa and Bentota. The Sri Lankan Handicraft Centre in Bentota also sells traditional crafts. Hikkaduwa is best for bargains in beach, surfing and diving gear.

Events

Elephant Foot Drummers from Hikkaduwa: This family group blends Sri Lanka’s traditional drum beats with a fusion of modern music. Elephant Foot performs at various night clubs in Hikkaduwa. The Elephant Foot Drum Shop located on Galle Road in Hikkaduwa sells traditional local drums as well as their music CDs. Odel and Barefoot bookshop in Colombo also carries their CDs.

Activities

Bawa architecture

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The west coast is home to many architectural marvels designed by the late Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka most influential architect who was responsible for linking the ancient architecture of this island with that of the modern world. Bawa also had a passion for the island’s varying natural landscapes, which he used as the focal points around which he created. The end result was a cherished architectural style that erased boundaries between the `outside’ and `inside’ of living and working spaces. Heritance Ahungalla, Lighthouse Hotel in Galle and Blue Waters in Wadduwa, designed by Bawa in the 1990s are good examples of his architectural style. Neptune and Bentota Beach Hotel are some of his earlier creations. To gain a better understanding of Bawa’s lifestyle and architecture, we recommend a visit to Lunuganga, Bawa’s country retreat and tranquil gardens, a lifelong project that he continued to develop for almost 50 years.

Richmond Castle, Kalutara

Built in the 19th century for a wealthy regional governor, Don Arthur de Silva, Richmond Castle was designed by a British architect in a blend of Indian and British architecture styles. The mansion is set in extensive landscaped gardens and has now been converted to a Montessori school for underprivileged children. Richmond Castle is located about two km inland near Palathota on the Tudugala road.

Lunuganga

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Set on the edge of Lake Dedduwa, Lunuganga is a Renaissance-inspired tropical garden and plantation house, which was the former country residence of Geoffrey Bawa. Lunuganga offers guests a rare opportunity to step inside the private life of the man dubbed “the father of Asian architecture.” The Lunuganga gardens have numerous plants, pavilions, and statues. Its exquisite bedrooms and suites are offered to guest for just four months of the year from December to April. For the rest of the year it is handed back to the Bawa Trust and is used as an artist’s retreat.

Brief Gardens

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Brief Gardens, 10 kms inland from Bentota beach, is the rural retreat of Bevis Bawa, the older brother of architect Geoffrey Bawa. These extensive gardens are both beautiful and steeped in history. Well worth a visit.
Traditional masks in Ambalangoda

The traditional masks are very much a part of Sri Lanka’s culture and folklore. Kolam masks are used for dramatic purposes to enact traditional folktales and history; Thovil masks are used for exorcism rituals especially to eradicate disease. Each mask has a specific purpose. Mask crafting is an intricate skill that is passed down in generations.

Traditional Ruhunu dance

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Traditional dance forms in Sri Lanka date back to the 4th century B.C. and are associated with rituals and ceremonies performed to expel sickness and misfortune and to evoke blessings. Several classical dance forms evolved in different regions. Presently, three main dance forms are performed: Kandyan (upcountry – Kandyan), Sabaragamuwa (central province), and Ruhunu (low country – southern). Each of these styles differs in dress, rhythm of the drums, dance movements, and songs, which are based on folklore relevant to the particular region. Masked dancers depicting numerous forms of birds, reptiles and demons dance to the rhythms of drums. Chanting, miming and dialogue may enact traditional folklore.

Traditional dance performances

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Bandu Wijesuria’s Dance School located in Ambalangoda next door to the Ariyapala Mask Meuseum arranges for traditional Kandyan and southern dance performances.

Ariyapala Mask Museum

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This museum in Ambalangoda exhibits traditional Kolam and Thovil masks some of which are rare and date back centuries.

 

 

Gangatilaka Vihara in Kalutara

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Located just past the bridge in Kalutara, this Buddhist temple built in the 1960s is easily accessed as it is situated just by the roadside. The gigantic white Dagoba is believed to contain sacred relics of the Buddha. Murals depict the life story of Buddha.

 

Galapatha Temple in Aluthgama

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This ancient temple houses temple paintings, sculptures, and an impressive reclining Buddha statue. The temple lies about five kms from Beruwela.

 

Galagoda Temple

Situated in Karandeniya, about five km inland in Ambalangoda. Houses a 50m-long reclining Buddha considered to be the longest in Sri Lanka.

Water sports in Bentota

 

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Take a short boat trip offshore to dive over the coral reefs, grab a snorkel and mask to paddle your way through tropical fish, or take advantage of the lively breezes on the west coast from December to March to windsurf. If speed is more your thing then there are jetski and waterski companies on the lagoon.

 

Canoe trip on the Kalu Ganga

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The Kalu Ganga begins its journey to the sea on the western slopes of Adams Peak, Sri Lanka’s holy mountain. The divine waters flow slowly west, its banks lined with jungle, rubber plantations and communities using the river in their daily lives. Exploring the backwaters by canoe – a haven for birdlife, with both Black and Cinnamon Bitterns often seen scrambling for cover as you paddle through the mangroves — is magical.

Deep sea fishing

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Sri Lanka’s seas hold a relative abundance of game fish. Species of Marlin, Sail Fish, Wahoo, Spanish mackerel, Giant Trevallie, Benito, Queen Fish (the world record is held in Sri Lanka), Barracuda, Grouper, Cobia and Tuna make this tropical paradise superb deep sea fishing territory. Deep sea angling is the most popular form of recreational and sport fishing in Sri Lanka. There are a wide variety of locations off the west coast resorts.

 

Surfing in Hikkaduwa

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The best surfing spots in Hikkaduwa are in Wewala. Narigama is good for body surfing. Surf boards, gear, and even clothing can be sourced from Hikkaduwa.

 

Siddhalepa Health Resort

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The Siddhalepa Health Resort has an Ayurveda tradition that dates back 200 years. Daily Yoga and weekly Meditation classes are held as a complement to the preventive and curative Ayurveda treatments on offer.

 

Paradise Island Health Resort

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Situated on a the spit between the river and the sea in the west coast town of Bentota, Paradise Island is a peaceful setting where the ancient healing wisdom of Ayurveda is practiced to create holistic wellness. Medicinal herbs are sourced from near by villages and the oils, medicines, tonics and pastes are all prepared in-house for each guest based on individual requirements. Complementary activities such as Yoga, meditation, and acupuncture are also conducted on a regular basis. The Paradise Island Health Resort is strictly for Ayurveda clients only.

Spa Pavillions at Blue Waters

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Blue Water is conveniently situated close to Colombo on the West coast. Its main theme is the ambitious use of water, which gives the hotel its name. The Spa Pavilions at Blue Waters takes a holistic approach to physical and spiritual well being.

 

Meetiyagoda’s Moonstones

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The semi-precious gemstone known as `moonstone’ which has a milky bluish glow similar to that of the moon, is found only in the village of Meetiyagoda. It is said that the moonstone enhances the good fortune of the wearer and is also the birth stone for the month of June. Moonstones are especially popular with younger people as it is mainly set into silver jewellery. Located inland from Ambalangoda, the tiny Meetiyagoda moonstone mine is spread over roughly an acre. The stones are still mined using traditional methods with the mine shaft going down as deep as 50 feet. Cutting and polishing of the gemstone can be observed here. Jewellery is also available for purchase.

The Coconut Palm

Considered to be a life nurturing tree, the coconut palm is often presented as a precious gift. Every part of this precious tree is used in daily life. The leaves (gokkala) are woven into decorations at weddings or other ceremonies; the golden king coconut fruit (thambili) is known to have medicinal value; the coconut milk and oil is a basic ingredient in the local rice and curries; the coconut shell is turned into ornate cooking utensils including serving spoons; the outer husk of the coconut is soaked and processed into coir out of which hand spun rope, doormats and brushes are produced; and finally the bark of the tree is used to build outrigger canoes and fishing boats, and is also used in construction of houses and furniture.

Personal Yoga instruction

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A growing number of guesthouses, hotels and retreats offer Yoga. However, some of our clients prefer private tuition and Red Dot is happy to organize this subject to availability of teachers. The easiest area to do this is around Galle but private yoga teachers can also be employed in Bentota and Tangalle. Red Dot does not charge for this service and you would need to pay your Yoga teacher direct.

Dodanduwa’s island bird life

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Situated off Hikkaduwa, this serene island hermitage, rich in birdlife, can be visited only with prior permission.

 

Marine Turtle Conservation in Kosgoda

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Globally, all seven species of marine turtles are endangered. Of these seven, five come ashore to nest in Sri Lanka. The process of marine turtles nesting, hatchlings being born, and swimming back to sea is fascinating to observe. The Kosgoda Conservation Project is an ideal way to learn and observe this endangered species. Garden Beach Hotel, on the edge of Turtle Beach, offers responsible night-time expeditions to its guests if turtles are laying.

Sinharaja

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Moist and muggy, murky and mysterious – an experience of Sinharaja is like nothing else in Sri Lanka. Trekking through the last surviving stretch of virgin rainforest on the island, be ready to pour with sweat as you walk though a bewildering land of exotic colours and wonderful sounds. The forest teems with life whether it be gushing waterfalls, gurgling streams, ants marching, leaves rustling, leeches waiting (you’ve been warned!), crickets creaking or butterflies fluttering.

 

We do have packages for Sri Lanka, write us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or visit our site http://www.adler-tours.com

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Lion Deaths Rattle Government


The Gujarat government has ordered a high-level inquiry into the Tuesday night’s incident where two lions were run over by a speeding vehicle near Jafrabad in Amreli District ( Rajkot, Gujarat ) additional chief secretary, forest and environment department, H.K. Dash said on Wednesday that the inquiry will be conducted by the chief wildlife warden.

The lions, both about 18 months old, were run over when a pride was crossing the coastal highwat near Hemal Village on Bhavnagar – Somnath Highway. This was the first incident of lions being killed in road accident forest
department, on Wednesday registered a case against the driver of an unidentified vehicle in this case.
While wildlife activists in Amreli ( Rajkot, Gujarat ) have blamed the string of lion deaths recently in this coastal belt on the laxity of forest department, the government has said that it has taken a series of measures after the January 22 incident where two lionesses, one of them pregnant with three cubs, were run over by a train near Pipavav Port.

“This was waiting to happen as there is no night patrolling and enough staff in Rajula and Jafarabad forest range to track the lions’ movement. There are over 40 lions settled in Rajula – Jafarabad coastel belt but no regular monitoring of lions is done. Since lions have settled around industrial area, railway track and busy roads, there is an urgent need to constantly track them to avoid such accidental deaths,” said Vipul Laheri, honorary wildlife warden, Amreli ( Rajkot, Gujarat )

Meanwhile, Dash said that on February 14, the forest department and railways had a meeting to discuss ways to avoid such incidences. “As many as 82 trains drivers have been trained on precautions to take in the area. They have been given maps of sensitive areas where lions frequently cross the tracks.”

“We have also called a meeting with National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to chalk out ways to prevent any such occurrences on reads,” he said. A senior forest official told TOI that they have also trained 20 trackers in the Rajula belt to monitor.

Courtesy:- Times of India

Subtly Spicy!


Vegetarian’s Delight
Koshart: – the most popular food in Egypt is not lamb, beef or even chicken. The vegetarian koshary – a mixture of rice, macroni, spaghetti, lentils and chickpeas, covered with a spicy tomato sauce and caramelized onions – is by far a favorite with the locals. The idea of mixing four sources of carbohydrates might put off health freaks, but after your first bite, this tangy flavored dish is sure to cast a spell on you. The fact that it’s easy on the pocket doesn’t hurt either.
Some say this dish is more than just food; it is symbolic of the harmonious intermingling of various food cultures in this strategically located country – the pasta belies the Italian influence, the tomatoes are from Latin America and the rice, you guessed it, is from Asia. Sprinkle the complimentary vinegar and spicy red pepper sauce to add a new dimension to Koshary.

You ‘ Fuul’
‘Fuul’ – Food tastes even better when you have a story to go with it. The first time I heard of fuul was on my first trip to Cairo. I asked the air hostess to list the local delights, and was bewildered when she looked at me with a straight face and said, “fool”! I got over the initial shock as she explained that ‘fuul’ is traditionally a breakfast dish made of fava beans, cooked and mashed with lots of spices. This dish will fill your stomach and give you a protein-rich start. Fuul is generally served with many elements such as butter, tomato sauce, tahini ( seasame sauce ), fired or boiled eggs and pastrami. The most popular way to eat fuul is with an Egyptian break bun or even pita bread.

Encountering A Bird Wave


Bring curiosity, leave your expectations behind, Shivkar gently advised our group as we headed Wildlife Sanctuary, northern Karnataka, diverse, scenic and spreading forest cover. It was a practical approach to adopt for birding enthusiasts, for then every sighting would be like a gift. But once at the Timber Depot, located across the office of the Conservator of Forests, we were eager to spot and identify birds, and jot down sightings in the little notepads we carried.

woodpekr n blue birdAN EXERCISE IN PATIENCE: We knew the unwritten rules of bird watching and the ways of the forest. Silently walking through the growth of tall trees and passing a clump of bamboo, piles of cut lots and an old banyan tree bestowing long aerial roots on the Earth, we kept our eyes and ears open for the slightest movement in the foliage and bird calls. But in the mid-morning heat, the birds seemed to have vanished as if satiated with their morning forays for food. Only the Coppersmith Barbet called —a monotonous call filling the warm air, while it remained concealed in some leafy branch. One could only imagine the little green bird, its head bobbing, throat inflating and deflating with each call as its beak remained shut tight all the while!

Adesh Shivkar and Mandar Khadilkar, the two sharp-eyed naturalists leading the group, patiently kept scanning the foliage and canopy for the slightest movement that would give us a chance to spot a bird or two. With the many happy hours that they had spent in the field across the country, they knew it was just a matter of time before we would spot a few winged ones. At the Timber Depot they recalled having seen several  Malabar Pied Hornbills—the large and striking members of the  hornbill family—enjoying a mud bath at dusk and gliding across to settle on a fig tree. Their anecdotes only had us thirsting for sightings.

hornbill and green popWe waited patiently, soaked in their stories and experiences, and silently hoped we would be blessed with a spot of luck. It was end of November but the air was warm and dry and the forest was silent. Taking a pause, they suggested we wait for birds at a spot rather than go out to seek them. Scanning the vegetation in all directions only made one realise the vastness of Dandeli’s legendary forest as there were hundreds of trees in every direction.

A BURST OF JOY: At long last Adesh exclaimed in an excited whisper—a mixed hunting party! And true to his word, all of a sudden there was a buzz in the air. All heads turned to the towering Terminalia bellerica tree and eyes scanned its trunk, branches, leaves and flowers. There they were—a loose gathering of insectivorous bird who had come together to hunt insects in an animated wave filled with twitters, flutter of wings and movement in the  trunk, branches, leaves, fiowers and on the ground. All of a sudden the silent tree was a hotspot alive with calls and activity.

Deftly setting up and focusing the spotting scope, Mandar beckoned us to quickly take turns to peer through the lens. And what a treat was in store! The first to come into view was a Greater Flameback Woodpecker with a gorgeous yellow—golden back; it was going up the trunk with its tail for support, tapping at the bark, disturbing insects. And while the woodpecker was making its way up, an utterly charming Velvet—fronted Nuthatch, with a violet-blue colouring, was coming down the trunk. While climbing up a trunk is no small feat, the nuthatch was deftly making its way down without losing  its grip and in fact, circling the trunk now and then while descending and looking for insects as well.

birdsSwooping through the foliage was a Bronzed Drongo, its glossy body shining in the sunlight as it made neat aerial sallies while sounding its loud metallic call and snapping up insects on the wing. Spotting it, Adesh explained that mixed hunting parties are generally motivated by drongos— Black, Ashy, Bronzed, Racket—tailed, White-bellied or Spangled—who are vocal, and along with woodpeckers, the heart of a mixed hunting party.

A MERRY BAND: Unlike a flock of one species, a mixed hunting party has different species of birds who come together to increase their foraging efficiency and reduce predation. “There are more eyes to look out for danger. This helps, as during feeding, birds tend to get engrossed in looking for insects. Individual birds in a mixed hunting party can focus a bit more on finding food as there are other birds warning about predators. So it helps when there are lots of birds on the same tree; the probability of getting attacked by a prey is minimised,” explained Mandar.’  The sudden arrival of so many birds, and the activity of birds such as the woodpecker and nuthatch along the trunk, disturbs the insects much to the advantage of the other birds who snap them up. Some of the birds forage on insects that may be or flowers or fruits, while babblers rummage the forest cover on the ground upturning leaves, looking for insects and adding to the activity.

birds-1All eyes were scanning the tree and enjoying the delightful sighting of actively feeding birds. Among them was a lovely Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher with a tinkling musical call; an endearing Brown Cheeked Fulvetta lost in the foliage but its whistling call  helped us locate it; different leaf warblers flicked  their tails restlessly, their greenish, brown and  yellow colouring helping them merge into the foliage; bright green leaf birds whistled and called  as they quickly moved along branches; a Scarlet  Minivet pair flitted about, the male standing out with its striking colours; different bulbuls, including a prize sighting of a Ruby Throated  Bulbul—its black head, yellow body and ruby  throat making it a picture of cheer; and a Large  Woodshrike flying through the branches.

A CONCERTED EFFORT: The common interest of a mixed hunting flock is obviously to catch insects, but interestingly, they have different foraging techniques. While woodpeckers and nuthatches probe wood for insects, leaf birds and leaf warblers glean insects from leaves while perched, Minivets catch insects on the wing and sometimes beat their wings to flush them out, the Drongos make superb sallies while pursuing and swoop on insects in-flight, flycatchers hawking insects while flying from a branch and babblers overturn leaves on the forest floor to find them!  We watched the buzz in the tree, the movement from ground to canopy, quickly identifying birds with the unaided eye and through the scope. And then, as swiftly as they had arrived, the party bobbed away from the tree and headed off deeper into the forest. Maybe some birds would leave the flock while others would join as they headed to another tree home of insects; maybe after sometime, another jolly mixed hunting party with a different composition would pass our way. Till then the forest fell silent and the call of the barbet suddenly became noticeable again!

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Maharajas’ Express, India


The latest luxury offering in India, a tour on this train will transport you back to the era of elegant travelling, reminiscent of the romance of Indian Maharajas. There are five pan- Indian journeys offered by the Maharajas Express, which include two Golden Triangle tour itineraries covering cities like Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. Equipped with state-of-the-art amenities such as Wi-Fi Internet, individual climate control and luxury restaurants, the train can carry a total of 84 passengers in elegantly appointed cabins, including a lavish presidential suite spanning over an entire carriage!

 

For Maharajas’ Express Packages, write to us on , adler-tours@hotmail.com

 

HAPPY GLAMPERS


happy glampers.docxThere is no need to rough it to enjoy the Middle East’s great outdoors any more – the global phenomenon of glamping (glamorous camping) has finally hit our shores, says Kerry Baggott.

  1. Dibba’s Adventure House with Absolute Adventure

Glamping is all about balancing the thrill of the great outdoors with some home comforts and at Dibba’s Adventure House, rather than sleeping under the stars, you and 13 others will be sleeping in bunk beds in a traditional stone house on the beach in Dibba, Oman. The mattresses might not be overly thick, but this is more than made up for with air conditioning, clean sheets and pillows, three bathrooms with hot showers, and a semi-equipped kitchen. The house is set in a large courtyard with the beach on one side and the Hajar mountains on the other (you may also find it a comforting thought to learn that it’s also a stone’s throw from the Golden Tulip Hotel).

A massive table sits in the centre of the yard, so it’s fabulous for hosting large groups who can also spread out to chill in the barasti hut on stilts, or lounge on the cushions in the majlis. There’s even a small freshwater pool — fairly old, but perfect for cooling off.

kayakingA BBQ grill is provided, and although dinner can be cooked for you, why not head down to the local harbour — about a five-minute drive from the house — when the fishermen bring in their catch? See them unload huge kingfish or snapper, make your choice and then go watch it be gutted and cleaned. Dinner doesn’t come fresher than this. Wood can be delivered to order, allowing you all to pull up a chair around the campfire and roast your marshmallows until the early hours before retiring to your bunk.

But for those who want more adventure, you’ve come to the right place. The name says it all. This is Dibba’s centre for all things adventurous — climbing, kayaking, diving, mountain biking and canyoning. The Adventure House is run by a bunch of outdoor enthusiasts, and there is a whole load of guided activities for you to try, from a two-hour pootle around town on a bike, to a half-day mountain trek.

  1. Musandam with Dolphin Khasab Tours

musandam tourThis is far more than just a camping trip — this is an exhilarating adventure that sees you cruise the fjords of Oman’s Musandam Peninsula taking in overwhelmingly dramatic scenery, snorkelling, chasing dolphins and spending the night under canvas on a remote beach.

Dolphin Khasab Tours collects you from Khasab harbour, the main harbour within this small bite-sized Omani enclave, where you’ll board a traditional wooden dhow to spend the day exploring what is dubbed the ‘Norway of the Middle East’. Although there is no evidence of glaciers having gouged these fjords within a landscape that is grey, barren and austere, the sheer mountainous cliffs plummeting into the sea, the jagged, sun-bleached rocks and the deserted coves are just as mesmerising as any Norwegian picture postcard.

And, as if the scenery were not enough, you’ll be accompanied by schools of playful dolphins ducking and diving as you ply through the water — loads of them.

The cruise will take you passed the historic Telegraph Island (the former British communication base in the region) and the isolated villages of Nadafi, Qanaha,  Maqlab and Sham — villages frozen in time in an area that

seems unaware that the century has even turned. At 4pm you’ll be transferred from the dhow into a speedboat and taken to one of the many small sandy beaches where you’ll spend the night.

snorkeling-1Muslin tents (they look flimsy but they are perfect for keeping cool and they are taller than normal camping tents, meaning you can stand up in them), sleeping bags, chairs, tables, electricity, firewood, a portable loo and even a fresh water bag for bathing are all set up for you.

If you’re lucky, no other party will join you on ‘your’ beach – there are lots of sandy coves to choose from, so most parties cruise along the coast until they find their own private spot. If you prefer, you can even choose to stay on the dhow for the night. Plus, you can either bring your own food to cook on the barbecue or Dolphin Khasab Tours can rustle this up for you. In fact, they’re happy to tailor-make the tour to your liking. You’ll be returned to Khasab harbour the following morning by 10 am.

  1. Liwa Desert with Abu Dhabi Adventure Tours 

Liwa desert safariVenture where few have gone before — into the Empty Quarter, or Rub’ Al Khali as it is locally known — the world’s largest uninterrupted desert. Flowing through Oman, Saudi Arabia, the Yemen and the UAE, this ocean of sand was first explored by the famous Etonian explorer Wilfred Thesiger with a caravan of camels and group of Bedouin back in 1945.

Still today, venturing too far into the Liwa Desert is not something to be done on a whim, but it can be if you put yourselves in the hands of Abu Dhabi Adventure Tours.

So, don your khakis and discover for yourself some of the tallest sand dunes in the world and the bizarre rock formations of Saddle Rock, the Ancient Fossil Rocks and Camel Rocks. With rolling waves of sand stretching all around you, you’ll discover that this desolate place is teeming with life and, as the sun traverses the sky casting its myriad of golden colours on the dunes, you’ll agree that this place is as breathtakingly beautiful as it is hauntingly hostile.

camal ridingThe highly experienced drivers at the helm of their Toyota Land Cruisers make small work of the dunes, seeing you roller—coaster and surf the waves. This is a private tour for a minimum of four people per car, so experiences can be tailored to each group — if you want dune bashing or sand boarding that can be on the cards, but if you prefer a more leisurely sail across the sand that’s OK too.

Camp is set up with all the gear provided — including a barbecue chicken dinner and shisha. Tents are provided of course, but many people choose just to sleep outside beside the campfire. It’s then over to the night sky to provide the evening entertainment as a velvety blanket of stars light up Liwa.

The next morning you’ll watch a magical sun rise before heading back to the capital for noon.

  1. Dreamland Aqua Park, Umm Al Quwain

dreamland waterparkFor those who can’t get enough of waterparks, this is literally a dream land. Most of us know the UAE’s oldest and most family-favourite waterpark, but we may not be aware that guests can also camp on—site, in either air- conditioned wooden chalets or in tents.

All the gear is provided, from your BBQ to airbed mattresses, pillows arid sleeping bags. This is camping on a full-board basis — breakfast, lunch and BBQ dinner are included. In fact, you and your party will be given a cooler box heaving with a very generous helping of shish taouk that you can cook yourself whenever you wish after the park closes at 6 pm.

  1. Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve with Arabian Adventures

Camping with camels, oryx and gazelles is possible within the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, about 45km southeast of the city centre. With the reserve only accessible to authorised tour operators, Arabian Adventures has its own, permanent camp within the area for its Arabian Dreams Overnight Safari guests (separate from the Bedouin camp that entertains day trippers with belly dancers and henna painters).

arabian adventureAs expected from this desert giant of a tour operator, everything is well thought out. In fact, this camp has only recently been completely refurbished and opened in December. The emphasis is on luxury: the eight permanent tents sleep two people and come with a queen-sized bed with linen and towels. In fact, all you’ll need to remember to take is your toothbrush — which you can use in the bathrooms that come with all mod cons. You’ll even be collected from your door in the late afternoon arriving in the desert in time for an exhilarating dune drive and to be able to appreciate the sunset.

A lavish dinner is provided of barbecued meats and sweet treats and in the morning you’ll enjoy a full American breakfast – after you’ve watch the magical sunrise, of course. Even better, you can be back in Dubai by mid-morning — but not before you’ve been taken on a gentle safari of the reserve to learn about the flora and fauna.

Courtesy by K.T.

 

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