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Discovering the world’s best underwater sites

by amit.uniyal 14. May 2015 03:02

Exploring the unexplored has always been a fascinating idea for the human beings. Discovering little-known or famous underwater sites is also something that has always been a major source of attraction for snorkelers and scuba divers. Let us now set off on a voyage to explore some of the world’s best underwater sites.

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Underwater Sculpture Park, St. George's, Grenada
The Underwater Sculpture Park was created by Jason de Caires Taylor, an avid diver, sculptor and English artist. It is situated in the Molinere Beausejour Marine Protected Area, right outside St. Georges in Grenada. The Underwater Sculpture Park came into being only after the severe damage suffered by Molinere Bay by storm surge. Jason designed the sculptures in order to help in the regeneration of the area. The sculptures were meant to provide habitat for marine animals and new surfaces would accordingly help the corals to grow. The Underwater Sculpture Park has for the past 4 years since its existence been playing a major role in the regeneration of this area and has also provided it a new dimension. The first new sculpture was placed in the underwater park in February 2010. A new sculpture has been added every year. Most of the sculptures here are based on Amerindian art, culture and spiritual worship. The Underwater Sculpture Park has now become a must-visit attraction for all those visiting Grenada.

Christ of the Abyss, San Fruttuoso, Italy
The Christ of the Abyss is essentially a bronze statue. It was placed 15 meters deep on the bottom of the bay of San Fruttuoso in 1954. San Fruttuoso is situated between Portofino and Camogli inside Portofino's Protected Natural Marine Area in Itlay. It was Duilio Marcante who first conceived the idea of the statue following Dario Gonzatti’s death during a dive in 1950. He was one of the pioneers of scuba diving. The 2.50-meters-high statue of the Christ of the Abyss was built by sculptor Guido Galletti and finally placed in the bay in front of San Fruttuoso on August 22, 1954. The statue of the Christ is showing his hands towards the surface (or heaven) in a sign of peace.
 
The Underwater Room, Manta Resort, Zanzibar
The Underwater Room at Manta Resort in Zanzibar is an exciting, nerve-wrecking experience. For a moment it will seem as though your heartbeat has stopped briefly. The Underwater Room is a floating structure and a remarkable example of Swedish engineering. It has three levels, with each of them offering a unique experience. The room is in the downstairs in the third level. As you enter the room to spend your night you will find a soft double bed surrounded by windows with glass panes offering unparalleled 360 degree views underwater where you can watch the shoals of reef fish swimming around the windows. It will instantly provide you magical and exhilarating feeling. The second level of the Underwater Room is however the landing deck at the sea level. Here you will find bathroom facility and lounge area. A ladder will lead you to the first level up to the roof for lounging. This is simply great for sun worshippers. The Underwater Room is absolutely a must-visit place whenever you plan to spend your vacations in Zanzibar.

Museo Subacuático de Arte, Cancun
The Museo Subacuático de Arte is an enchanting underwater museum situated between Isla Mujeres and Cancún. More than 500 permanent life-size sculptures are prominently featured on the ocean floor. All the sculptures have been designed to appropriately promote marine and coral life. Visitors are first required to take a boat ride in order to reach the museum. They then snorkel above the sculptures, which ranges from a Volkswagen coated with seaweed to groups of people. The monumental underwater museum, which came into being in 2009, is presently one of the most ambitious and largest underwater artificial art attractions in the world. The museum is visited by over 750,000 visitors every year from different parts of the world.

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Tips to remember for your next road trip adventure

by amit.uniyal 13. May 2015 04:56

Are you the one who more often hit the roads for a long haul fun and adventurous ride? For most of them, adventure is just another passion. The quintessential roadies simply love setting off on a sojourn to explore the uncharted territories. This is for sheer fun, new experiences and information. If the craving for adventure is getting the better of you then surely a road trip along with your kids and family is the best way to know the unknown and simultaneously have unlimited fun. Here are some valuable tips for all those who are preparing or ready to embark on a road trip involving several days.

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First things first! Now that you are all set to go on a memorable ride, what should be your first step that should go into your preparation? Whether you will use your recreational vehicle or a car for the road trip, you must ensure that it is perfect working order. An inspection shortly before your trip is a must to make sure that everything is functioning appropriately and in perfect order.

Keep navigation tools handy
Navigation tools are a prerequisite whether you hit out on the roads frequently or for the first time. You must buy a good paper map or make use of smartphone for downloading it. This is essential for finding your destination easily. There many mobile apps available these days that will let you know the interesting sites and the stops that you need to take along your route. Apart from using the maps and guidebooks, you should also make it a point to double check your path from a local. Technology is good, but a confirmation from a human being is surely the best. This is absolutely a good way to save yourself from frustration and wasting time.

Come well equipped with emergency needs
Just imagine a scenario that you are all alone fending for yourself with no help at hand on the route you are taking. If you are not well equipped for any eventuality that might come along your way, it’s simply frustrating. And, you will know this better than others. The best way, of course, is to come fully equipped with the emergency supplies such as a spare tire, extra fuses, at least a quart of motor oil, pillows and sleeping bags (just in case you want to set up camp during night), cell phone along with a charger, emergency tool kit (comprising of duct tape, tire sealant, a multipurpose tool, a flashlight, a knife and jumper cables), a first-aid kit, a credit card, and plenty of cash (in case you are unable to find an ATM on the route). These things are absolutely important to carry along with you to avoid untoward happenings and save from frustration.

Stock up snacks, meals, music and games

A long haul road trip should a pleasurable and memorable experience. So, while driving you should also simultaneously enjoy music, games, snacks and good meals as well. While setting off for your ride, do remember to stock up on meals, snacks and drinks. And, don’t forget to bring along with you travel games and some good music suiting everyone’s tastes. This will not only keep you entertained, but also help save money by choosing to eat your own meals and snacks instead of stopping at fast food joints along your way. A collapsible cooler filled with ice is also an important thing to carry along with you in order to keep your food fresh and beverages cold.

Lastly, here’s the most important thing that you should always take as a precaution. Try to be always realistic. Don’t put yourself in unnecessary stress. Do only as much driving that you can handle. If you think you should call it a day or night, then just don’t hesitate and do it anyway. These are some of the helpful tips that are going to help you prepare well for your road adventure trip and make it more fun and enjoyable.

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Galle -- The jewel of Sri Lanka’s southern coast

by amit.uniyal 12. May 2015 05:19

The capital of Sri Lanka’s southern province, the ocean facing the city of Galle has come into prominence once again. The devastating Asian Tsunami of December 2004 had all but destroyed this ancient trading city, founded by the Portuguese and developed by the Dutch colonists during the 16th century. Over the last ten years, the city has slowly been rebuilt with local and foreign aid. Today, this beautiful port city once again brims with stylish hotels, boutiques, cafes and restaurants especially within its fortified area and is firmly registered on the global travel radar.

Getting to Galle

The Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) is the primary access point for international travelers to Sri Lanka. Several local tour operators have kiosks at the airport. In order to get to Galle in relative comfort, you can hire a private car at the airport. The travel time to Galle from Colombo is approximately three hours depending on traffic conditions.

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However, if you are looking for a cheaper option to get to Galle, you could use the local train or express bus.

Express buses to Galle leave from Colombo’s Mahagrama bus station every twenty minutes from 5am onwards daily. This bus station is located to the southeast of Colombo city center. Travel by express bus to Galle from Colombo usually takes three hours as well.

To get to Galle by train from Colombo, you need to start your journey from Colombo’s Maradana Station. You’re more likely to secure a seat here than at Colombo Fort Station where the train usually arrives packed. Train tickets for this second-class train journey cannot be reserved in advance, so it makes sense to buy your ticket at Mardana Station, the starting point of this train trip.  There is also a first-class train service for which tickets can be reserved in advance, but this service operates only once a week on Thursdays and departs from Colombo at the ungodly hour of 6.30 AM.

No matter which route you choose, your journey will take you through the lush Lankan countryside, along the coast while you traverse charming whitewashed villages, lush green fields, and dense coconut groves.

Best time to travel to Galle

Sri Lanka like neighboring India has a year round tropical climate with distinct dry and wet seasons. The Southwest monsoon arrives on the island of Sri Lanka during the months of June to September. This period is Sri Lanka’s wet season, a season when torrential rain showers are common. The best time to visit Galle is between December and February when average daily temperatures hover around 27 to 29 C (80 to 82F). During this time, the dry season rainfall is scarce, and breezes from the sea produce an air-conditioning effect on the island.

Attractions

Galle Fort

Galle Fort, a fortified city, built by the Portuguese and then enhanced by the Dutch in the 16th century is the most prominent attraction in Galle. The Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that extends over 36 hectares and contains several ochre colored colonial era buildings that once housed administrative headquarters and homes of the Dutch colonists. Today many of these buildings have been restored and house stylish hotels, boutiques, and cafes. Thick, granite ramparts encircle the fort until today. These ramparts prevented it from being destroyed by the devastating Tsunami of 2004.

The Lighthouse

The Galle Fort lighthouse is one of the first structures that you will spot while exploring the fort city. The lighthouse is one of the fourteen lighthouses that remain in Sri Lanka and is the oldest one on the island. The Galle Fort lighthouse dates back to 1848 though a fire destroyed the original structure in 1936. Its replacement, which stands until today was built in 1949 and rises to a height of 26 meters. Visitors are not allowed to enter the lighthouse but can view it from the outside.  

Flag Rock

Flag Rock located at the southernmost end of the fort is a bastion, which was built on the top of a natural rock outcrop. The Portuguese and the Dutch used to signal approaching ships from this bastion. They used flags as signals during good visibility conditions and fired muskets from nearby Pigeon Island during times of reduced visibility. Today, Flag Rock is the favored locale for a sunset stroll and attracts locals (brave young lads today use flag rock as a diving platform) and tourists alike.

The Dutch Reformed Church

The Dutch Reformed Church is located near the new entrance to Galle Fort. This beautiful edifice dates back to 1754, and it stands on the site of an older church built by the Portuguese in 1640. The church is an architectural marvel as the building’s walls support its roof, as there are no pillars located inside the church. The caretaker of the church is often on hand and acts as a guide for sightseers offering insights about the construction of the church. For instance, gravestones from the old Dutch cemetery make up the floor of the church and the organ, is the original instrument that dates back to 1760.

The Dutch Hospital

This large, colonnaded structure, which once served as an infirmary for the European colonists ravaged by tropical diseases has recently been restored and is now a smart shopping and dining destination at Galle Fort.

Galle Cricket Ground

If you follow the game of cricket, you must know the historic Galle cricket ground that is located near Galle Fort. The ground is more than hundred years old, but the tsunami wrecked havoc on the field and surrounding stands and almost wiped them out completely. However, the grounds and stadium have now been restored and are ready to host games once again.

Sea Turtle Hatchery

The small but fascinating Sea Turtle Hatchery is a non-profit organization that works to protect Sri Lanka’s turtle population. Sri Lanka is home to five varieties of turtles, the Olive Ridley, the Loggerhead, the Hawksbill, the Green and the Leatherhead turtle. These turtles come to nest at various locations on the island including Galle. The hatchery aims to protect the turtles of Sri Lanka by collecting and securing the turtle eggs from fishermen and other residents of the area. The hatchery's staffs store the eggs in the hatchery’s onsite incubators and when the eggs hatch, the baby turtles are released into the wild. The hatchery aims to educate the local population who are prone to consuming these precious turtle eggs.

Where to stay

Accommodation choices are abundant in Galle. There are lodgings to suit every travel budget. The UNESCO recognized Galle Fort Hotel, the Amangalla, the Kahanda Kanda, the Fortress and the Fort Printers Hotel are some of the well-known luxury hotels located in Galle. Aside from conventional hotels, travelers can also choose to stay in fully staffed villas and boutique residences for a more intimate stay. Villa Indisch, the Frangipani Tree, and the Turtle Beach House are some of the well-known villa resorts of the Galle Area.

Eat, shop and play

Galle is a coastal city and is known for its beautiful beaches. No matter where you choose to stay, you should rent a tuk tuk and tour the area’s beaches such as Unawatuna, Weligama, Hikkaduwa, and Tangalle.

The narrow, winding streets and colonial edifices of the Galle Fort play host to several chic shops and restaurants. Visit stores like Barefoot and Odel LUV SL two homegrown lifestyle brands that offer stylish clothing, accessories, gift items, cosmetics, local foods and much more at reasonable prices.

Other stores worth perusing include Mimimango, Sithuvilli(artworks and artifacts), Souk 58 and the Dutch Gallery (curios and souvenirs) and Mansion Crafts(local handicrafts). Sri Lanka is famous for its gemstones and many small jewelry stores dot the streets of the Galle Fort. Laksana, Pedlar’s Inn Jewelers, and Jo Jo are some favorite haunts for jewelry shopping at the Galle Fort.  Also worth a visit is the Laksala store (the Government owned souvenir and gift boutique), which is located just outside the main gate of the Galle Fort.

If you need a respite from the relentless Lankan heat, head to the bars at the Amangalla and Galle Fort Hotels. Both these watering holes are favored pit spots during excursions of the Galle Fort Area. Try area restaurants like Mamas Roof  Café( Western and Sri Lankan cuisine), Pedlar’s Inn Café (coffee and casual fare), Serendipity Arts Café  or Nicos@Olanda if you need to grab a bite or want to stop for a coffee or tea.  If you rather eat on the beach, then the beachfront Wijeya Beach Hut, which serves a selection of western eats including wood-oven pizzas, is worth a visit.

 

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A Peek into some of the new and best hotels in the world

by Admin 11. May 2015 06:46

Are you a travel geek who loves visiting places around the world for sheer adventure or fun? No matter what’s in your mind for a fascinating holiday or wherever your travel might take you this summer, finding the right hotel for a hassle-free, luxurious vacation has always been a challenge. But not anymore now! We have just done the right thing for you and selected some of the new and best hotels in the world where you can stay during your vacations. Here’s a peek into some of these incredible hotels.

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21 Broad, Nantucket, MA
The 21 Broad hotel is situated in the buzzing centre of Nantucket town. It’s hip, stylish, historic, elegant, and refreshing indeed. With its designer guest lounge, spacious dining room and free-standing fireplace, the hotel exudes modern vibe. Visit the hotel during the summer and get ready to make your nights lively at the BYOB evening mixer bar. The visitors here can look forward to staying in one of its 27 well appointed rooms equipped with various kinds of amenities that you would want during your holidays. Among a host of amenities offered at the hotel include spa treatments, flat-screen cable TV, iPad/iPod docking station, a coffee machine and a refrigerator in each room, on-site meeting facilities, complimentary Wi-Fi access and a private bathroom with a vitamin C shower in each room. While staying at the hotel you can find easy access a major attraction in the city ‘The Whaling Museum’, which is only a 2-minute walk away. The 21 Broad hotel is beckoning you for a uniquely perfect escape.

Alila Jabal Akhdar, Nizwa, Oman
The Alila Jabal Akhdar, which opened in May 2014, is renowned for its dramatic location. It is perched on the top in the Hajar Mountains in Oman. The opening of the hotel in the spectacular Hajar mountain range in the ancient market city of Nizwa is being welcomed by scores of adventure travelers and nature lovers who now find it to be a best retreat to escape from the desert heat while exploring the beautiful Middle East Sultanate of Oman. The hotel offers 84 suites and two villas, which are contemporary, quite comfortable and decorated in the traditional Omani style. The restaurant here serves sumptuous Arabian and international cuisines. The hotel also offers a spa and both outdoor and indoor pools as well. The opening of the Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel has now made the Hajar Mountains a luxurious place to stay during the night while exploring the rugged landscape between Oman’s capital city of Muscat and the ancient market city of Nizwa.

The Beaumont, London
The Beaumont is a 5-star hotel renowned for its superb location on a quiet and peaceful garden square, situated nearby the boutiques, art galleries and museums of Mayfair, St. James’, Marylebone and the West End. This famous Mayfair hotel offers 10 suites, 13 studios and 50 well furnished rooms. This hotel is indeed welcoming, intimate and grand in style. Its design draws great inspiration from the great Art Deco hotels of the 1920s. The hotel offers various facilities to all those staying here with the most prominent among them being an elegant gym and spa, an exclusive residents’ lounge, a stylish American Bar,  and the glamorous Colony Grill Room restaurant. The Beaumont hotel is surely the best place in London to stay for all those looking for a luxurious acco0mmodation while enjoying their vacations.

Belle Mont Farm on Kittian Hill, St. Kitts & Nevis
The Belle Mont Farm hotel is situated over a tropical, ocean-overlooking perch on Kittitian Hill. The magnificent hotel in St. Kitts is a remarkable retreat for sun-worshippers, golfers and foodies. This blissful place to stay offers everything that you might be looking for in order to make your vacation quite memorable. The Belle Mont Farm hotel offers 12 villas, 7 farmhouses and 84 well appointed rooms for its visitors to stay. It also boasts of a 400-acre organic farm. Among various other amenities offered here include a spa and fitness center, a golf course, tennis courts, beach club and a pool. The Belle Mont Farm hotel is absolutely a fantastic place to stay for all those who want to soak up the lush beauty of St. Kitts, which is quite welcoming round the year.
 
Delano Las Vegas, NV
The Delano Las Vegas is an all-suite retreat situated on the Las Vegas Strip, only minutes away from the vibrancy, amenities and lively action of the expansive 120-acre Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The resort exudes a renewed sense of discovery and sophistication aptly complementing the New Las Vegas experience to those lucky ones staying here. Delano Las Vegas is the epitome of high-end design concept and personalized service. This 43-story golden tower at the Mandalay Bay Resort Complex evokes luxury, sophistication and style bringing a world class resort experience to the discerning vacationers from across the globe at the famed Las Vegas Strip. It’s simply an exhilarating experience to enjoy sumptuous gourmet dishes at the Mix restaurant and lounge atop the resort while enjoying amazing views of the Strip. Staying here is undoubtedly a fabulous experience in itself.

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Mornington Peninsula, Australia - Stunning Victorian wine region

by amit.uniyal 8. May 2015 06:18

Wineries, cider tasting, delicious lunches and a home away from home.

Go on a weekend away in this stunning Victorian wine region, or stay longer and really immerse yourself. Whether you’re a local Aussie or a visiting traveler, this beautiful spot has got all you need for a chilled out break from city life.

Rent a House

Use Airbnb to rent out a great house for an even better price. You can get stunning properties with swimming pools, Jacuzzis and more for an absolute steal. There are around 770 properties for rent in Mornington Peninsula on Airbnb so there are plenty of options out there to suit a variety of budgets and tastes.

Cider Tasting

Swing by Mock Red Hill’s Cider Lounge, which is a unique cellar space where you can taste a variety of fantastic homegrown ciders. And it’s not even only ciders on offer – there are juices, apple cider vinegar and some fresh produce that the dedicated team have grown themselves on site.

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The cider is light, clean and crisp in taste and made from bio-dynamically grown apples. If you fancy a bite to eat, you can order a cheese platter, which comes complete with homegrown produce, cheese and dried fruit. Before you leave, don’t forget to buy a few bottles of cider for the road!

Lunch at Foxys

Enjoy a light lunch in the cellar door at Foxys Hangout. Share some light bites and small plates that are designed to suit the wines that you’ll be sipping on at the same time.

The Foxys winemaker Tony Lee is himself a qualified chef so you know that he’s perfectly selected the wines and dishes to complement each other. Some of the herb-laden dishes include zucchini fritters with goat curd and basil, tomato salad with red wine vinegar, mint and feta, and barbecued quail served with a lemon wedge. To go all out, opt for the ‘chef’s menu’, which gets you a little plate of everything so you know you’re not missing out.

5-star Winery

Pop into Lindenderry’s cellar door to try some award-winning vintages. Named a 5-star winery in the James Halliday 2014 Wine Competition, you know you’ll be trying some decent vinos. The setting isn’t too shabby, either - it’s set into a 30-acre estate of gardens, lawns, vineyards and a lake. It’s a beautiful spot to kick back and crack open a bottle of your favorite variety.

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Optimal time to purchase your plane tickets

by amit.uniyal 7. May 2015 06:44

Are you a frequent traveler visiting places to clinch business deals or promote your business interests? Then, purchasing plane tickets, sometimes at short notice as well, might be a tedious task. After all, is there any best time to make your purchases and save some money in the process?

Recent studies in the aviation sector have suggested that an optimal time indeed exists for buying airplane tickets. The studies said that air travelers are either often confused or swapping theories about the right and/or wrong time for booking a flight ticket. Most of the times even you are likely to get a wise counsel from the fellow traveler guiding you the right time to make your bookings. Someone might suggest you to book on Tuesdays at 3 pm as you are most likely to get the lowest fares. Others would prompt you to make the bookings on Wednesdays at 1 am. There are few others who will go on to suggest purchasing your tickets at least two months in advance before your scheduled departure date. Then, there are some that will suggest you to look for a last minute flight deal and travel right away. There are several suggestions about the best time to make your air tickets purchases, based on varied experiences and online date. The question is: what after all is the right time to book your tickets.

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However, the recent studies are an eye opener. The studies have been conducted after analyzing data from various aviation industry sources. The studies have indicated a particular time frame suggest the best position for getting a good deal. The studies have also taken into account as to when the U.S. consumers typically book their domestic or international plane tickets.

According to a particular study titled “Preparing for Takeoff. Air Travel Trends 2015”, most of the surveyed consumers have at least agreed on one thing. Tuesdays seem to continue to remain as the best day of the week for finding low fares on airline tickets booked at least three weeks in advance.

The studies have concluded thus:
 
(1) The average purchase time for booking domestic flights in advance is currently 32 days.
(2.) For booking international flights the average advance purchase time is presently 59 days.
(3.) The ideal purchase time for booking domestic flights in advance should be 57 days in order to snag the lowest average airfare.
(4.) The ideal time for purchasing international flights in advance should be 171 days.

Whether you have decided your holidays, going on a spring break or want to enjoy your summer vacation, it’s never too early to begin your preparations for your next trip. The only concern should be when to book your airplane tickets. The secret to saving big is, getting to know the right time to make your ticket bookings!

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