I sat and watched from my seat in a street caf on Londons Oxford Street as a young man pleaded for loose change from passers by.Most pretended to be oblivious to the young mans plight and continued their way along one of Londons busiest and thriving shopping streets.Several minutes passed before an elegantly dressed woman took pity on the youth. Digging deep into her pockets she produced a couple of coins and offered them to the poor guy.As I sipped my coffee and observed the exchange, it puzzled me how two human beings could take such radically different paths on their journey through life.At what stage of life do some people make the wrong choice and set off on the road to oblivion.Or maybe our ultimate destiny is already decided and fate has made our decisions for us.Whatever the truth, the two exchanged smiles as the woman made her merry way and entered a nearby store.Oxford Street is the shopping hub of London, a wealth of designer stores that can damage even the most affluent of credit cards.The cosmopolitan capital city of England, London simply oozes history and culture on virtually every street corner.Its vast multi-ethnic population makes for a tremendously diverse range of shops, bars and restaurants to cover the tastes of most visiting palettes.Londons recent history has been dominated by the suicide bombings during the summer of 2005 and the devastating effects suffered by so many families and friends of the innocent victims.If any good came from these tragic events it was the show of strength from the communities, how people bonded together and formed lasting friendships.But the events demonstrated how vulnerable we all are, even somewhere as prosperous as London.In todays world where more and more becomes affordable to so many, its important to remember those not as fortunate as ourselves.
Tanzania's natural endowment as a wildlife safari destination is unrivalled. Wild animals roam in vast areas as God intended on that sixth day of the creation. These areas are designated as national parks and game reserves and have a high reputation for being uncrowded and unspoilt. The magnificent collection of game sanctuaries to the north of the country, near the border with Kenya, is referred to as The Northern Circuit. This is the most popular and accessible wildlife safari route in Tanzania. I can positively say that this is one of the finest game viewing areas anywhere in the world. The game aside, the spectacularly diverse cluster of eco-systems and habitats is a dazzling experience for many a visitor. The stars of the Northern Circuit are the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, very dear to the hearts of nature lovers. But no less sparkling and indeed complementing the two are the other members of the circuit: Arusha, Tarangire and Lake Manyara. In terms of wildlife, the abundance and diversity of the wildlife here is difficult to imagine. On top of the heap are the highly regarded "big five": elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and lion. And then a wild array of plain animals: wildebeest, zebra, eland, hartebeest, oryx, reedbuck, giraffe, Thompson gazelle, and many more of the same genre. But do not forget the merciless predators: cheetah, wild dog, jackal, hyena and vultures. The Northern Circuit is an ornithologist's paradise too, and over 500 species of birds are on record. On safari, you will be a witness of the shocking and fascinating dance of life and death on daily play by this combination of animals. The starting point for northern safaris is usually Arusha town. The town sits near the base of Mount Meru and is in sight of mighty Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain. From Arusha, the nearest protected area to see wildlife is Arusha National Park, just 32 km away. In this park of 137 sq km area, you will see baboon, colobus and vervet monkeys, duikers, elephant, buffalo, giraffe, hippo, leopard, hyena, zebra and a wide range of antelopes. More than 400 species of birds have been recorded, including Eurasian migrants, who visit between October and April. One of the unique attractions of the park is that walking safaris are allowed and you can get off your vehicle for a nature walk. Due to its proximity to Arusha, the park is very popular for day trips. Wildlife aside, Arusha National Park is a treasure with a rich tapestry of habitats including grassland, montane forest, heath and alpine desert and soda and fresh water lakes. Three spectacular features stand out: the Momela Lakes, Mount Meru, and Ngurdoto Crater. Mount Meru stands at 4,575 m and is Africa's fourth highest mountain. It is however overshadowed by nearby Kilimanjaro, which rises above it by over 1300 m. It is regrettable that the snobbish instinct of many climbers makes them to overlook Mt Meru. The mountain can be scaled in three to four days with overnight accommodation in alpine huts. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve, is located in the Great Rift Valley, a monumental fracture of the earths crust. The area is filled with volcanoes, mountains, plains, lakes and forests. Covering 8288 sq km, its main features are the Ngorongoro Crater, the Empakai crater, the Oldonyo Lengai Mountain and the archeological site of Olduvai Gorge. Olduvai Gorge is the prehistoric site where Dr. Louis Leakey discovered the remains of Homo habilis ("Handy man") regarded by scientists as mankind's first step on the path of human evolution. Be sure to have a look at the remains of our worthy predecessor, whose valiant industry spurred by necessity, got him making simple stone tools. Unlike in the national parks, the colorful Maasai people, their livestock and wildlife coexist within the conservation area. The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest Caldera in the world that has its walls intact. The crater floor is a drop of 600 m and covers an area of 260 sq km with a diameter of 19 km. This magnificent natural amphitheatre is a stunning attraction in its own right and is one of the wonders of the natural world. The crater supports a year round resident population of a variety of wildlife. You will have no trouble spotting lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and many species of plain animals- wildebeest, zebra, reedbuck, Thompson gazelle and many more. The crater floor is dotted with watering holes and holds almost 30,000 wild animals. Ngorongoro is four hours by road from Arusha or one hour by air. And from either Lake Manyara or Tarangire you will be on the road for two hours. Lake Manyara National Park spreads between the cliff of the Great Rift Valley and Lake Manyara, a shallow soda lake. The park covers 330 sq. km, 70% of which is occupied by the lake. The varied ecosystem consists of ground water forests, acacia woodland and open grassland along the lakeshore and sustains a wealth of wildlife, including the Big Five -lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo. Other animals to be seen in the park include baboons, impala, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, ostrich and hippo. Lake Manyara is famous for the elusive tree-climbing lions, which can occasionally be seen along the branches of the acacia trees. It is also an ornithologists' paradise and is host to over 400 species of birds. The water birds hovering around the lake include pelicans, spoonbills, Egyptian geese and hammerkops. In addition, migratory flamingoes arrive in hundreds of thousands creating a spectacular sight over the soda lake. You will arrive at Lake Manyara after driving from Arusha for two hours or flying for just half an hour.Tarangire National Park is a one and half hour drive from Arusha making it very popular for day trips. Tarangire is a park of giant baobab trees, rolling savannah and acacia parkland. It is famous for its dense wildlife population, which is most spectacular in the dry season between June and September. It is during this period that thousands of animals- wildebeest, zebra, eland, hartebeest, waterbuck, giraffe, impala, gerenuk, buffalo and oryx migrate from the dry Maasai steppe to the Tarangire River in search of water. The predators -lion, leopard and others- as is the custom in the savanna follow closely by. If lucky, you will spot the peculiar tree-climbing python, kudu and roan antelope, a rare experience in the northern safari circuit. Birds are also abundant here and over 550 species have been recorded.Serengeti National Park is Africa's most famous wildlife sanctuary and Tanzania's largest national park. The park is located 6 hours by road from Arusha or one hour by air. It lies in a high plateau between the Ngorongoro highlands and the Kenya/Tanzania border and almost touches Lake Victoria in the west. Appropriately named "endless plains" by the Maasai people, it features short and long grass plains, acacia savanna and woodland in parts of the north and east. Within its 15,000 sq km area, Serengeti hosts 3 million large mammals. More than 35 species of plain animals- zebra, wildebeest, eland, giraffe, and others are found here. And so for the big five: elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino. The park is the staging-zone for one the most spectacular events in the natural world- the annual migration of wildebeest. This commences around June when over 1 million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle head for the Maasai Mara in Kenya in search of pasture. Following on their heels are the predators of the savanna- lion, cheetah, wild dog, jackal, hyena and vultures. If you can spare the money, viewing the migration afloat a balloon is an unforgettable experience. The best time to view game is from December to May when the grass is short. Avoid late June-October, when most of the animals will have evacuated with the migration and are best seen in the adjacent Maasai Mara in Kenya. The keen ornithologist will have a good time trying to sight the 500 species of birds on record. Camping sites can be found in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and all the national parks of the northern circuit. Facilities are pretty basic and this is where budget travelers prefer to spend their safari nights. If you can afford it, overnight at the luxury safari lodges and tented camps. In this class of accommodation expect to find all the creature comforts associated with rated accommodation. See our Tanzania Hotels & Lodges page for info and book accommodation for your safari. It is generally recommended to take an escorted tour package that includes transport, guide, park fees and accommodation. Tour guides have valuable useful local knowledge about the animals, where to find them and how to get where you are going. Check out our very good value escorted Tanzania Safari offers of various durations and budgets. But if you know the country well and have good knowledge of animals, then hiring a self-vehicle is an option. See our Tanzania Car Rental page to do your reservation for a self-drive or chauffer driven vehicle.The relatively high elevation in northern Tanzania means that it never gets too hot. Indeed the nights and early mornings can be quite chilly. You are well advised to take along a heavy sweater and a windbreaker or jacket. Expect temperatures to average from 15C in May to August and 22C over December to March. The weather is best between June and September, but do not bet on seeing any animals in the Serengeti. For a safari covering all the parks of northern Tanzania, September to March is a good time. But remember that some of the other parks in the region offer nearly year round game viewing opportunities. April and May can be a challenging period for dong a safari for as this is when the weather is at its rainiest.On safari, bright coloured clothing may get you in trouble with wild animals. If you are wise you will pack brown, beige and khaki clothing. Short sleeve shirts, shorts and trouser for men are adequate. For ladies, short sleeve blouses, slacks and skirts are ideal. Though the northern region is well outside the predominantly Muslim coast areas and ladies do not have to dress too conservatively, modest attire is still a good idea. Remember to bring along a pair of sunglasses to shield you from the sometimes harsh tropical glare. Binoculars will come in very handy for spotting animals.
Cancun is Mexico's premier resort destination, far outshining the role that Acapulco had once played for North America's top holiday vacation nation. If images of white sand beaches, clear blue water, jet skiing, scuba diving and lounging by the pool aren't enough of a draw, add to that image sensational nightclubs with larger than life shows and a plethora of ancient Mayan ruins and you have a sense of what the Cancun experience is all about.Jutting into the Caribbean Sea, Cancun rests at the very tip of the Yucatan Peninsula on land that was commonly used as refuge for seafaring pirates. The resort town was built in the mid 1970s in close proximity to, and in some cases on top of, prized ancient Mayan ruins. The main drag is a string of beautiful Art Deco and high-rise hotels followed by a series of nightclubs ranging from exclusively posh or fantasy-like industrial to warmer more intimate discotequas with their own local groovy flavor. Regular 24 hour taxi service to and from anywhere in town makes choosing your accommodations almost as simple as booking your flight on cFares!Ruins, Not RuinedAlthough simple mention of Cancun alone evokes thoughts of extravagant parties and spring break benders, make sure to take it easy enough so that you may enjoy a day trip to the surrounding Mayan ruins with a clear mind and an appreciative attitude. The most famous ruins are at Chichen Itza in the center of the peninsula. Inhabited from 445 BC to 1204 AD, then mysteriously abandoned, these ruins are centered about a pyramid with steps that culminate at giant serpent heads. Visit during either of the equinoxes and the shadows will appear as though a giant snake is descending the pyramid. Closer to Cancun, Tulum is also a popular Mayan destination that overlooks the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. The Temple of the Frescoes has an ornamentally painted interior and the Temple of the Descending God is adorned with remarkably intricate bas-relief carvings. There are at least ten other major archeological sites accessible from Cancun by tour operators, and a few recently discovered minor ruins in the hotels' very own midst.Cancun, and Then SomeIf beach bumming, water sports and overall paradise make you a bit restless, there are more than enough excursions to engage in once you find yourself on the sandy white beaches of Cancun. On a daily basis, seasoned guides lead eager hikers into the jungle to discover where the wild things live. Also, horseback rides are available along the coast and up into the mainland. A short ferry or plane ride away is Cozumel, Mexico's largest Caribbean island and one of the world's hottest spots for scuba diving, not to mention you can find a few private companies who offer swimming with dolphins. If true escape is what you're looking for, Isla de Mujeres is your answer. Fifteen minutes from Cancun by boat, this small tropical asylum is a peaceful retreat from resort life on the mainland. Cycling is very popular around the island, as well as snorkeling and chatting up the occasional pirate that passes through. Take a peek at the mysterious stone statuettes of semi-clothed women left by the Mayas.Cancun is clearly an easy number one choice for any beach vacation. Families, singles, couples and teens should feel at ease and at home in this Yucatan dreamland that Mexico has made into an all-encompassing, all-inclusive care free environment with the vacationer's desires right at their fingertips! Look no further for the perfect escape, because you've found it when you travel to Cancun.
South Padre Island is a great place to vacation over Spring Break, especially for College students. Besides offering the usual spring break vacation fare of sand, sun, and fun (of course that's a reference to wild late night partying, beer, wet tshirt contents and the hook up), South Padre Island offers a number of other activities to occupy your time and entertain you during your "spring break" vacation. Fishing - South Padre Island has gained a world wide reputation among fishermen. Half day and full day fishing trips in the Laguna Madre Bay and the Gulf of Mexico run for less than $20 to $1000 or more depending on your skills, the distance you want to travel (how far offshore) and your lifestyle demands. Since you are fishing a gulf and not your area lake, the list of the type of fish you can catch is long but a few would be: whiting, drum, flounder, trout, redfish, kingfish, wahoo, tuna, marlin and sailfish. Windsurfing - Spring Break is obviously during spring time which for windsurfers plying their trade at South Padre Island is the best time with spring's windy days. Known as one of the top windsurfing destinations in the world, South Padre Island offers some of the fastest windsurfing speeds in North America at places like, the bay, the Jetties, Bocas Chica, and the Ditch. Kiteboarding - College spring breakers have never shied away from a challenge and kiteboarding is just that. One of the fasting growing and certainly hottest sports going, kiteboarding is challenging and adrenaline pumping and South Padre Island with consistent winds that offer beginner to experts near perfect flat-water conditions, is a great place to hone your kiteboarding skills. Matamoros, Mexico - What's a vacation without souvenirs? Bargain shop across the border at American friendly, Matamoros, Mexico. You will find silver, leather goods, handicrafts and much more while strolling through this old Mexican town and it's busy markets. Dine on authentic Mexican food, enjoy museums and the culture of Mexico, just thirty minutes from South Padre Island. While this is not a complete list of things to do during your spring break vacation on South Padre Island, hopefully it got you thinking of making your trip a bit more adventurous and thus your memories of spring break at South Padre Island that much more special.
The New Year's parade in Hong Kong is an event not to be missed! The city is dressed up with bright decorations and colorful lights for its biggest celebration of the year, and thousands pour into Hong Kong to take part in the festivities.Winding along Hong Kong's picturesque waterfront, the New Year's parade is filled with colorful, lavishly decorated floats. Representatives from Hong Kong and countries all over the world sing, dance and play music. The songs of marching bands fill the air along the parade's route as performers in bright costumes prance along the streets. The forthcoming year (2006) is the Year of the Dog. No matter which zodiac animal is being celebrated for the coming year, there are always plenty of lions and dragons in the parade. Energetic dancers wearing giant lion heads leap in the air as long dragons held aloft by more than twenty people snake past the enthralled parade watchers. The New Year's parade is the biggest event of Hong Kong's Lunar New Year celebration. Close to 300,000 people attend the parade and millions more watch it on television. In recent years the parade has taken place in the evening, featuring vivid, dazzling light displays.The Lunar New Year is one of Hong Kong's most important and well-loved holidays. Each year one of twelve different animals is celebrated, according to the Chinese zodiac. Many of the city's towering skyscrapers are decked out in glittering lights for the holiday. Throughout the three-day celebration, dancers in colorful costumes perform lion and dragon dances in the streets, malls and hotel lobbies. Traditionally, people exchange small, red envelopes filled with money as gifts. Flower markets show up all over the city during the holiday, selling plants and flowers with special significance, and stores and restaurants display flowers meant to bring immortality and good luck.The New Year celebration usually begins anywhere from January 21 to February 19, depending on the year. While the holiday officially lasts fifteen days, in Hong Kong it is celebrated for three days, with the New Year's parade taking place on the first day. January 29, 2006 is the first day of the forthcoming new year.The day after the New Year's parade a brilliant display of fireworks lights upHong Kong's famous Victoria Harbour. The fireworks can be viewed from the waterfront or from boats cruising the harbour. On the third day of the celebration a large horse race takes place at the Sha Tin racetrack. This lively race is a favorite for gamblers and horseracing enthusiasts.It's no wonder why so many travel to discover all that Hong Kong has to offer, with the vibrant fusion of ancient customs and modern day fun at one of the world's biggest Chinese New Year celebrations.