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Posts in ‘Nature & Wildlife’

Exploring the Dreaming Rock: The 5 Best Things to Do at Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia

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Uluru To the aborigines of the wild and desolate Australian outback, Uluru is a sacred and mystical site. To travellers from around the world, Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is a thing of wonder and mystery. Uluru is one of Australia’s most distinctive landmarks. The giant red rock rises out of the land like the sun rises above the horizon, inspiring photographers, painters and nature-lovers with its exquisiteness. When I first gazed upon the Dreaming rock, I was astounded by the natural beauty and spiritual energy vibrating through the air.

Uluru towers above the earth, reaching 318m at its highest points. It is made of arkrose sandstone and is 8km in circumference. It is considered an inselberg, which literally means “island mountain” and stands along with the nearby Kata Tjuta formation as the only two testaments to the evolution of the earth in an otherwise flat landscape. Archaeological findings suggest that humans first settled in the area around Uluru approximately 10,000 years ago. Europeans first explored the area in 1872 when Ernest Giles first mapped Uluru and named it Ayers Rock.

The Anangu, the aboriginal people who have lived near the formation for hundreds of years, consider Uluru a sacred dreaming site. The Dreamtime was when the great spirits created everything upon the earth. The concept of ‘Dreaming’ can refer to several things; it can be an individual’s spirituality, such as when a man or woman says they are part of Kangaroo Dreaming or Dingo Dreaming. ‘Dreaming’ is also the place where each person’s spirit lives eternally. The aborigines believe that every spirit existed before its time on earth in the Dreaming and that it continues to exist after the death of the body. The Dreaming pervades every aspect of an aboriginal Australian’s life. It is a complex and unique network of stories, faith, knowledge and practices. The aborigines believe that there is a hollow space beneath Uluru that houses Tjukurpa, the Dreamtime.

1) Discover the Legends surrounding Uluru- Visit the Museum

In order to visit Uluru, visitors must buy passes to enter the park. These can be purchased through our Uluru Pass. Once you have entered the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, it is best to begin your adventure by visiting the cultural centre located near Uluru’s base. Not only does the centre have an extensive list of all of the activities happening in the park but also introduces you to the culture of the Anangu. The centre presents material relating to traditional culture and park history. The entrance to the cultural centre tells the story of the Anangu people and the various aboriginal beliefs and stories that involve Uluru. There is also an art centre in the vicinity that sells incredibly intricate aboriginal art. It’s nearly impossible to resist buying the incredible pieces they have in the store (I bought a hand-woven aboriginal pillow cover that reminds me of Uluru every time I sit down on my couch). Uluru

2) See Uluru from Every Angle

When you see Uluru, you realize why the aborigines believe it to be the centre of their spiritual existence. The sheer size of it is enough to inspire awe in anyone. The colour of it reminds me of the embers of a fire; the oranges and reds seem to intensify as the sun moves on its path through the day. To really experience the majesty of Uluru, you need to get up close and personal with the giant monolith. Our Uluru Pass, besides getting you into the park, also includes several walking tours. Visitors to the park can walk around the entire base of Uluru, while also witnessing the flora and fauna of the beautiful Outback. Keep a sharp eye out for Malu (red kangaroos) and echidnas as they are not found anywhere else in the world outside of Australia. Explorers and adventures can also discover the rugged beauty of the Kata Tjuta formation. Kata Tjuta is close to Uluru and with its deep gorges, unique rock colouring and exotic flora it is not a destination to be missed.

3) Experience Night-time in the Outback

A night in Uluru There is nothing like the outback after the sun has gone down. Stars blaze brightly above, the air gets cool and refreshing and if you listen closely, you may hear the lonely sound of a dingo’s far-off howl. Star gazers and romantics will find the Sounds of Silence Dinner particularly entrancing. Diners get to sample real bush tucker, including kangaroo, emu and barramundi, and sip on champagne as the sun sets on Uluru. After the delicious dinner experience, explore the heavenly stars above with an experienced Star Talker who will walk with you through the net of constellations hanging in the sky. Night in the Red Centre is an otherworldly experience; my friends and I felt as if we had travelled through the mists of time back to a primordial land.

4) Take to the Skies above the Red Centre

The Anangu consider Uluru to be one of their most sacred sites. When tourism began in Uluru, they were dismayed to witness visitors climbing up and down Uluru’s lofted peaks. Today, the local indigenous community requests that visitors do not climb Uluru. The path that leads to the top of the monolith crosses a sacred dreaming path, a fact that has caused the traditional owners of the rock much anguish. Though the path is still accessible, it has become smooth over the years from visitors’ feet and the path remains closed for most of the year. Those who wish to see what Uluru looks like from above but desire to respect the wishes of the Anangu will delight in a breath-taking Helicopter ride over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. If you choose to see the formations this way, you will witness some of the most awe-inspiring views Australia has to offer.

5) Experience the Bushman Lifestyle

A trip to the outback is not complete without experiencing the bushman’s lifestyle. Bushmen are the wild cowboys of the outback; they drive cattle, work farms and sheer sheep on a farm circuit they call the Wallaby Track. Needless to say, Bushmen are a fiery bunch (think Hugh Jackman’s rough and tough portrayal of a drover in the blockbuster Australia). Bushmen, after a long day’s work droving cattle, often sit around the campfire telling stories and eating bush tucker. You too can experience this sort of lifestyle, albeit in a slightly more comfortable way, by setting off on the Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon 3 days camping safari. Campers will explore Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon over the course of three days, with two nights lodging in the permanent campsites at Uluru and Kings Canyon that boast off-the-ground beds and a hearty supply of bush tucker.

The Outback

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New Zealand – More than Rugby

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all-blacks-by-kiwi-flickr

In New Zealand, and in some households, the Rugby World Cup is in full swing. As England scraped through by beating Scotland this weekend, they will now face France in the quarterfinals next Saturday. On Sunday, host New Zealand’s team the All Blacks will try to beat Argentina and fight for home glory.

new-zealand-by-mhxEven for the not-so-rugby minded New Zealand has a lot to offer. A country the size of roughly 270.000 square km, the size of the American state Colorado, it has a population of four million people (Colorado roughly has five million), which makes it one of the least populated countries in the world.

The Tasman Sea is the water that lies between Australia and New Zealand and is also referred to as ‘The Ditch’: “crossing the ditch” would refer to travelling from the one country to the other. The Tasman Sea is named after Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer who first recorded the sighting of New Zealand in 1642, even before Captain James Cook explored the coastline in 1769.

New Zealand has a gorgeous and diverse landscape so you can find glaciers, mountains as well as forest and beaches within the same country. Film director Peter Jackson famously used the country diverse landscape as backdrop for his Lord of the Rings Trilogy. These days you can take Lord of The Rings tours to see the locations where filming took place.

hot-air-balloon-flight_7793To really take in the spectacular views, take a hot-air balloon ride from Christchurch to see the sun rise from the ocean while admiring the stunning view of the city and the snow capped mountains surrounding it.

bungeeThe more adventurous have a lot of choices from bungee jumping in Queenstown to a Shotover Jetboat ride through the infamous Shotover River Canyon. Make sure to hold on tight as you shoot through the rapids and take 360° spins.

vineyard-phillip-cThere is also enough more sophisticated entertainment as New Zealand has lovely vineyards to explore. If you’re in Auckland for the Rugby Final anyway, why not take a ferry and visit the island Waiheke where you find three of the best vineyards and  can participate in some wine tasting during a vineyard tour.

No matter what you are looking for New Zealand has an array of activities, though if you fail to understand what the fuss surrounding Dan Carter’s all about, you might want to wait to travel until after the 23rd of October when the final of the Rugby World Cup will be played!


Photocredit Flickr: All Blacks by Kiwi Flick, Map by mhx, vineyard by Phillip C

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Uluru / Ayers Rock Tours

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We have just launched a page listing the best things to do at the Australian Outback’s most popular tourist attraction, including sunrise/sunset tours, helicopter rides, 4WD tours, even dining under the stars in the middle of the desert! Choose from one of many spectacular Uluru tours and start planning your trip to Australia.

The isango! team

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Best places in the world to go scuba diving

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Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef (Flickr by Simon Starr)

Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef (Flickr by Simon Starr)

During the summer months a holiday to a tropical destination is quite popular.  There are several things to do while on holiday in paradise and one exciting activity to partake in in scuba diving.  Scuba diving is a wonderful way to see all that the ocean has to offer up close.  If scuba diving isn’t up your alley then perhaps just snorkeling would be better suited for you.  But one this is for certain; with these scuba destinations you are sure to see the ocean at its finest. continue reading

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Walking Cities Part 3: New York City

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If you’ve missed the introduction to this series, click here. For part 2, click here.

Times Square - kennymatic

Times Square - kennymatic

Being the most densely populated city in the United States may make the Big Apple a little crowded, but it also makes it easy to get around. No sprawling suburban landscapes here, folks, there isn’t space! Home to many a famous landmark, everything from Wall Street to the Broadway stage, you’ll run out of tread on your sneakers before you run out of things to see and do in this city!

Making it even easier, New York is famous for its fantastic walking tours. Though the city may be small, it’s much easier to navigate your way through the skyscrapers with a little help from a trained tour guide. Luckily for you, no matter what your passion, there’s a tour to suit every taste! continue reading

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Walking Cities Part 2: Barcelona

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If you’ve missed the introduction to this series, click here.

Sagrada Familia, Gaudi - jurvetson

Sagrada Familia, Gaudi - jurvetson

There is plenty to explore in Barcelona, a city notorious for its relaxed pace of life. Things work on a slower timetable here, great for a walk about! Take your time, you have all day! (Literally, dinner often doesn’t start here until 10 or 11pm, and nightclubs usually don’t begin filling up until around 2am). There’s plenty to do and see, and in recent years, Barcelona has become quite the multicultural hotbed. The area is home to a high population of immigrants, which means not only interesting people, but amazing international food, and a rich collection of books, art, and shopping. Cafés (yum, churros and chocolate!), galleries and parks (with lots of famous street art) galore!

As the home of nine UNESCO World Heritage sites (seven of which were designed by the famous Antoni Gaudí) there are plenty destinations for you to check out on that slow ramble around the city. continue reading

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Yes, I Know How to Walk.

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned in London (well, hopefully there’s been more than one) it’s how to walk…Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “she seriously doesn’t know how to walk?!”

Stop worrying.

I’m not talking about one foot in front of the other, step by step, here to there walking. No, I’m talking about some serious perambulation (aka touristy walking around as much of a city as you can get your hands on). Hey, we’re tourists, and we don’t want to sit in the back of a taxicab, we want to explore!

Ready to take a ramble? - borkur.net

Ready to take a ramble? - borkur.net

In Davis we bike or bus, and usually it’s just to get from destination to destination. If we really want to walk, we take a hike, and if we really need to get somewhere, we take a car. But here in London, we literally walk everywhere. We walk to the store, we walk to class, we walk to work, we walk to think, we walk to explore, and we get lost and we walk. The first few weeks we here, most of our conversations ended with, “ugh, my feet are tiiiiiiired”, (and this was especially true when we couldn’t seem to figure out the night bus schedule). continue reading

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There Might Even Be Funnel Cakes: Checking Out the UK’s Seaside Scene

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It’s raining outside, and we’re missing the California beaches! Spurred by a long discussion about deep-fried snickers and hot dogs at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, I’ve decided to investigate the UK’s beach scene (hey, we’re surrounded by miles and miles of coastline here too!). And, luckily, the UK turns out to have quite the selection of coastal spots for us sun-hungry Californians to choose from as the weather heats up this summer.

Blackpool's Pleasure Beach - Jon's Pics

Blackpool's Pleasure Beach - Jon's Pics

It may not be Coney Island or the Boardwalk, but it looks pretty close! The Pleasure Beach Amusement Park in Blackpool, England features over 125 rides and attractions with some beautiful coastline views. And for you thrill seekers, twelve roller coasters, (woohoo!) including the one of the last “Wild Mouse” rides in operation, a neck-bending series of bunny hops and flat turns. Accessible via the Blackpool Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour, I can’t wait for an afternoon of sun and fun here (I just hope they have funnel cakes!) continue reading

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Cappadocia, a Natural Gem of Turkey

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8051_2_cavusin A beautiful region that is defined in both ancient Christianity and modern tourism as a site of natural wonders, the people of Cappadocia have made the most of their surroundings. It is home to the people who Biblically heard the gospel in their own tongue during the Pentecost and later resisted the rule of Alexander the Great. Current draws to the region are “fairy chimneys”, dovecotes, rock carvings and underground cities.

continue reading

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The Dublin Report

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Guiness Factory Girls!

Guiness Factory Girls!

After a whirlwind of a weekend, we’re back! Exhausted, convinced of inability to ever arrive on time (nothing like a two mile sprint through the airport to get your blood pumping), and ready to keep travelling our quarter away! Dublin was beautiful, and for those of you thinking about a weekend trip, or just curious about mine (hi mom!) here is a list of my favorite parts of the Dublin experience. continue reading

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