Posts Tagged ‘Lakes’

Selous and Ruaha. Tanzania's best kept secrets

Boat Safari at Selous Game Reserve. Photo by Eduardo Sagüés

Selous and Ruaha. Tanzania’s best kept secrets

Following my previous post about the best safaris in Africa, now I will talk about Tanzania. While most visitors head straight to the amazing, famous but also usually crowded “northern safari circuit” (Serengeti, Ngorongoro…), very few others head down to the beautiful and unspoiled southern National Parks: Selous and Ruaha.

Selous Game Reserve

Selous Game Reserve, Africa’s largest protected area uninhabited by man, offers the lucky few visitors an experience in absolutely wild and unspoiled bush. The park varies from rolling grassy plains to open woodlands and rocky outcrops cut by the Rufiji River – the lifeblood of the park, whose tributaries form a network of lakes, lagoons and channels that offer a superb method of game viewing especially during the dry season (from June to October). Selous hosts Tanzania’s greatest population of elephants.

We stayed at Selous Safari Camp (Camp’s website and other useful info), a luxurious camp tucked away beside the beautiful Lake Nzerakela (we were told that the Prince of Wales stayed there with his family). Some of the safaris are done by boat so you can get really close to the wildlife, spotting not only lions, elephants, giraffes but also hippos, crocodiles, … The camp organizes fly-campings for a night or two (luxury walking safaris where you sleep out in the open with only a mosquito net between you and the sky).
Click on images to enlarge

Ruaha National Park

Due to its’ distance from any major city, very few tourists visit this park. Ruaha National Park has a varied and fascinating terrain with wild fig trees, rare baobab forests and gorges of glowing orange sandstone. Compared with Selous, here you won’t find big grassy plains nor lakes (so you won’t be able to do safaris by boat). The Great Ruaha River contain swirling rapids and deep pools crowded by dozens of crocodiles and hippos fighting each other. Ruaha is a good place to spot predators. In fact, apart from lions, jackals and hyenas, we saw a group of wild dogs hunting.

We stayed at Jongomero, probably the most comfortable way to experience Ruaha. The camp stands beside the ephemeral Jongomero River. At the time we visited the camp, the river was dry. If you have the time and you convince the camp’s manager, he can take you to visit sculptor Robert Glen and Sue Stolberger, top class artists that live together in tents in the middle of the bush and fly to Europe and America for the opening of their exhibitions in major museums. Take a look at the art work and Robert’s giant monuments.
Click on images to enlarge

Ras Kutani. End of the trip at the beach

After visiting Selous and Ruaha, we head to the coast and we enjoyed a couple of days at the beach before returning to Spain. We wanted to avoid touristic Zanzibar, so we went to Ras Kutani. The lodge is situated only 35 kilometers South of Dar es Salaam but offers the perfect hideaway, far from the maddening crowd. The setting ensures that feeling of being on one’s own tropical island. There is not much to do but swimming in the sea and sunbath on the beach just for yourself.
Click on images to enlarge

Photo credits: Pedro Sagüés, Iñigo Sagüés and Eduardo Sagüés

Udaipur: the city of lakes, palaces and love

Lake Palace. Udaipur. Photo: Pedro Sagüés

Udaipur: the city of lakes, palaces and love

I have just arrived from Udaipur, a captivating city in the heart of the Rajasthan -India- (“Land of Kings” in Hindi). Named in 2008 as the No.1 city to visit in the World’s best awards by Travel + Leisure magazine. Udaipur is often called the “White City” (getting its name from the hue of the buildings) or the “Venice of the east” for its romantic lakes and palaces that create a sense of aestheticism with their spiritual ecstasy. The city was founded and named in 1559 by Maharana Udai Singh II (Udaipur, means “City of Udai”).

In my opinion, the best places to visit in Udaipur are:

City Palace: Located on the banks of Lake Pichola and built entirely in granite and marble, this palace is the second largest in India (600m from side to side). It is a marvelous assortment of courtyards, pavilions, terraces, corridors, rooms and hanging gardens. The balconies of the palace provide panoramic views of both, the lake and the old city. The palace attracts thousands of visitors every day that also enjoy its Hindu architecture, paintings, decorative furniture and utensils, with no Muslim influence as it has never been conquered.

Boat ride on Lake Pichola:
Take a boat and get a close look at Lake Pichola’s wonderful palaces and havelis (rich merchant families’ private houses), many of which have been converted into hotels. I recommend taking the sunset boat that has an extra touch of romanticism. From time to time, during drought conditions because of lower rainfall and degradation of the catchment, the lake becomes dry.

Walk through the market:
You discover the “real” India when you meet people in the streets, buy at the local markets, get your hand henna-painted while to chat with the artist or enjoy a tea at the multiple tea shops… If you want to feel this, Delhi Gate area is the place to go.

Hotels: There are multiple amazing palaces converted into hotels.

  • The most renowned is the Lake Palace, built in 1743 by Maharana Jagat Singh II as his royal summer palace, it is made of marble and is situated on Jag Niwas island in Lake Pichola. The palace is now a luxury 5 Star hotel (listed in the top 10 best hotels in Asia) and was a central feature in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy. The views from the hotel are amazing, especially from the restaurant at the roof. Only guests are allowed in the hotel.
  • A more affordable option is the Jaiwana Haveli, a small hotel located in the old city that offers great views of Lake Pichola. It’s clean and has very nice bathrooms.

Restaurants: I would suggest three restaurants:

  • Rajbagh: Good international/Indian buffet, great views of the lake and low price
  • Jag Mandir Island: Located in an 18th century palace, the restaurant serves good Indian food for 2500rp/pax (55$) while you enjoy great views of the City Palace and the Lake Palace Hotel
  • Sashi’s Cooking Classes: I haven’t been there but it has awesome reviews in Trip Advisor. It seems to be a fun evening with Sashi.

Shopping: The specialties in Udaipur are textiles, silver and paintings.

  • Textiles: I recommend visiting Royal Arts & Crafts, a warehouse full of beautiful textile. Located at Hathipole Gate
  • Silver: In multiple markets and stores you will find lots of artcraphs. The best knowned shops are Gem Arts Emporium and Silver Art Palace.
  • Miniature paintings: Brahma Arts, at the Lake Palace Road.

If you need a guide, contact Bholendra Singh. Great knowledge and excellent client service. Email: bholendrasingh (at) hotmail.com

Am I missing anything in this list of the “Best places in Udaipur”:

If so, please let me know. I’ll be happy to update my post.

Click on images to enlarge


Photo credits: Pedro Sagüés

Guatemala's best lakes and lagoons

Guatemala’s best lakes and lagoons

Guatemala is full of volcanoes, some of them feature turquoise lagoons, which fill their craters and stand 2,700 meters above sea level. Many of them are considered sacred by locals. I went there in 1993. I Especially liked Semuc Champey (natural pools), Ayarza (sleeping overnight at its shore is unforgettable) or Atitlan (the bigger and most popular, where I had the chance of doing water skiing in between the volcanoes!!). My friend Norma from Guatemala told me I missed Chicabal Lagoon and Lachua (the sky’s mirror) 🙂

Lakes and Lagoons, Semuc Champey, Atitlan

Click on images to enlarge