10. December 2012 · Comments Off on Cheap Bahamas Vacation: Enjoy Your Trip · Categories: Travel · Tags: , ,

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16. March 2011 · Comments Off on Projects Abroad Peru Director Discovers Lost Inca City · Categories: Travel · Tags: , ,

Tim DeWinter, the director of our Projects Abroad Peru programme tells us about his incredible recent discovery of an Inca settlement:

“Those who think that the frontiers of exploration have all descended into ocean depths or flown out beyond the rings of Saturn take heart and read on” Vincent Lee

Can one find a whole “forgotten” city in the 21st century? Is that still possible? With modern satellite images surely everything has been found already? Well, our adventure proves that in the Antisuyo, remote provinces north of Cusco, there are still discoveries to be made by the intrepid and adventurous.

Since 1994, when I arrived in Peru, walking in the Andes has been one of my favourite pastimes and while working for UNICEF from 1997 onwards, I had the opportunity to combine work and pleasure. No Peruvian UNICEF consultant was keen on leaving their families behind to go to the remotest areas of Cusco. I, on the other hand, was single and loved it, so basically from Monday to Friday I walked in this land reserved for the strongest under an impossibly blue sky, marvelling at the beauty and ruggedness of this wonderful mountain range.

Several years later, working for Projects Abroad in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, with a family of my own, I had fewer opportunities to hike off into the unknown. However, one of the programmes that Projects Abroad runs in Peru is called the Inca Projects and in 2005 we decided to combine the archaeological and community development activities with exploration and hiking. Our volunteers loved the prospect of doing treks in the less touristy parts of the Andes and we enjoyed organising it for them. Maps have always been a source of hidden walks for me and I studied them whenever I could. I have many topographical maps of the region and studied these carefully before hiking a new route, so we knew what we would be up against.

My friends Americo, Carlos, Walter and myself decided to explore a mountain ridge in the region known as the Eyebrow of the Jungle, next to the Lucumayo river in the Huayopata district. Our team’s field experience and friendship would make this an enjoyable trip. I had a hunch that there would be some kind of Inca structure up there, it was a strategic viewpoint and other small Inca structures where known to be a few hours walk further upstream the Vilcanota river.

We started the day early at 5am, but were held up by some local farmers that had used the road up towards the hill for making mud bricks. We carried 65 pound rucksacks for the three day hike we had planned and it was hot and humid. By midday, our luck turned, we stopped at a clearing and met a hunter, his name was Eloy. One of the golden rules of exploration is to listen to the campesinos, they know where everything is. Eloy was no exception to the rule.

He told us he knew of a small wall and after having shared lunch with him, he took us further up the hill. The forest was dense and challenging, the rucksacks were left behind and we marched on with our machetes in hand, swinging at all the dense green foliage blocking our path. Eloy showed us the wall; it turned out to be a room, mostly still underground, covered in bush and by the years of decomposing forest. The amount of tangled growth is hard to explain unless you have experienced it. It was a typical Inca house, of normal proportions, and next to it another one, and another one. We immediately thanked the magical apu mountain spirits which mean everything to the campesinos and are directly linked to the Pacha Mama (Mother Earth).

Eloy was not surprised by our small ceremony, but he was shocked that for many years he had been hunting in these forests without having had a clue of their importance. He became excited and told us that if these bumps on the jungle floor were walls, then he knew some more bumps on hills close by. That was when it hit us, more bumps! This was not just a small settlement. We decided to go back and set up camp and for Eloy to take us to the other bumps early the next day.

Sleeping was difficult as our adrenaline levels were high and at 5am the next morning we were ready. Eloy arrived at the campsite and we took off for what turned out to be an amazing day of exploring. We walked through forests and found many tombs, circular, rectangular and square structures hidden under the thick of the jungle floor. The remains were so heavily overgrown that we are still unsure of the extent of the ruins, but having found over 40 structures in different places on the hilltops, with over 2 miles between them, we were confident that it played an important role in one of the best and largest networks of paved road ever built by pre-industrial man, the Qapaq Nan. The realisation that it must be connected to Machu Picchu, the beautiful and wonderful city in the cloud forest and the best known site in the Antisuyo, made it even more exciting.

The settlement looked over an extremely fertile and extensively cultivated glacial valley on one side and on the other side was the Vilcanota Valley. Machu Picchu was a one day walk upstream. Needless to say, what we had found had huge potential.

Were we on the verge of finding a missing link and opening a real new Inca Trail?

When we later arrived back in Cusco we suppressed the temptation to go straight to the local radio and TV stations and decided to consult the National Institute of Culture (INC) first. Maybe they knew about the ruins, maybe they had more information about them, maybe they had a map already?

Projects Abroad had signed a formal agreement with the INC last year and our many contacts were able to investigate if their Site Registry knew anything about this site, they didn’t. The result was amazing; no one had surveyed this site or bothered to visit this strategic geographical feature. If the INC was unaware of our findings, we had to regulate this quickly, letters were sent, all mentioning our willingness to share information and receive a visit from one of their investigation teams.

On September 29th 2006, we took two archaeologists with us back to the area. Francisco Solis and Italo Oberti are recognised archaeologists in the region and were eager to be part of these initial stages. They were amazed by our finds. They confirmed that it was a big Inca settlement, probably over 500 years old and pointed out the stone and thatch building techniques of the highland Incas. They were surprised by the many different types of structures and thanked us for contacting them so quickly, as many findings are kept secret from the INC so people can ransack the place beforehand.

The Incas didn’t like the lower altitudes with the mosquitoes and diseases, the heat and humidity, so maybe the cooler Lucumayo Valley, a wonderful food basket, was worked by the inhabitants of our newfound city. The land itself provided the materials for building and the fertile valley was there for farming, maybe even producing food for the inhabitants of Machu Picchu, just a day’s walk away!

What we did many others could have done and still can do. There must be numerous unstudied ruins, unexplored valleys and hilltops, especially on the edge of the rainforest, still waiting to be discovered.

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08. January 2011 · Comments Off on Known as the City That Never Sleeps · Categories: Travel · Tags: , ,

Copyright (c) 2008 Deborah Klinger

Known as the city that never sleeps; you will need to have at least seven days in New York City if you want a real taste of what it has to offer the visitor. One of the busiest visitor locations in the city is the Empire State Building and even if you don’t get to the top there is still a great deal to see. For even better views, when the weather is fine, it requires a trip to the top of the 820 feet tall Rockefeller Centre. Visitors to New York will often get the best view of the Statue of Liberty from the many tour boats but New York has seen a dramatic rise in the number of tourists since 9/11 and often it is worth disembarking at Ellis Island instead.

As an alternative why not go to Staten Island via the free ferry and look at the Statue of Liberty from there; this is also a great place to spend some time enjoying the talents of local (almost professional) street entertainers. Whilst you are on a seven day visit to New York New York a trip to the area where the Twin Towers used to stand has become something that every person who visits this great city must do. It’s strangely moving location and the terrorist struck World Trade Centre site covers a huge area but it is a peculiarly unfriendly subject for the photographer. The reason many people travel all the way to New York, even for a weekend, is for the stores and you can pop along to Tiffany’s or look for bargains around Broadway and Lower East Side.

Bloomingdales is another famous store (for the wealthy) to look around but it is Maceys, who will give 11 percent discount on production of a tourist card where most people will head for. Another popular visitor destination, which is currently closed for refurbishment is the ISASM or the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum which will be opening it’s doors again late in 2008; if you’re going to be there next year it will be a worthwhile place to see. There is a great deal there with the focus on the USS Intrepid, a Second World War aircraft carrier but Concorde is also there and many other interesting vessels, including a submarine. The New York City Police Museum is worth an hour if you’re down that way; it’s free to enter but a five dollar donation is recommended to help with its upkeep; because it’s about New York’s finest (and some not so fine), it has some really excellent NYPD souvenirs.

Another museum is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum which focuses on the appalling conditions experienced by the immigrants back in 1864. If Central Park is on your list of places to see then there is another museum aptly named the City of New York Museum which has exhibitions exploring the city’s past, its present and the future. It is all housed in a beautiful building and entrance is free but a nine dollar donation is recommended. Most visitors seem to be on a flying visit so end up missing some of the most beautiful areas and that’s why seven days in New York should really be the minimum stay.

02. January 2010 · Comments Off on KENYA GENERAL TRAVEL INFORMATION · Categories: Travel · Tags: , ,


Visa and Health Regulation:

Visa requirements vary from time to time and should be checked with nearest tourist office of diplomatic mission. Health certificates are required but these vary with country of origin and should be checked with relevant authorities. Yellow fever and cholera vaccinations are recommended. Anti malaria medication should be started prior to arrival.


Films and batteries are available at most lodges but in restricted stocks and sizes so it is suggested you bring your own supply. A 200 mm to 300 mm telephoto lens is recommended for game and bird photography.

Much of East Africa is generally warm, minimal humidity and cool evenings. Temperatures vary with altitude.


Cotton, linen dresses, light slacks and short sleeved shirts are recommended. Bring a warm sweater, as nights can be chilly at high altitudes. Comfortable walking shoes, swim suit, sun glasses, suntan lotion, flashlight and an alarm clock will complement your safari gear.

Hotel Check in/check out:

Check out time is usually 1000 hours. Hence check in cannot be guaranteed before 1100 hours unless room is reserved from night before. Day rooms up to 1800 hours are usually available.

Accommodation and Meals on Safari Lodges:

Rooms are singles, doubles, triples and suites. Lodge facilities include lounges/bars with log fires, dinning rooms and viewing platforms. Most lodges have outdoor swimming pools.

Tented camps:

These range from simple luxurious and provide spacious twin beds with mosquito netting, private bathrooms and verandas.


On safari, meals are provided on full board basis. There is full English breakfast. Lunch is often buffet style set out with salads, cold and hot starters and hot main dishes. Dinner is 3-5 courses with a combination of dishes.

Getting around


The major crossing point between Kenya and Tanzania is at Namanga, which is open 24 hours a day. Other crossings include Lunga Lunga and Taveta. The Ethiopian border post of Moyale is becoming increasingly dangerous because of civil fighting. The border was closed for a while but has now reopened. For those with four-wheel drive vehicles, a more adventurous route to the west near Lake Turkana is quite popular. Ask the locals for advice before trying this route. There is no border post on either side of the border crossing so you’ll have to get your visa stamped in Nairobi. Malaba and Busimia are the main Ugandan border posts. At present there are no overland crossings with Somalia and Sudan as it is not safe to cross unless part of a refugee convoy.


Wildlife Safaris Rail is a safe, reliable form of public transport. Passenger services run from Mombasa to Malaba via Voi, Nairobi, Nakuru and Eldoret. It is essential to book tickets two to three days in advance. Kenya has a good network of buses, as well as matatus (minibuses) and share-taxis, but none are very safe as drivers tend to overload and speed, and horrific accidents are reported regularly. Where possible, rail travel should be the chosen means of transport. Private 18-seater buses offer shuttle services connecting Nairobi and Mombasa with Arusha and Moshi in Tanzania, which are more expensive, but more comfortable and safer.


Domestic air services operate between the major airports:

Jomo Kenyatta International, Nairobi (NBO)

Moi International, Mombasa (MBA)

A number of airlines operate between Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nanyuki, Malindi, Lamu and the national parks/reserves of Amboseli, Masai Mara and Samburu.


There are 63,800 km of highways in Kenya, 8,863 km of which are paved. Roads are generally in good condition, but have deteriorated and some stretches are very unsafe. The A104 running from Mombasa to Malaba via Nairobi is a heavy truck route. High speed and unpredictable local driving habits are daily hazards on Kenyan roads. Roads in the north and north-east are predominantly dirt roads and in the rainy season are only navigable by four-wheel drive vehicles. Your national driving license is accepted, with an English translation if necessary. Driving is on the left side of the road. As fuel shortages can occur, it is best to fill your tanks before leaving a major town.

Passports and Visas:


All visitors are required to carry a passport that is valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay. There should be sufficient blank pages for entry stamps upon arrival.

Nationals of some countries may obtain visas upon arrival. Check with the Kenyan Consulate beforehand. Those wishing to enter Kenya on business or for longer than 30 days, should obtain a visa from their nearest Kenyan Consulate.

Requirements for this are:

» visa application form,

» business letter (for business visa),

» one passport photograph,

» proof of sufficient funds and onward travel / return ticket.

Visas cost  US$50 and are valid for three months.

General Accommodation Info:

Most safari lodges vary in size and style, and are built to blend in with the local environment. Accommodation tends to be of rondavel or banda type, with a lounge, central dining and bar in single unit hotels. Do not be misled by the term “tented accommodation” – this tends to be luxurious insect-proof tents and are usually permanently pitched on concrete bases, often including en suite bathrooms with flush toilets. These are very popular and give the visitor the true experience of being close to nature without the inconvenience and discomfort that can be associated with camping in the open. In the towns, cheaper hotels are definitely avoidable. Prices for higher range hotels vary according to season. Note that although prices may be quoted in US$, payment in local currency is the accepted norm. Campsites in national parks and game reserves tend to be very basic, with running water, but only pit toilets. It is strongly recommended that you reserve all your accommodation as far in advance as possible as availability is often at a premium, especially in peak season.


Budget camping is the ideal way for those who like to “rough it”. The tents are spacious enough for two people and they have a mesh on each window to keep off insects.

All preparations at the camp are made on arrival at the campsite. Guests are often expected to help pitch the tents, but the cooking and cleaning is all left to the camping crew. We recommend visitors to bring their own sleeping bags. Public campsites provide basic washroom facilities of reasonable hygienic standard for budget camping safaris.At some Parks we use semi permanent campsites which offers an upgrade camping style with facilities like showers(hot showers on request) and Flash Toilets.


The game drive/ game viewing is the standard mode of wildlife viewing in the African national parks, concession, where both regulations and safety considerations restrict exploration on foot. Conditions are ideal for vehicular safaris; rising savanna fame country from the security and comfort of a car, you will encounter a large number and variety of animals imply by chance. Game drives in most of the parks are always invigorating: you may go from one species to the next –observing zebra here, giraffe there, a knot of impala on the right, a trio of elephant bulls ahead. However, there is really no guarantee on what you will see; the animals are free to move around as they please and may even pass beyond park boundaries.


Each safari group will be accompanied by the best driver-guides with expert knowledge in wildlife and other areas of tourist interest. The driver-guides are continually under training on subjects as varied as the maintenance of safari vehicles, client’s safety, the mating habits of various species, preservation and conservation, general knowledge and foreign languages: English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese

Kenya – Health:


Everyone entering Kenya must be in possession of a valid International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever. It is imperative that you obtain malaria prophylactics before entering Kenya. When purchasing these, please tell your doctor or pharmacist that you intend visiting Kenya. It is important to note that the Kenyan authorities have banned the use of chloroquine combinations as prophylaxis, and instead recommend the use of either mefloquine (Lariam/Mefliam) or doxycycline. Start your course at least one week before entering Kenya and continue taking the pills for six weeks after leaving the country. If you suffer from side effects, try taking your malaria prophylactics at night, after dinner. Precautionary measures that you can take to prevent contact with mosquitoes are: sleeping under a bed net or in room/tent with mosquito proofing (remember to keep the flaps zipped at all times), spraying your accommodation with insecticide, making use of a mosquito repelling lotion or stick and wearing long sleeve clothes, trousers and socks when outside at night. Immunization against typhoid, tetanus, tuberculosis, polio, & meningococcal meningitis are recommended.

Medical Services:

Medical services in Kenya are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks and beaches, but are limited elsewhere. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate cash payment, but usually accept major credit cards. It is advisable to secure medical cover on your medical insurance before arriving in the country. Note that major hotels have contracts with physicians and dentists. Visitors are however advised to bring along supplies of specialized medication they may require. Otherwise, medicine may be purchased at pharmacies and emergency pharmacies are open all night.

Safety :

Adventure Safaris Travel in Kenya is generally entirely safe, however, there are the occasional regional ethnic skirmishes. You are advised to remain informed as to the situation in areas to which you plan to travel, particularly remote parts and borders. Ugandan, Somalian and Sudanese shifta (bandits) rove their borders with Kenya. Violent cross-border attacks and cattle raids occur, so it is best to avoid the border regions. Border crossings into Somalia and Sudan are strongly discouraged. Petty crime and theft occurs in some of the urban areas, so be vigilant and keep valuables concealed. Security within the parks is quite good, but never leave possessions unattended. It is always better to travel in a large group.


While water in major towns is chlorinated and relatively safe to drink, there are frequent breakdowns and this can lead to mild to serious abdominal upsets for first time African travelers. Rather stick to sealed bottled water, which is available from most hotels and lodges, and which is highly advised for the first few weeks of your stay. Do not use ice cubes or eat rare meat, raw seafood or dairy products. Avoid roadside stands and street vendors and only eat well-cooked foods while they are still hot and fruits that can be peeled without contamination.

Seasons and Climate:

SUMMER: December – March


Kenya is divided by the equator and enjoys a tropical climate. It is hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the north and north-eastern parts of the country. The hottest time is in February and March and the coldest in July and August.

The average annual temperatures in the main areas are:

Mombasa (coastal):

Max 30ºC, Min 22ºC

Nairobi: Max 25ºC, Min 13ºC

North Plain lands: Max 34ºC, Min 23ºC

The long rains occur from April to June and short rains from October to December. Rainfall is sometimes heavy and tends to fall in the afternoon and evenings.


Generally, casual comfortable clothing is suitable throughout the year. The most practical items to pack for safari are:

» Khaki, green, beige and neutral colors

» Blouses and shirts with long sleeves (even in summer, they will protect you from the sun and from mosquitoes)

» T shirts

» Shorts or a light skirt

» Jeans or safari trousers for evenings and cooler days

» Some hotels and country clubs require gentlemen to wear a jacket and tie and women to be suitably attired for dinner

» A jacket and sweater are recommended for early morning and evening game drives

» Swimwear and beach apparel

» Comfortable walking shoes

» Sun block, sunglasses, hat, insect repellent, moisturizer and lip salve are all essentials

Good quality, locally made clothing and shoes for safaris are available in Nairobi and Mombasa shops at reasonable prices. If you are traveling with an organized safari, it is important to check what your weight limit is. Generally you will need to restrict your luggage to 10-12 kg (packed in a soft bag) plus a reasonable amount of camera equipment.

When to go:

Kenya is a year round destination with excellent game viewing. One of Kenya’s greatest attractions is the annual wildebeest migration between Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. This takes place between June and September. Traditional peak season is January to March as this is when the weather is hot and dry and most comfortable for traveling. This is a good time for bird viewing on the Rift Valley lakes. Game viewing at perennial water holes is also good at this time. April – June are less popular times for visiting Kenya as these are the rainy seasons and flooding often occurs. However, it is usually possible to get around easily during these times and the rains do not hinder visibility.


The unit of currency is the Kenya Shilling (KSh), which is divided into 100 cents. Notes are in KSh1000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are KSH40, 20, 10, 5 and 1 KSH

Basic Costs


The exchange rate is in your favor. Generally, you will find that fine cuisine, wine and entertainment cost a fraction of the tariff charged by equivalent establishments elsewhere in the world. The price of a beer starts at KSh85. A traditional meal will cost about KSh150, while you can expect to pay about KSh500-1000 for a more classy meal. Petrol costs about KSh 105 per liter..

Banking hours: Mon – Fri 09:00 – 16:00

First Sat of each month 09:00 – 11:00

National and international banks have branches in Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu, Thika, Eldoret, Kericho and Nyeri and in most other major towns. Banks in Mombasa and the coastal areas open and close half an hour earlier. Banks and bureau de change at international airports are open 24 hours a day


All major credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club and American Express) are widely accepted.


Bear in mind that salaries in East Africa tend to be very low, and that people working in service industries rely on tips to supplement their wages. On safari you should tip your driver, cook and guide. These people do not earn very much so you should tip as much as you feel you can, but of course this depends on you and how happy you were with your service.

As in most African countries, there is a huge range of cheap souvenirs to be purchased along the roadside. These are handmade, but mass produced so always check the quality before buying. Materials include ebony, soapstone and ivory. Note that it is illegal to export products that contain any elements of elephant, rhino or sea turtle. Tribal souvenirs are available, including Maasai beaded jewellery, kiondos (woven sisal baskets) and natural or decorated calabashes (dried gourds). Bright sarongs (kangas or kikois) make good wearable souvenirs. If you are after quality artwork, it is probably wisest to look in galleries and shops that deal in it, rather than buying on the black market.


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