Sunday Special – The Serengeti

Located in Eastern Africa, in the northern area of Tanzania and the southwestern region of Kenya is where the world’s most incredible and vastest unchanged migration of hoofed animals (and their predators) occurs. The Serengeti’s 30,000 sq km / 12, 000 sq mi region bears witness to the movement of millions of wildebeest and thousands of gazelles and zebras. Naturally, predators such as lions, leopards, and hyenas follow. Making a loop from the south of the area in Tanzania into the northern reaches of the Serengeti in Kenya, and back again, the animals make this movement seeking out grazing lands. This migration is an instinct for the animals.

As incredible as this yearly migration is, there is much more to the Serengeti ecosystem. It has been relatively unchanged in regards to climate and vegetation for approximately a million years, making it one the world’s oldest ecosystems. These ancient grasslands, woodlands, rivers, and savanna are home to a bountiful variety of mammals and birds. Some of the creatures that make this area home include (but not limited to) African elephant, rhinoceros, giraffe, warthogs, African buffalo, impala, topi, and East African cheetah.

The region is also host to several conservation areas, both in Tanzania and in Kenya, and the Serengeti National Park. The national park was created in 1951 and encompasses an area 14, 763 sq km / 5,700 sq mi. In 1981 the park became a UNESCO World Biosphere Site. The park is also involved in conservation of this precious area.

Zebras of the Serengeti. Photo credit:
PeetyPablo at the Danish language WikipediaZebraer i SerengetiCC BY-SA 3.0
Pumbaa the warthog has been spotted! Photo credit:
Joachim HuberSerengeti, Tanzania (2314478767)CC BY-SA 2.0
Giraffes, the tallest land animal there is. Photo credit:
Harvey Barrison from Massapequa, NY, USA, Eastern Serengeti 2012 05 31 2873 (7522634624)CC BY-SA 2.0
Sunset in the Serengeti. Photo credit:
René MayorgaSunrise Serengeti (41472584)CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday Special – Pumukkale, Turkey

Southwestern Turkey is the location of one its most popular tourist destinations, not only in modern times but those of antiquity as well. The town of Pamukkale was known in ancient times a Hierapolis, dating back 2000 years. Many came to enjoy its calcite rich thermal springs. The result is a captivating cascade of white limestone and travertine terraces with pools filled with aquamarine mineral waters. The Turkish name “Pamukkale” translates into “cotton castle”, as this is what the terraces appear to be. This area was so sought after that the Greco-Romans founded Hierapolis nearby. It was renown as a city that drew people from all over seeking out health and beauty benefits.

Pools of blue at Pamukkale, Turkey – Photo credit:
rheins, Blue Pool of Pamukkale – 2014.10 – panoramioCC BY 3.0

Today, tourists still flock to this UNESCO World Heritage Site to see the cotton castles for themselves and dip a toe into the warm waters. Hierapolis’ is now a place of ancient ruins and a museum. It would seem that the ruins are often in the shadow of the terraces but history buffs many want to spend some time meandering about the old areas. As with many tourist sights do expect crowds as it is a popular day trip. Be aware that some of the pools have dried up or not as full as one may expect. I can see from looking at photos why many wish to make a sojourn here. When I return to Turkey at some point I plan to make Pamukkale a definite stopover.

Pamukkale’s white terraces, Turkey. Photo credit:
William Neuheisel from DC, US, Pamukkale (7471679746)CC BY 2.0
The ruins of Hierapolis, Turkey. Photo credit:
BlcksprtHierapolis Frontinus GateCC BY-SA 4.0

Sunday Special – Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Japan

Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion, close up – Photo is Public Domain:
Brücke-Osteuropa2011 Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto 1CC0 1.0

Glittering in the sun due to its gold leaf exterior is one of Kyoto’s most recognizable and loved sites – The Golden Pavilion, commonly called Kinkaku-ji in Japanese (though its official name is
Rokuon-ji – 鹿苑寺). Standing stately it is among an esteemed group of historic UNESCO World Heritage Sites collectively referred to at the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. The Golden Pavilion, reflecting its beauty on the mirror pond surrounding it, was constructed back in 1397 for the shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Further buildings were constructed later on and it became the Kinkaku-ji complex. Upon the death of the shōgun his son made the complex into a beautiful Zen Garden which has remained important to the monks since. During the Onin War in the 1400s the complex was, sadly devastated by fire with only the Golden Pavilion surviving. Restoration of the gardens ensued and it remained so until 1950 when a novice monk burned down the pavilion. Once again it was rebuilt, keeping very close to the original design.

Kinkaku-ji and gardens in Kyoto, Japan – Photo credit:
Ilya GrigorikKinkaku Ji Kyoto (129498505)CC BY-SA 3.0

Today the Golden Pavilion is Kyoto’s most visited site. Gathering from the photos I’ve seen I can understand why. Wandering the gardens, admiring the pond, taking in the history, and seeing the architecture sounds wonderful. Since it is so popular do expect that there will be crowds. It is located north of Kyoto is can take about 30 – 40 minutes to arrive, depending on your mode of transportation. There are buses that leave regularly from Kyoto Station. There is also the option of hiring a taxi or booking a tour so doing some research may be of benefit.

Sunday Special – The 2 Sirao flower gardens, Cebu City, Philippines

Thinking of Cebu Island in the Philippines its beaches that come to mind. That is what I have heard about it and not much more. Of course there is more to see and do in this island province. In fact, on the outskirts of Cebu City are two popular Instagram-worthy gardens that have exploded Instagram over the years. One of them has even been dubbed “Little Amsterdam” due to its beautiful array of celosia flowers. It appears that both sets of gardens are stunning to see. Of course, the best time of year to enjoy all the floral offerings is when in blooming season. This would be from around Nov – Jan, at least from what I researched.

Sirao Gardens in Cebu, Philippines – Photo credit:
Øyvind HolmstadCebu Inland Mountains 2017 3CC BY-SA 4.0

The original garden of the two is Sirao Flower Farm. It is this one that holds the moniker of “Little Amsterdam”. There are numerous areas to walk about and take in the rainbow of colours along with decorations set about. This garden is past the first one.

Sirao PGCS (Pictorial Garden & Camping Site) is the newer garden and is first when coming up to the area. This one also has some camping areas if you wish to stay longer. Both have flowers in abundance and decorations all around for you to Instagram to your hearts content or simply take in the brightness of the nature.

A few things to keep in mind. Due to the popularity of these attractions they can be very busy and crowded. If you are able, an early start to the day is a good idea. Each garden has its own entry fee. Additionally, getting to the gardens may be a bit of a trek as they are actually located outside of central Cebu City in Sirao (approx 17 km / 11 mi). From my research you can get there by taxi or uber, by renting habal habal (motorbike hires with a driver), via jeepney (buses), or via guided tour. Prices vary for each mode.

**Please note – I had trouble finding photos that I could use with permission but if you do an online search you can find plenty of photos of both gardens.