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

Wadi Rum – The Highlight Of My Trip


Sometimes the best part of travel can be that your expectations are not what you expected, in a good way. I honestly thought that visiting Petra was going to be the pinnacle part of this trip. It was truly amazing, that is for certain, but Wadi Rum Desert was definitely the highlight. Perhaps because I didn’t know what to expect in the desert that I was so mesmerized by it. The tour itinerary for Wadi Rum included going a 4 x 4 drive, having meals and spending a night in a Bedouin-style camp, and an optional hot air balloon flight (which I signed up for). It sounded fun but it was so beyond my expectations that it deserves the title of “trip highlight”. Oh and instead of staying in the Bedouin-style tent/cabin I decided, along with a few others in our group, to sleep out under the moonlight within the camp grounds.

The trucks that zoomed us around the desert

The landscape of Wadi Rum, Jordan

Lines in the sand

Stopped to climb a bit up this dune – the finest sand I’ve felt (and kinda hot on the toes!)

The natural arch and set for Star Wars nearby

Nature is incredible!

The sun casting long shadows

A beautiful desert sunset

Waking up to a desert morning after sleeping under the moon and stars

Early morning balloon ride!

It may be early & I’ve looked better but I am thrilled to be here!

Wadi Rum From the sky

All photos taken by (or for) and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World.

Sunday Special – Aegadian Islands, Sicily (Italy)


I am intrigued by many islands in this world. Islands can be a fascinating microcosm of life and that often draws my attention. There a thousands of islands in the world of every size and shape. The largest being Greenland and the smallest….well, there seems to be a few claims so I’ll just leave it at that. Today we’ll look at a group of small islands off the coast of a larger island. The Aegadian (or Egadian) Islands lie in the Tyrrhenian Sea off Sicily’s northwest shores. The three main islands of Favignana, Levanzo, Marettimo and the the two small islands of Formica and Maraone total 37 sq km / 14 sq miles in size. Although not as well known as other Italian islands they do have a historic significance. Age-old cave paintings dating back to the neolithic and paleolithic periods can be found in Levanzo’s Grotta del Genovese. These islands also saw the end of the First Punic War after Romans defeated the Carthaginian fleet in 241 BCE in their very presence. Today the islands mainly attract Sicilians and some tourists looking for beaches, birding, scuba diving and snorkelling, hiking, and fishing. Easily accessible by ferry from Sicily’s city of Trapani or Marsala (Favignana only) you can day-trip or spend a few nights. One can even island hop via the ferry services. An interesting island adventure awaits.

Levanzo_island_-_panoramio

Levanzo coastline – Aegadian Islands, Sicily (Italy) – Photo credit: Robert Vassallo, Levanzo island – panoramioCC BY-SA 3.0

Church_at_Favignana_Island,_Sicily_(Italy)_-_panoramio

Church interior on Favignana Island, Aegadian Islands – Photo credit: Tommie Hansen, Church at Favignana Island, Sicily (Italy) – panoramioCC BY 3.0

Crystal_clear_water_at_Favignana_-_panoramio

The waters around Favignana, Aegadian Islands, Sicily – Photo credit: René Bongard, Crystal clear water at Favignana – panoramioCC BY-SA 3.0