Tag Archives: dolphins

Swim with sharks and feed the stingrays!

Sharks often bring fear to your mind. You are often warned to stay away from waters where sharks are at large. News of fatal shark attacks often come from beaches down under. But are all sharks so dreadful? How would react to an opportunity o swim with sharks? Have you ever envisioned yourself swimming amongst sharks? If not then you can, or you should try it once. Guests visiting tropical day resort Discovery Cove in Orlando can now do just that – if they wish.

In celebration of Shark Awareness Day guests at Discovery Cove can now take part in exclusive new animal experiences at the park. Discovery Cove has always been known for its memorable dolphin interactions, and now guests can enhance their visit with one of-a-kind, hands-on encounters with sharks and stingrays. The awe-inspiring Shark Swim program provides closer-than-ever encounters with legendary predators. While guests have always been able to view park’s sharks, the new program takes them on a daring next step – swimming freely among five species: Pacific blacktip, reef whitetip, nurse shark, zebra shark, and a spotted wobbegong.

The immersive session is divided into two unique interactions and begins as guests meet with the park’s shark team and head into the water. Through hands-on interaction, guests learn about shark anatomy and the threats the animals face in the wild. Guests can also join the sharks in the deeper part of their habitat and embark on an exhilarating snorkel experience.

Discovery Cove works to dispel myths about sharks and to inspire guests to learn more about these mysterious creatures. As top predators, sharks play an essential role in maintaining the balance of ocean ecosystems worldwide by monitoring fish populations. Sadly, shark finning and overfishing threaten many shark species and disrupt that natural balance. Guests who take part in the new Shark Swim program will walk away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for these fascinating ocean ambassadors.

The Shark Swim experience is available to Discovery Cove guests ages 10 and older. The cost is US$85 per person. For every shark swim package purchased, SeaWorld will donate 5% of the proceeds to the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) in support of shark conservation and research.

In addition to the Shark Swim program, Discovery Cove has launched a new Ray Feeding experience. This exclusive opportunity gives guests the chance to feed the stingrays during a private tour of the Grand Reef. Guided by one of the park’s aquarists, guests ages 6 and older spend their session in the Grand Reef learning all about the species of rays as they hand-feed the incredible creatures. The Ray Feeding program is US$50 per person. The new interaction programs require a Dolphin Swim or Day Resort reservation at Discovery Cove to participate. Space for each program is limited and guests are encouraged to book in advance.

Discovery Cove® in Orlando is an all-inclusive day resort where guests can enjoy a one-of-a-kind opportunity to swim with dolphins, snorkel among thousands of tropical fish and rays, hand-feed exotic birds, and encounter playful otters and curious marmosets. At the park, guests can relax and explore rocky lagoons surrounded by lush landscaping, tropical reefs, winding rivers and white, sandy beaches. Freshly prepared meals, snacks and beverages throughout the day and swim gear are included, plus unlimited, 14-day admission to SeaWorld® Orlando and Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark®. Guests will experience the most exciting animal encounters the world has to offer in a breathtaking tropical atmosphere.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioral training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 30,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

Want to see a video of tourists swimming with sharks? Watch it on my channel by clicking the thumbnail below-

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Winter play for migratory birds at Chilika

Chilika is one of the milestone places in India. It is the largest brackish water lagoon. Now what is brackish water? It is the water which is saline or salty but not as salty as the sea water. It happens when the fresh water mixes with sea water. There are 52 rivers and rivulets that fall in the lake. Secondly, Chilika is also a lagoon, and it is not just largest coastal lagoon in India, it is also second largest lagoon in the world. As if it was not enough, it is the largest wintering ground for migratory water-birds anywhere in the Indian sub-continent.

A early morning boating on a local boat in Chilika lake.
A early morning boating on a local boat in Chilika lake.

Chilika is spread in three districts of Odisha- Puri, Ganjam and Khurda. Puri side is mainly popular for Dolphin tours from Satpada. Satpada is around 50 kilometres from Puri. It is on northeast of Chilika lake. Tourists can book dolphin tours from Puri itself. Once you do that you can be transported from Puri to Satpada by bus or you can go to Satpada by any public or private transport and than take boats for a ride in Chilika. OTDC organises connected tours as well. Once you reach Satpada, you can go to jetty to take up boat.

Chilika3
Tourists on Satpada jetty

Chilika lake also has biggest population of Irrawaddy Dolphins in world. Every year in February a census is done to determine the number of Dolphins in the area. In 1997 the process of counting started. Firstly it was a broad estimation than it was done systematically every year. The number has been increasing constantly and it is around 160 at this time. Environmentalists say that increase in number of dolphins is an indicator of improvement in the ecosystem and quality of water.

Chilika1
A sea gull and a Irrawaddy dolphin

Boats from Satpada will normally take tourists to a island called Rajahamsa (राजहंस). Its while going to this island and coming back that we have chance to see the dolphins. This island is 18 kms from Satpada and it is actually located at the mouth of the Chilika lagoon. Rajahamsa is actually a narrow strip of land with one side towards lagoon and another towards Bay of Bengal.

Rajahamsa island
Rajahamsa island

Island has developed into a small business hub for various tourism related activities. Locals will even try to sell ‘original’ pearls extracting them from shells live.

A cruel way to get 'pearls'
A cruel way to get ‘pearls’

But this Satpada side of Chilika is known only for dolphins. Migratory birds often don’t come here.  Migratory birds are mostly located o other side of Chilika. Their base is at Nalaban island which is located in 15.5 sq km area. Nalaban is a sanctuary area. It is estimated that among the 9 lakh waterfowls coming to Chilika every year, almost half put base in this sanctuary area.  Birds also reach to areas like Mangalajodi and Bhusandpur.

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Tourists at Nalaban island and the watch tower on the back

Most of the migratory birds coming to Chilika make their winter homes at various islands in the lake. Besides Nalaban there are Krushnaprasad, Kalijai, Somolo, Honeymoon, Breakfast and Birds island. One can see  Dolphins in this area as well.

A pair of dolphins with fishermen boats in the background
A pair of dolphins with fishermen boats in the background

Most interesting part is that one has to go deep inside the lagoon through a boat to watch the migratory birds. There are country boats but they won’t take you much far so you need a mechanised boat. You need time to enjoy the birding at Chilika. Since islands are scattered in the lake, therefore it is not possible to see all of them in one go. One can watch birds on the way. But you need few days in hand to enjoy the birds and the beautiful ecosystem of Chilika.

Chilika lake was the first Indian wetland to be included in the Ramsar Convention in 1981. Later, due to poor conservation it was included in Montreux Record which is a list of threatened Ramsar sites, but in 2002 it was removed from the Montreux list after lake was rejuvenated and restored. Chilika is also known for its fish farming due to rich fish, shrimp resources.  Locals are lot dependent on fish produce from the  lake. It is estimated that around 1.5 lakh fisherfolk live around the lagoon.

A fisherman adjusting his net
A fisherman adjusting his net

How to reach: For watching Irrawaddy Dolphins, one has to go to Satpada, 50 kms from Puri and than take a boat ride from the jetty. For watching birds, there are three places to go inside the lagoon- Barkul, Balugaon and Rambha. All these three places are located between Bhubaneswar and Berhampur.  Hence these can be accessed by road and rail connectivity between Bhubaneswar and Berhampur. Balugaon and Rambha have railway stations on South East railway. Nearest airport is Bhubaneswar. Balugaon is 96 kms, Barkul is 105 kms and Rambha is 130 kms from Bhubaneswar.

Local people going places in Chilika
Local people going places in Chilika

Best time to visit is obviously November to February as for most of the birding sites in India. Barkul, Balugaon and Rambha have Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) guest houses for stay. Few other hotels have also come up in the area in recent years. At all these three places you can hire boats run by OTDC as well private operators. Private operators will always bargain.

Get set for a summer in Wales

European Summer is upon us and staycations or easy weekends away are high on the agenda. Wales comes alive during the summer months and is well prepared to excite and entertain with a number of unique festivals, sporting events and interesting new activities.

One can head to the brand new water sports and visitor centre at Llandegfedd Reservoir, explore the amazing underwater world at Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre with a new virtual reality experience, view the first Jurassic meat-eating dinosaur ever discovered in Wales at the National Museum in Cardiff and stay at brand new accommodation including Cardigan Castle and the St Brides Spa Hotel apartments. The Welsh summer culminates with the kick-off of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in Cardiff in September.

New attractions, breaks and experience

Watersports at Llandegfedd
Watersports at Llandegfedd

A brand new £2.5 million watersports and visitor centre opens at Llandegfedd Reservoir ahead of the summer season

A brand new multi-million pound visitor and watersports centre has opened in the heart of South East Wales ahead of the summer season. Based at Llandegfedd Reservoir, Torfaen, the lake offers water based activities including team building, windsurfing, dinghy sailing, stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, raft building, angling and sailing for all ages, as well as six miles of scenic footpaths. The protection of the rich local wildlife has also taken centre stage, with the entire site being designated a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’. Following an afternoon on the lake, visitors can retire to the stylish restaurant offering a variety of home-cooked meals and snacks. Better still, all equipment is available to hire.

Virtual reality at Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre launched this July

Marine Wildlife Centre
Marine Wildlife Centre

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales is leading the way in innovative visitor experiences with their latest virtual reality attraction. This summer, visitors are being invited to the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre in New Quay to explore the amazing underwater world without even getting wet. Cardigan Bay Sea Quest is a 360 degree virtual reality experience using the very latest Oculus Rift technology, an exciting activity which launched on Saturday 11 July. The aim of the game is to explore, locate and photograph 20 marine mission items before the tank runs out of air, allowing users to get up close to a basking shark, friendly bottlenose dolphins and other rare wildlife.

Discover how salt is made on a tour of Tŷ Halen – Halen Môn’s brand new visitor centre

Tŷ Halen - Halen Môn’s brand new visitor centre
Tŷ Halen – Halen Môn’s brand new visitor centre

Tŷ Halen is a unique £1.25 million bespoke building and the new home of Halen Môn Sea Salt. Halen Môn Sea Salt is enjoyed around the world by chefs, food lovers and even the odd US president. It has been served at the London 2012 Olympics, political summits and royal weddings and is a vital ingredient in Green & Blacks chocolate and Piper’s crisps. Furthermore, Halen Môn supplies Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Harvey Nichols as well as some of the world’s top restaurants, including The Fat Duck. Guests can enjoy tours around TŶ Halen, which offers hugely interesting perspective on salt’s place in Welsh history, culture and food, and in what makes Halen Môn Sea Salt so special. All tours include a tutored salt tasting and last approximately 50 minutes.

View the first Jurassic meat-eating dinosaur ever discovered in Wales at the National Museum in Cardiff

National Museum in Cardiff
National Museum in Cardiff

A fantastic new discovery has been made near Cardiff – the first Jurassic meat-eating dinosaur ever found in Wales. This new Welsh dinosaur is now on display at National Museum in Cardiff until 6 September 2015. This fascinating fossil of a theropod dinosaur was uncovered by two brothers on a beach near Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan. It is thought that this new Welsh dinosaur was a distant cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex and lived at the very earliest part of the Jurassic period, 201 million years ago, possibly making it the oldest Jurassic dinosaur in the world.

Stay at a brand new luxury village apartment at the St Brides Spa Hotel

St Brides Spa Hotel- looking-up-from-harbour
St Brides Spa Hotel- looking-up-from-harbour

A luxurious new collection of modern self-catering apartments have opened in the heart of Saundersfoot village in Pembrokeshire, just minutes from the beach and around the corner from the St Brides Spa Hotel. The St Brides Village Apartments offer the same high standard as the hotel, but have been designed for those who may require a longer stay and therefore prefer extra living space and self-catering facilities – the perfect option for families. Each apartment includes a dishwasher, washer/dryer, hob, microwave and fridge/freezer for guests’ convenience, with high speed wi-fi and Netflix provided as standard. The two bedroom apartments are available from £200 per night and one bedroom apartments from £100 per night.

The newly reopened Cardigan Castle launches luxury accommodation this Summer

Cardigan Castle
Cardigan Castle

The newly reopened Cardigan Castle this month launches luxury accommodation. High-end meets heritage in the new B&B and self-catering apartments, located in the Georgian east wing of the Castle Green House, set in two acres of grounds. The two self-catering apartments boast a shared private courtyard, perfect for sitting out on a balmy summer night. Guests will be treated to state of the art kitchens and spacious walk-in showers or stylish tubs, along with antique furniture and exclusively designed Welsh woollen throws. The three B&B rooms are located in Ty Castell and include tea and coffee making facilities and organic luxury bath products. Guests will also receive a locally-sourced, traditional Welsh breakfast in the onsite restaurant.  B&B prices start from £90 per room per night and the self-catering cottages are available from £380 per week.