Thursday, September 11, 2014

Best Dancing Act by Faisal Khan

Faisal Khan on the sets of Jhalak Dhikla Jaa

I have been watching a lot a dancing shows from time to time. But the recent special performance by Faisal Khan on Jhalak Dikhla Jaa left me awestruck. Jhalak Dikhla Jaa itself has had some awesome performances this year but still nothing could match the sheer brilliance of the kid. I am not trying to prove that this kid is the best dancer since I'm no dancing guru. But I'm not able to get over with this act of his which has left me mesmerized.

Faisal Khan is currently playing the lead role of young Maharana Pratap in Sony India's show Bharat Ka Veer Putra – Maharana Pratap. He is also the winner of dance reality show Dance India Dance Li'l Masters 2.

Without much ado, I shall simply leave you with his performance...

Faisal Khan's Amazing Act

Friday, September 5, 2014

Trip to Tanzania, Africa

A Couple of Lions at Serengeti National Park
A Couple of Lions at Serengeti National Park

I had recently been on a trip to Africa with my family, primarily to explore the wildlife. There are a number of countries in the African Continent with good Wildlife Parks. Our choice being Tanzania wasn’t that hard. I had a friend staying in Dar-es-salaam who helped us get the right package deal from his friend who happens to be in Safari business. Also, Safety wise I felt Tanzania much better than Kenya, since currently Somalian Militia is very active there. 

Starting from planning the trip:

 We had taken a customized package for 12 days from ZED Safaris, who are based in Dar-es-salaam. They had planned our itinerary very well, keeping the first half of our package for Wildlife Safari and the second half to relax at Zanzibar Beaches. We had managed the return air tickets to Tanzania by ourselves. 

Also, while visiting the African continent it’s always a good idea to take precautionary medication, to ensure you do not catch any diseases on your trip. You need to visit the ‘Foreign Diseases Immigration-Port Health Clinic’ which is located next to Sabah Hospital in Shuwaikh. There you will be given vaccinations against yellow fever, malaria etc., along with tablets for a few weeks before and after your trip. You need to pay 1.5KD per person and collect your Yellow Cards. These Cards may be useful to enter certain African countries and will also ensure you do not face any problem while returning to your home country. There is varied information on the requirement of these cards at certain ports of entry, however on our trip nobody asked for them.

Wildlife Safari, the first half:

Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara Lake, Tarangire are some of the popular National Parks north-side of the country. And we decided to visit just that.

We started the first day at Tarangire National Park, which is a large inhabitant of elephants. We also got to see a lot of zebras, giraffes, gazelles, wildebeests and a few lions. Also, it had a many varieties of birds out there.

The next day we went to the Serengeti National Park via Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We spent the next 3 days in Serengeti i.e., Ikoma Tented Camps. Serengeti is the most popular national park in Tanzania, known for its bigger cats and the Big Five1. It’s also very famous for its migration period where the animals move from Serengeti to Masai Mara, Kenya. Staying in tented camps was quite an adventure or I would say challenge for us, since staying in Kuwait we are not used to being around any animals in close proximity, not even cockroaches or lizards. And here we were in the middle of big animals. These Tented camps are well maintained and guarded but electricity, water is not in abundance in the National Parks. I believe they use some generators and solar power to generate electricity. So the tents had no power from 11PM to 5AM. And being in Serengeti it’s very common to hear animal sounds during the night which can be scary for some. We spent the next 3 days going for Game Drive from 8AM to 5PM. We would stay in the vehicle for most of the time, except for lunch breaks where we exit the vehicle at a picnic spot in the park. We were quite amazed at seeing the Big Cats which are in abundance in Serengeti. Lioness, zebra, gazelle, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, ostrich are in common site there. Lion, cheetah and leopard are rare but we were lucky enough to spot a few. Also spending a couple of days in Serengeti highly increases your chances of spotting them. To witness the lioness go past your car is a site which can’t be described in words. One really has to be there to feel that excitement. We were literally getting goose bumps. I was travelling with my wife and 8 year old son who had a lot of fun watching these animals. As a general rule, the animals do not attack cars or humans. Even if they are hungry they look for their own food. For example we had 2 lionesses wandering around the cars looking for gazelles. But one must never leave the car, once you are on foot the animal may attack you out of self defense. We were fortunate enough to witness a lioness hunt a gazelle which was the highlight of our Safari. You must in all cases listen to your guide; they are well aware of dos and don’ts in the park. Litter is a Big NO in the Parks, that’s the only way to preserve the wildlife for our children to come.

We spent the last night in Karatu at Kudu’s Lodge which is near the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. In Conservation Area you also have the Masai Tribes2  staying there. We also visited a Masai village at the expense of 80USD. With the help of this money, the Masai people arrange water and some other necessities to help them stay in the area.

The last day we visited the Ngorongoro Crater, which has beautiful landscapes. Here we got to see a lot of scavengers like Hyena, jackal, vultures along with the other common animals like zebra, wildebeest, gazelle and hippos. Also, here we saw the last member of the Big Five… the Rhino which happened to be the most difficult to spot on our entire Safari. Finally we left the Crater in the afternoon to board a flight for Zanzibar from Kilimanjaro airport.

Zanzibar Beaches, the second half:

After going through long days of Game Drive, it makes sense to end it with more relaxing experience on Zanzibar Beaches.

 The first 3 days in Zanzibar, we stayed at Mtoni Marine which is a 15 minutes drive from Stone Town. It’s always a good idea to stay in or around Stone Town, so you can spend your time at leisure on the beaches, explore the night life or simply shop at the various shops out there. 

The following are the main attractions of Zanzibar which we covered:
1. Stone Town Tour: Stone Town still has a resemblance of the ancient architecture, narrow lanes during the Sultan Rule. The Sultans of Oman had ruled Zanzibar since 1856. Thus, majority of the population are Muslims.
2.   Spice Tour: On this trip you'll be guided around a plantation farm to pick leaves, pods and twigs, and discover how many of the common spices grow, including cinnamon, pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, ginger and turmeric.
3.   Prison Island Tour: The Prison Island is now home to giant tortoises, oldest one being 191 years of age.
4.   Dolphin Safari: Kizimkazi village located on the south of Zanzibar is the most popular location for spotting Dolphins. Arriving early morning highly increases your chances of spotting them. We left a little late for the Safari and reached the village at about 8.30A.M. There we boarded a motor boat with just a life jacket on. It wasn’t the safest feeling on this small motor boat going into the sea to find dolphins but we stayed put. We were lucky enough to spot a few dolphins. Some people take a plunge into the water to swim alongside the dolphins with pride. But I was happy enough to shoot with my camera from the top. We returned back to shore within 2 hours.

The last 2 days we spent at Uroa Bay Beach Resort, which is located on the eastern side of the island. The Resort is completely Isolated (in a good way) and have all the amenities in the resort. Wi-Fi was available at the public areas like restaurants, pool etc. We had booked a Sea facing villa with an all inclusive plan for 2 days and I must say we enjoyed staying here. From food to staff to service everything was just outstanding.


So, did I enjoy my wildlife safari trip?

I most certainly did. It’s something you should witness once in a lifetime. Africa has a completely different culture, climate and watching these wild animals out in the open is a site you must see to believe.

Would I recommend wildlife safari for you?

Well it depends on what you are looking for. If you want to take a holiday to relax, rest and chill… then this is not the place for you. But if you are looking for an adventure trip with a difference… this one’s for you.

Also I happen to enjoy it more, since I like photography. So wildlife photography was fun for me. My son generally enjoyed watching all the animals. My wife had mixed feelings, excited to see the Big Cats and not so excited to watch the common zebras, gazelles etc.

I would advice to have a bigger group while going for wildlife safari where you would get more moral support as staying within the National Parks isn’t the most common thing for most of us. Also going through long hours of Game Drive can be much fun with a big group. However, you are not allowed to make loud noise near the animals or disturb them from their natural environment in any way. 

Yes coming to Zanzibar was relaxing, but we were not here for the Beaches in the first place. It was only to complement the Safari Adventure.

Did I go for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

No, I didn’t because I had planned this trip for wildlife only. But Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world. And it must be real fun to climb it. It takes about a week to climb Kilimanjaro. And if you are looking for a short climb, you could go for Mount Meru which takes about four days. The mantra to get to the top is slow and steady wins the race. Just keep calm, walk slowly and keep deep breathing. Don’t try to rush your way to the top or you might be exhausted during the end of the day and get too tired for the next day.

What to be aware while in Africa?

Africa is not the safest places to be. So always keeps your valuables, cash with you most of the time unless you have a safe vault in your hotel. Also there are lots of bag snatchers if you happen to travel on foot. Always take advice from hotel staff, your guide.

What was the cost of your trip?

All good things comes for a price and African Safaris are no different. They could be more or less the same as your European Vacation. The cost would significantly vary depending on the options and accommodation you choose. But approximately it would start at 250USD per night for 1 person. This of-course would be an all inclusive package which includes your bed, breakfast, lunch, dinner, park fees, game drive, guides, transportation and any other tours as agreed. You just pay one time and your travel agent shall take care of everything from the pick-up at the airport - till your return drop-off at the airport. 

Make sure you discuss all your queries before the trip with your agent and have your itinerary planned according to your liking. Your guide would normally have a print-out of your itinerary and shall proceed accordingly.

What are the important things you should pack?

I would recommend the following as most essential:
1. Mosquito Repellent: This is a must when you go for dinner at the restaurants. Most likely you won't need it at the night since most of the hotel beds have mosquito nets.
2. Sunscreen Lotion/Cream:  If you are travelling during the summers, the African Sun (pun intended) can burn or damage your skin. It's always a good idea to have some protection against UV rays.
3. Light/Neutral Color Clothing: Try to take neutral color clothes like khaki, tan, brown, dull green range and avoid bright, contrasting colors. However, this isn't a die-hard requirement and you should be able to manage with what you have.
4.    Camera: Well if you're into photography, then this place is for you. Here you are going to witness some of the best moments to capture on your camera. You'll need a D-SLR Camera along with telephoto zoom lens, to capture some decent, close shots.
5.  Currency: US Dollars are accepted almost everywhere in Tanzania. Also, it would be difficult to get Tanzanian Schillings in Kuwait. But you can always exchange US Dollars for Tanzanian Schillings once you are in Tanzania. Also, there aren't many ATM Machines around; So make sure you have enough money in cash as per your requirements.


All in all Tanzania makes for a perfect holiday destination for those looking for some adventure with a difference. 

Big Five1: 
1. African elephant
2. Black rhinoceros
3. Cape buffalo
4. African Lion
5. African Leopard

Masai Tribes2: 
The Masai Tribe people don’t usually go out of the Ngorongoro Area. They spend most of their life feeding on milk & meat from their cattle. Also, they do not believe in any religion. They stay in very small huts built by themselves. Their children take the cattle for gazing, women usually cook & help men who takes care of the security of the village from other animals who may tend to attack their cattle specially at night time.

More Pictures...

I have uploaded more pictures on Flickr, you can browse them from here: