Dry undergrowth crackles underfoot as we saunter in silence, single file through the dense bush of Swaziland's Hlane National Park. A faint crashing in the bush has alerted Africa, our very appropriately named guide, immediately he signals us to freeze. Motionless we stand listening to the initially distant noise as it increases in intensity – it’s clearly headed in our direction. A shadowy gray figure reveals just enough shape to confirm a small herd of elephants is feeding less than 100 metres ahead. Maneuvering for a better view of this picture perfect scene, which is no longer obscured by bush, a massive gray elephant sporting starkly contrasting white tusks stands feeding on the lush surrounds. Her huge ears flap as she rips chunks of grass and leaves with her trunk, inching further toward us with every mouthful. Poor eyesight renders them still seemingly unaware of our presence – Africa who by the way is armed only with a stick signals our retreat of 10 or so metres out of the too close for comfort zone. We watch, shooting photographs and marveling at our situation - we standing without protection just 30 metres from a herd of wild elephants! It is at that moment the matriarch looks up and pushes forward in the bush, raising her trunk she bellows as if to say "I see you, you're in my space..." Africa swiftly gets the message and hurriedly alerts us to evacuate immediately as we dash to the safety. Dry mouthed and hearts pounding we swiftly slip through the two flimsy strings of rusty barbed wire, apparently electrified it is all that protects us from the charge of this angry 6 ton giant of the animal kingdom. She stops and moves on with her companions. Brimming with adrenaline, animated whispering gives way to relieved chatter about our big 5 encounter - topping this will be tough as we creep back through the fence and venture off in search of the next experience. The Royal Hlane National Park has become a haven for Swaziland's wild animals as poachers attempt to hunt down and profit from these natural assets. The hundreds of seized poacher’s traps that sit piled atop each other at the Park entry, serve as a chilling reminder of this brutal and devastating practice. Unfortunately, continued farming and development further encroaches on the lands where wildlife once freely roamed. The Park’s lodge and campground are located in well looked after grounds with the main buildings set on the shore of a huge waterhole. Dripping with natural authenticity it generates a feeling of raw remoteness that is in sync with the environment. It’s definitely worth the visit for a day or two, and the walking safari is a must-do for anyone who has spent most of their time vehicle based game drives.

Elephant Encounter in Swaziland

  Dry undergrowth crackles underfoot as we saunter in silence, single file through the dense bush of Swaziland’s Hlane National Park.   A faint crashing has alerted Africa, our very appropriately named guide, who immediately signals us to freeze.   Motionless we stand listening to what was a distant noise increasing in intensity – it’s clearly headed in…

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Swimming with the sharks and rays in Belize

  The weather was less than ideal from the moment I arrived on what can only be described as a Caribbean island paradise off the coast of Belize.   The non stop rain put a bit of a damper on pretty much every outdoor activity, but despite this I headed out as planned for a few…

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Koi Feeding Frenzy, Qingxiu Mountain, Nanning, China

Nanning is a vibrant, dynamic modern city with some 40% of its land mass dedicated to green spaces thus earning its reputation as China’s premier “green city”.   Getting a genuine taste of this relaxed and friendly destination is simply a matter of venturing into one of the many parks or gardens. Qingxiu Mountain is affectionately…

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Guangxi Medicinal Herb Botanical Garden, Nanning, China

Imagine strolling through a verdant, well maintained garden and being wowed by the range of uses each plant has in traditional healing methods.   The meticulously maintained Guangxi Medicinal Herb Botanical Garden is the largest facility of its type in Asia and is the place to see around 4,000 varieties of plants.   The garden is…

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Lion Dance at the Wong Fei Hung Memorial, Guangzhou

A lion appeared at the opposite end of the courtyard.  Standing for a few moments then dramatically jumping up onto the first set of poles which looked to be around a metre high.  Within moments he had bounded a further two or three times in perfect unison to the beating drum.    This initial burst of…

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Hualin Temple, Guangzhou

You don’t often find many “special” temples in the more populated cities of China anymore.   Most are over-touristed and lack any authentic atmosphere.   The Hualin temple in Guangzhou’s old Liwan district definitely managed to impress me.  To be more accurate, the 500 Arhat Hall was the standout for this entire ancient complex. Walking inside the…

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Guangzhou’s Architecture Favorites

I have literally passed through Guangzhou dozens of times but have been yet to discover any real charm amongst its mammoth sized urban sprawl. This all changed when I stumbled upon a few classic streets in the city’s old quarter which have thoroughly revived my interest.   The stunning qilou that line the peaceful En Ning…

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Guangzhou’s New TV Tower

Stretching some 450 metres into the sky on the banks of the Pearl River is Guangzhou’s newest icon.   Nicknamed the “Supermodel”, the tower is said to mimic the body of a sexy woman. The elevator to the top is a special ride that brings dizzying but intermittent views across the city as you whizz your…

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Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

The wild man of the forest is one of Borneo’s true highlights. Having an up close and personal experience with one of these beautiful beasts is easy if you head to Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, approximately 30 kilometres outside of Kuching. Established in 1975, the centre has records of 26 orangutans as its residents with…

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Dragon Boat Festival

One of the more popular theories on the origins of the Dragon Boat festival is as remembrance of the search for the suicidal ancient scholar Qu Yuan.   Accused of treason this popular poet drowned himself after being banished.  Local residents are said to have raced around the waters try to rescue him or retrieve his…

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Christmas Eve 2009 in Hanoi, Vietnam

This was the last place I expected to be overwhelmed by atmosphere on a western religious holiday. Crowds had started to gather in the square in front of St Josephs cathedral in the old quarter from around 5pm. Strangely enough the gates around the cathedral were securely bolted. We found out later that the church…

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Segways Come to Yangshuo

I have just been out for a ride on what I hope becomes the latest trend or activity to hit Yangshuo.   The Segway is a green, eco friendly people transporter that is quite novel to ride and perfect for a visitor to get a great intro to the delights of Yangshuo and surrounds.  …

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Qianmen Street, Beijing

Another new project that caught my attention in Beijing was the redevelopment and refurbishment of the ancient Qianmen street.  Located at the southern end of Tiananmen Square the street even boasts a tram car which occasionally whizzes past.   Now this refurbishment actually caused me to sit back and ponder a question which disturbs me…

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The Village South, Sanlitun

Beijing has developed into such a cosmopolitan city over the past 12 years, so much so it is barely recognizable.   One of the latest developments I am really enjoying is The Village in Sanlitun.   So often these types of developments remain half filled or are full of useless shops that I would never go…

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Jingshan Park, Beijing

Jingshan Park located across from the North Gate of the Forbidden City is somewhere which should be included on your “things to do in Beijing” list.   The Wan Chunting pagoda offers 360 degree panoramic views of Beijing including amazing vistas back across the Forbidden City which help to put in perspective the size, scope and former…

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Yuzi Paradise

The melding of bold, modern art with an ethereal landscape is what Yuzi Paradise is all about.   Featuring an eclectic array of more than 200 artworks from some of the world’s most well known sculptors the park is literally a treasure chest laid open amongst beautiful karst landscape.   It is also the location of…

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Antiques in Hong Kong

If you only get to Hong Kong rather than the mainland and still want to get your own kitsch piece of “Mao Memorabilia” then head to the antique market area at Upper Lascar Row in Central (just off Hollywood Road).   This small, street market area has a great range of Mao items – little…

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Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong

  The distinctive spiral incense of Man Mo Temple in Hong Kong are an alluring sight for any photographer.   The curves, the repetition and the light tinged with smoke from the constantly burning incense interplay wonderfully at this popular sight in the heart of Hong Kong.    Burning for up to 3-4 weeks at a…

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Kinabatangan River at Night

The option to take a night safari down the Kinabatangan River from our jungle camp was too good an offer to turn up. Feeling a little uneasy as we pushed off from our moorings into the vast darkness I was somewhat happy when the spotlights were being used to check the waters in front of…

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Proboscis Monkey

These creatures really look stranger than fiction.   Although endangered with only 1000 or so said to exist in the wild they were certainly not difficult to see along the Garama River near Kota Kinabalu or on the banks of the Kinabatangan River near Sukau.     If like the orangutan you want to get a…

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Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sandakan, Borneo

The orangutan sanctuary seems to get all the attention in Sepilok however if you have a spare morning, afternoon or day then do take the opportunity to visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre.    Established as an educational centre primarily for students the centre is an accessible taste of wonderful pristine Borneon rainforest.   Significant levels of…

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Turtle Island

  Being a little disorganized prior to arriving in Borneo is quite natural for me so I guess I should not have been surprised when I contacted the Turtle Island agent in Sandakan (Crystal Quest) and was told that the island was fully booked for the coming 10 days.   Given the option of just…

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Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

  These gorgeous animals have such character and personality it becomes easy to see very human expressions in their behaviour.      Sepilok was established in 1964 to assist in the rehabilitation of orangutans who had been orphaned or captured.   The aim of the program is to teach them how to live and survive in…

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Rafflesia

How very excited I was after calling the Sabah Tourism board to find out there was a Rafflesia flower in bloom up in Tambunan Nature Reserve during my stay.  With just two days in Kota Kinabalu we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to see the worlds largest flower in bloom!   What I…

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Colourful Canola Fields

Every time I return to Australia I often find myself staring in wonder at the deep blue skies.   Not that we don’t get blue skies in Yangshuo it is just that the clarity or intensity of colour is sometimes a little lacking.   The vast canola fields in bloom throughout Northern Victoria and Southern NSW…

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