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Where in the World? The Biggest Asian Elephant Gathering

in Recreation by
The Gathering at Minneriya National Park

Elephants are amazing. There’s something about their grey leathery hides, their tiny soulful eyes, their wispy mop-like tails and their playful trunks. Oh, and I love it when they run!

Given my penchant for Pachyderms I couldn’t be living in a better place than Sri Lanka, land of the Asian Elephant. There are thought to be around 2,500-3,500 wild elephants on this 65,000-square-kilometre island, mostly living in protected national parks and reserves, which are connected via ‘elephant corridors’ – forested passageways.

 

Minneriya National Park elephant reserve

One of the world’s most significant elephant phenomena happens in Minneriya National Park – a protected 8,890-hectare reserve within Sri Lanka’s famed Cultural Triangle. Every year, from the beginning of the dry season – usually late August – groups of elephants start to congregate around the receding waters of the Minneriya Tank, a vast and ancient waterbody spanning some 4670 acres, which was built by the ‘tank-building’ King Mahasena in the 3rd century. This tank at the centre of the reserve never empties so when other drinking sources become scarce, elephants find their way here to drink, bathe and feast on the young shoots of grass that flourish on the edges of the tank as the water recedes.

This phenomenon, which usually lasts until the monsoon begins in October, is known as The Gathering. The term was coined less than a decade ago by renowned Sri Lankan naturalist Gehan de Silva Wijerathne, and since then crowds of visitors have come to observe these majestic creatures in their natural setting. As many as 300 elephants have been recorded at the tank at any one time; it’s thought to be the biggest gathering of Asian elephants in the world. Minneriya forms part of an elephant corridor that links Kaudulla and Wasgamuwa national parks, all located in Sri Lanka’s North Central region.

 

Minneriya National Park See Asian elephants at the gathering

Last September I was lucky enough to witness this natural spectacle for myself. The afternoon is the best time of day to observe the elephants, so I was at the park by 2.30pm to meet up with my driver and tracker. Jeep drivers double up as safari guides, though trackers (some are former poachers) are often more experienced at sighting wildlife. Luckily, mine spoke English.

We drove slowly, taking in the park’s scenery as our guide scanned the forest for any signs of movement.

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Mermaiding and Mermaid Tails

in Shops by

Mermaiding is the act of “becoming a mermaid” by wearing a mermaid tail for swimming, modelling or performance art.

#Bali and #Lombok in Indonesia, famous islands for diving and snorkelling among other tourist lures, are now also exceedingly popular for mermaiding.

Island Mermaids Swimming with a Pink Mermaid Tail in Gili T

Never heard of it? Not likely, unless you went to the same D-A-I-Y-E spa as Zoolander, you’ll recall his mermaid modelling photos (er, merman). Then a lot of models did it for Vogue in 2012. The Gigi Hadid of Bali Inka Williams did it in Komodo with the Island Mermaids team. And Cara Delevigne did it in Pan.

Bottom line, models love mermaiding. And now the rest of us can also have our very own sequinned or scaled mermaid tails and underwater mermaid pictures.

MERMAID TAILS AND FINS

Mermaid tails for children and adults are sold in stores and online. A huge range of products has become available, with prices from $30 up to $300 for bejeweled silver and gold mermaid tails.

BILLIE’S CANGGU
Jl. Pantai Berawa 150
Tibubeneng, Kuta Utara, Bali

ISLAND MERMAIDS
Bali’s first mermaiding company
www.island-mermaids.com

SUN TAILS
Mermaid tails and shark fins for kids
www.suntailmermaid.com

For safety, it is important to know which are mermaid tails specially designed for swimming, versus tails which may be intended as costumes for dress up only, so be sure to check.

MERMAID-INSPIRED SWIMWEAR

Tasteful women’s seashell bikinis, one-piece mermaid swimsuits and mermaid accessories are here. Nothing like the mermaid costumes of your childhood, sequinned nylon has been swapped for real seashells and high-quality Lycra.

Mermaid Bikini Set by Island Mermaids

MERMAID BIKINI SET BY ISLAND MERMAIDS; TOP: ONE SIZE FITS A-D; BOTTOM: S, M, L

Island Mermaids Pink Shores Bikini

HAND BEADED BIKINI BY ISLAND MERMAIDS; COLOURS: PINK, GOLD; SIZES: S, M, L

Island Mermaids Kerang Black One Piece Suit

KERANG ONE PIECE BY ISLAND MERMAIDS; COLOURS: BLACK, NUDE; SIZES: S, M

Thoughtfully designed, carefully produced and beautifully modelled, these swimsuits really caught my eye.

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Top Five Phuket Day Trips

in Recreation by
Phuket Thailand Elephants

Phuket’s golden sands, warm seas and sensational sunsets have long lured visitors from around the world, but there’s a lot more to this tropical island paradise than the beautiful beaches that fringe it’s shores, glittering temples, majestic wildlife, breathtaking seascapes, underwater wonders and a fascinating cultural heritage are yours to discover.

Here are the five essential Phuket day trips.

#1 Phang Nga Bay

James Bond Island Phuket

JAMES BOND ISLAND – IMAGE CREDIT: TINGGLY.COM

Beckoning just off Phuket’s east coast, this sheltered bay is perfect for a luxury yacht charter or a sea kayaking trip. Glide past towering limestone karsts, visit the Panyee floating village, or paddle through caves to find hidden lagoons of ethereal beauty. In the middle of Phang Nga Bay is James Bond Island, whose steep rocky pinnacle jutting out of the emerald water has become the iconic image of Phuket and the Andaman region. A busy spot at times but a breathtaking sight nonetheless. 

#2 Big Buddha

Phuket Big Buddha

Travel to Phuket’s southeastern interior to find two of the island’s most sacred sites. Wat Chalong is a 200-year-old Buddhist temple of golden-spired marble pagodas with red-tiled roofs. At the heart of the temple is the 61-metre Phramahathat Chedi, a glimmering three-storey stupa that houses a sacred bone fragment believed to trace back to the Lord Buddha. Climb to the top level to enjoy views of the surrounding hills and the Big Buddha, an imposing 45-metre statue in pure white marble. The views extend across much of the island’s south and to the sea beyond. Entry is free for both Wat Chalong and the Big Buddha but donations are welcome. And make sure to dress modestly when visiting these religious sites.

 

#3 Elephant Sanctuary

Elephants in Thailand

IMAGE CREDIT: PHUKET ELEPHANT SANCTUARY

Elephants are highly revered in Thai culture but sadly their diminishing habitats across Southeast Asia and popular use as tourist attractions have led to their abuse and exploitation. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, opened in late 2016, offers an alternative to visitors who want to see these majestic giants without contributing to their mistreatment. Adjacent to Khao Phra Theao National Park, the sanctuary is open for half-day visits to observe the elephants in their natural environment (3,000 baht for adult entry,

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Top 3 Tea Experiences in Sri Lanka

in Wellness by

How did Sri Lanka’s tea industry begin? It started with one Camellia Sinensis plant brought from China in 1824 by the British, who had colonised the island, then known as Ceylon, in 1801.

It has since become a $1.5 billion export industry for this exotic teardrop shaped island in the Indian Ocean.

Alongside a booming tea production industry, tea tourism is also becoming increasingly popular. Take a look at our pick of the best tea experiences in Sri Lanka.

handunugoda-tea-estateHANDUNUGODA TEA ESTATE

It is here that you can find the prized rare white tea leaves, grown near sea level and never touched by human hands. Founded by Malinga Herman Gunaratne, the estate – also known as the Virgin White Tea Factory or Herman Teas – is located only 35 minutes drive from Galle Fort.

The well-equipped tea factory, with machinery over 140 years old is a living and working museum. Herman or one of his knowledgeable staff will personally give you a tour around the estate, where you will learn how one of the most expensive teas in the world (priced at over $1,500 per kilo) is plucked.

Handunugoda Tea Estate
Tittiagalla, Ahangama
+94 7771 3999
malinga@bellmail.lk

ceylon-tea-trails

CEYLON TEA TRAILS

Perched 1,250 metres above sea level among the lush hills of the Bogawantalawa Valley, you are invited to embark on a journey through the scenic Ceylon tea gardens. A Resident Tea Planter is available to guide you through surrounding tea estates and trekking trails which roam tea-blanketed hills.

You can lose yourself in tea – literally.

Ceylon Tea Trails, Hatton
+94 11230 3888
reservations@resplendentceylon.com

 

dilmahDILMAH TEAS

Just like wine tasting, Dilmah’s headquarters outside Colombo arrange sip-and-spit sessions where tea enthusiasts learn to distinguish between different types of locally grown teas. Not only will you learn how to appreciate the unique flavour of each variety of tea, you might pick up a tip or two for making an amazing cup of tea as well. These exclusive tea tastings are available by appointment only.

Dilmah Private Tea Tastings
111 Negombo Road, Peliyagoda
+94 11 482 2000
info@dilmahtea

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