by Bea Broda

I was in Lusaka for a conference, which didn’t leave me a lot of time to tour around as much as I would have liked to. Many visitors to any African country will want to live the awesome experience of a safari park where they can gaze at magnificent animals roaming happily in their natural habitat. Fortunately, there is one near enough to Lusaka that you can squeeze it into just about any schedule, regardless of how hectic!

The Chaminuka Reserve is the first private wildlife reserve in Zambia, with more than 72 species of animals calling it home. Morning, afternoon and evening drives in open top safari vehicles, conducted by qualified guides, conversant with the wildlife, birdlife and the trees of Zambia, will definitely bring you close enough to these stunning animals to get wonderful pictures and memories to take home with you.

Here is a video clip of my experience:

Visiting the handful of mountain gorillas left in the world can be an amazing adventure! Watch this video and see a bit about my own incredible adventure there, where I personally had an encounter with a rare Silver Back gorilla!

https://youtu.be/eVWI65xGoWk?list=PLnGVtYsRHlPSisz8ZRMR7s0dM5KpGmHlo

I couldn’t get any footage of my experience with the Silver back, unfortunately. Right from the start, your guides will tell you something of the habits of the mountain gorillas and explain that it’s important to listen to them if a problem arises. I was filming baby twin gorillas, when all of a sudden the guide yelled,

“Quick quick! Big boss coming – Run!”

I quickly got up from my crouched position and dashed away, but all I could do was push myself flat against a tree behind me and balance on the soggy brush underneath.

All of a sudden, thwack! I was hit on my thigh by the Silver Back, and I went flying head first into the brush! I waited for what seemed like forever, not knowing if the danger had passed or if I was soon to be an ex travel journalist! I formed the words “help me” and whispered it to the wind. Before long, the guides came towards me, lifted me up, and showed me that Big Boss had carried on his way along the path.

According to a primatologist I interviewed, very few people have ever had physical contact with a mountain gorilla, so I do consider myself fortunate for the experience. Also, it’s impossible to know why this happened – it could be that I was the only female and he was staking a claim, or it could have been that, as the “big boss,” he commanded the trails and pushed away anything in his path.

A wonderful place to discover these gorillas is in Volcanoes National Park in the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda. There, you can go with very experienced and knowledgeable guides and rangers that will bring you the best experience, while simultaneously respecting and protecting the gorillas and their habitat. It’s a LONG and sometimes difficult trek, so be sure to be prepared for the elements! I guarantee that your personal experience with these gentle animals will make it all worthwhile.

The fee to enter has gone up and is pricey at $1500.00 US per person. My thinking is that the cost was raised to ensure that the gorillas are not inundated with too many tourists. These animals are strong, fierce and funny, and I hope I one day get another chance to play with them in the mountains of Rwanda.

Valletta has launched a preview of its 2018 European Capital of Culture program. A collection of artistic, cultural, and community projects as well as festivals and carnivals, the island is thrilled to be showcasing its eclectic history and heritage.

GENERAL VIDEO ABOUT MALTA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oozKwCsp2AI

The program will kick off with a ceremony on 20th January 2018 to mark Valletta’s crown as Europe’s Capital of Culture 2018. As part of the opening festivities, various dynamic shows will be using Valletta’s open squares, namely the Triton Fountain, Castille Square, St. John’s Square and St. George’s Square, as the backdrop for their performance, which will include the participation of international acrobatics company La Fura Dels Baus, performances by ŻfinMalta dancers and digital projections around the city.

Valletta 2018 Chairman Jason Micallef said, “The European Capital of Culture festivities will take on the spirit of an island-wide festa, an event where people and families meet to celebrate and talk and which serves to infuse localities with warmth, life and colour, while bringing the community together.”

“The Valletta 2018 Cultural Program is filled with innovative participatory cultural events, performances and projects, the likes of which have never been seen in Malta before. It is a great opportunity for people to come together and participate in arts and culture,” Program Coordinator Margerita Pulè said.

The program also includes Valletta 2018’s multi-site visual arts exhibition curated by internationally renowned curator Maren Richter, Aħna Refuġjati – an operatic work by young Maltese composer Mario Sammut, Altofest Malta – a Maltese edition of the Naples arts festival hosting interdisciplinary projects in diverse spaces – and Malta Calls; a set by international DJ Per QX, dances from ŻfinMalta and projections by London-based artists Shaun Prickemage and Dan Strutt.

Peter Vella, MTA’s UK Director is looking forward to the program: “The whole city of Valletta is a Unesco World Heritage site… the city needs to be discovered and Valletta 18 is an amazing opportunity to make the UK aware of its beauty”. There will be plenty of incentives for British holidaymakers to travel to Malta to discover Valletta themselves during the celebratory year, with airlines and tour operators expected to join in with the promotion of the program.

However, the city will revel its title of European Capital of Culture long after the program ends: “The Valletta 2018 is a long term project to preserve the cultural heritage and create a legacy that is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike to foster cultural heritage as a reflection of our identity as Maltese, Mediterranean and European”, said Minister for Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici.

Puerto Vallarta’s majestic Sierra Madre, blue Bay of Banderas and iconic Malecon will provide the perfect background of mountain-meets-sea for the first edition of the urban bicycle race, Down Puerto Vallarta 2017, taking place from April 30 to May 1st. Announced this Friday by Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board Director, Agustín Álvarez Valdivia, the race has three categories: Downhill, Slopestyle y Freestyle and will bring participants from the Sierra Madre’s La Cruz to the Malecon in a panoramic 900 meter long speedway.

“Although Puerto Vallarta is well known for its beaches, gastronomy and hotels, we are also a contemporary destination that attracts top productions that attract all of our niche markets with outdoor sports being a natural segment for us,” Said Alvarez Valdivia. “Downhill Puerto Vallarta will combine the spectacular scenery of the destination with one of the most innovative activities in the urban sports market resulting in a unique event in the international scene.”

Puerto Vallarta is expecting over 20 thousand visitors to arrive the weekend of May 1 when the race will take place, this will include more than 40 downhill participants, trainers, family members and officials.

In addition to an increase in hotel occupancy, the destination is also expected to increase its coverage and presence in sports-focused media such as Fox Sports and ESPN which have already confirmed coverage of the race.

Additional information on Puerto Vallarta is available at www.visitpuertovallarta.com