Adventure Travel Company Brings Gorillas Up Close And Personal

adventure travel


Adventure travel
might include hiking or camping in the wilderness of America’s pacific northwest, backpacking through Europe or climbing a mountain in Tibet. On their own or with local guidance, adventure travelers often see places others only dream of. Not satisfied with a packaged tour, visiting the same places over and over again or waiting any longer for their dream to come true, they turn to travel companies who specialize in remote, rarely-visited locations.

Sanctuary Retreats is a travel company that knows something about adventure travel. On safari in Africa since 1999, they own and operate 11 lodges and camps in Zambia, Botswana and Tanzania. In Uganda, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp is located in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a good base for a gorilla tracking experience the heart of the rainforest.Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to the Batwa Pygmy tribe and has more than 350 species of birds, 200 species of butterflies, rare forest elephants, giant forest hog, forest duiker antelope and bushbuck antelope. But it is the 11 kinds of primates, including red-tailed and blue monkeys, black and white colobus, baboons and chimpanzees, that draw adventure travelers to the Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp.

Serving as a base camp for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to track mountain gorillas, travelers venture out on custom designed itineraries through some of the most beautiful jungle in the world, as we see in this video:


Sanctuary Retreats also sails a fleet of expedition cruise ships on the Yangzi river in China and the Nile river in Egypt as well as through the Galapagos Islands.

[Photo Credit- Flickr User extremeboh]

Egypt’s newest public wonder: the temple of the crocodile god

Egypt, SobekLast week a new ancient site opened to the public in Egypt–a temple of the crocodile god Sobek.

Medinet Madi is located in Egypt’s Faiyum region, a fertile area around a lake at the end of a branch of the Nile called Bahr Yusuf (“The River of Joseph”).

The temple features a long avenue lined with sphinxes and lions, plus an incubation room for hatching the eggs of sacred crocodiles. You’d think these crocs would live the good life, splashing around the swamps and gnawing on a sacrificial victim or two. Instead they were mummified and sold to pilgrims. Check out the gallery for a couple of photos of crocodile mummies.

Sobek was one of the most important gods of ancient Egypt. He’s generally pictured with the body of a man and the head of a crocodile. He’s said to have created the Earth when he laid eggs in the primordial waters, and the Nile is supposed to be his sweat. He’s the god of the Nile, the Faiyum, and of course crocodiles.

In ancient times the Nile and the lush wetlands of the Faiyum were full of crocodiles. The people prayed to Sobek to appease them. Because he was a fierce god, he was one of the patrons of the ancient Egyptian army.

Sobek’s temple at Medinet Madi was built by the pharaohs Amenemhat III (c.1859-1813 BC) and Amenemhat IV (c.1814-1805 BC) during Egypt’s Middle Kingdom and expanded during the Ptolemaic period (332-30 BC) after Egypt was conquered by Alexander the Great.

The temple is also dedicated to the cobra-headed goddess Renenutet, who in some traditions was Sobek’s wife. Despite her appearance, she was a much kinder deity than Sobek, a sort of mother goddess who nursed babies and gave them their magical True Name. Farmers liked her because cobras ate the rats that would eat their crops.

%Gallery-123603%The new tourist site was funded by Italy, which coughed up €3.5 million ($5 million) to clear off the sand and restore the temple. Italian archaeologists have been working in the area for decades and in addition to the Sobek temple they’ve found a Roman military camp and ten early Coptic Christian churches dating from the 5th-7th century AD.

Medinet Madi isn’t the only crocodile temple. Not far away stands Crocodilopolis, where Egyptians honored the sacred crocodile Petsuchos by sticking gold and gemstones into its hide. There are several other Sobek temples along the Nile, the most impressive being Kom Ombo far to the south near Aswan.

Kom Ombo is one of Egypt’s most fascinating temples. It’s rather new as Egyptian temples go–being founded in the second century BC by the Ptolemaic dynasty. Carvings of Sobek and other deities adorn the walls and columns. There are also some scenes from daily life. On the inner face of the outer corridor keep an eye out for a carving showing a frightening array of old surgeon’s tools. Also check out the small shrine to Hathor in the temple compound where piles of sacred crocodiles from the nearby necropolis are kept.

[Photo courtesy Hedwig Storch]

You can help save an ancient Egyptian palace


The palace of Egypt’s most enigmatic pharaoh needs your help. Akhenaten ruled from c. 1351-1334 BC and is famous for his devotion to the god Aten, an aspect of the Sun. His worship became more and more exclusive over the years and while he wasn’t a monotheist in the strict sense of the word, he certainly alienated the priests of other temples. He also left the traditional capital and built his own by the Nile at Amarna.

Since 1997 the Amarna Project has been restoring this one-of-a-kind site for posterity. In the spring of 2011 they’re planning a major project to finish work on the Royal Suite, where Akhenaten himself lived. They’ve set up a webpage at JustGiving where you can contribute to the project. Conservation Architect Surésh Dhargalkar and his team will be doing the work, and the donations will go toward their pay and materials. You can read more about their work here.

Once Akhenaten died, the worship of the Aten fell out of favor and his city was abandoned to the sands. Thus Amarna makes a unique slice of time for archaeologists to study and an important place to preserve.

Special thanks to Andie over at the Egyptology blog for bringing this to my attention.

[Photo of Aten temple at Amarna courtesy user Markh via Wikimedia Commons]

Major new exhibition at British Museum: Egyptian Book of the Dead


For four thousand years it was the cornerstone of Egyptian religion. It started as a few prayers said in prehistoric times before a body was laid to rest in the desert next to the Nile. As the civilization in Egypt grew the prayers and spells became more elaborate, as did other rites for the dead. They were written inside pyramids and other tombs. Eventually the various rituals and spells were gathered together to create what we call the Book of the Dead. It’s made up of numerous chapters in no set order. Individual chapters or groups of chapters were written on tombs, sarcophagi, and rolls of papyrus. The book survived, with various changes and variations that Egyptologists are still puzzling out, until the Christian era.

One of the foremost institutions for collecting and studying the Book of the Dead is the British Museum in London. Now the museum is opening up its archives for an exhibition of its amazing collection of this esoteric masterpiece. Journey through the afterlife: ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead features items rarely if ever seen by the public, including the Greenfield Papyrus, the longest scroll of the Book of the Dead at 37 meters. Other items like sarcophagi and tomb figurines will give a complete view of the ancient Egyptian cult of the dead.

The papyri are elaborately illustrated with scenes of the gods and the toils a spirit must go through in the afterlife. In the above scene Anubis leads Hunefer, a dead scribe, to a scale, where his heart will be weighed against the feather of truth. A wicked heart will be heavier than the feather and the monster Ammut, crouching below the scale, will eat it. This image is from the Hunefer Papyrus and will also be on display at the exhibition.

For a taste of what you’ll see, check out the online scan of the complete Papyrus of Ani.

Journey through the afterlife: ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead runs from 4 November 2010 to 6 March 2011.

[Photo courtesy Jon Bodsworth via Wikimedia Commons]

Uganda hotels to charge less for locals

Uganda’s hotels are facing tough times. Despite their country having top attractions such as Nile rafting trips, the Great Rift Valley, and safaris in the many national parks filled with wildlife, the average hotel is running at only 50 percent capacity. Adding to this problem is that wealthy Ugandans don’t go for internal tourism, preferring to jet off to more exotic destinations like Europe. Well, exotic to the Ugandans anyway.

Hoteliers in Uganda have decided to change that by offering a 40 percent discount to Ugandan citizens at certain times of the year. So if you decide to head on over to East Africa to see Lake Victoria, elephants, mountain gorillas, and all the other sights Uganda has to offer, you’ll have a chance to meet more locals than ever. Travelers to Africa tell me the capital Kampala is a lush town full of energy and interest, and it even made it into the list of 15 green cities. Uganda has a lot to offer, and they deserve a healthy tourism industry after they thumbed their collective noses at the terrorists.

[Photo courtesy K. Stefanova via Wikimedia Commons]