Fancy breakfast with the giraffes?

When I was 6 years old, I was taken to Longleat National Park in the UK, where our car got attacked by monkeys, chased by lions, and gazed at by giraffes. I recall desperately wanting to pat and feed the giraffes; those tall, magnificent, doe-eyed, beautiful monsters. I also remember feeling like a Lilliputian in front of them, but they are so adorable that their sheer largeness didn’t scare me. I was smaller than the leg of an adult giraffe, and fed them however I could, sitting on the shoulders of my uncle. Pretty awesome.

So when I read that you can go to Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, where you might get woken up by a giraffe tongue in your ear, I was strangely excited about the concept.

Located in the Langata suburb, the Manor spans an area of 140 acres, and has 6 bedrooms for rent. The area is inundated with dozens of giraffes and the Manor’s windows are made so that the giraffe can let his neck in for breakfast. After the first jolt you’ll get facing a giraffe for breakfast, getting used to the idea will certainly make it the most pleasurable and unique part of the day. Giraffes are harmless herbivores, so you really have nothing to worry about.

The history of the place is interesting as the Manor used to be the house of people who spent a large part of their lives working for the cause of endangered wildlife in Africa. The family started the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife and the Giraffe Center, and now run the Giraffe Manor. Each room costs $275-360, but that includes all meals with wine, alcoholic beverages, a sight-seeing vehicle, entrance to the Giraffe Center, and taxes, so it’s not a bad deal for doing once. The Manor’s website has a cool picture gallery, check it out here.

Oh, and happy Boxing day!

In Dubai, money can buy you a room on a refrigerated beach

Sometimes the creativity that blistering hot weather breeds is truly mind-boggling: Pallazo Versace Hotel has decided to create a temperature controlled beach extending out and around its new hotel in Dubai, so that the “top people” (ugh) don’t burn their feet.

“We will suck the heat out of the sand to keep it cool enough to lie on,” says Soheil Abedian, president of Palazzo Versace. Of course, it’s “pure luxury” that the super rich want. REALLY!?

Climate change, eco-tourism, environment, throw them all out the window and you get Dubai, money, and ludicrous.

They’re going to put heat-absorbing pipes under the sand, refrigerate the hotel swimming pool, and have giant air coolers to keep the guests cool in Dubai’s scorching 104F-122F summer heat. The thermostats used in the system will be computer controlled. The hotel is planned to be ready by 2010.

Call it competition, call it thrill, call it whack-job, call it destructive tourism for the filthy rich; do these “top people” for whom this barbarity is being created, care? What is the point? Oh tourism $$$ of course!

Well, environmentalists are more than shrugging: “Dubai is like a bubble world where the things that are worrying the rest of the world, like climate change, are simply ignored so that people can continue their destructive lifestyles,” says Rachael Noble of Tourism Concern. I share the disgust in that statement.

Whether it will actually happen or not is another question, but they way things are here, there leaves little room for doubt.

I am not a saint, nor am I an environmentalist, nor do I do any important activity other than recycle. But when I read stuff like this, as numb as I think I am to crazy Dubai deeds, it always gets the better of me and I fail to understand why I live here. I’m waiting for this bubble to explode. Will it ever?

Think that’s weird? Check out these other unusual hotels:

Dubai hotel offers meals to those made redundant

This is definitely one of the most innovative promotions I have seen coming out of Dubai: 3-star Arabian Park Hotel in Dubai is offering free meals to anyone who has lost their job because of the credit crunch.

The promotion is not only open to Dubai residents, but anyone in the world who has been fired. All you have to do is bring your redundancy letter with you as proof, and you will have access to a buffet breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

It’s their way of adding “festive cheer” to those unfortunate to have lost their jobs in this down period. The offer is open to those unemployed after November 1, and will run from December 15-January 15, 2009. Guests that decide to take advantage of the offer can bring friends and family, but they will have to pay for their meals. Only one such meal will be permitted per person, although I’m not sure how they will control that.

Although Dubai is trying to show that it doesn’t have economy problems, that is far from the truth. Most companies are laying off hundreds of people, while others have frozen hiring.

As good intentioned as the promotion is, of course the hotel is doing it to attract more customers and perhaps make some money on the guests that the jobless people bring with them. Also, depending on the number of people who show up, the hotel thinks it will make interesting reporting statistics.

Losing a job can be quite traumatic, and I’m not sure I’d want to go to a restaurant where I’d be surrounded by other jobless people. It would probably more depressing that anything else. I have a few close friends who have lost their jobs, and I don’t have the guts to suggest going to this promotion.

I’d certainly be interested to see how many people go and also, what type of people will go. Knowing Dubai a bit, I have a feeling it will be more of the blue-collar workers and single unemployed men, but who knows?

Extraordinary wildlife video: Buffaloes unite to fight lions and save baby

Browsing through YouTube last night (taking advantage of it before it gets blocked here in Dubai, just like Flickr is), I came across this astounding video that some lucky travelers at Kruger National Park in South Africa were eye witnesses to. It has been viewed over 39 million times and has almost 43,000 comments.

They have managed to get live footage of a baby water buffalo being caught by a group of 6 lions, and then of over a 100 buffaloes being summoned to come save the baby and fight off the lions. Amazing. It’s a wonderful demonstration of how “animal-families” stick together to help each other survive in the wilderness. It’s about 8 1/2 minutes long, but well worth the watch. From the 4:40 mark onwards, it’s gold. You will find yourself cheering for the buffaloes as they make the lion kings look like scared and meek deers. There is an attack scene of a few seconds, but it’s not gory, so don’t worry about seeing anything hard on the eyes. A must, must watch.

Tell us: Do you have bizarre air rage stories?

Unfortunately, these are true headlines, mostly resulting from incidences of air rage.

Apparently, altitudes and changes in air pressure can temporarily cause psychological changes in a person. If the passenger is drinking alcohol, the effects can be enhanced for the same reason. As a result, there have been other terrible and embarrassing air rage cases like:

You can read lots of such bizarre stories narrated here and on Air

A recent study by the Civil Aviation Authority and the Department for Transport (UK) was published in the Daily Mail, and says that cases of air rage have increased four-fold over the past four years. Some startling facts from the report:

  • From 2007-2008, there were 2,702 cases of air rage.
  • 63% of incidents were caused by drunk passengers smoking.
  • 78% of the cases involved male passengers.
  • Incidents have increased by 20% in the past 12 months.
  • The number of reported incidents of violence towards cabin crew nearly doubled from 2006/07 to 2007/08.

But the best (and most surprising) news? During 2007-08, no case was reported in which disruptive behavior contributed to an aviation accident.

Any sort of aggression and violence on air crafts is unacceptable, but how can they be controlled? Limit the service of alcohol? Re-introduce a smoker area on board? Hand out nicotine patches to smokers?

Luckily, other than the odd grumpy complaining passenger, I have never experienced a case of air rage. Have you? What happened? How was it handled? Tell us in the comments section!

These women all went crazy on planes. Click the pictures to find out what they did.