Great waterways of the world


14 January, 2012

Longboats or barges moored along the canals of Oxford

Shotover Jetboat powering along the Shotover River.Children swimming - Song River, Vang Vieng.

Traditionally, along with the sea, rivers and canals were the main means of transporting goods, so history and culture is ripe along the banks of the world’s rivers. Using these ancient highways to explore a destination is a quieter and more relaxing affair than the usual transport of planes, trains and automobiles. Here are some of the finest waterways of the world to float down or up.

Paddling The Wilderness Waterway, USA

The Florida Everglades are a watery labyrinth designed by a god who clearly enjoyed a spot of canoeing. Paddling the Everglades’ every bend could occupy a lifetime, which makes the Wilderness Waterway as much a relief as an adventure. This 159km paddling route threads along the Everglades’ western edge, winding through the 10,000 Islands and briefly into the Gulf of Mexico. Campground and camping platforms are no more than 15km apart, and you’ll share your journey with alligators, dolphins and manatees. If you need a canoe or kayak, they can be hired in Everglades City. Expect to paddle for about nine days.

Felucca on The River Nile, Egypt

Image by Jonah Bettio

The classic of classics… a tiny felucca on the world’s longest river, leaving behind the souqs of Aswan and cruising on the current towards Kom Ombo, Edfu or Esna. Feluccas can deliver their passengers a very personal Nile, with the lateen-rigged boats typically carrying between six and eight people. Nights are spent aboard the felucca (bring a sleeping bag) or camping on an island in the Nile: felucca trips to Kom Ombo involve one night out, while sailings to Esna mean four days and three nights on the Nile. Feluccas are big business in Aswan, and you won’t have trouble finding a captain and boat.

Rafting the Franklin River, Australia

Though Tasmania‘s Franklin River isn’t far from the city of Hobart, it remains among the world’s most remote and pristine rafting waterways. Once you launch from below the Lyell Hwy, you’re all but committed to eight days and 100km of rough-and-ready river travel until the Franklin finally spits your inflatable raft into the Gordon River. Blanketed by the impenetrable forest of the Word Heritage-listed Tasmanian Wilderness, the journey morphs from the haunting stillness of the Irenabyss to the fury of the 5km-long Great Ravine, which boils with invitingly named rapids such as the Cauldron, Thunderush and the Churn.

Jetboating the Shotover River, New Zealand

Image by Alex E. Proimus

For high-octane thrills in a high-octane city, head for Queenstown on New Zealand‘s South Island, where one of the signature activities (among a smorgasbord of adventures) is jetboating the Shotover River. Through the river’s steep-sided canyons, jetboats skim past the rock walls, fishtailing and throwing themselves into 360-degree spins. It’s 30 minutes that’s like a drug-induced dance on water, deep in the mighty Middle-earth scenery of the Southern Alps – Tolkien geeks may recognise the Shotover as the Ford of Bruinen, if they can look beyond the spinning bow of the jetboat, that is.

Canoeing the Bowron Lake Circuit, Canada

Set beneath the Mowdish and Cariboo Ranges, Bowron Lake Provincial Park offers one of the world’s finest canoe journeys. The renowned canoe circuit in British Columbia crosses through 10 lakes and paddles along three rivers in its 116km course. The circuit takes between six and 10 days, and numbers are strictly limited, so paddling reservations are essential. A shorter (three to four days) alternative is the West Side return route from Bowron Lake to Unna Lake. The circuit can be paddled from mid-May to mid-October; September is considered the best month because of the vivid displays of autumn colour.

Narrowboating, England

Image by me’thedogs

With more than 3000km of navigable canals and rivers, England is the ideal place for a bit of leisurely canal boating. You can hire your own narrowboat and play skipper, or you can have somebody else do all the work on a hotel boat. Popular narrowboating canals include the Kennet and Avon Canal, running between the Rivers Thames and Avon; and the busy Llangollen Canal, which crosses from England to Wales and has a reputation as the most beautiful canal in Britain. Across the Channel, in France, the World Heritage-listed Canal du Midi that flows between Toulouse and Sète is another classic among the canal crazy.

Dugout canoe on the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea

Flowing more than 1000km from its source in the PNG highlands to the Bismarck Sea, the mighty Sepik River is navigable for much of its length. Motorboats ply most of the trade routes along the river, but for visitors the most popular and most redolent mode of river travel is by dugout motor-canoe, puttering between villages on the Middle Sepik or among its lakes and tributaries. The best place to arrange Sepik travel is in Wewak, while on the river itself you’ll be able to find motor-canoes for hire at Ambunti, Pagwi and Angoram.

Cruising the Volga, Russia

Image by amcdawes

Europe’s longest river is a prime destination for the cruise crowd, with ocean-style liners as large as the Kremlin barging their way along the Volga. Cruises typically operate between St Petersburg and Moscow (though neither city is actually on the Volga), or extend further downstream to Volgograd, the city once – and more notoriously – known as Stalingrad. Ports of call along the way usually include Uglich, a town perched like an onion-domed fairytale above the river; and the island of Kizhi, with its World Heritage-listed Kizhi Pogost featuring Russia’s finest wooden buildings.

Sailing the Niger River to Timbuktu, Mali

Image by martijn.munneke

It’s an unusual highway into the desert, but sailing up the Niger River to near the legendary Timbuktu is one hell of an entrance. Passenger boats operate on the river in the high-water season between August and mid-December, and you can expect five very crowded days getting between Koulikoro and Korioumé (18km from Timbuktu). For relative comfort there are also pinasse (motorised canoes). Laden with either cargo or tourists, pinasse depart from the city of Mopti and take around three days to reach Korioumé. Pack a sleeping bag for the cold nights spent on board or on the river bank.

Tubing the Nam Song, Laos

Image by feserc

The Laotian town of Vang Vieng sits among an inspiring landscape of limestone spires, and is best viewed from the reclining position floating atop a tractor tyre inner tube on the Nam Song. This idle pastime is so pleasurable it has become a staple on Southeast Asia’s backpacking circuit. Tubing trips usually involve a 3km scenic float, made even more enjoyable by the presence of several bars on islands and beaches en route. As idyllic as it sounds, keep a clear head, for there’s the occasional horror story; in times of high water, rapids along the Nam Song can be quite daunting.

See more river trips in 10 best boat journeys.

This article was updated in Jan 2012.

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Tibet to open up further for overseas tourists this year

Tibet, which is experiencing a tourist boom, will open up further to the outside world and attract more visitors from aboard this summer, state-run China Daily quoted Padma Choling, chairman of the Tibet region legislature as saying.

In 2010, the central government proposed making the region a major global tourism destination, and from January to November last year, it received more than 190,000 overseas tourists, the local tourism bureau said.

Tibetan authorities expect the tourism industry’s contribution to local GDP to climb to 20 per cent by the end of 2015, with the number of overseas tourists expected to account for more than 10 per cent of the total, generating more than 15 per cent of revenue.

Tibet has a host of tourist attractions, including the highest peak Mt Everest called Qomolangma, the Brahmaputra Grand Canyon; and the Potala Palace, the home of Dalai Lamas.

“Tourism will further open up to the world from this summer,” he said adding that summer will be the starting point, as conditions in winter are harsh.

In 2012, Tibet attracted a total of 10.58 million visitors, an increase of 21.7 per cent year-on-year, generating 12.64 billion yuan (USD two billion) revenue.

While the Himalayan region is mostly open to Chinese tourists, foreigners must apply for entry permits.

“The (Tibet) autonomous region has to further open up to ensure the tourism industry develops in the right direction,” Choling said.

Without further opening-up, the tourism industry won’t make any breakthrough and it will be difficult to build Tibet into a global tourism destination, he said.

But, Choling said, the opening-up should abide by State foreign policies first and “fit the local situation” as Tibet is a border area.

“The prerequisite of opening-up is to upgrade service facilities and service capabilities to match the requirements. And we have to protect national territory at the borders,” he told the daily.

[Source: China Daily]

Drop in Indian tourists hits Nepal hotel occupancy


Hotel room occupancy in Nepal went down by around 10 percent over the first two months of 2013 mainly due to the drop in the number of Indian tourists.

Hoteliers said room bookings by Indian tourists for the upcoming months (May-June) also do not look encouraging.

Yogendra Thapa, sales director of Hotel Barahi, Pokhara, said room occupancy in his hotel was affected because of the drop in the number of Indian tourists.

“The number of Indian tourists in January-February period has come down compared to figures of the same period of 2012,” said Thapa.

Bharat Joshi, resident manager of Hotel Yak and Yeti said, drop in the number of Indian tourists has been seen in almost all the segments.

“Occupancy from pilgrimage, MICE (Meeting Incentives Conference and Exhibition) and leisure segments have come down massively,” Joshi said, adding that bookings for the upcoming months also do not look promising.

Officials of Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN), the apex body of Nepali hotels, said most of the hotels have reported drop in occupancy for the January-February period. Madhav Om Shrestha, executive director of HAN, said major drop has been seen in the pilgrimage segment.

“There are several factors. Pilgrimage segment has slowed down in the lack of promotional activities,” said Shrestha.

Movement of Indian tourists generally increases during Shivaratri festival (second week of March), hoteliers say number of Indian tourists was negligible this time around.

“Many Indians still think sites like Pashupatinath temple are not easily accessible to them. This is happening because of the lack of effective promotional activities,” Shrestha said.

“It is unfortunate that Nepal Tourism Board has been failing to launch effective promotional activities in the southern neighbor in the absence of chief executive officer.”

Tourism entrepreneurs also say potential Indian tourists are diverting to other cheaper destinations like Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

The statistics of Immigration Office at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) shows number of tourists from India via declined by 18.2 percent in January and 26.1 percent in February. 

Only 16,500 Indian tourists visited Nepal in the January-February period of 2013, compared to 21,300 recorded during the period in 2012.

Pashupatinath temple, Bouddhanth Stupa & Swoyambhunath Stupa tour

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Sagarmatha National Park’s entry fee

The entry fee to Sagarmatha National Park has been hiked from 22nd June. The new rate of entry fees are as follows:

Tourists from SAARC region : NRs 1,500 per head

Other tourists: Rs 3,000 per head

NepaleImagese:NRS 25 per head

Buyer beware: 10 common travel scams

Passports and money.

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While you’re often safer overseas than you are in your hometown, a few scams seem to pop up all over the world. Repeat the mantra: if it looks too good to be true, it must be too good to be true…

1. Fake police

Sometimes also the real police, they’ll demand to see your passport and find something wrong with your visa, but then suggest your troubles will all be over if you pay a fine. To them. In cash. Right now. Standing your ground and offering to accompany them to the station will usually see the error ‘excused’.

2. Gem or carpet deals

On entry into a store, often prompted by an enthusiastic taxi or rickshaw driver, you will be offered a deal so preposterously lucrative that refusing it seems unthinkable. Think again – those gems are going to be worthless and the carpet you buy may not make it home at all. There are legitimate traders selling both jewels and rugs, and they don’t act like this.

3. Airport taxis

Drivers taking you into town might try every trick in the book, from asking you for an inflated fare to driving around the streets to raise the price higher. This is usually harmless, but you should only travel with licensed taxis and, if you can’t pay in advance, agree on a fee before starting out and don’t pay until you get where you want to be.

4. Timeshares

You’re approached by an extremely genial young man who offers you a scratchie card, no strings attached. He’s friendly, so you accept the scratchie card and, lo and behold, you’ve won some sort of prize, which could be anything from a t-shirt and cash to a holiday. What’s the catch? The local insists you must accompany him to a hotel (which might be an hour’s drive away) to collect your prize. If you haven’t smelled a rat by now, you need your senses tested.

The penny drops, you start staring at the ground and shifting your feet uncomfortably, the seemingly-genuine local says that if you don’t come with him, then he won’t get paid for his job. However, if you do end up going with him, on arriving at the hotel you’ll be shuffled into a room with a bunch of other tourists and forced into watching an hour-long presentation about timeshare apartments, which you are pressured into buying at a very special discounted price by slick Westerners. If you come out of it with your wallet intact, at worst you would have wasted an entire afternoon you could have spent lying on the beach.

5. ‘This is closed’

In some countries everyone from touts to taxi drivers will try to tell you that your chosen hotel, restaurant or shop is closed…but there’s another, even better one you should visit, where they can pick up a commission. This is more annoying than harmful, but always insist on having a look for yourself.

6. Motorbike scam #1

Living out your dream of riding a scooter for a day around the countryside quickly turns into a nightmare when the bike you’re riding breaks down or you have an accident. The owner of the motorbike is quick to escort you and your damaged bike (which doesn’t look in that bad a state) to the repair joint of their choice, where the mechanic makes a grossly overinflated estimate of the damage costs. The owner of the motorbike insists you cover the costs, otherwise no customers will want to rent his bike. You shell out hundreds of dollars to cover the costs of the damage you possibly made, plus cosmetic improvements to the bike that you have now also covered for the owner.

More than likely, you’ve just lined their pockets with more cash than the locals would earn in a month. Take photographs of the bike before you start riding, preferably with the renter in them, so they can’t blame you for imaginary damage costs to the vehicle. And don’t rent from companies that are attached to hotels or guest houses.

7. Motorbike scam #2

The motorbike you have hired comes with a lock and two keys: you have one, and your rental company has the other. When you park the scooter and wander off, an enterprising person from the rental company arrives and ‘steals’ your scooter, thus later requesting you pay a large sum of money to replace the ‘stolen’ scooter. As you handed them your passport and you signed a contract, you’re obligated to pay for it. Carry your own lock and key and an old passport to avoid getting sucked into this scam.

8. Bird shit

The surprising splat of bird shit landing on you from a great height is followed by the swift appearance of a stranger who towels you down. In the confusion, valuables are removed from your person, never to be seen again. Another variation on the same scam has someone ‘accidentally’ spilling mustard or other condiments on you.

9. Bar/tea shop scam

Notoriously aimed at male travellers, young local girls approach a tourist and, after gaining trust with some idle chit-chat, you agree to accompany them to a local bar/tea shop. Thrilled at the opportunity to converse with a couple of local lasses, you offer to buy them a drink. On receipt of the bill, the girls are gone, and all you are left with is a massive shock when you glimpse the sum total, which can amount to hundreds of dollars.

10. Hotel scams

As you hop off the train or bus into a strange town and into a waiting taxi, you ask them to take you to a specific hotel. You’re dropped off, hand over the money for several night’s worth of accommodation, you’re persuaded to sign up for a number of day tours then escorted to your hotel room. The hotel’s unusually quiet and it doesn’t seem like the advertised atmosphere. Alarm bells ring: you’ve been duped by the friendly local who talked to you on the bus, and the quick phone call he had to make was to the awaiting taxi, whose driver was very quick to escort you to the hotel of their choice.

Like a well-oiled machine, they worked together to ensure you handed over all your cash immediately, and fleeced you for a couple of tours while they were at it. Many hotels trade on the names of popular hotels and are rarely of the same standard, so make sure you check the name and address of the place before you’re shuffled in to sign your life away.

This article was authored by Tom Hall and Kylie McLaughlin.

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