The Sudwala Caves

As some of the oldest caverns known to man, the Sudwala Caves in Mpumalanga, South Africa are a magnificent display of natural beauty.

Come along as we explore these riveting corridors of ancient masterpieces, and we’ll discover together what makes these caves such a popular attraction!

History of the Sudwalas

Because of the great antiquity of the Sudwala Caves, we only have a small glimpse of what has taken place there; we can guess that it has sheltered many people over the millennia, as primitive artifacts and tools have been found deep in the cavern’s recesses.

In the 1800s, they were a hideout for Prince Somquba as he tried to gain the throne from his brother and royal heir Mswati. The caves supplied fresh water, and provided plenty of room for men, animals, weapons, and other supplies. Somquba named them in honor of Sudwala, one of his officials.

The Sudwalas were later used by the Boer army for storing supplies during the South African War.

In 1965, a man named Philippus Rudolf Owen purchased the caves and opened them up to the public. An enormous chamber near the mouth of the caverns has been named the PR Owen Hall in his honor; this amphitheater-like room reaches 121 feet to the top of its dome, and has a diameter of 230 feet!

Modern Tours

The Sudwala Caves are open year-round, and the basic entrance fee is around $7.00. They also offer guided tours that can take you over a mile into the caves. This lengthy (4-hour) trek, called the Crystal Tour, costs around $32.00, and will lead you along the ultimate cave exploration experience, including getting a little wet and dirty!

While the terrain of the tour is easy enough for most people, it is not an advised endeavor for individuals with back or knee problems; nor is it a choice activity for anyone who experiences claustrophobia easily, as some of the passageways are a bit tight.

The highlight of the tour is a chamber full of glistening aragonite crystals that dazzle the eyes with their beauty. You may see a few of the many horseshoe bats that reside in the caves as you walk along the tour; you’re also likely to see some strange naturally-occurring mineral formations along the way with names like the Rocket and the Screaming Monster. 

Let’s Go!

So, are you ready to go exploring? Tie on your hiking boots and get ready to experience one of the most intriguing caves in the world!

The Nickajack Cave

What once was a massive cave system full of corridors, spectacular mineral formations, and historical artifacts has now been reduced to a small fraction of its accessible area;

but what was stolen from Nickajack Cave through the rising waters of the Nickajack Dam has been preserved through legends and stories of its fascinating past.

Get ready for an intense evening of fluttering bat wings and tales of near-death SCUBA experiences!

The Times They Are A-Changin

For hundreds of years, Nickajack Cave has played a part in human history; American Indians, settlers, the confederate army, and countless adventurers have taken advantage of the shelter and mineral resources of the cave. What was considered to be the world’s largest stalagmite stood majestically in the deep recesses of Nickajack, and for a time, the cave was publicized as a tourist attraction.

It is claimed that, during a low point in his life, Johnny Cash wandered into the cave in the 1960s with the intent to get lost and die; but in the process, he experienced a spiritual awakening and found God. This moment changed the course of his life, and as he felt a divine guidance leading him back to the mouth of the cave, he emerged a new man.

In 1967, everything changed, and Nickajack Cave would never be the same.

Rising Water

The Tennessee River (on which Nickajack Cave is located) was so difficult to navigate by boat that it was decided a dam needed to be built to regulate the water flow. The Hales Bar Dam was the first attempt, completed in 1913. It was located further up the river where the cave was not affected by its reservoir. The Hales Bar had some faults however, and continual leaks prompted the construction of a new dam.

The Nickajack Dam was constructed 6.4 miles downstream from the Hales Bar Dam, and it was completed by the end of 1967. As the water gates were officially shut, the new dam’s reservoir began to fill, and the Nickajack Cave flooded almost completely, burying everything (except a few hundred feet at the entrance) in water.

The Nickajack Today

Today if you visit Nickajack Cave, you will find the entrance rising out of the water only by about 15 feet, and blocked by fencing. But you can still take a thrilling boat ride to the entrance’s cove and see thousands of bats emerge from the cave on warm summer evenings; it is quite the experience to sit in the middle of the shadowy flutters as the bats search for insects near the surface of the water (Don’t worry, they don’t fly into you). Just be sure to take plenty of lights; it will be dark as you head back to the boat launch.

Entrance into the cave is strictly prohibited, and violation can cause serious risk, as was found out by David Gant in 1992. No doubt, you will hear all about the foolhardy SCUBA diver and his friend as you interact with the locals, as well as how the entire Nickajack Reservoir had to be lowered in order to save his life!

No visit to Marion County, Tennessee is complete without a trip to Nickajack Cave. 

Are you ready?

The Mysterious Parallel Forest

Does your idea of fun include a close encounter of the paranormal kind?

That’s exactly the type of experience many who’ve visited the Parallel Forest in the Wichita Mountains say you’ll find under the canopy of the symmetrically lined red cedars.

Where Is the Parallel Forest?

A five-minute drive south of Meers, OK, on State Route 115 will bring you to the general location of the Parallel Forest. There are no signs indicating you’ve reached your destination, you simply have to look for a cement pad and a stand of cedar trees tucked into the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

The fact that you must rely on your map skills and powers of observation to uncover such a hidden treasure adds to the site’s urban-legend mythology.

What Is the History of the Parallel Forest?

The Parallel Forest’s physical history is completely manmade. That is to say that in 1912, the U.S. Forestry Service requisitioned 16 acres for the planting of cedar trees, which when mature, were to be harvested and used for such practical purposes as fence posts and railings.

The trees were planted in a strictly symmetrical pattern – each tree in every direction was placed exactly six feet apart to keep it from spreading too far out as it grew. Through the years, the trees were saved from the ax because they were eventually included within the boundaries of a reorganized public use area, known as the current wildlife refuge. They’ve maintained their parallel appearance, this grove of 20,000 trees.

What Is the Parallel Forest Legend?

The cedars’ branches, captivated by the wind, creak and sway in quiet unison. Shadowy light forms dimly-recognized shapes that create the backdrop for the imagination to flourish. Growls and moans, cries and howls, disembodied voices and headless visitors are just a few of the experiences visitors have reported over the years.

Do You Dare Visit the Parallel Forest?

There are those who’ve experienced nothing short of the exquisite beauty of nature while venturing into the Parallel Forest. Where do you stand when asked to brush up against the supernatural? Is it an adventure you would dare to encounter?

Start Hiking Today

Talk about fresh air and great scenery while getting some exercise.

Whether you are looking to clear your head, reduce stress, lose weight, or just have some fun, hiking, trekking or bushwalking may be the sport for you.

Hiking is a recreational activity that is great for your general well-being. It is economical and convenient since it doesn’t require any special equipment.  There are no rules, and as long as you are healthy and can walk, you can hike.

There is no age limit when it comes to hiking. This is an activity that can be enjoyed by toddlers and the elderly. You can hike almost anywhere provided; it’s not a prohibited area.

Brief Hiking Stats

Hiking is probably the oldest outdoor activity, it started about half a million years ago during the Stone Age when man learned how to stand upright and walk. Back then, people hiked out of necessity to hunt and gather food. The oldest hiking milestone was in 1874 when Gardiner, Grove, Knubel, Sottajev, and Walker conquered the summit of Elbrus the highest mountain in Europe. One of the most recent was when Karel Sabbe smashed the Appalachian Trail record by four days. Some of the finest hiking trails in the world include;

·      Appalachian Trail in the United States

·      Pennine Way in the United Kingdom

·      Balkans, Montenegro and Albania

·      Tahoe Rim trail in the United States

·      Camino de Santiago trail in Spain

Hiking as a Social Activity

Though some people prefer to hike by themselves, hiking can be more fun in a group. This can be your family, friends, workmates, or even a hike with your partner for some special bonding. This is a recreational activity that can improve your social skills and bonds as well as help you make new friends.

Hiking for Health

Hiking is an excellent sport for people who want to exercise and can’t afford gym membership. It is also great for those who are living a sedentary lifestyle, and want to begin working out.  The elderly can also hike comfortably, especially if they can’t engage in vigorous exercise. Hiking not only gives you a good workout, but also allows you to interact with nature, therefore, refreshing your body, mind, and soul.

Hiking Events

If you wish to hike competitively, you can enroll for the Hiking World Championships. You can also join an organization that encourages hiking for a cause. For instance, The Wilderness Society that routes for the preservation of rights of way in parkland, foot, and bridle paths. It also protects recognized natural spaces from encroachment.

To start hiking, you only need the best hiking shoes. All you need is to invest some time.

Red Rocks Amphitheater: A Musician’s Dream Venue

Whether you’re a concert-goer or a nature enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of Red Rock Amphitheatre.

If not, get ready to explore one of the coolest outdoor theaters in the United States.

Visiting Red Rocks

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is part of the 738 acre Red Rocks Park located outside Denver, CO. Here, you can see a diverse environment of plants, animals, and the middle ground between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, giving you the best of both regions. You can even hike up to the amphitheatre. Red Rocks Amphitheatre itself is the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world, and it took more than 200 million years for the rocks that make up the amphitheatre to form. Many great artists from U2 to the Beatles have played in the geological phenomenon. 

The History of Red Rocks Amphitheatre

The theatre itself opened in 1941 and was made a National Historic Landmark in 2015. It can seat just over 9,500 people. Because Mother Nature designed the amphitheatre, it isn’t duplicated anywhere in the world. Consisting of two, 300-foot monoliths called Ship Rock and Creation Rock, this geologically formed outdoor theatre gives the perfect acoustic opportunity for performances. Sitting between these two towering red rocks allows visitors to stargaze at night and get a glimpse of prehistoric times during the day. It even gives the perfect view of the city of Denver.

It all started in the early 1900s when a man named John Brisben Walker dreamed of there one day being performers on a stage that would fit perfectly between the perfect acoustic surrounding of the rocks. He held concerts in a makeshift venue until he attracted the attention of the manager of Denver Parks, George Cramer. From there, the men convinced the city of Denver to buy the area from Walker and build upon his dream.

Denver architect Burnham Hoyt was commissioned to design the theatre under the direction that he would preserve the natural beauty of the park. Although the park was dedicated in 1941, it wasn’t until 1947 that the first annual Easter Sunrise Service took place, and it has attracted the best performers ever since.  

As Unique as it is Historic

Red Rocks Amphitheatre has an incredible history. With its formation to its magical acoustics to the zany things that happen there during shows, the amphitheatre is quite a unique place. The Denver Post shared 75 little-known facts about Red Rocks Amphitheatre that are worth a look. Some of those include:

  • From the first show up until the end of 2016, there had been over 2,700 shows
  • You can see Denver’s airport, which is about 39 miles away, from the top row of the venue
  • The first observed occurrence of lighters in the air happened in 1944 when opera singer Regina Resnik asked the audience to light a match after the lights went out

Worth a Visit for a Show or the Beauty

If you’ve been looking for a place to visit that combines a love of music with a love of nature, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and the park it’s located in, are worth a stop. After all, you can’t go wrong seeing a place that was previously considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. 

Central Park Is Born A Star

Central Park, once known as Seneca Village, was the first landscaped park in the United States.

Built to establish a comparable setting to Paris and London, Central Park runs over 843 acres of land. 

HISTORY OF CENTRAL PARK

In 1853 the state legislature authorized the City of New York to implement eminent domain in order to acquire more than 700 acres of land. One of the largest settlements being a stable African American settlement known as Seneca Village. Leaving over 1600 residents uprooted from their homes, the park began the process of determining who would be in charge of the control over the upcoming park.

Ultimately, park commissioners were appointed and projects began with discussing the landscaping for the park. Over 20,000 engineers, gardeners, stone cutters and laborers were put on the job to reshape the land. Using gunpowder to remove large amounts of soil, the team planted over 270,000 trees. 

It wasn’t until the winter of 1859, six years later, that the park opened to the public. Thousands of New York families spent the winter season skating on what was once swamps across the newly landscaped land, making memories and bonding for years to come. Throughout the years, playgrounds have been built, a zoo has been established, along with athletic centers and museums. This has made Central Park a popular location for visiting families and friends from all over the world.

THINGS TO DO AROUND CENTRAL PARK

When visiting the nature designed park, you can find many activities to enjoy. From horse & carriage rides that allow you to enjoy as much of Central Park as you can to all kinds of sports. The park has 26 baseball fields! During the spring, enjoy the cherry blossoms and the beautiful green views of nature surrounding you.

The park even hosts concerts year round, allowing visitors to enjoy all kinds of popular entertainment. Enjoy a meal by the lake at The Loeb Boathouse when it’s time to eat, and catch sights of boats all across the water as you fill your taste buds with a variety of meats and vegetables.

With so much to do, it’s hard not to enjoy all of the events and liveliness of Central Park. 

Sources: 

History of Central Park – https://www.centralpark.com/visitor-info/park-history/overview/

Things to Do – https://www.centralpark.com/things-to-do

What You Need to Know to Visit The Big Almaty Lake

It is a beautiful fall morning in the mountains.

The day is warming up nicely as your taxi deposits you at the mouth of the trail. Energized by the lingering effects of the traditional sweet coffee you had at breakfast, you start your hike. Rounding the bend, the vision in front of you takes your breath away: the intense turquoise blue of Big Almaty Lake.

How to Get There

Your story begins when you visit this picturesque alpine lake located just outside of the Kazakhstan city of Almaty in the Ili-Alatau National Park. Both nature enthusiasts and Instagrammers alike flock to the site to photograph the intense hues of the reservoir that serves as its namesake city’s water supply. To get there, have the hotel arrange a taxi or use the Yandex app to schedule your own.

Things to Know

Planning ahead will make your trip much more comfortable and drama free. Some things you will want to consider:

  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes appropriate for hiking up and down mountain terrain
  • Bring your passport in case you are stopped at a security checkpoint
  • Pack snacks and water as there are no concessions in the park
  • No swimming is allowed
  • You may need an International Driving Permit if you choose to drive yourself

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, trails leading to the Kyrgyzstan border have been closed, but many others are open to adventurers. A short hike from the lake reveals a fantastic waterfall. Pack a picnic if you’d like to spend more time on the mountain.

Safety and Security

Travel in Kazakhstan is generally safe. However, like any city in the world, travelers can be targeted by thieves. Use common sense security measures such as keeping your valuables out of sight and refraining from walking alone after dark. 

Stroll Among the Treetops at the Capilano Suspension Bridge

Most hikes through the woods happen on the ground, but walking across the Capilano Suspension Bridge gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of the Capilano River and one of West Vancouver’s most expansive forests. 

History of the Capilano Suspension Bridge

The Capilano Suspension Bridge, one of Vancouver’s best-kept secrets, was built by George Grant Mackay in 1889. Mackay never intended for his bridge to become a tourist attraction, as it was originally built to be enjoyed by his friends.

However, after the property surrounding the bridge was sold and its structure was updated several times, the version of the bridge that exists today became a popular place for visitors to Vancouver to enjoy the scenery in 1956.

Visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge

The current Capilano Suspension Bridge is surrounded by other, newer tourist attractions, such as the Treetop Adventures Canopy Walk and the Cliffwalk. These structures work together to give visitors to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park multiple views of the natural beauty that is found in the surrounding forest. 

While the park can be an excellent attraction for families, parents should know that strollers are not permitted on any of the bridges, and they should never allow children on the bridges alone. While reasonable safety guards are provided, parents should always supervise children to prevent reckless play that could lead to falls or other injuries.

Visitors to the Vancouver area can take a free shuttle or public transit to the park from various locations around downtown Vancouver. Tourists to Vancouver can visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge at any time of year, but it is especially popular when it is decorated with hundreds of lights between November and January. 

Exploring the Capilano Suspension Bridge is an exciting way for visitors to West Vancouver to connect with natural beauty. Make plans to visit this awe-inspiring park the next time you’re in Vancouver today!     

Gippsland Lakes Bioluminescence

Located in Victoria, Australia, the Gippsland Lakes are a network of connected inland waterways that stretch over 250 square miles.

The three main lakes in the network are Lake King, Lake Victoria, and Lake Wellington. Everything you could ever want to do on a lake can be done here from fishing and boating, to swimming and kayaking.

However, in 2008 something really spectacular occurred here: a bright blue bioluminescent bloom.

What is Bioluminescence?

Bioluminescence is a quite simply light created naturally in a living organism. Fireflies are an example bioluminescence found on land, however most bioluminescent organisms live in the sea or in brackish water. Bioluminescence can be found primarily in jellies, bacteria, and fish.

Curious travelers can find bioluminescent kayaking and boating tours in areas where bioluminescent algae blooms occur regularly. Kayaking is a great option for seeing bioluminescence because the rowing of the oars activates the algae, surrounding you with a brilliant blue glow. Clear kayaks are especially popular for these experiences for obvious reasons. 

Bioluminescence at Gippsland Lakes

According to the reports of travel blogger and photographer Phil Hart, in the summer of 2008 something peculiar and wonderful occurred at the Gippsland Lakes. Due to a series of events including raging brush fires and extensive flooding, a mix of soil nutrients and an excess of salt water entered the lakes. These additions created just the right conditions for the bloom, or population surge, of Noctiluca scintillans. These organisms emit a blue light that are every photographer’s dream. 

Unfortunately, bioluminescence sightings are unpredictable and the blooms at the Gippsland Lakes are no exception. An updated post by Hart revealed that the blooms had returned in 2013 but to a lesser degree than the previous blooms.

Though the lakes themselves are worth the visit, it would be best to check with local experts before planning your whole trip around a chance at seeing this rare phenomenon.