December 20, 2016

Tiger spotting in India


(Now open in August and September)

For many decades the hunting preserve of the Princes of Jaipur and offers a fascinating combination of crumbling monuments, living temples, wild beauty, and your best chance to spot a wild tiger. Set within a high, jagged escarpment, Ranthambhore Fort has towered over the park's forests for nearly a thousand years and has witnessed many a bloody combat -- even the Mughal emperor Akbar fought a battle for supremacy here in the 16th century. Inside the fort, lie a number of ruined palaces, step wells, and a celebrated Ganesha temple visited every year in September by two million pilgrims. But it is the forests, that lie shimmering in the gorges below, scattered with more ancient crumbling monuments that attract the foreign pilgrims, who come during the winter months to catch a glimpse of the mighty Bengal tiger. The Park generally remains closed from July to September however the Rajasthan Forest Department has just issued a decree to reopen Zone 6 to 10 in the months of August and September as well.

Ranthambore is accessible from Jaipur via a 4 hour drive and a 5.5 hour train ride from Delhi. There is a range of accommodation from the very luxurious Aman Resorts, The Oberoi Vanyavilas to the environmentally sensitive Khem Villas.

December 19, 2016

Mandurah and fresh Blue Swimmers – Delicious

It's that time of year when a vast water playground, just an hour's drive from Perth, becomes a frenzy of activity as fishermen – both professional and amateur – come to feast on blue swimmer crabs (sometimes called 'manna' or 'blueys'.

John Newton jumped aboard a crabbing and eco adventure vessel on its first crab hunt of the new season in the Peel-Harvey estuary and its waterways, which are recognised as twice the size of Sydney Harbour.

It was early on a Sunday morning – (well, for me, anyway) - as the 20 year-old Rebecca Sue – a customised pontoon crabbing boat – headed out of the city of Mandurah Harbour on a five-hour 'cruise' during which all on board were guaranteed a crab lunch.

Local professionals nabbed 80 tonnes of blue swimmer crabs last season (1 November to the end of August), with a similar amount caught by the public.

Crabbing master Kevin Mahney was soon pointing out the rules that in this iconic fishery the daily bag limit is 10 blue swimmer crabs per person and the daily boat limit is 20 – a Recreational Fishing from Boat Licence is required when fishing for crabs or getting to a fishing spot with the use of a powered boat.

The minimum size for blue swimmers is 127mm across the carapace (the widest part of the shell) and any undersize crabs must be thrown back in the water as soon as possible. This will give them the chance to grow big enough to breed at least once – helping to keep the fishery sustainable.

Breaking the rules can be a costly business, with the West Australian Department of Fisheries saying that while fines may be issued, if crabbers do the right thing there will be plenty of crabs for the future for everyone to enjoy.

It wasn't long out of the harbour before Kevin, who has a commercial skipper's licence, was baiting the drop nets with chicken wings and fish heads and giving them to people on board to throw them "like a frisbee" into the water which, in many parts, is just above knee-deep.

Rebecca Sue, with its maximum of 20 passengers, heads for Boundary Island – a renowned crabbing spot in shallow waters. And it's not long before the scoop net army is off the boat and scouring for blue swimmers.

Mandurah Cruises runs the crabbing and eco tours every day in season. The cost of $150 per person and $90 for children (aged 4-14), includes a crab and barbecue lunch on board. Wading shoes are provided – even sunscreen.

The award-winning company also operates dolphin and scenic canal cruises.

For more details, go to or book online at:

For information on the region, go to the Mandurah & Peel Tourism Organisation website: or

Where to stay

A touch of B&B class from Bali has come to one of Western Australia's most popular tourist destinations.

It's Bali @ Avalon at Falcon, near the popular seaside resort of Mandurah, just over an hour's drive south of Perth.

A five-minute walk from stunning Avalon beach, the property was bought 18 months ago by Canadian Bob Pond and Queenslander Ray Weier, who have turned part of it into a B&B featuring two Balinese-style villas - Villa Dua (meaning two in Indonesian) and Villa Tiga (three).

The busy duo "inherited" a huge collection of indoor and outdoor Indonesian furniture, including Buddha and other stone statues, before starting the painstaking job of transforming the suburban house they bought into a Balinese hideaway.

All outdoor decking was restored and the swimming pool area and gardens were given a rejuvenated tropical look. Highlight of the garden area is a large wood and rattan cabana complete with day bed, mood music and subtle lighting. A small temple, like those found by the roadside in Bali, is also a feature.

The latest project is a Balinese-style outdoor kitchen with a built-in barbecue, hot plates, microwave and fridge, while hosting small events and weddings are also among future plans.

Open all year round, Bali@Avalon is located 11 kilometres south of Mandurah and the two villas each cost $225 a night, including continental breakfast, and $175 a night with continental breakfast during weekdays. Both villas have tea and coffee facilities, queen-size beds, dedicated indoor and outdoor tables and chairs, safe, fridge and microwave. Glassware, tableware and cutlery are provided, as well as bath and pool towels.

For bookings and more details, contact Bob at: or Ray at:

Also, Bali @ Avalon can be seen at or

Written by John Newton.

Feature supplied by:

Images as supplied.


1 Dancing Dolphins

2 Blue Swimmer

3 Lunch

4 Villa Courtyard

5 Villa Dua

6 Villa Tiga

December 12, 2016

Struth! World's longest rail tunnel now open.

Swiss open longest, deepest rail tunnel

THE world's longest and deepest railway tunnel has officially opened to link Switzerland's north with its south, running an amazing 57km through the Swiss Alps at a depth in places 2.3 kilometres below the tips of the highest mountains above it.

Construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT), which is actually two parallel single-line tunnels, began in 1999 and took seventeen years to complete at a cost the equivalent of 16.5 billion Australian dollars.

And on December 11 it officially went into use with high speed passenger trains flashing through it at speeds of up to an incredible 250kmh on an almost-flat route from Erstfeld in the north to Bodio in the south.

And those trains take just 17 minutes to cover the whopping 57km length, with another tunnel to open in 2020 meaning for a reduction then of over an hour in current rail travel time between the major cities of Zurich, Lugano and Milan.

But the new GBT is not just a time-saver for rail passengers  – Swiss Federal Railways say the tunnel will be used by new freight trains as well, saving an incredible 1-million lorry journeys a year on roads through the Swiss Alps, thus reducing environmental damage enormously.

FOOTNOTE: When the Swiss Federal Railways decided to offer 1,000 free tickets on the first official train through the Tunnel last Sunday, they held a lottery to pick the lucky 1,000 travellers – and over 160,000 locals rushed to buy tickets in the lottery in the hope of getting one of those 1,000 seats.

(David Ellis)



[] TRAINS like this will flash at speeds of up to 250kmh some 2.3km deep in the Swiss Alps with the opening on December 11 of the world's longest and deepest rail tunnel.
    (Swiss Chamber Commerce & Industry)

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