Mount Bromo, Gunung Bromo in Indonesian, arguably one of the most spectacular active volcanoes on our planet, is part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, in South East of the island of Java, Indonesia.
Bromo is not the tallest of the group (which is Mount Semeru, Java’s highest peak and one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia ), but the most famous, due to its active cone and religious significance: the name comes from Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. The summit is a pilgrimage site for the worshippers who reach the crater rim bringing offers to the gods.
What is impressive about this area, is the majestic Tengger caldera, from which rise the three peaks Bromo (2.392 m), Kursi (2.581 m) and Batok (2.581 m), composing a lunar landscape, with eerie mount Semeru in the background (3.676 m).
The best view is at sunrise from King Kong Hill on Mount Penanjakan (2.770 m), where most of the guided tours will bring you (the road is only accessible by tour agencies with 4WDs jeeps; alternatively, you can reach the viewpoint by walk, in around two hours from Cemoro Lawang).
The classic tours also include, after the sunrise viewpoint, the descent by jeep on the base of Gunung Bromo, the Sea of Sand (Laotian Pasir), and the hike to the top of Bromo’s crater (an easy 40 minutes hike, but if you want you can shorten it by riding a horse or motorbike to the bottom of the 253 steps staircase that brings you on the edge of the crater).
Visiting Mount Bromo during high season (mid-late June for local visitors and July-August for international tourism) could be crowded, with hundreds of jeeps bringing people to the viewpoints, so be aware that you might spend extra time in the traffic and be sure to get to the viewpoint on time to choose the perfect spot.
Arguably one of the most fascinating species on the planet, gorillas are amongst the closest living relatives to humans due to their DNA, around 98% similar to humankind. They have feet and hands like humans with big toes, opposable thumbs, and individual fingerprints. Another important feature in common with humans is their intelligence: they can grieve and laugh, they are able to use tools, and according to some research they might have even spiritual and religious feelings.
Herbivorous, they are the world’s largest primates reaching up to 270 kg weight and 180 cm height, with an average lifespan between 30 and 40 years, although some zoo gorillas have registered a maximum age of more than 50 years (the longest living gorilla was the 61 years old Ozoum “Ozzie”, died the 25th of January 2022 at Zoo Atlanta, United States).
Adult male gorillas, after reaching the age of around 12 years, develop some characteristic grey/silver hair on the back, hence the nickname “silverbacks”. The dominant silverback is the undisputed leader and makes all the most important decisions of the troop, choosing the movements, the feeding sites, and protecting the whole group.
There are around 5,300 gorillas in the wild and all their species and subspecies are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.
Thanks to the brilliant primatologist Dian Fossey, who studied gorillas in Rwanda from 1966 to 1985, gorillas are no more depicted as violent and aggressive against humankind. Some of Fossey’s young gorillas became famous after they had been filmed playing with David Attenborough in 1979 for the tv series Life on Earth. However, gorillas, if threatened, can be extremely dangerous and aggressive, but usually, most of the violence is directed towards other gorillas.
There are two species and four subspecies of gorillas:
Western Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla), divided in Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla) and Cross River gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Diehli),
Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla Beringei), divided in Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Beringei) and Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Graueri).
Best places to see gorillas in the wild
Gorillas live in only Central Africa, more precisely in Cameroon, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola (Cabinda area), Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Rwanda and Uganda.
Angola You can find Western Lowland gorillas only in the Cabinda region, but there are few tourist infrastructures. You can see gorillas in the Maiombe Forest Reserve.
Cameroon Cameroon is home to bothCross River gorillas (West, border with Nigeria) and Western Lowland Gorillas (South). Cross River gorillas are quite difficult to be seen, due to their small number and the lack of tourism infrastructures. There are great chances to see Western Lowlands gorillas at Ndzanga Sangha National Park and Lobéké National Park, At Limbe Wildlife Centre and Mefou National Park, you can find rescued gorillas in rehabilitation.
Central African Republic The Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve is one of the best places to meet Western Lowland gorillas in Africa. WWF started a project in habituating two groups of this species.
Republic of Congo The Republic of Congo is home to more than 120,000 Western Lowland gorillas. The best areas to meet them are the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, in the northwest of the country, and Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park around Mbeli Bai. In the Léfini Reserve you can meet rescued gorilla rehabilitation. The best time to go is during the dry seasons, from June to September and from December to February.
Democratic Republic of Congo Three out of four subspecies of gorillas live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but check the security situation of the country before planning your trip. Eastern Lowlands gorillas can be found in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, one of the best gorilla-viewing experiences. Great chances to see Mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest national park in Africa. You can see someWestern Lowland gorillas west of the country in the Madiakoko Mountains, Bas-Congo.
Equatorial Guinea There are no groups of habituated gorillas and tourist infrastructures in Equatorial Guinea, but you can avail of local tourist guides to bring you across the Monte Alen National Park to meet some Western Lowland gorillas.
Gabon Gabon is one of the best areas to see Western Lowland gorillas: in the Lopé National Park visitors can see them on generic safaris, and the Moukalaba-Doudou National Park is one of the places with the highest density of gorillas in Africa. The best choice for gorillas sightseeing is the Loango National Park, home of the only group of habituated gorillas in Gabon.
Nigeria Although Nigeria has lately invested in tourism infrastructures, the chances to meet Cross River gorillas in the Cross River National Park are still low, due to their small number and given that they are not habituated.
Rwanda Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is one of the best places (and one of the most famous, thanks to Dian Fossey’s research) to see Mountain gorillas in the wild. Rwanda is home to around 30% of the overall population of Mountain gorillas.
Uganda About half of the remaining population of Mountain gorillas live in Uganda. Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park have a considerable number of habituated gorillas and excellent probability of sightseeing.
WHEN TO GO Dry seasons (December to February and June to September) are the best periods, but guided tours are available all year round, and in the low seasons, permits might be discounted.
PERMITS Gorilla safari permits might be very expensive, the cost is around 400$ per person in Congo, 600$ in Uganda and 1500$ in Rwanda. The reason for these prices is the high demand and the limited availability, but mostly due to the need for found to protect the primates: 75% of the amount is to conserve the gorilla surviving population, 15% goes to the governments and the 10% goes to the local communities.
The Kondyor Massif is a unique circular igneous intrusion massif with a diameter of around 10 km and about 600 meters high, formed one billion years ago after erosion shaped the molten magma crystallized under the earth’s surface.
Located in Eastern Siberia, Russia, the massif is surprisingly rich in rare and precious minerals such as gold, silver, platinum, plutonium, uranium, and it has even its own mineral, the Konderite, a mixture of platinum, iridium, rhodium, copper, lead and sulfur.
Formerly named “Urgula” by the indigenous population, as they believed the mountain to be sacred, it is more than a thousand km far from the nearest city, Khabarovsk, and definitely not a handy place to be visited. There are no tourist infrastructure and visitors need a special permit to access the surrounding area.
Quinta da Regaleira is a land located in Sintra, a small village nearby Lisbon, Portugal. Designed by the Italian architect Luigi Manini and built in the late 1800s by the rich owner Carvalho Monteiro (also known as Monteiro the Millionaire, Brazilian-Portuguese businessman, entomologist and freemason), the estate includes Medieval, Classic, Manueline and Renaissance styles buildings.
Among palaces, gardens, caves and lakes, the Initiation Well is arguably the most picturesque construction: an inverted 27-meter tower shape well with a staircase that was actually never used as a proper well. It is believed that it was used for ceremonial purposes linked to Tarot mysticism and Masonic principles
The number of landings and steps could be also associated to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and may represent the nine skies of paradise, the nine sections of purgatory or the nine circles of hell.
In the early 1800s, thousands of ordinary people were imprisoned at Kilmainham Gaol not only for serious crimes such as murder or rape, but even for cattle stealing and other minor crimes: a fourteen-year-old boy was convicted for seven days for stealing two loaves of bread.
This jail (now a museum), located in Dublin, is famous because of its link with the history of Irish nationalism: the majority of the Irish leaders in the rebellions from 1798 to 1916, prisoners during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-1921), and anti-treaty forces during the civil war were detained there.
In May 1916, during the Easter Rising, fourteen men were sentenced to death and shot by firing squads in the Stonebreakers’ Yard of Kilmainham Gaol. Seven of them had been the signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic that was posted on Easter Monday on the walls around Dublin and read on Sackville Street (now known as O’Connell Street, renamed in honor of the nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell ) by Patrick Pearse. These were Thomas Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Patrick Pearse, Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, and Joseph Plunkett (the man who married Grace Gifford in the Gaol chapel the night before he was shot).
The firing squads in charge of the executions at Kilmainham Gaol, composed of six kneeled and other six standing soldiers were provided with just one real bullet and the rest blank, so that they wouldn’t know who shot the killing one.
After the harsh treatment of those leaders of the Easter Rising, Irish citizens began to empathize with the Rising’s cause and later, in the general United Kingdom election in 1918, the Irish republican party Sinn Féin received huge support among voters in Ireland. They refused to take their seats in the U.K. parliament, founded a separate parliament in Dublin and declared Irish independence, ratifying the Easter Rising Proclamation of the Irish Republic, leading subsequently to the War of Independence in 1921.
The official closing order of the Kilmainham Gaol was issued by the Minister for Justice of the Irish Free State in 1929.
Less famous than the Egyptian pyramids but not less fascinating, those burial monuments belong to the ancient kingdom of Kush, a rival to Egyptian settled from 2500 BC in the Nubian Valley (modern Sudan) to AD 350, when the kingdom of Axum invaded and conquered the capital Meroë and ended the Kushite dominance.
Compared to the Egyptians, they are more recent (built a thousand years after), smaller (the highest is less than 30 meters, Giza’s is 139 meters), and with steeper sides. There are around 200 pyramids in the Nubian Valley, more than in Egypt.
Meroë, located 240 kilometers north of Khartoum, is the biggest and best-preserved sacred area, where 30 kings, eight queens, and three princes are buried.
Although relatively unknown (the last group of pyramids was discovered between 2009 and 2012), the Nubian pyramids are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011.
Mammatus clouds are striking cloud formations mostly composed of ice with unusual shape due to protrusions hanging from the bottom of the clouds, formed by sinking cold air. They can extend for hundreds of kilometers and stay visible in the sky for up to a few hours, usually before or after a storm, bringing often rain, hail, or snow, depending on the temperature of the atmosphere.
They are usually associated with cumulonimbus, which is indicative of heavy storms, but they may also be formed from cirrus and altostratus clouds, or even volcanic ash clouds.
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