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Planning your visit to Cinque Terre

Little Foot Adventures

Cinque Terre is not one particular location, it means ‘Five Lands’ and refers to five different villages located on the coast of the Ligurian region of Italy. The whole area is part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Cinque Terre_Little Foot Adventures

Why visit Cinque Terre?

The beautifully preserved landscape with the colourful houses on the cliffs facing the sea is the main attraction and one of the main reasons people visit.

The small streets in the villages fill up with people every day coming from all over the world with something in common between all of them: the curiosity of visiting an area that has remained almost unchanged for centuries.

No traffic, no stress, blessed with good weather and their own natural resources of food and wine that have made the area unique and unforgettable. Family restaurants and shops selling handmade artifacts are easy to find on every corner.

For me it was the perfect getaway: five days of relaxing, sunshine and gorgeous landscapes.

The five villages of Cinque Terre

The beautiful scenery in the Cinque Terre villages has been unspoilt for centuries. The dark blue colours of the Mediterranean just had a spark to it and if you’re like me you’ll be inspired by the magical environment. So let me take you around the five villages in a nutshell.

Monterosso

The only village where you will find a proper sandy beach with traditional colourful umbrellas – very unique from the Liguria region. Compared to the other villages it has larger streets and less steep areas with similar restaurants and cafes.

Cinque Terre Monterosso

Vernazza

It was my favourite village of the five. Although it had the traditional landscape similar to the other villages it seemed less crowded with people making the atmosphere very relaxed.

The narrow streets full of handmade products are a must that lead you to the main square full of restaurants with a view to the harbour.

Cinque Terre Vernazza

Manarola

The famous Cinque Terre wine, the Sciacchetrà is produced here. With a small hike to Punta Bonfiglio you get to enjoy one of the most iconic view of Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre Manarola

Down the small harbour there is some fishing boats and also an area where people can be seen swimming. The water is crystal clear and the temperature is actually alright to have a dip!

Manarola Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore

The very steep landscape and the tiny harbour are some of the unique characteristics of this village. It’s considered very romantic and this where I stopped the longest.

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre

Had a nice lunch further away from the main square as it was very expensive and had some ice cream by the harbour, enjoying the sunshine.

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre

Corniglia

The only village not connected directly to the sea. It’s still easily accessible by train after climbing the 365 steps up the hill.

It’s the only point where you can photograph all five villages at once, I could not do it, but if you do tell me how!!

Corniglia Cinque Terre

How to get to Cinque Terre?

If you’re planning to make some stops before you arrive to Cinque Terre it makes sense to fly into major airports, such as:

Milan – Drive 3h | Train 4h

Rome – Drive 4h30 | Train 4h

If you really want to go straight to Cinque Terre and don’t have a lot of time to see other cities I recommend you to fly over to smaller airports, such as:

Pisa – Drive 1h20 | Train 3h20

Genoa – Drive 1h30 | Train 2h

Florence – Drive 2h | Train 3h30

*All times are approximately and may not reflect traffic and other factors. The routes are calculated with final destination: Monterosso.

Always remember that the largest and closest city to Cinque Terre is La Spezia, just in case you’re lost and fighting the GPS and from there it’s still takes about 45 minutes to get to Monterosso.

Portovenere Cinque Terre
Portovenere

How to move around the villages?

By train

All villages have a good connection with trains and in between some villages it’s only a five minute ride. You can get the Cinque Terre Pass which covers all train tickets between Levanto and La Spezia and also covers the hiking fees. Get it here.

By boat

A ferry takes you to all villages except Corniglia. It also stops in Portovenere, which is beautiful. In one day you can have a taste of Cinque Terre on a hop/off system.

You can see the schedules and prices here.

I have enjoyed a full day doing this and it’s really relaxing you basically just have to decide how long do you want to stay in each village and it’s very easy. I boarded the boat in Levanto that was close to my accommodation.

Riomaggiore

Portovenere

Portovenere
On board of the ferry boat

 By car

Although it’s relatively easy to drive over to Monterosso, the drive between villages it’s really not recommended and unnecessary as everything is so close.

Also the streets are very narrow and I really can’t imagine a car going around. Levanto and Bonassola are good options to leave the car and get the train/boat.

By foot

Hiking is the oldest way to get around the villages and it’s still one of the activities that attract people from all over the world.

The walking trails are well known with beautiful views along the way, sometimes near the sea, others further way. There are some parts of these trails that a hiking permit is required that comes when you purchase the Cinque Terre card.

When preparing your trip to Cinque Terre and considering walking in between villages, please be aware that some trails are often closed so you’ll have to arrange alternative trails.

You can check which trails are available here.

How long do I need in Cinque Terre?

Some say that it is impossible to see the five villages in one day. I believe that if you have limited time and really want to see them it’s possible. Off course you will miss some experiences but overall you will get a taste of the culture, people and landscape.

So, it’s really up to you. Ideally if you have 3 to 4 days to spare this would be best. With that time you can explore the villages slowly, hike the trails and try all the delicious food in the restaurants around. With a bit more time to spare you can also go out for a swim in the beautiful Mediterranean water.

Food Cinque Terre
Traditional fried fish in Cinque Terre

Where to stay?

Cinque Terre can be very expensive when it comes to accommodation, so either you book it months in advance to pay a reasonable price or you will be paying a small fortune.

A lot of affordable options are just around the villages in the surrounding towns like Bonassola and Levanto. Staying outside the villages of Cinque Terre is also nice because you get to escape the crowds at the end of the day.

You can have a look at alternative accommodations such as La Francesca Resort that I have shown you on my last article.

Visiting Cinque Terre was a dream of mine and I finally got to go there and can honestly say it’s beautiful and everyone should visit at least once! Have you been? Tell me your experiences!

 

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Planning a Safari in Kenya: 9 easy steps

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From the Swahili, safari means journey and it is quite a journey since the moment you start planning to the moment you get to see the most beautiful animals in their natural habitat. As you probably noted from my previous articles, I loved the safari in Kenya and truly believe that I will come back. Getting to see the wildest animals in a rush of adrenaline of most of the game drives was out of this world!

STEP 1: Is a safari for me?

If you are thinking to go on a safari you should think in first place if this is an activity you would like. Generally you must love the animals because the days go around that. A safari is nothing like going to the zoo, sometimes you see the animals, sometimes you don’t.

The wildlife is unpredictable: you can see them matting, feeding and if you get shocked with a lion eating a zebra, think that you are the one that went there to see them in their natural habitat and they are just doing what it’s in their nature.

Also, keep in mind that the days are long, sometimes waking up at 04:00 am and going to sleep later in the night, with constant drives around bumpy “roads” and dust.

RELATED: A safari in Kenya: 16 animals you can expect to see

STEP 2: Research when to go

You will find most advice to go during the dry season, which corresponds to December to March, the region’s summer. But nothing stops you from going during the winter time, which goes from June to September.

From what I have asked to the locals it’s pretty much dry for most year, but obviously, it’s hotter during the summer time.

Another thing you may consider important for you its things like the Great Migration between July and October where millions of animals go from Serengeti, Tanzania to Maasai Mara, Kenya.

STEP 3: What type of safari – Budget or Luxury?

Is up to you what you want to do to and how much you want to spend, but unless you actually want to spend some time in the camp/lodge you really don’t need much. From a 6 day safari I can tell you that I spend only one afternoon in camp and that was the last day.

  • Budget: You can either choose to do camping, where you will have a movable tent with sleeping beds and cook for yourself or you can choose to be in a fixed tent with a bed on a lodge where meals will be cooked for you. Either, expect to have no internet, only some hours with electricity and probably some cold showers. The game drives will be in a group.
  • Luxury: You can expect pretty much everything from this. From stylish tents, spa treatments, gourmet meals, free laundry, air-conditioned and 24hours internet. Some of this super luxury lodges can reach 1000$ per night or more! Normally the game drives are private with just the guide and you in the car or even just getting a plane from park to park.

STEP 4: Define your budget

If you are thinking that a safari will be too expensive, like I did before, forget that! This experience can be for everyone’s budget, you just have to define how much you can spend and then find something that fits the budget.

Usually when you book a safari, everything will be included, such as meals, game drives, transportation from place to place, accommodation and sometimes extra snacks.

For my 6 day safari going to 3 different parks I have paid 1050 US$ and I only spend extra money to visit the Maasai Mara village (10US$) plus some snacks (20US$) (you can buy these in advance to save some money).

RELATED: The Maasai villages in Kenya: Life and Traditions

STEP 5: Choose a tour company

This is probably the most important step of all and will involve some hours of research.

  • Search tools

On a quick search on Google or TripAdvisor you will see dozens of companies. But, if you have decided your type of safari and a budget you should be able to eliminate some of them.

  • Itinerary

At the same time you search for tour companies, do a little bit of research about the parks and reserves that these companies are offering. Two important things you should know:

  • A national park is used for conservation purposes and owned by the state. In these parks you are not allowed to get off the road and the vehicle must be on the defined road at all times.
  • A game reserve it’s a place where the ecosystems are protected. In these reserves you are allowed to drive off road to get closer to the animals which sometimes can make the all experience very different than just see the animals on a distance.
  • Compare costs

Select at least 10 companies that suit your budget and match with what you want to see, then email them. For example I email them saying: ‘I want to do a safari, 6 or 7 days and go to Maasai Mara and Amboseli’ and also gave details about accommodation saying that I wanted at least in one of the parks stay in a basic tent.

  • Read the reviews

After selecting three of them I went to read the reviews and selected Flash Mctours. They were flexible on what we wanted and Peter from the company sort of created an itinerary with our wishes.  Some people prefer to choose specific guides for their safari but we just went on the overall reviews of the company and did not regret our choice.

There is a leopard in this tree

About our guides: Lawrence was our guide in Maasai Mara and Lake Nakuru and he had great knowledge about the animals and how to spot them. He would see a tree and know that a leopard would be sleeping there. He was also very quick to drive to new spots and would share with other drivers by radio the location of where we saw the animals, which I thought it was very kind. Edward was our second guide and he also had very good knowledge about the animals. He was also very willing to go with our wishes to focus on certain animals. Without their knowledge I probably hadn’t learn half about the animals and their routines and that is also part of the safari experience.

  • Read about the accommodations

When deciding for which company to go, please go and research about the proposed accommodation. Keep in mind that sometimes what is too cheap may be very disappointing; on checking some of the accommodation’s suggested by one of the companies we found by the reviews that they were very poor with low hygiene standards. I stayed in Lenchada Tourist Camp – Maasai Mara, a very basic tented camp and in Kibo Safari Camp a bit more resort look alike but still with fixed tents and they were all good experiences.

Kibo Safari Camp – Amboseli

STEP 6: Staying healthy

Visit the Travel clinic in your area, they normally advice you on what you should do, depending on the area you are travelling to. When it comes to take vaccines, keep in mind that many take several weeks to provide full protection, so don’t make this last minute.

  • Vaccines: Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A
  • Optional Vaccines: Tetanus and Typhoid
  • Optional: Anti-malaria tablets
  • Mosquito repellent with IRF 4 and 50% DEET

STEP 7: Visas

  • Apply for a visa at least one-two months before you go at http://evisa.go.ke/evisa.html
  • The single visa to entry in Kenya costs 50$.
  • If you are planning to continue your travels you can apply for the East African Visa, which allows you to entry in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda with one single payment of 100$.

STEP 8: Packing for a safari

Packing for a safari is probably the easiest ever! Just use simple clothes and overall you don’t need too much, even things like make-up or accessories you can just take the most basic.

RELATED: What to pack for Africa / What to wear on a safari

STEP 9: Basic vocabulary before you go

  • Game: the wild animals you will see on the safari.
  • Game Drive: activity of driving in a vehicle looking for the animals
  • Walking safari: a safari on foot where you will see more the vegetation’s and small animals. Usually the guide will decide if it’s safe and where to do this.
  • The Big 5: A term used for the main 5 predators – Lion, Buffalo, Leopard, Elephant and Rhino.
  • Greetings in Swahili

Hello – Jambo

Welcome – Karibu

Goodbye – Kwaheri

My name is – Jina langu

  • Animals names in Swahili

Lion – Simba

Rhino – Vifaru

Hippo – Kiboko

Leopard – Chui

Cheetah – Duma

Giraffe – Twiga

Hyena – Fisi

Buffalo – Nyati

Elephant – Tembo

 

Hope to hear about your safari plans, let me know if you need more information!

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A Safari in Kenya: 16 Animals you can expect to see

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Having just come back from a safari in Kenya I can now say that if at the beginning I was a apprehensive on how the days would go, driving around in the dust and heat of the savanna, I can now say that I have become a great safari enthusiastic.  Can’t wait to repeat it in other parts of Africa. Watching the animals in their natural habitat, doing what they are meant to do since they were born, living in harmony makes it beautiful! Also, I have learned a lot about these wild animals, as I had great guides with me with vast knowledge about them.

16 Animals you can expect to see

Safari_Kenya

1. Lion

The African Lion can weigh up to 190Kg and is carnivore. These lions live in groups called prides. You can differentiate the males from females by their fringe of hair around the head. The males normally look after the territory and the female’s hunt, normally in a group with other females. They hunt for gazelles, zebras and wildebeest. Once the hunt is completed they can stay several days feeding on the same animal. We watched a group of females feeding on a buffalo and it was brutal!

2. Zebra

Zebras are unique animals as each one of them has different stripes, they are like fingerprints. This fact makes it hard for the predators to identify them and also protects against insects. They are herbivores and can live up to 25 years. They have very good eye sight and are normally seen in big groups.

3. Wildebeest

I had never seen these animals before I went on the safari. They are funny creatures, our guide in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, told us that, they are the creation of God because they  look like they have been made of different animals with the horns and short back legs like hyenas. They are herbivores and can live up to 20 years, reaching up to 250kg. Both females and males have horns. They can be seen feeding constantly on grass.

4. Water Buffalo

It is hard to believe they are dangerous when you look and they just there eating grass with the Oxpecker on top of them. This symbiotic relationship is good for both as the Oxpecker feeds on the parasites from the buffalo skin. They can weigh up to 1,200Kg and live 25 years. Both males and females have horns but females are much smaller in size. As the name say, they spend a lot of time in the water. The shape of their feet prevents them from sinking in the mud of the swamps. Although the domesticated water buffalo exist in a number of regions the wild water buffalo is endangered and lives only in protected areas.

5. Elephants

African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth and can live up to 70 years. They can weigh up to 2,500 to 7,000Kg and be as tall as 4 meters. I must confess they are one of my favourites because of the way they stay together as family. One of the scenes I will not forget was this little baby elephant less than one month, stumbling and trying to walk always close to the mother. Elephants have a 22 month pregnancy and that reflects on how protective they are with the babies.

They are constantly eating and can feed up to 150 Kg of food in one day. They eat mainly roots, grasses and fruit. They use the trunk to get the food and also for smelling, breathing, drinking and to grab basically everything. I loved to watch them in the swamp getting water with the trunk and spraying their bodies with it to relieve from the heat.   Both male and female have tusks. Tusks are used to dig food, water and battle with each other’s. Unfortunately the material from the tusks, ivory, attracts poachers and it’s still a problem nowadays.

6. Cheetah

The cheetah is the world’s fastest land mammal. It can go from 0 to 96km/h in 3 seconds when hunting for example. They can live up to 12 years and weigh 65kg. An interesting fact is that they only need water once every three to four days. Cheetahs are not easily seen but fortunately we found a female with a cub in one of the game drives. This is common as the female spend one to two years with the cubs and the males are normally spotted living alone.

7. Leopard

In a week of safari we only spotted one leopard as they are rarely seen. It was sleeping peacefully in a tree, as explained by our guide it was a female. They are very solitaire unless they are mating or with the cubs. At first sight I could not see it; this is because of their spotted coats that blends with the leaves. Sometimes they even drag their kills to the trees.

8. Giraffe

Giraffes are the world’s tallest mammals. For the first time in Kenya I have seen a giraffe running and they can be very fast reaching 56km/h. They are adorable and I have learned so much about them that I believe they are truly fascinating. They can live up to 25 years and reach 6 meters tall.

Because of their height they can easily look out for predators and reach to leaves and branches that most animals can’t but they have to be careful. When they want to drink they need to spread their legs and bend down in order to keep blood flowing to their heads otherwise they can die. Another interesting fact is that they give birth standing so the little ones just have a free fall welcoming to the world.

9. Hippopotamus

We encounter a group of dozens of hippopotamus all submerged in the river. They can spend most of the day doing that to cool themselves from the heat. They are good swimmers and can hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes. They will come out at sunset to graze. The babies weigh already up to 45kg at birth and can suckle underwater, how awesome is that?

10. Gazelle

The gazelles are delicate and graceful. Their unique colour pattern and ringed horns make them beautiful. The one’s I have seen during the safari were the Thomson’s gazelle and the Grand gazelle. With a lifespan of 12 years they can weigh up to 75 kg gathering in large groups. When they are running from predators they reach up to 64 km/h.

11. Warthog

Warthogs are from the same family as domestic pigs and can live up to 15 years. They eat mainly grass, plants and sometimes roots. I did not know that they had four tusks, two small and two larger ones but you can easily see that after a few times spotting them. They will go to the water and use mud to cool down from the heat.

12. Impala

These gracious animals gather around in big groups while eating all sorts of herbs and grass. They can bark to alert others of a predator and they can do some impressive jumps up to 10 meters when running from them.

13.  Rhinoceros

Both black and white rhinoceroses can be seen on a safari in Kenya but they are rarely spotted and I have only saw the white Rhino in Lake Nakuru, although, if you are really lucky you may see both. They can weigh up to 1,400 Kg and differentiate from each other not in colour but in their lip shape. So, the black rhino has a pointed upper lip and the white has a squared lip. The prominent horn that they present make them a target for poachers and unfortunately the black rhino is on the verge of extinction.

 

14.  Baboon

I have seen an enormous amount of baboons; they are just everywhere and in big groups. Most of the time they are grooming on each other to remove insects and dead skin. They also spend a lot of time eating fruits, grasses, seeds, roots and sometimes they eat some meat such as birds and antelopes. On one of the game drives I have seen a baboon catching a small baby gazelle and eating it, it was a shocking but that’s nature. They can live up to 30 years.

15.  Spotted Hyena

The spotted hyenas are the largest of three hyena species and they are famous for their vocal sounds, I can say they really sound as they are laughing and don’t look that scary. They have good hearing, eyesight and can run fast for long distances. They also well known to be scavengers and feed on the leftovers of other predators but they can kill birds and others small animals like snakes to feed.

16. Ostrich

The ostrich is the largest and heaviest living bird. They live in groups to help defend themselves from predators. Instead of flying they use their wings to courtship and make use of their long legs to run very fast in case of threat. Their only two toes give them great speed, in some seconds it can achieve up to 70 km/h and maintain a speed of 50 km/h.

 

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