Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Wondrous Locations Unlocked by Low Tide

Our little blue planet is constantly shifting, moving and adapting. As such, some truly remarkable locations spend much of the time completely inaccessible, cut off from the land by rising tides. To experience their wonders, you have to time it right and, trust me, it’s worth the wait. From island paradises to ancient castles, these locations are truly breath-taking; below we have compiled our 5 favourites from around the globe.

5. Haji Al Dargah, India

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 Situated just of the coast of Worli, Mubai, this Indo-Islamic mosque and dargah (tomb) has stood since the 15th century. According to local legends, a wealthy merchant injured the earth when he jabbed his finger into the soil, causing oil to flow freely from the ground. Dying during a pilgrimage to Mecca while still haunted by his actions, his coffin apparently washed ashore, becoming stuck in the rocks. The Dargah was then constructed upon the islet.

Thousands of pilgrims travel to the site daily, waiting for low tide in order to make their way across the 500mcauseway, which is submerged during high tide.

4. Ko Nang Yuan, Thailand

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A true paradise located near Kho Tao, Thailand, Ko Nang Yuan is actually comprised of 3 islands. During low tide, the waves part to reveal a natural “bridge” of white sand, which connects the three islands together for a brief time. 

The region’s diverse wildlife and stunning coral formations have made it a legendary location for divers and snorkelers alike. For those who like to keep their head above the surface, the beaches are renowned for their beauty.

3. Holy Island, England

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Once known as the epicentre of Christianity during Anglo-Saxon times, Holy Island still holds significance to those of faith to this day. The site is home to the Lindisfarne Gospels, and every year around 100 pilgrims make the journey to Holy Island to mark Easter Sunday, but it’s not the easiest location to get to.

Twice a day the island, and the accompanying Lindisfarne Castle which crowns it, are cut off from the mainland by rising tides. These tides come in quickly and can be highly unpredictable, so the Northumberland Council have taken to publishing safe crossing times online, although they still recommend caution even during these periods.

2. Mont Saint-Michel, France

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Originally built on dry land before rising sea levels remade the area, the abbey at Mont Saint-Michel is now surrounded by the highest tides in Europe. The gothic architecture makes the site a truly beautiful thing to behold, and tourists seemingly agree. The abbey is the third most visited tourist attraction in France, according to the government website, only beaten out by the Eiffel Tower and the Castle of Versailles.

Access to Mont Saint-Michel is made possible by a causeway built in 1879. When exposed, the causeway is the only safe way to reach the abbey, but it is often submerged beneath the waves.

1. St Michael’s Mount, England

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As the legendary home of the giant Cormoran, the medieval church and castle at St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall are steeped in both myth and history. Set upon a small, rocky island not far from the coast, the mount’s vibrant gardens and rich historical collections culminate to create a simply remarkable experience.

At low tide, a great granite causeway is revealed by the retreating waters. This is the only way to reach the mount on foot, although ferry services are available at high tide.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.

Strange and Wonderful Water Features - Global Edition

Nothing screams luxury and peace as effectively as a water fountain. Something about seeing water proudly arcing into the air to a crescendo of burbling and tiny splashes instils a sense of awe.  It’s instant the effect a fountain can have on us. Upon seeing the Fountain of Neptune in Florence, I immediately ran over to ooh and aah at the brackish, weathered outer ring of Scylla and Charybdis figures before taking in the commanding, utterly naked god reigning over the land his fountain occupied; Neptune in all his glory.

[FUN FACT: The Fountain of Neptune is currently topped by a replica of Bartolomeo Ammannati’s original statue which now resides in National Museum. Ammannati crafted the face on that of Medici Cosimo, Grand Duke of Tuscany at the time the statue was built in the sixteenth century.]

Img source: Flickr, ButterflySha
Perhaps our reaction to fountains stems from childhood when wishing on a well, fountain, or any body of water (let’s be honest, as a kid it didn’t matter what you threw the money in) brought the utmost delight. It felt naughty, literally throwing away good money just to see it sit beneath the surface, face up and staring. That glint, almost a taunt, when the sunlight reflected off the coins just right, strikes a chord whenever I see it. Why do we donate spare change to a faceless benefactor?

It boils down to clean water or, to use the correct term, distils. Access to water isn’t something first world countries have to worry about today, at least not in most places. Even if your pipes leech metal particles into your tap water, you can buy a filter or go to the store for some bottled water. Not the case centuries ago when drinking water was a blessing, so much so that people would offer money to the gods. While at it, people would include any prayers or wishes along with this offering like a two for one: a donation to keep the water flowing and a wish for something tangible. Now that clean water is provided to all for the most part, we’ve held on to the fun part of this tradition.

[FUN FACT: In Norse mythology, Mimir’s Well or the Well of Urd, granted cosmic knowledge on the caveat that something of value be sacrificed. Tended by Mimir, counsellor of the gods, the well resided on top of/over one of the roots of the world-tree Yggradsil.]

Historically, fountains have imitated life in sculpture and design, favouring a profile that most closely matches our ideal: gods. In the oldest societies (European, think Italy), fountains were modelled after gods, goddesses, mythological creatures and people. Until the 1900’s, this formula remained steadfast even as fountains became a global fascination, stretching rainbows and jets across the pond to America. The traditional main statue, usually a memorable figure in history or mythology, surrounded by minions and finished with dribbling water, how original.

And now, with that bit of knowledge shared, let’s look into some fountains that I promise will cause you to purse your lips, scrunch your eyebrows, and generally confuse you. Ready to dive in?

Fountain of Neptune - Bologna, Italy

Located in the Piazza Nettuno and one of seven Italian fountains featuring Neptune, this fountain was finished in 1567 by Giambologna. A perfect example of the traditional fountain, this work delivers equal parts amazement and excitement, primarily from the nereids ringing the bottom tier.

Two Peeing Guys – Prague, Czech Republic

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Courtesy of David Cerny, a controversial and riveting Czech sculptor, this water fixture features two men peeing on a zigzagging shape resembling the Czech Republic with lifelike movements to accompany the act. Microprocessors swivel the hips and move the penis up and down enabling the men to write quotes from Prague residents, a ceaseless mission. If you’re in the area, the men’s solemn task can be interrupted by sending an SMS message to a number on the statue. The men will then inscribe the message, through their appendages of course, before continuing with their previous task.

Nation for Itself Forever 

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Another David Cerny fixture makes the list, though this one cannot be viewed in person. Set to be mounted on the Prague National Theatre in 2003, the installation was cancelled for fear of backlash from theatre patrons. The building’s architectural significance took precedence over the message Cerny meant to convey with “Nation for Itself Forever,” which would have periodically released a spray of water on unsuspecting passer-by’s. The lesson here is that not all fountains flow the same.

The Big Giving – London, England

With statues dedicated to different bodily excretions, Klaus Weber has created something drastically different and unbelievably gross when you really think about it. Not only do these fountains leak water from noses, mouths, armpits and private areas, they continuously propel it. Walking by is like watching a germaphobe’s worst nightmare: black bulbous bodies as non-human as possible mounted with white, realistic human heads and arms spewing all sorts of bodily liquids. Eek.  Named after the Native American potlatch ceremony of giving, this installation takes the cake, continuously giving all it can. For those with a strong stomach it can be found at the Southbank Centre.

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[FUN FACT: Germaphobia is another word for mysophobia, a pathological fear of contamination and germs. Also known as verminophobia, bacillophobia, or bacteriaphobia.]

Mannekin Pis, Jeanneke Pis, and Zinneke Pis – Brussels, Belgium

An old hand in the fountain game, we are no strangers to cherubic figures peeing into oblivion. Strange that we’ve grown so accustomed to this particular immortalisation of bodily excretion that it doesn’t faze; in fact, this triumvirate of statues are quite popular. Each is named in the Marols dialect, spoken in Brussels: Little Man Pee, Jeanneke Pee, and Dog Pee.

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The most famous, Mannekin Pis, is found nearby the Grand Palace and is known to don different outfits donated by visitors. Crafted by Jerome Duquesnoy, the statue was set in 1618-19 and has a history rich with legend and tradition.

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Jeanneke Pis (no translation) was meant to be a counterpart to her brother Mannekin Pis. She is situated off the Metro stop Anneessens, Central, Bourse, near Delirium Café tucked away on a dead end street. Cloistered behind bars at times, Jeanneke Pis was originally dreamed up by Denis Adrien Debouvrie in the name of gender equality. In 1987, Jeanneke Pis was mounted in the Impasse de la Fidelite 10 and 12.

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Zinneke Pis, unlike his human counterparts, is not a fountain, but considering his close connection to Mannekin Pis an Jeanneke Pis, I had to include him in the list. Dwelling on the corner of Rue des Chartruex and Rue de Vieux-Marche, this funny statue was installed in 1998.

Crown Fountain – Chicago, IL

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Included in the joy that is Millennium Park, the Crown Fountain is interactive, allowing patrons to become one with the fountain. It’s not as out there as I’ve made it sound; two opposing towering LCD screen with a glass block covering displays people’s faces, alternating between that and total blackness.  Actually, the towers sometimes display nature scenery, water scenes or a solid colour. When a face is up, it will then blink a few times, close its eyes, and finish off by spurting a stream of water. The water is projected into a shallow pool (water level varies from warm to cold months) with jets of water sometimes shooting into the air from several openings in the ground. The water is only on from spring to fall, depending on the weather, which is often terrible in Chicago. Designed by Jaume Plensa to be a tribute to the people of Chicago, the faces cycle through a stock of about 1,000 people regardless of whether water is running.

Hans Sachs Fountain – Nurnberg, Germany 

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This is the most disturbing, dynamic water fountain I’ve ever laid eyes on. Commissioned by the city of Nurnberg to cover a subterranean shaft, this work is known as Ehekarussell, translated to the “Marriage Carousel” or “Marriage-Merry-Go-Round.” Understandably, the fountain caused a bit of unrest on the part of city-dwellers, considering the raw nature of Jürgen Weber’s work. Based on the poem The Bittersweet Life of Hans Sachs, the fountain is divided into six scenes showing the rollercoaster that is married life. Put up in 1984, the controversy lies in the depiction. Each of the scenes has some sort of gruesome element, from nudity to animal-human figures.

Child Eater Fountain – Bern, Switzerland 

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To round out the list I’ve chosen a truly disturbing statue, the Kindlifresserbrunnen, which translates to Fountain of the Eater of Little Children. Yes, this fountain is adorned by a giant ogre with a baby’s head stuffed into his mouth. Never fear though, he has a bag of toddlers for snacks. Dating back to 1546, Hans Gieng is responsible for the structure. Apparently, there are several theories as to why in the world anybody would construct or keep such a thing up:

  1. The pointy hat worn by the Kindlifresser resembles the Judenhut that Jews had to wear, serving as an accusation and warning against the Jewish population of Bern.
  2. The ogre resembles Kronos of Greek mythology who consumed his children.
  3. The ogre is meant to be the older brother of Duke Bechtold, Bern’s founder. Consumed by jealousy, the brother went mad and went on a child-hunting spree. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The World’s Best Underwater Hotels

As a species, we have long been fascinated with the mesmerising beauty and mystery held beneath the waves of our oceans. From the Great Barrier Reef of Australia to the depths of the Mariana Trench, these magical locations capture our imaginations and grip our very soul. Unfortunately, humans aren’t too great at surviving underwater, in the grand scheme of things, so we have to come up with ever more intuitive ways to explore the wonders of our little blue planet.

Diving trips and glass-bottomed boats have maintained their popularity over the years, but now another industry is aiming to deliver the awe of the sea in an accessible way: Hotels. Whether partially submerged or fully enveloped by the waves, they all count as far as this list is concerned. Some of these incredible hotels are open for business, while others are still under construction, but which among them are truly deserving of our attention? Here we rank the best of the best.

5. Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island

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This one may seem like a bit of a cheat, as the Conrad Maldives Hotel doesn’t actually offer any underwater rooms for its guests to stay in. Why, then, does it secure the no.5 spot on this list?

The Conrad’s claim to fame stems from the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, which is part of the hotel itself. This elegant dining area is hailed as the world’s first all-glass undersea restaurant, and was named as “the most beautiful restaurant in the world” by New York’s Daily News.

The restaurant sits 16 feet below the surface and offers incredible views of the surrounding coral gardens and a diverse range of fish, sharks and turtles. It all culminates into a truly enchanting experience. Tables are extremely limited, with only seven in the entire restaurant, so be sure to book in advance.

4. Lovers Deep, Location of Your Choice

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Forget traditional hotels, how would you like to spend a few nights aboard your own private luxury submarine? Well, for the princely sum of $150,000 per night you can have just that!

The luxuriously adapted leisure submarine is designed and furnished to the customer’s own specifications and comes staffed with a 3-man crew consisting of the Captain, Chef and even a personal Butler! The Lovers Deep is marketed as the ultimate way to join the ‘Mile Low Club’, so to ensure guests’ privacy throughout their trip the crew are provided with their own fully soundproofed quarters at the opposite end of the submarine.

While the vessel itself is stunning in just about every way imaginable, an added bonus comes in the way of being able to choose the mooring location yourself, whether that be among the beautiful waters of St. Lucia or observing a sunken battleship in the Red Sea, the choice is yours.

3. The Manta Resort, Pemba Island, Zanzibar

Img source: Manta Resort
Situated along the picturesque coastline of Pemba Island, the Manta Resort offers Seafront Villas, tranquil Garden Rooms, excellent local cuisine and a Beach Lounge guaranteed to chill you out. None of that, however, earned the Resort its place on this list; that honour goes to their incredible Underwater Room.
Floating 250m from the shore, the Underwater Room feels more like a private island than a hotel room. 

Spread across three levels, the landing deck consists of a lounge area and bathroom, with a ladder climbing up to a rooftop lounging area, perfect for both sunbathing during the day and stargazing at night. Head downstairs to the bedroom and you are awarded with 360° views of the magic beneath the waves.

The surrounding seas are truly a wonder to behold. Swathes of Trumpetfish, Scorpion Fish and Sea Turtles seek protection from predators in the shadow of the room and nearby coral, while at night special lights fitted below the windows attract more elusive visitors, including Octopus and Spanish Dancers (a form of sea slug).

2. Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai

Img source: Atlantis, The Palm
This extravagant hotel located on the famously reclaimed lands of the Palm Jumeirah on the Dubai coast seemingly radiates luxury. Based on the theme of the lost city of Atlantis, the hotel is equipped with its own water park, aquarium, 23 restaurants and bars, shopping centre and private beach, meaning there’s no shortage of things to do at this resort.

As for the hotel itself, the ‘Neptune’ and ‘Poseidon’ suites, located beneath the surface and fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows, offer up amazing views of Dubai’s Ambassador Lagoon and are the reason for the resort’s placement on this list. Approximately 65,000 marine creatures inhabit the lagoon, including many that were brought in after sustaining injuries from fishing nets and the like, nursed back to health and protected. Stingrays, sharks and a huge variety of fish and other marine life swarm around the ‘ruins’ of Atlantis, scattered across the bed of the lagoon.

For the more adventurous among you, the resort offers its guests the opportunity to dive or snorkel with the sharks, angel fish and rays of the spectacular lagoon. You can even enter the shark tank at night, armed with nothing but a torch, to experience the sharks at their most active and amazing.

1. Poseidon Undersea Resort, Fiji

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Although the Poseidon Undersea Resort is not yet open to the public, and is still being constructed a short distance off the Fiji coast, the sheer scope and ambition behind the project means it deserves the top spot on this list even before we’ve had chance to experience its wonders.

Described as “the world’s ultimate underwater resort”, the hotel will include 25 suites, each sitting 40 feet below the waves and surrounded by ceiling-high windows, offering the best possible views of the off-shore lagoon in which the resort will be situated. Specially made underwater lights ensure that the beautiful coral and marine life of the lagoon is properly showcased, regardless of the time of day.

Entertainment at the resort is anything but lacking, featuring an on-site dive shop, library, public lounge and theatre, as well as a golf course, tennis courts and fitness centre. For an experience you are unlikely to have tried before, take out one of the resort’s personal Triton Submarines, which are available for use by guests to explore the magnificent lagoon up close. If that all seems like a bit too much excitement for one day, wind down in the luxury marine spa.

One aspect of the resort deserving of special mention is the undersea chapel. The transparent walls create an amazing, ever-changing backdrop of marine life and coral, culminating in a truly original experience that your wedding guests are unlikely to forget any time soon.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.

The Top 5 Largest Waterfalls in the World (Width)

You wouldn’t think that the width of a waterfall was a particularly broad category. I mean, how wide can a cascade of water really get? Well, while the tallest falls tend to be fairly narrow, the ones with shorter drops can extend for kilometres at times, shifting huge quantities of water downriver every second.

Standing in the wake of a giant trunk of white water is one thing, but when it’s stretching out as far as the eye can see, it’s quite another.

5 - Mocona Falls – Argentina/Brazil

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The most well-known falls in Argentina are, of course, Iguazu, but take one look at Mocona, especially from the air, and you’ll have a whole new perspective on how waterfalls can look. The Mocona Falls don’t run across the Uruguay River, but rather, they run along the edge, dumping water into an adjacent gorge. Depending on the time of year, the falls can be between 1.8 and 3 kilometres wide. The falls are also sometimes called Yucuma, which means “the big fall”, whereas Mocona means “to swallow everything”.

4 – Iguazu Falls – Argentina/Brazil

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Actually a collection of some 275 falls, Iguazu is a sight to behold. Sitting right on the border between the Argentine Misiones province and Parana in Brazil, this knife edge dividing the Iguazu River stretches for 2.7km. The largest, most impressive part is the Devil’s Throat, which is 82 metres high. It makes a sort of U shape, 150 metres in width and 700 in length. The falls are almost entirely contained in two national parks, one on the Brazilian side and one on the Argentinian, covering a combined total of almost 2,500 square kilometres (although the lion’s share of that is on the Brazilian side).

3 – Kongou Falls – Gabon

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In 2002, a 3000 square kilometre expanse of land around the Ivindo River was turned into a national park. This was, in part, to protect the vast amount of biodiversity in and around the river, and nowhere else is this biodiversity more concentrated than the Kongou Falls. Often referred to as the most beautiful falls in all of Central Africa, they run a total width of 3.2km and are 52 metres tall at their highest point. There is almost no human life in the surrounding area, as the falls are flanked by thick, deep rainforest, populated by chimpanzees, elephants, gorillas and many other rare species in higher concentration than anywhere else in the world.

2 – Salto Para Falls – Venezuela 

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Venezuela might have the biggest monopoly on amazing waterfalls of any country in the world. Not only can you find the tallest waterfall in the world there (Angel Falls), but also the second widest. These falls are formed in a crescent shape, as two separate parts of the Caura River join together, and they stretch for 5.6km. There are many small islands which run along the expanse, which itself is part of a huge jungle. There are 12 falls in total, and they are also thought to be the most powerful in Venezuela.

1 – Khone Falls – Laos

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You might recognise these falls from the list we did of the most voluminous falls in the world. Although the Khone Falls only managed 3rd place there, they are easily the widest falls on the planet, stretching an astonishing 9.7km. There are thousands of waterways and islands across the width of the falls, which is why the surrounding area is known as Si Phan Don, or “The 4,000 Islands”. The Khone Falls seem to exude scale in every possible sense, even in terms of the wildlife. It is home to the plabuck, a very rare species of catfish which can get as big as 3 metres long. The falls have never been successfully scaled by water, and in 1893 a special gauge railway was developed to get around the issue.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop.