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Fancy breakfast with the giraffes?

When I was 6 years old, I was taken to Longleat National Park in the UK, where our car got attacked by monkeys, chased by lions, and gazed at by giraffes. I recall desperately wanting to pat and feed the giraffes; those tall, magnificent, doe-eyed, beautiful monsters. I also remember feeling like a Lilliputian in front of them, but they are so adorable that their sheer largeness didn't scare me. I was smaller than the leg of an adult giraffe, and fed them however I could, sitting on the shoulders of my uncle. Pretty awesome.

So when I read that you can go to Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, where you might get woken up by a giraffe tongue in your ear, I was strangely excited about the concept.

Located in the Langata suburb, the Manor spans an area of 140 acres, and has 6 bedrooms for rent. The area is inundated with dozens of giraffes and the Manor's windows are made so that the giraffe can let his neck in for breakfast. After the first jolt you'll get facing a giraffe for breakfast, getting used to the idea will certainly make it the most pleasurable and unique part of the day. Giraffes are harmless herbivores, so you really have nothing to worry about.

The history of the place is interesting as the Manor used to be the house of people who spent a large part of their lives working for the cause of endangered wildlife in Africa. The family started the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife and the Giraffe Center, and now run the Giraffe Manor. Each room costs $275-360, but that includes all meals with wine, alcoholic beverages, a sight-seeing vehicle, entrance to the Giraffe Center, and taxes, so it's not a bad deal for doing once. The Manor's website has a cool picture gallery, check it out here.

Oh, and happy Boxing day!

In Dubai, money can buy you a room on a refrigerated beach

Sometimes the creativity that blistering hot weather breeds is truly mind-boggling: Pallazo Versace Hotel has decided to create a temperature controlled beach extending out and around its new hotel in Dubai, so that the "top people" (ugh) don't burn their feet.

"We will suck the heat out of the sand to keep it cool enough to lie on," says Soheil Abedian, president of Palazzo Versace. Of course, it's "pure luxury" that the super rich want. REALLY!?

Climate change, eco-tourism, environment, throw them all out the window and you get Dubai, money, and ludicrous.

They're going to put heat-absorbing pipes under the sand, refrigerate the hotel swimming pool, and have giant air coolers to keep the guests cool in Dubai's scorching 104F-122F summer heat. The thermostats used in the system will be computer controlled. The hotel is planned to be ready by 2010.

Call it competition, call it thrill, call it whack-job, call it destructive tourism for the filthy rich; do these "top people" for whom this barbarity is being created, care? What is the point? Oh tourism $$$ of course!

Well, environmentalists are more than shrugging: "Dubai is like a bubble world where the things that are worrying the rest of the world, like climate change, are simply ignored so that people can continue their destructive lifestyles," says Rachael Noble of Tourism Concern. I share the disgust in that statement.

Whether it will actually happen or not is another question, but they way things are here, there leaves little room for doubt.

I am not a saint, nor am I an environmentalist, nor do I do any important activity other than recycle. But when I read stuff like this, as numb as I think I am to crazy Dubai deeds, it always gets the better of me and I fail to understand why I live here. I'm waiting for this bubble to explode. Will it ever?

Dubai hotel offers meals to those made redundant

This is definitely one of the most innovative promotions I have seen coming out of Dubai: 3-star Arabian Park Hotel in Dubai is offering free meals to anyone who has lost their job because of the credit crunch.

The promotion is not only open to Dubai residents, but anyone in the world who has been fired. All you have to do is bring your redundancy letter with you as proof, and you will have access to a buffet breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

It's their way of adding "festive cheer" to those unfortunate to have lost their jobs in this down period. The offer is open to those unemployed after November 1, and will run from December 15-January 15, 2009. Guests that decide to take advantage of the offer can bring friends and family, but they will have to pay for their meals. Only one such meal will be permitted per person, although I'm not sure how they will control that.

Extraordinary wildlife video: Buffaloes unite to fight lions and save baby

Browsing through YouTube last night (taking advantage of it before it gets blocked here in Dubai, just like Flickr is), I came across this astounding video that some lucky travelers at Kruger National Park in South Africa were eye witnesses to. It has been viewed over 39 million times and has almost 43,000 comments.

They have managed to get live footage of a baby water buffalo being caught by a group of 6 lions, and then of over a 100 buffaloes being summoned to come save the baby and fight off the lions. Amazing. It's a wonderful demonstration of how "animal-families" stick together to help each other survive in the wilderness. It's about 8 1/2 minutes long, but well worth the watch. From the 4:40 mark onwards, it's gold. You will find yourself cheering for the buffaloes as they make the lion kings look like scared and meek deers. There is an attack scene of a few seconds, but it's not gory, so don't worry about seeing anything hard on the eyes. A must, must watch.

Tell us: Do you have bizarre air rage stories?

Unfortunately, these are true headlines, mostly resulting from incidences of air rage.

Apparently, altitudes and changes in air pressure can temporarily cause psychological changes in a person. If the passenger is drinking alcohol, the effects can be enhanced for the same reason. As a result, there have been other terrible and embarrassing air rage cases like:
You can read lots of such bizarre stories narrated here and on Air

A recent study by the Civil Aviation Authority and the Department for Transport (UK) was published in the Daily Mail, and says that cases of air rage have increased four-fold over the past four years. Some startling facts from the report:
  • From 2007-2008, there were 2,702 cases of air rage.
  • 63% of incidents were caused by drunk passengers smoking.
  • 78% of the cases involved male passengers.
  • Incidents have increased by 20% in the past 12 months.
  • The number of reported incidents of violence towards cabin crew nearly doubled from 2006/07 to 2007/08.
But the best (and most surprising) news? During 2007-08, no case was reported in which disruptive behavior contributed to an aviation accident.

Any sort of aggression and violence on air crafts is unacceptable, but how can they be controlled? Limit the service of alcohol? Re-introduce a smoker area on board? Hand out nicotine patches to smokers?

Luckily, other than the odd grumpy complaining passenger, I have never experienced a case of air rage. Have you? What happened? How was it handled? Tell us in the comments section!

Mumbai terror attacks: The aftermath and travel information

It's always been hard for anything to get in the way of the normal functioning of Mumbai. But the recent terror attacks paralyzed South Mumbai for about 3 days, and left the rest of the city home bound, shocked, and glued to news channels.

I was there when the attacks happened, but luckily not in South Mumbai. As schools, colleges, and many companies remained closed, the city was relatively quiet. The mess was over Saturday morning (29th November), after which everything has been back to normal. Trains, buses and taxis are back to their usual frequency, offices have opened, the airport is functioning as usual but with tightened security.

Some of the hotels are back to normal as well, others are not taking new guests until things are clearer. Many of the South Mumbai hotels are not allowing people to enter the restaurants and cafes unless they are staying at the respective hotel.

Especially since tourists were the target in Mumbai, most countries have issued travel warnings and even bans for people to fly to India. Post attacks, a British report has named India one of the top 20 most dangerous places to visit. There are currently many rumors floating around that the next attacks are being planned along India's west coast, specifically Goa and Cochin. All of India's big cities are on high alert.

Photo of the day (12.01.08)

"Oh run run run so you don't fall in!" is what I'd be saying if I was watching this heron doing what it's doing above. Such a great shot of the bird (known to be a "wading bird") that looks like it's walking on water, and has to walk really fast to make it to the other side without falling in!

Taken by flickr user LadyExpat in Daejeon in South Korea, it's certainly a hard moment to catch so well.

Have any pictures capturing the beauty of animals in their natural habitat? Add them to our Gadling photo pool on Flickr and we might just pick it as our Photo of the Day.

Photo of the day (11.24.08)

This is an aerial shot of Lake Nasser, in Abu Simbel, Egypt, taken by flickr user BrittElizabeth. Great shot. But how must it have been taken? From a helicopter, or from a high cliff facing the lake? Or with some super lens?

I also like this shot because it's not something you expect to see when you think of Egypt. In the glory of the Pyramids and the local culture there, we forget that there exist remote, dry, desert-like spots. I also find this shot interesting as it shows arid land next to water; makes you wonder why there isn't more vegetation in this area.

Got a pic you want considered for Gadling's Photo of the Day? Submit it here.

Photo of the day (11.17.08)

I have to admit that I didn't know that creature on top of this shack was a crayfish. But I was sure that at this shack you would get seafood. At first I went "ewe" when I saw the image, but a second later I was licking my lips thinking of grilled garlic lobster. The picture has been taken by user The Wide Wide World in Waipapa Bay, New Zealand. Although it's photo difficult to get wrong, I still think it's a cool and sharp shot of an obviously unique shack.

Do you have a shot that should be considered for Photo of the Day? Submit it to the Gadling Flickr pool.

Small yet significant tips to make your long-haul flights better

All my life I have traveled Economy Class (only once did I get lucky and got an upgrade to Business Class). In my opinion, flights of up to 7 hours in Economy are tolerable, but more than that and the all the fidgeting and frustration starts getting to you.

Having lived in Australia for 3 years, I dreaded the 14 hour flights to and from Dubai (30 hours if you include transfers and waiting); that's when I realized how seemingly trivial things could drastically change the quality of your flight.

MSN just published an article listing some of these small yet significant tips, of which I think these are the most important:

Be comfortable:
Wear loose, warm, long, comfortable clothes. Stick to flat shoes, preferably ones you can wear socks with. Being warm and comfortable in your clothes will change the nature of your flight. (It's such a basic point, I don't understand why so many people choose to make a fashion statement on board at the expense of being comfortable. Perhaps they should stop making movies that make people believe they will find "the one" mid air.)

Bring lip-balm: Even if you have never-cracking lips, on a long-haul flight darling, they will crack! I carry lip-balm everyday, everywhere I go, and always have it on a flight. Once I forgot it and my lips chapped like tree bark. (Yes, ouch). I kept going to the bathroom and putting that disgusting hand-lotion they keep in there on my lips. Didn't work, and yuck, never again.

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