Branson Group Travel Guide Stingray City At Grand Cayman Botswana Emerges As An Up Market Safari Destination

Branson is known as the Live Entertainment Capital of the World and boasts 49 live performance theaters performing 120 shows a day. With a reputation built on love of God and Country, this all-American town of just over 6,000 dazzles tourists each year with its brand of music, humor and down home appeal.

The citys performers are known world wide for their talent and appeal, but also have a reputation for family dynasties.

Performers like Shoji Tabuchi, the violinist, and Utahs Lowe Family bring a whole other dimension to keeping it in the family.

Branson Theater Links

Visitors typically spend 3-4 days in town, sometimes seeing as many as eight shows during their trip. Since there is no airport in town, many elect to drive in and get around on the motorcoach. Having that isolation has done nothing to hurt the success of the city, though. In fact, many choose to include day trips to Springfield and other nearby destinations in their trip, which helps the surrounding communities economies as well.

Heres an overview of what Branson has to offer, giving you an idea of how it came to be the Live Entertainment Capital of the World!

Branson History

With a history of failed or shortly lived industries like lead mining and mussel shell collection for the button industry, the people of southwestern Missouri struggled to make a living. Families barely survived, leaving them vulnerable to manipulation and outlaws.

During the Civil War, the area surrounding Branson was considered a no-mans-land. Lacking law and any men to enforce it, women and families were terrorized and attacked by bushwhackers, men who would rape the women and then pillage the house for food, supplies and valuables. In 1865, what is generally considered to be the very first street shootout occurred in nearby Springfield, when Wild Bill Hickock killed a man named David Tutt in a quarrel over a watch.

After the chaos of the 19th century, the city of Branson was founded in 1903. In 1907, Shepherd of the Hills was written, the immensely popular novel depicting life in the Ozark Mountains. The book, like the Da Vinci Code of today, spawned a generation of people to visit the Ozark Mountains and the actual farm where the novel was written.

In 1959, the first run of the Shepherd of the Hills play was performed in the Old Mill Theater on the farm. The farm has since come under ownership of one of the plays former actors, Gary Snadon, who vowed to keep the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead and Outdoor Theater true to the novel and the time.

Population

6050 permanent residents (2000 U.S. Census)

Weather

Average highs per season: Spring: 59o-85o Summer: 82o-90o Fall: 47o-82o Winter: 44o-59o

Indian Summer lasts well into October, leaving plenty of warm weather for those wanting an escape from the shortening days and ever chillier wind.

Precipitation (monthly average): 3.59 inches

Like many Midwestern cities, precipitation in Branson is slightly higher in the spring and in November, with an average of 4.25.

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One of the most famous natural attractions in Grand Cayman Island is Stingray City. This is an area in the ocean not far from the northern tip of Grand Cayman where tourists can get up close to hundreds of friendly stingrays. Stingray City will be one of the organized tours from cruise ships visiting Grand Cayman as a port of call. There will also be tours available from local operators in the town of Georgetown where the cruise ships dock and bring passengers into town via tender boats. The cruise organized tours will almost always be the more expensive option.

Scuba divers can book specialized dives at Stingray City through one of the many diver operators in Grand Cayman. The scuba diving at Stingray City is at a deeper section away from the tourist crowds who are usually brought to a very shallow area where one could even stand in waist deep water. Certified scuba divers and even snorkellers are recommended to take the dive trip option with the dive shops to experience Stingray City with fewer crowds. For non-divers, the sandbars here are high enough to offer such shallow waters and stingrays will come to these areas. It is believed that many years ago, sailors visiting the area threw fish remains overboard and soon noticed the stingrays coming for the free food. These particular stingrays became conditioned over the years to the humans and the food handouts unlike stingrays elsewhere in the Caribbean.

The stingrays here are friendly enough that people could touch them and local guides have been known to even hold them. The guides will warn everyone that even though these stingrays appear to be quite friendly, they should still be regarded as wild animals so it is never recommended to touch them by their razor sharp tails or abuse them in any manner. It is possible to feed them with the squid parts provided on site. The mouths of the stingrays are located underneath their bodies and people are instructed to hold the food in their palms flat facing up. With their keen sense of smell, the stingrays will hover towards and over the food to collect their snacks.

Although Stingray City can be crowded at times due to its popularity, it does offer a very unique experience to see these wonderful sea creatures up close. Stingrays are usually very shy animals and will swim away from scuba divers and snorkellers but not here at Stingray City in Grand Cayman.

Botswana is a country of seemingly endless open spaces. Though it occupies an area the size of France, the human population is only 1.6 million. This is one country where wildlife does not face stiff competition for land resources from man. As a result the animals have multiplied with a flourish. Botswana can justifiably claim to host some of the finest game sanctuaries in Africa. The worlds’ largest exporter of diamonds by value, the country is not under pressure to get in more tourists. And the government has adopted a deliberate policy of keeping visitor numbers low. The hidden hand of the market has responded by adjusting the price to reflect this reality. Botswana has therefore emerged as an exclusive up market safari destination.

Bill Clinton, together with his wife went on safari in Botswana in 1998. The power couple was greatly fascinated by the wildlife, and the serious games of life and death they play. Affirming his position on top of the food chain, the president ate for dinner some of the animal species he had watched earlier. His evening buffet included zebra, crocodile, impala in monkey sauce, and giraffe. “I tried it all”, he declared with satisfaction. But the former American president is only one in a long line of heavy hitters to enjoy the wildlife havens of Botswana. Hollywood legends, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor chose to remarry here, for example.

Botswana is dominated by the Kalahari Desert. It occupies 84% of the land area, mostly in the west, central and north of the country. But the Kalahari is not a desert in the Sahara sense. You find the occasional sand dune, but also substantial vegetation in the form of short thorn and scrub bush, trees and grasslands. Very little water though, and hence the desert tag. To the northwest, you find Okavango, the world’s largest inland delta. The northeast is a land of gently rolling tablelands interrupted by granite hills and rock formations. The east and southeast, where 80% of the people live has more varied relief. And the rain clouds linger more and unburden themselves more freely, relative to the rest of the country.

Today Botswana is a peaceful, well-managed and relatively prosperous country. The country wealth per man indicator places among middle-income nations alongside Mexico and Russia and ahead of Brazil. But it has not always been so and the country has come along way. The San people (otherwise known bushmen) are believed to be the original inhabitants of Botswana. Their descendants survive to this day, some living as their forefathers did for most of the 30,000 years historians guess they have been around. Later -much later, Bantu groups, prominent of which were the Tswana, became the masters of these realms.

The modern Botswana nation has been shaped by the alliances made in response to historical currents swirling in southern Africa in the eighteenth century. The rulers at the time aligned their interests with those of the British against the Boers who were approaching from the south and the Germans from the west. For the British, the value of the alliance was strategic and not much was expected in terms of economic advantage. And that is how the relationship resulted in the Bechuanaland Protectorate – the precursor of modern Botswana. The British remained in charge until independence in 1966.

The visitor to Botswana is drawn by the credible intelligence that abounds about the quality of its pristine wildlife sanctuaries. Chobe National Park, one of the finest game parks in Africa is located to the north east of the country. The park has the greatest variety of game anywhere in the country. That is why the busy Bill Clinton found himself at Chobe for his short safari. Wildlife thrives among the swamps and grasslands that stretch along the flood plains of the Chobe River. Occupying 10,560 square kilometers, it is particularly renowned for the great concentration and sheer abundance of its elephants, estimated to number 80,000.

The Chobe elephants are migratory and move along the Chobe River, their reliable redoubt in the dry season. African elephants are the largest among elephant species -and those at Chobe are the largest of them all. The population has gradually built up since the 1930’s when wildlife in the area began to enjoy some sort of protection. The infamous trade in ivory, particularly in the 1970’s and 80’s encouraged the decimation of elephant populations in other parts of Africa. But the elephants of Chobe – thank God – were spared contact with the dirty hands of poachers. Other animals to see here include some of the usual suspects on an African safari – lion, cheetah, hippo buffalo, giraffe, antelope, jackal, warthog, hyena, crocodile, zebra. The birdlife is also diverse. Cruising or driving along the Chobe River, you get the best view of the animals.

The Savuti Marshes of Chobe are reputed to have the largest predator population density in southern Africa. The marshes have the textbook features that draw predators. In a flat and hostile environment, they provide a place where wildebeest, buffalo, zebra and many species of antelope congregate for a drink. The predators – cheetahs, leopards, lions, wild dogs, hyenas, wild dogs, and jackals – naturally follow. Some predators such as lion tend to be rather lazy and the setting here is a gift. The usual entry point for Chobe is Kasane, which is located about 800km north of Gaborone. You get here by flying from Gaborone, Maun or Victoria Falls in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Camps and lodges can be found throughout the park.

The Okavango Delta, in the north west of Botswana is the largest inland delta in the world. Spreading over 15,000 square kilometers, it is formed as the flow of the Okavango River slows down and soaks into the sands. That is why it is referred to as ‘the river which never finds the sea’. The network of channels, ox bow lakes, lagoons, swamps and islands that arise is very pleasing to the eye. But that is not all of Okavangos’ bounty. The delta is filled with wildlife – wildebeest, giraffe, hippo, elephant, zebra and buffalo have all found a home here. The birds too are plenty, more than 550 types, some of which live on the trees and others on the water.

The best place to see wildlife in Okavango is within the spectacular Moremi Wildlife Reserve. The reserve lies in the centre of the delta and occupies 3,000 square kilometres. In Moremi you view game aboard a vehicle or by gliding on a makoro (dugout canoe) or other type of canoe. Accommodation is available in camps and lodges within the delta area. In Moremi itself, you can stay in tented campsites but no permanent camps or lodges are allowed.

If you are interested culture, take a break at Chief’s Island, the largest in the delta, and see ancient rock paintings. The painting were presumably executed by the artistically inclined fore bearers on the San people. The Okavango Delta should be avoided in summer, especially December to March, when most of the camps are closed down. At that time, it is very hot and humid- temperatures rise above 38

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