Travel is wonderful in Israel. Many historical sites and other points of interest are within two hours drive of my new home. Local travelers can visit Jerusalem, The Galilee, and Nazareth in the same day! Israel has many outdoors activities including a national hiking trail, Zoological centers, and numerous local paths to enjoy in this balmy Mediterranean climate.
Public transportation is more than adequate and fairly low cost, Rental cars are available at competitive rates. However, Israelis are not known for their courtesy on the roads and finding parking can be a nightmare in much of the country. I therefore do not own a car and truly appreciate the bus and train systems.
My friends and I often visits Israel's most northern cities located near the border of Lebanon. The Hula Lake Park, Israel's bird sanctuary and observation center is in the region. It takes us two hours to reach the nation's most northern towns of Metulla and Kiryat Shmona from our homes in Haifa. .
The trip is along winding mountain highways. The view is grand, but I was surprised at the relative lack of vegetation.. Kiryat Shmone is the largest town in this region. Nature tours and light industry sustain this community of roughly twenty-five thousand residents. Metulla is the other major city in the area. It is known as a wealthy town popular as a tourist destination, especially for Israeli schoolchildren during summer vacation. Both communities have some nice cafes and access to hiking and historical sites. Sadly, both towns have been victimized by terrorism due to their proximity to the border with Lebanon. This area is among the most heavily guarded in the world. It is eerie to enjoy the natural beauty of the region surrounded by the overwhelming military presence. Fortunately for me, I have a friend Irma who is a licensed guide. We often tour Israel with a group of friends primarily from South Africa.
The two towns are also close to Hula Lake Park, a nature reserve and bird sanctuary. BBC Wildlife Magazine, the world's best-selling natural history and environmental magazine, has named Israel’s Hula Lake Park one of the most outstanding wildlife sites. . It has become a major stopover for migrating birds flying from Europe to Africa and back, and also a major bird watching site. Over 500 Million Birds A Year Cannot Be Wrong! Twice a year, no less than 390 species of birds pass through the area; water fowl, birds of prey and songbirds. You can also see water buffaloes and wildcats, enjoy the unique flora and fauna, and participate in tagging birds. park.You can see the birds there, as they migrate from Europe to Africa and back, as well as the water buffaloes and wildcats grazing and playing, You can also enjoy the lush flora, the unique indigenous fauna and participate in ringing birds.
About 35,000 cranes arrive in the autumn months, and about 15,000 of them stay for the winter. The multitude of cranes attracts many visitors, and to assist these visitors, KKL-JNF constructed lookouts on a man made hill at the edge of the lake, which view the field where the cranes feed. The observatory, which is made of wooden planks, was designed in conjunction with bird watching professionals and has windows that offer panoramas of the lake and of the feeding field.
“A paradise for migrating birds” and “an experience of a lifetime” are some of the ways people have described the natural wonders of the Hula Valley, where 500 million birds of different sorts and species stopover on their flights between Europe and Africa. The main migrating season is in the fall, when pelicans, herons, storks and cranes arrive in huge flocks, along with birds of prey and other winged species.
So as not to upset the ecological balance, private motor vehicles are not allowed in the Hula Lake Park. Entrance is free of charge, and you may walk around for free. You may alternatively enjoy your visit on a bicycle, in a golf cart or on the Mystery Wagon, for a fee. The Mystery Wagon is a camouflaged wagon drawn by a tractor, which allows for maximum proximity to the birds. My friends and I choose to take the guided tour on the The Mystery Wagon. I would estimate that one hundred of us rode the wagon which included wooden benches for seating and was motorized, The guided tour took about an hour and done in Hebrew. Our guide did speak sufficient English to answer questions from those who did not understand Hebrew. Many of my fellow passengers were Israeli but some were American, French, Russian, and South American.
At the Visitors Center, one may rent bicycles and golf carts. Entrance with your own bicycle is permitted on weekends and holidays, with advance notice at least one day prior to the weekend or holiday. There was a small but nice cafe and plenty of gifts for sale. This is wonderful place to visit for all especially lovers of nature!