Like Jurassic Park…but Safer!
I love it when I begin a new adventure with little or no expectations and then bam, I am wowed! So it was yesterday when we visited Hula Lake, in the north of Israel in the Hula Valley. Nestled between the Golan Heights to the East and the upper Galilee to the west, it is a major bird migration destination along what’s known as the Syrian-African rift where the African, Asian and European plates come together. (You don’t want to be there in an earthquake!)
This is really the second generation of Hula Lake. The first one was drained in the 1950s to create additional agricultural land for an infant country in need of food for its numerous new refugees and to dry up a potential source of malaria. However, in time, Israel came to learn that “It is not nice to fool with Mother Nature” as we say. The altered use of the land disrupted drainage patterns and the ecological balance of the local habitat. That’s all “water under the bridge” at this point. In the ‘90s the Jewish National Fund returned to the Hula Valley and restored a smaller and managed version of the lake and created an exquisite balance of natural and man-made resources. In time, the Hula Valley has become a unique ornithological spot in the world. According to the JNF official flyer, “Over this area twice a year, no less than 500 million birds migrate-waterfowl, birds of prey and song birds from 390 different species.”
People of all ages can visit and tour the park on foot, bike, golf carts and the Safari Wagon. That’s what we took. My mom is here from California and at 80; the Safari Wagon with its own shade was the right choice. As an avid bike rider, I really wanted something more active but of course, my mom’s comfort trumps all. The personnel at the park assured us this was a good choice because it travels in an area of the park that the other trails don’t lead. “Yea sure, what a line I thought to myself.” Is this going to be like the whale watching tour we went on in which we finally saw two whales at the end of three hours? As we started slowly on the bumpy trail, towed by farm tractor, I flashed on the maiden tour of the investigating scientists in the movie Jurassic park. After much boredom, they escaped from their confining, tracked tour cars and encountered a flock of Brontosaurus type dinosaurs.
The camera flashed to their jaws opened wide in awe and disbelief. This tour was indeed different though. OK, we didn’t see any dinosaurs, but our jaws dropped in awe as well. Within just a few short minutes we came around a bend and found ourselves in a sea 40,000 or more Cranes! It was truly a magnificent, breathtaking display of nature. I thought to myself, this is like Jurassic Park-only safer!
Joel Abramson operates the Israel Connection, tour consulting and organizing Bar/Bat Mitzvah and wedding family tours.