If you want an exotic trip without going abroad, you might want to consider visiting Kibbutz Nir David in northern Israel. Among other things, the kibbutz offers an Australian safari called the Gan Garoo Park, spring bloom hikes on Mount Gilboa, as well as fishing and kayaking in the Valley of the Springs.
The kibbutz itself offers relaxation and a variety of outdoor activities, Michael Yedid, sales manager of Nir David, tells The Jerusalem Post.
"When you have a river near you, it gives you the quiet and beautiful things - green trees and birds," says Yedid, who has lived on the kibbutz for 51 years. "It's a quiet life. There's no cars, no trucks."
Gan Garoo houses Australian animals, although many of them were born in Israel, according to Yehuda Gat, the park's general manager. A favorite pastime of visitors is feeding and petting the kangaroos, and tour guides provide interesting information about the creatures.
Gat says the father and mother of the Laughing Kookaburra birds take turns sitting on the eggs. When the chicks are older, they in turn help their parents sit on new eggs.
Another bird, the Emu, is the largest bird species in Australia and the second largest in the world. The males sit on the eggs for 54 days and, once the eggs hatch, watch over them for a period of year and a half - during which time the female might choose another mate.
The strangest egg of the birds at Gan Garoo was the large green one of the endangered Southern Cassowary.
Turning from birds to bears, Gat says the koala bears rest and sleep about 19 hours a day. Koalas eat eucalyptus leaves, which has about the same nutrient level as cardboard - a deficiency that causes the animals' lethargy, he explains. Koalas spend about five minutes a day walking around and can eat for a few minutes at four to five hour intervals thoughout the day, Gat adds.
Entrance to Gan Garoo is NIS 39 for adults and children over three.
Nir David's landscape encompasses mountains, valleys and streams and the weather is nice throughout the year. The kibbutz offers trips along its beautiful streams, and guides take visitors through the Valley of the Springs, with its lush vegetation. Three rivers flow from the valley: Nahal Harod, Nahal Hakibbutzim, and the Asi River, as well as natural springs. Activities on the water include kayak rides and fishing in the Asi River. Kayaking costs NIS 60 an hour and is only for guests staying at the kibbutz's accommodations. It is also only for groups over 20 people who reserve in advance. Fishing costs NIS 20 for guests and groups.
The valley lies at the foot of the Gilboa Mountains, which are covered with trees, groves, vegetation, From February to May, visitors can visit Mount Gilboa to see the spring flowers, including the indigenous Gilboa Iris, as well as anemones, buttercups, primrose and tulips.
Prices for kibbutz hospitality are $138 for two people in a cabin Sunday-Wednesday and $183 for two people on weekends (Thursday through Saturday.) During holiday season, the price is $208.
A suite costs $150 for two people Sunday through Wednesday and $198 Thursday through Saturday. Holidays are $215. Prices include breakfast, access to the kibbutz swimming pool, sauna, fitness room and admission to the national park.
The kibbutz's Muza Restaurant will be kosher for Pessah.
The writer was a guest of Kibbutz Nir David.