Category Archives: Wild and Wonderful

K is for Kenya

If Africa is on your bucket list, Kenya may well be at the heart of it, and for good reason.

The annual migration between Kenya and Tanzania and back again sees literally millions of animals and birds follow the rains to fresh water.  It is a sight few will forget.

The main point of entry to Kenya is the capital Nairobi.  You can stay at the Giraffe Hotel and have these lanky giants pop their heads in the windows to join you for breakfast. The very long almost prehensile blue tongues will make short work of anything left nearby.

Giraffe Hotel Nairobi

Most travellers will head out quickly from Nairobi to explore the  Serengeti plain, and experience life as it has been lived for thousands of years.   The grass eaters – antelope, impala, wildebeest and zebra, to name just a few graze the plain and gather in the Ngorongoro Crater, and with them the predators.  Lion, cheetah and leopard  lie in wait and help cull the weak and old of the vast herds, strengthening the rest for the survival of the fittest.  And behind then come the scavengers, cleaning up the plains.

Ngorongoro crater

On the lakes enormous flocks of flamingos turns the blue to pink.

Flamingos Lake Nakuru

The Masai Mara have lived traditional lives on the plains of Kenya for thousands of years. Wealth is measured in cows, but water is the most precious gift of all.  Experiencing the red clad warriors performing their high jumping dances will remain with you.

Masai Mara

The migration follows the rains, but most likely viewing is between July and September.

Known as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania will leave you awestruck, and amazed.

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E is for Ecuador

Named for the Equator this South American country is one of those somewhat overlooked places.

The capital Quito, built on the ruins of an Inca city,  is one of the highest capitals in the world, perched in foothills of the Andes Mountains at 2850 metres.   With its Spanish conquistador history and impressive colonial churches  and fascinating old town area, one of the delights of Quito is the colourful local markets with great fruit and brightly decorated ceramics.  Further out explore ruins of ancient civilisations.

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Take a drive to the equator itself and you have an impressive monument of the actual line of the equator and several museums recounting the history of the exploration of the equator.  You can straddle both hemispheres here.

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Ecuador is home to one of the most remarkable island systems on the planet – the Galapagos Islands.  A flight due west from Quito will bring you to the main island and from there the best way to see the islands is on a cruise.  Manned by expert guides who will explain this unique island chain and ecosystem, you will explore several islands and meet the local marine iguanas, bright red crabs, multitudes of seabirds, and possibly the amazing equatorial penguin.   Nowhere else can you get so close to wildlife.  Not hunted by men or feral animals, you can literally walk centimetres from birds on nests and past sealions basking on the steps on the back of your boat.  It is the place that crystallised Charles Darwin’s work Origin of the Species and revolutionised our understanding of how life evolved on earth.  Check out the blue footed boobies, again unique to these islands.

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Let Ecuador delight you in so many ways.

C is for Canada

For Australians, Canada has an unmistakable attraction, and for all sorts of great reasons.

Canadians share a similar system of Government, they know who the Queen is, and they have a similar sense of humour.  Add to that a natural politeness their cousins to the south seem to have forgotten, and Canadians are amongst the most welcoming and friendly people you will meet.

Add to that a country that is simply spectacular in scenery, rich in history and very easy to navigate and you have one of the most popular countries for Australians – actually for anyone- to visit.

From west to east, north to south Canada offers a huge range of possibilities for the traveller.  Most people will enter Vancouver as their first port of call crossing the Pacific. Surrounded by sea, boasting the fabulous Stanley Park as home to recreation for the Vancouverites and offering every modern amenity, Vancouver is a very liveable city.  Check out the Granville Markets and cross by tub boat if you want a truly unique experience!  Visit Gastown for Vancouver’s history and explore the local shops, bars and restaurants. Capilano suspension bridge and now the skywalk on the edge will get you to dizzying heights over the gorge.  Vancouver is also the main gateway for the Alaska Inside Passage cruises.

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Capitol of British Colombia is Victoria on Vancouver Island.  It is possible to fly in or take a ferry.  The Parliament building dominates the harbour, as does the gorgeous Fairmont Empress Hotel.  Victoria boasts the only runway that closes for whales who have right of way over the seaplanes.  Famous for the Butchart Gardens, hundreds of thousands of people experience the beauty of these gardens created from a disused quarry every year.  Absolutely required viewing!

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If it is scenery you are after, look no further than the Rocky Mountains. Whistler for skiing and also summer activities, Sun Peaks for skiing as well, and the world renowned towns of the Rockies – Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper.  Mountains clad in snow or wildflowers and trees, lakes of emerald water, wildlife abounding.  The Athabasca snowfields will amaze.

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If you love your trains, the Rocky Mountaineer is hard to beat, but Canada’s ViaRail will also allow you to explore the country as well.  Rail to Whistler and into the north mountains at Quesnel, and try the transcontinental train from Vancouver to Toronto if you really love rail travel.

On the western edge of the continent lies the Yukon.  Gold has shaped the history of the province and for those with the urge to get off the beaten tourist track, this is a place of wide vistas and great adventures.

Speaking of outdoors – the Calgary Stampede is an annual spectacle in August.  Covered wagon races, First Nations culture and lots of fun for everyone.  Next time  -Eastern Canada.

Beach beauties

Did you know that there is such a job description as a Tourism Australia Aquatic and Coastal Ambassador?    Brad Farmer has that happy role  ( and yes, that’s a real job)!

He has put together a list of the top 10 beaches in Australia as below
#1 Cossies Beach, Direction Island, Cocos Keeling Islands, INDIAN OCEAN – pictured 

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#2 Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island, Far North Coast, QUEENSLAND
#3 Moonee Beach, Coffs Coast NEW SOUTH WALES
#4 Turquoise Bay, Coral Coast, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
#5 Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast, QUEENSLAND
#6 Maslin Beach, Adelaide, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
#7 Dolly Beach, Christmas Island, INDIAN OCEAN
#8 Shelly Beach, Nambucca Coast, NEW SOUTH WALES
#9 Boat Harbour Beach, North West Coast, TASMANIA
#10 Apollo Bay, Great Ocean Road, VICTORIA
 

We are really spoiled for choice when it comes to white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.  Not all of the beaches listed above are hard to reach.  Maslin Beach is an hours drive from Adelaide CBD and the scenic Great Ocean Road will take you to Apollo Bay.  Burleigh Heads is a short drive from Coolangatta airport.

So if refreshing waters and fine white sand are on your agenda for a holiday, consider a few of these.

Hint :  Beaches are busiest over the summer period and especially over the Christmas New Year break.  If you want to truly explore and relax at one of these great places, book really early – now is good for December 2018!

Nature Roars Back

For the first time in Adelaide National Geographic Live came to town last night.

Bob Poole, photographer and videographer and film maker for National Geographic who has been working for them since he was 17 and whose passion is Africa where he spent his life since the age of four, spoke and showed us snippets of his new six part series on Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique entitled Nature Roars Back.

Despite upheaval and challenges cause by a long running civil war and ongoing sporadic fighting, and the rebels using the mountain for which the park was named as their headquarters and living off the park’s game while fighting, after twenty years of relative peace and with the help of benefactor Greg Carr and a dedicated team the park is making a come back.

Getting to know the animals in the park, the elephants who are understandably very wary of humans as the rebels shot the elephants for their ivory in order to get weapons and ammunition, the lions who are starting to return are just two examples Bob took us through as he shared his journey.  Some of the close encounters with the elephants were hair raising and the land rover did not come off so well.  Bob’s sister Joyce is a world expert on elephant and has spent a great deal of time with Bob in Gorongosa helping to habituate the elephants to the presence of humans, but even she was taken by surprise by the aggressiveness of some of the elephants.

Addo Elephant park

After the rains Bob went to an area he had seen from a helicopter where there were several species of nesting storks. The platform in the tree was small and uncomfortable but the footage of the birds, the hatching of the chicks and the flight of the birds was spectacular.  Based on his record the experts believe there were 5000 nests making this the largest nesting site in Southern Africa.   Equally, the huge number of crocodiles who largely went into the water and stayed there whenever danger appeared and this survived the war is probably one of the largest known also.

It was a fascinating evening.  It certainly reminds us why Africa as a continent is so special and habitat must be protected.  It is because their Elephant habitat was not destroyed that the animals are returning to Gorongosa.

Their website is below.

http://www.gorongosa.org/take-action

 

 

Denali- where the wild things are.

When it comes to wild and wonderful it is hard to beat the Alaskan wilderness.

Denali desolate

Spectacular, desolate and pristine Denali National Park offers wildlife, vast open spaces, a mountain to climb and rivers to kayak down.  Dominated by Mt Denali – sometimes called Mt McKinley after the US president- the highest mountain in North America, Denali residents include grizzly bears, wolves, dall sheep, eagles  and moose to name just a few.

Denali and river

If you are lucky – and we were blessed by four days in a row of perfect blue skies and sunshine (almost unheard of!) you will see Denali from a variety of angles, and wildlife to thrill you.  Seeing a wolf pack on the side of the road, almost blending into the scrubby trees was incredible.  Wolf Denali

The grizzlies are smaller in Denali than the huge bears of the coast because food is much harder to come by.  We saw one digging out a sandy area to get to the underground home of something edible.

If you are on the Wilderness tour you will stop off at a ranger hut and you have the chance to feel how heavy moose antlers are.  You quickly realise how massive their neck muscles have to be to hold the rack up.  Don’t mess with an adult male moose – you will definitely come off second best.

If you have the time, definitely add on the 4 night Alaska hinterland extension to an Inside passage northbound cruise.  It will reward you tenfold.