Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Painted Pachyderms

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

They’re bright and beautiful. They attract everyone’s attention and they disrupt a city’s “streetscape” in a wonderfully attractive way. They are painted pachyderms and between July 13th and October 18th 2013 they took over the streets of Luxembourg. A summer and autumn treat for locals and tourists.
But why are they here? Where did they come from and where will they go?
These 55 life sized replicas of brightly painted baby elephants are part of the annual “Elephant Parade” that tours different cities around the world annually. The “parade” is a very visible way for The Asian Elephant Foundation to make people aware of the plight of Asian Elephants. Each elephant is auctioned off after the “parade” and all the monies raised are donated to the foundation for conservation and wellbeing of the Asian elephant.
We were lucky enough to be in Luxembourg while this year’s parade was on show. We didn’t see all 55 of the saggy baggy beauties but we captured those that we did. The parade made time in Luxembourg even more special and we are grateful to the Asian Elephant Foundation for their creativity.
If you ever have the opportunity to get up close and personal to an Asian elephant we are sure you will be touched by their gentle nature and intelligence. One of many species worth supporting and we are sure that your donation would be very much appreciated.

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Waking To The Hippo Alarm Clock

Monday, September 10th, 2012

In the Delta you don’t need an alarm clock because one of two things will wake you for your early morning safari – a friendly guide or, at the Banoka Bush Camp, the morning chatter of hippos. In the not so large waterhole outside our tent, 12 hippos wallow in the shallow Delta water. This is Hippo heaven.
During the dark of night the hippos leave the water and go in search of food. They spend most of the night feeding on grasses and they venture quite a distance from their territorial waterholes. As the sun rises the hippos return to the cool of the water so as to protect themselves from the hot African sun.

Back Home

Like excited children going to the beach for the day, the hippos can’t seem to contain themselves as they get closer to the waterhole. They grunt and groan with pleasure as they immerse themselves in the familiar waters. – “We’re home” is what they seem to announcing.
We settle into our delightful breakfast as the hippos settle into their aquatic resting place for the day. Our day of activity is about to begin – their’s is about end.

Grunt, groan, aaaarrgghh. Hippo speak.

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The Delta Experience Begins

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Loose dust particles are whipped into a frenzy as the Cessna Caravan’s constant speed propellor increases its speed. The small turbo prop plane accelerates quickly down the dirt strip and, before long, the young pilot flies the plane into the warm Botswana skies.

Powering Up

As the noise from the Wilderness Air plane reduces we become aware of the sounds of wildlife around us. We have arrived in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
Willie, our guide for the next three days, introduces himself and welcomes us to this beautiful aquatic African paradise. Willie produces some cold drinks then he outlines the program he has in store for us – morning safaris, sundowner safaris, lots of eating and drinking and plenty of photography. Perfect.
Before we set course for Banoka Camp we take in the sight of elephants grazing nearby. The first of many sightings of these huge mammals.
The scene is set. Let the adventure begin.

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Hairy Reflection

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose the hairiest of them all?”

Is this what the inquisitive little squirrel monkey that is looking into The Princess lens cover is asking? He certainly seems rather impressed with his reflection. His friends must be photographers in the making because while this little chap is checking out the lens filter, they are rather keen to get into my camera bag!

Here's Looking At You

Zippers and pockets have to be well secured before venturing into this monkey playground because their little fingers are rather strong and they don’t ask permission to take a peek through your personal belongings.  ”Hey – we’re related aren’t we?”

Up close and personal with miniature primates in Africa.  Just don’t forget to check your bag when you leave!

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Flustered Feathers In Full Flight

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

We are admiring the vastness of the Atlantic ocean on the drive toward the Cape of Good Hope when, all of a sudden, our attention is drawn to something on the road ahead of us.

Our minds try to make sense of the picture of a flustered female ostrich running at a pace straight toward the car.  Her stubby wings are flapping around as she wobbles down the road like a drunk marathon runner.  I stop the car and she stops in the centre of the road. Further down the road we get to see the reason for her running – an obviously horny male ostrich.  He also stops.

Flustered Feathers

The large female (standing well over 8 feet tall) sizes up the situation.  Our small Ctiroen car ahead of her and a large horny male behind her.  What to do?  After a brief moment she moves to one side of the road and runs around our car and sets off on a new escape path.

The chase is on again.  The over-sexed male is not going to let this one get away so he starts moving his gangly legs again and gets up to quite a speed as he passes us without stopping.

We look at each other in disbelief and start laughing at the comical scene we just witnessed.  Welcome to Africa!

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Butterflies and Getting Buffed

Monday, April 9th, 2012

I do quite a bit of mountain bike riding here in Hong Kong and one of the places I love riding is the Chi Ma Wan peninsula.  It is located on the same island that we live on  (Lantau Island).

The Princess has been keen to see where I ride so I suggested that we take a hike around the same track that I ride.  So, with backpacks packed and plenty of water we set out today to explore Chi Ma Wan on foot.

This morning’s weather did not look too favourable for a hike however not long after we rose it started to improve so we committed to the hike – rain or shine.  Fortunately it turned out to be the latter.

There are a number of ways to get to Chi Ma Wan (hiking, riding and ferry) but our chosen route was via the Discovery Bay (DB) to Mui Wo (MW) ferry then the coastal trail from Mui Wo.  We always enjoy the ferry trip from DB to MW.  We call it the slow boat to China – an old inter-island ferry the chugs along close to the shoreline.  The staff are friendly and the open air upper deck is perfect for taking in the sights and temperature of the day.

We departed DB around 1045 and arrived in MW less than 30 minutes later.  The closer we got to MW the better the weather became and by the time we arrived the air was clearing and the sun was peeking through thin layer of overcast.

Before setting out for Chi Ma Wan (CMW) we stocked up on some rations at Cafe Paradiso – some freshly made sandwiches on rye bread.  This turned out to be a good move later in the hike when we stopped for lunch.  They were delightful sandwiches!

We set out for CMW around 11.20 – the short walk to the start of the trail taking us past a small beach at the back of the main street of Mui Wo.  The coastal trail around to CMW is mostly concrete and it starts with a steep set of stairs that get the heart rate up straight away.  The track follows the coastline of the southern shore of Lantau Island around to Chi Ma Wan and the views from the trail are stunning.  You get to look back to Hong Kong island and south to some of the larger islands too.

Whilst the trial is mostly concrete there are several stretches of clay base. After the recent rains the trail was muddy in patches but this didn’t stop us making good progress along the path.

The one thing that was immediately apparent as we started out on the hike was that we were going to be in for a butterfly treat today. The spring temperatures have led to a huge increase in the number and type of butterflies and at times it felt like we were in a butterfly house.  Absolutely beautiful.

We arrived over at the CMW peninsula after an hour of walking and we enjoyed seeing the grazing “Lantau Cows” (the feral buffalo) that call this part of Lantau home.  One has to be a little careful where one steps on the trail because these “locals” don’t have any toilet training and they seem to be quite happy to decorate the trail with their rather larges “pats”.

The small beach leading into Shap Long Chung Hau (the small village the marks the beginning of the Chi Ma Wan area) is rather picturesque and, in some respects, set in an idyllic location.  However, the locals that call this part of the world their home are not exactly environmentally savvy and the beach area is full of rubbish.  It is a real shame that the culture here does not see anything wrong with having their backyard look like a rubbish tip (dump) – we guessed that it is going to take several more generations to wake up to looking after the environment a little better.

Despite the proliferation of rubbish in village area we enjoyed the views of the surrounding areas (beaches, mountains and bushland) as we started the climb up toward the reservoir behind Shap Long Chung Hau.  Before starting out on the next trail we walked passed two prison complexes and up toward a lovely reservoir that sits between two ridge lines – a beautiful watercourse that would be perfect for a “dip” in mid summer.

After traversing the dam wall we headed up some steep steps and onto the Chi Ma Wan peninsular proper.  Despite her recent bout of sickness (double pneumonia) The Princess handled the steps and gradients like a true pro and it wasn’t long before we were well into the Chi Ma Wan trail.

Fortunately quite a bit of the trail is covered by reasonable overhangs so we were protected nicely from the increasing periods of sunlight.  The shade also kept the temperature down as the afternoon progressed.

Small creek crossings, rocky outcrops and stunning views to the southern islands of Hong Kong made for a very pleasant hiking along the well trodden (and ridden) trails.  We enjoyed stopping periodically to take in the natural beauty of the area and to listen to the cacophony of insect “chatter” rising from the surrounding bush.

We made good time along the trail however, around 1400 we decided to stop for a bite to eat – the lovely rye sandwiches we had made in Mui Wo.  We chose a huge rocky outcrop just above Tai Long beach for our picnic spot.  It was nice to stop and rest our legs and to take in the southern views across the Admasta Channel and toward Cheung Chau (a large island south of Lantau Island).

The Admasta Channel is a rather busy waterway.  It is the route taken by the many fast ferries that transit between Hong Kong and Macau.  We enjoyed watching the continuous procession of hydrofoils and catamarans moving at high speed.  We also enjoyed the company of two local black kites who kept a close eye on our lunch from overhead.  These beautiful birds are very common here in Hong Kong and they enjoyed the ridge line thermals rising up from the coast below.

With our bodies refueled and energy levels topped up we continued our hike westward toward Pui O.  The trail descends quite a ways on the western side (always a favourite part of the trail when I am mountain biking) so we had to be careful negotiating the steeper steps and washout parts of the trail – spraining an ankle is never a good thing when you are a little remote.

For some reason (flower types?) the butterflies increased in numbers as we headed further west along the trail.  We enjoyed photographing the more patient ones and taking in the sights on offer.  Butterflies are a one of The Princess’ favourite so she was in her element.  Indeed, I had to keep her moving (we’d still be out there if she had her choice!) along the trail.

We left the main trail above Mong Tung Wan bay around 1500 and took a side trail toward Pui O.  We had to be cautious of the slippery steps on the steep descent down to the Pui O trail however we managed to get to the bottom unscathed.

The trail around Mong Tung Wan to Pui O is concrete so the remainder of the hike was quite straightforward.  We enjoyed the distant views toward Cheng Sha beach and the mountains of Lantau Island as we made our way along the pathway toward Ham Tin (the small village near Pui O).

We arrived in Pui O around 1615 – just under 5 hours after departing Mui Wo.  We were a little foot sore and tired after the 15km hike but happy to have made the effort.  The Princess was very happy to have seen the trail that I frequent on my bike and very happy to have seen so many butterflies too!

End note:  It took us five hours to hike the trail and only 7 minutes in a bus from Pui O to Mui Wo!!  Oh – the bus ride had nothing on the hike (other than the time element!).

You can take a look at a map of the hike we did here

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