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Wildlife Viewing

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands

On the boat ride over to Floreana, dolphins were jumping in the wake. Our lodging for the next two nights was the Floreana Lava Lodge, simple wooden cabins on the beach with the sound of pounding waves to lull you to sleep. The owners, a brother and sister team of Claudio and Aura, were two of 12 siblings that were brought up on the island. Their father and mother moved to Floreana in 1939 and today there are only 150 full-time residents. 

 
The following day was my favorite of the entire Ecuador trip. Claudio and our guide Carlos drove us high into the hills to first see giant tortoises, many over 100 years old. We walked through caves that housed early German settlers, picked juicy oranges from a tree, took a short hike to an overlook with exquisite views of the island, and then had a glorious lunch of grilled beef and chicken with a delicious chimichurri sauce, salads, and fresh fruit juice at the former estate of Claudio and Aura’s parents. We felt privileged to see where their father was buried on the grounds under the 12 fruit trees he planted for the birth of each of his children.
 
In the afternoon, we snorkeled by ourselves with huge sea turtles. Afterwards, a sea lion swam up to our beach, rolled in the sand in front of us and went to sleep. When the night sky grew dark, we could see all the glittering stars of the southern hemisphere, including the Southern Cross. That’s what I call a special day. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/23/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Checking Out The Caves and Monkeys of Barbados

The allure of Barbados has always been the stretch of soft white sand on the west coast that serves as a welcome mat for the warm aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea. Yet, it’s the ecological wonders in the northern and eastern section of the island that make Barbados an intriguing island destination. At Harrison’s Cave, you hop on a tram that slowly ambles into the dark corridor of limestone coral. The 100-foot high Great Hall is teeming with stalagmites and stalactites, the color of a creamsicle. Even more impressive is the crystal-like formations found in the Rotunda above pools of rushing water. Next stop is the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, home to green monkeys that were first brought to the island as pets of slave traders in the mid-17th century. The monkeys tend to be shy, so you have to be still. There are also flamingos and pelicans drinking from the shallow ponds, toucans that blurt “hello” from inside an aviary, and peacocks who squawk at the slow moving red-footed tortoise. You finish with a swim on one of those blissful beaches. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/22/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Spotting Scarlet Macaws in Jaco, Costa Rica

My kids weren’t too pleased to wake up at 6:30 am on spring break, but I wanted to be at Carara National Park at 7 am when it opened. I knew from prior trips to the country that Carara was one of the few places to see that majestic bird, the scarlet macaw. Last time here, I heard the loud squawking and peered up at a family of four vibrantly colored macaws. That is an image I was hoping to recreate as we started our hike in. An hour later, we were covered in sweat from the sweltering rainforest humidity and had only spotted one very large Jesus Christ lizard. No macaws. We drove back to the hotel and I was bumming big time. Later that afternoon, we were driving south on the coastal road outside of Jaco to our next stop, Manuel Antonio National Park. Out of nowhere, I heard that unmistakable loud squawking and suddenly seven to eight large macaws flew overhead, only to land in an almond tree to our right. I stepped on the brake and pulled over, upsetting the truck behind us who was honking. As he drove by, he swore at me in Spanish, which fortunately I can barely understand. I could care less. My wife and kids were in their glory taking snapshots of the multicolored macaws. It made my trip. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/21/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 30, 2017

Bald Eagles Return to Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

This is the time of year when bald eagles make their annual pilgrimage to the Shepaug Dam on the Housatonic River in Southbury, Connecticut. When their fishing grounds freeze over further north, these majestic birds head to the dam, where the turbulent waters prevent freezing and push fish to the surface for easy pickings. Everyone is invited to view these graceful creatures whose wingspans often reach 7 feet at the Eagle Observation Area near the Shepaug Housatonic Hydroelectric Station. An organized eagle watch takes place every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 1 pm through March 12. Admission is free but space is limited and reservations are required. In addition to eagle viewing, Connecticut Audubon will host a birds of prey show on Saturdays throughout the viewing season. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/30/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Top 5 Dream Days in 2016, The Magical Sunsets of the Okavango Delta

There were so many highlights of our 9-day trip with Abercrombie & Kent to Botswana and Zambia in September that it’s hard to pick one day. I loved watching the elephants swim across the Chobe River on the Namibian border, spending an hour with a leopard on a tree in the Okavango Delta, surprising a rhino after an early morning drive, meeting Jabu, a massive African elephant who helps locals overcome their fear of wild animals, canoeing past hippos on the Zambezi River, watching the pounding waters of Victoria Falls plunge to the bottom of the chasm from the Zimbabwean side, and listening to our wonderful guide, Kebby, describe each and every bird like the brightly colored lilac-breasted roller and the southern carmine bee-eater.  

But most of all, I loved each and every sunset, a massive orb of fiery red, orange, and yellow sun that sets the bush aglow before darkness descends. There are few things in life as magical as a sunset in Africa. Late afternoon on our third day of the trip we were picked up at Chief’s Camp and treated to a mokoro ride. In a traditional canoe, a guide poled us through the tall grasses on a leisurely paddle, Botswana’s version of a gondola ride. The sun started to set and the tall reeds surrounding us were aglow. When the paddle ended, we celebrated the last embers of light on land, vodka tonic in hand nibbling on meaty biltong. That’s as close to perfection as it gets in the world of travel. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/03/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, November 02, 2016

G Adventures Partners with Jane Goodall Institute

Toronto-based G Adventures has just announced their new partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute. Called The Jane Goodall Collection by G Adventures, the selection of 20 wildlife-themed tours include a chance to observe gorillas in the jungles of Uganda, meet the giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands, sail up the Amazon River on a small riverboat, and much more. G Adventures will carry on the esteemed primatologist’s mission to protect wildlife and empower local communities. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/02/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 23, 2016

Abercrombie and Kent Week—The Cherished Memories on Safari

Those close-up shots of leopards, lions, hippos, rhinos, elephants, and giraffes might have impressed my Facebook friends these past two weeks, but 5 years from now I won’t remember any of those animals. Okay, maybe that one rhino in the Okavango Delta we surprised who ran off in a blur. What I’ll remember is that marimba band playing solely for our group as we arrived for lunch at the Victoria Falls Hotel; my guide, Kebby, clearly enunciating the name of that colorful bird, the lilac-breasted roller; waking up to French-pressed coffee at Stanley’s; all those glorious sunsets, especially the one overlooking the Zambezi on the deck of Sussi and Chuma; heading back to our room at Chobe Chilwero after a long day of game drives and boat rides to find that a bubble bath had been prepared; jumping with young children in hand at the Zambian village of Nakatindi; and all those wonderful stories we shared at dinner with our new friends. These are the special moments I’ll remember and inevitably the driving force behind another trip to Africa some 2 years from now when thoughts about taking that long international flight have faded. I yearn to return to that continent and its people more than any other destination. It’s my spiritual retreat where I feel most alive. I want to thank Abercrombie and Kent for the opportunity this time. 

I’m off to Bloomington, Indiana, for Parents Weekend at IU. I’ll be back on Tuesday with blogs about our trip to Cape Town. Have a great fall weekend and keep active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/23/16 at 04:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Abercrombie & Kent Week—Our Wonderful Botswana Guide, Kebby Arabang

On safari, you have the choice of booking a lodge and going out on game drives with their respective guides or hiring a highly reputable tour operator like Abercrombie & Kent who will assign a private guide to your group for the duration of the trip. Obviously, there’s an extra cost involved, but if you’re splurging for this amazing opportunity, it’s important to do it right. Lodge guides I’ve had in the past have been hit or miss, depending on their knowledge of flora and fauna and communication skills in English. The guide A&K assigned to us on our travels to Botswana this past week was exceptional. 

Botswana-born Kebby Arabang met us at the airport in Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta, and escorted us the next 9 days through the northern tier of the country and onward to Zimbabwe and Zambia. His knowledge of the outdoor world was encyclopedic. Kebby knew every mammal, every bird, every tree, even the planets in the sky above. But it was his genuine passion of the subject, seamless communication skills, infectious smile and sense of humor that made him one of the best guides I’ve ever met. I loved mimicking his Botswana accent, especially when he emphasized the letter r when naming the next exquisite bird like the lilac-breasted roller or southern carmine bee-eater. He took it in stride and laughed along with me, even when the joke lasted far too long. He’s also a talented photographer recently asked by a publisher on vacation to create a book from his work. One of my favorite parts of Kebby’s background is that he spent a year working at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando. When people asked where the giraffes were, he would simply say “up the stairs and to the right.” Now Kebby’s the one reaching as high as those giraffes, climbing the ladder of success as he’s become one of the top guides in Botswana, arguably the best place on the planet for going on safari. I look forward to sending clients his way. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/20/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, September 19, 2016

Abercrombie & Kent Week—The Diverse Terrain in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia

Having just returned from one on of the most memorable trips I’ve ever experienced, an 8-night journey with Abercrombie & Kent to Botswana, I get the added bonus of reliving cherished moments this week on my blog. Botswana was my 5th safari and by far the most diverse when it comes to terrain. Much of the trip revolved around water, which was a welcome relief to often jarring game drives on rutted roads. As soon as we arrived in the Okavango Delta, we were greeted with roads that were washed-out with water. That wasn’t a problem with our A&K guide, Kebby, who would drive though the streams like he was atop a duck boat, not a Toyota Land Cruiser. The maze of waterways dotted with palm trees on our first two nights at Stanley’s Camp reminded me of the Everglades. That is, until you spot a leopard up a tree or a giraffe in the distance. At the recently renovated Chief’s Camp (which I’ll report on later this week), we enjoyed meals while watching elephants and baboons cool off at the nearby watering hole. 

 
Chief’s Camp was also where we would take our first of many jaunts on the waterways, this time via a mokoro, a traditional form of canoe. A guide poled us through the tall grasses on a leisurely paddle during sunset, Botswana’s version of a gondola ride. The abundance of wildlife at Chobe National Park, our third stop, was mind-blowing, Best known for the largest population of elephants in the world, over 75,000, you peer out and see long parades of elephants, including countless babies. The magical boat ride on the Chobe River, which borders Botswana and Namibia, was so much fun, we asked to go on it two sunsets in a row. We watched as elephants swam across the deep river, joined by large herds of Cape Buffalo, crocodiles as still as sculpture, and all types of antelope. Leaving Botswana, we stopped on the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls to watch the waters of the Zambezi River plunge down one of the widest waterfalls in the world, over a mile long. Then it was on to our last stop, Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma, overlooking the Zambezi on the outskirts of Livingstone, Zambia. We would spend our final day canoeing the river near hippos, warthogs, crocs, and impala. All vivid memories I won’t soon forget. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/19/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, August 29, 2016

Off to Cape Town and Botswana

Talk to any experienced African safari guide and they’ll no doubt tell you that Botswana is the best country on the continent for going on safari. Along with Namibia, Botswana is one of Africa’s least populated wildernesses. The country’s enviable conservation philosophy endorses low-volume, high-revenue tourism, and significant benefits for local communities who live amongst the wild animals. Unlike Kenya’s Maasai Mara or Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, which can often be overcrowded, head to Botswana and you’re not likely to see any fellow travelers out on game drives, walks, or boat rides. The Okavango Delta is a gigantic inland waterway, an island of green in an arid landscape. It’s home to large herds of elephants, some of the biggest lions in Africa, and enough variety of bird life to turn even the most dedicated big-mammal enthusiast into a bird lover. Tomorrow, Lisa and I are headed to Botswana on a 9-day safari with Abercrombie and Kent. We’ll be staying at four of their premier properties, Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp, Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero, and Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma. After a 2-year renovation, Sanctuary Chief’s Camp reopened on June 1st and is now considered the Sanctuary Retreats’ flagship property. 
 
Before Botswana, we’re spending a week in Cape Town to pen stories and research the lodging, food, wine, art, and biking in the region. I’ll be back the week of September 19th with many stories from our trip. In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, where I’ll be posting photos and quick comments from our travels. Be well and keep active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/29/16 at 06:00 AM
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photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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