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Wildlife Viewing

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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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Time to Go Whale Watching off Provincetown

Good news! Humpbacks have already been spotted off Stellwagen Bank. Located 7 miles north of Provincetown, Stellwagen Bank is one of the Atlantic coast’s largest feeding grounds for whales. The 18-mile long crescent-shaped bank ranges from 80 to 500 feet below the surface. Currents slam into the bank, bringing nutrient rich cold water to the surface. This attracts fish, which in turn attracts numerous species of whales from April to November—humpbacks, the larger fins, and smaller minkes. One gulp from a hungry humpback whale can take in a ton of fish.

 
The first trip with Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch is scheduled to go out this Saturday, when temps are supposed to be in the lower 60s. Many of these boats have naturalists on board who not only know many of the whales on a first name basis, but can list the names of their parents and children. They give an intriguing talk about the history of whales migrating up the Atlantic coast and the egregious practice of whaling that was so prominent in these parts in the mid-19th century. Naturalists also point out many of the shore birds that use the coast as an Atlantic Flyway. Rare piping plovers, least and common terns, marsh hawks, American oystercatchers (whose beaks looks like carrots), sandpipers, ospreys, even bald eagles might be spotted on these whale watching cruises. Add playful harbor seals and you have a wonderful wildlife experience. Perfect for families taking April break next week, 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/14/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 05, 2015

5 Favorite Travel Days in 2014, Snorkeling with Wild Dolphins off the Coast of the Big Island

No one in my family really wanted to get up at 7 am to paddle an outrigger canoe. The night before we had a memorable dinner at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, dining under the stars while being serenaded by a ukulele player. Then our son, Jake, had to wake up at 3 am Hawaii time to register for his college courses. We all wanted to sleep in, but man, am I happy we managed to get out of bed. 
 
As we pushed off from shore, we spotted a dozen green sea turtles (honus) feeding on the reef. Within five minutes, as we headed to a sheltered bay, we saw our first dolphin jumping high out of the water. “They never usually come this close to shore,” said our guide, a local who seemed just as amazed as we were. He handed us snorkeling gear and the next thing you know, we were swimming next to rows of six and seven dolphins. One zipped right by my daughter, Mel, and me. When we took the masks off and looked up in the air, the dolphins were flying above the water, doing flips. Amazing! Needless to say, we didn’t get much paddling in, but it easily made my list of top 5 travel days in 2014. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/05/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 05, 2014

The Return of the Snowy Owl

I leave you this week with the latest photo from the talented Paul Cyr. I met Cyr while on assignment from The Boston Globe in Presque Isle, Maine, in search of the elusive Northern Lights. Cyr’s colorfully charged photos of the Northern Lights have gone viral. His shots of Maine wildlife, including moose, bear, and this snowy owl are quite spectacular as well. Next week, I’ll be back with my list of the Top 5 Destinations You Should Visit in 2015. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend, keep active, and find yourself a snowy owl. 

 
(Photo by Paul Cyr)

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/05/14 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, November 03, 2014

The Tragic Demise of the South African Rhino

Home to the world’s largest rhino population, South Africa recently reported that 820 rhinos have already been killed by poachers in 2014. That’s a dramatic rise from the less than a dozen rhinos killed in 2007. More than half of those killings have occurred in Kruger National Park, home to an estimated 9,000 rhinos. With the cost of rhino horn selling for $65,000 (US) a kilogram in Vietnam, far more valuable than gold, the South African government has no idea how to stop the poaching. Some in the government want to legalize the sale of rhino horn to drive out the ruthless gangs of poachers. About 15 poaching gangs are believed to enter Kruger National Park every day. Rhinos are being captured and relocated to secret protective zones inside the park. Others are sold to private game farms that offer far greater security. If seeing rhinos in the wild appears high on your wish list, you’d be wise not to wait too long. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/03/14 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Snorkeling with Honu at the Fairmont Orchid

I love the location of the Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island. You’re only 30 minutes north of Kona International Airport, 30 minutes west of the rolling green slopes and cattle country of Waimea, and another 40 minutes south of the art gallery town of Hawi on the North Kohala Coast. Needless to say, it’s a great place to cruise to sample the myriad of terrain on Hawaii. When you return to the resort, you’ll be treated to one of the finest lagoons in the state, where the sand slopes gently to a cove sheltered by lava rock. Simply grab snorkel gear at the activity shack and wade into the soothing waters. Lisa and I swam with the colorful triggerfish to a reef where two large honu (green sea turtles) were feeding on the kelp, then gently grooming each other by rubbing barnacles off their shells. A mesmerizing sight that probably happens daily at the Fairmont Orchid. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/25/14 at 10:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Countries on My Wish List for 2014, Namibia

This past November, the travel world descended on Namibia for the annual Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) conference. Jaded travel writers that I’ve known for years came back to the States raving about the destination. If you’re looking for a safari locale but don’t want to deal the hordes in the Maasai Mara, Serengeti, or Kruger, consider Namibia. On a 10-day to 2-week jaunt, you can track black rhinos, elephants, zebra, giraffes, leopards, lions, cheetahs, and spotted hyena on walking and jeep safaris in the Palmwag Reserve; marvel at Etosha National Park’s massive lunar-like mineral plane while on the lookout for impala, springboks, elephants, and zebra; step into a sea of red, mountain-high sand dunes in Sossusvlei; lunch at Walvis Bay alongside a flock of flamingos; cruise Namibia’s Atlantic coast, getting up close with Cape fur seals and dolphins; and drive along the game-rich Ugab riverbed past the second largest monolith on earth. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/14/14 at 11:00 AM
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Thursday, August 08, 2013

Adventures in Ecuador: Feeling Blissful in Floreana

Some 200,000 people arrive on the shores of the Galapagos Islands each year and now close to half of those visitors choose a land-based tour instead of the typical cruise. The advantage of staying on the islands over taking a cruise is that you’re not traveling everywhere with a large group of people and you’re meeting locals, many of whom have spent their entire lives on the islands. The disadvantage is that you have to stomach high-speed motorboat rides between islands and you won’t be able to see every wildlife encounter, like albatross congregating on a remote rock. 
 
Whether you choose a cruise or a land-based tour, a trip to the Galapagos is magical. On the boat ride over to Floreana, dolphins were jumping in the wake. Sea lions were snoozing at the dock upon arrival. 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 on the quiet isle. 
 
The following day was my favorite of the entire Ecuador trip. Claudio and our guide Carlos drove us high into the hills to 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 08/08/13 at 10:00 AM
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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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