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Wildlife Viewing

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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Friday, April 26, 2013

May Birdwatching at Mount Auburn

By the time my wife and I arrive at Cambridge's Mount Auburn Cemetery at 6:30 am, the parking lot around the fountain is already full and minivans with birders from across New England are streaming in. We find a spot and stroll over to where we find our guide for the morning, Carol Decker, Director of Mass Audubon’s Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary. As if on cue, a red-tailed hawk flies overhead while to our left, a vibrant Baltimore oriole sits on a branch, twig in beak. While I’m always thrilled to see a hawk, especially as a diversion from writing when the large bird rests on a branch outside my office window, it is the orioles, scarlet tanagers, vireos, and the queen of neotropical migrants, the warbler, that has coaxed us to leave our pillows prematurely and arrive at this Cambridge birding hotspot. Wintering in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, even South America, these enticing songbirds make their way north to New England and Canada to breed in the summer months. 
Mass Audubon schedules most of their spring walks at Mount Auburn the first two weeks of May, when the warbler migration reaches its peak. Anyone with a love of nature is urged to sign up, even a novice birder like myself. Sure I have a trusty pair of binoculars sitting next to me as I write, to savor that brightly yellow goldfinch when he inadvertently comes across my bird feeder, but I don’t memorize bird calls or carry a checklist. Perhaps that’s the reason why my wife and I found this outing last May to be so special. The colors on the backs and bellies of these birds were so spellbinding that I found it to be the aviary equivalent of going snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/26/13 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Time to Go Whale Watching off Provincetown

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.

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.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/16/13 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

A Good Time To Track Gorillas and Chimps in Uganda

Fed a steady diet of bleak wildlife conservation news out of Africa, especially with regard to the increase in poaching elephants in Kenya and Tanzania, I was delighted to hear the latest news out of Uganda. The last census reports a 12% increase in the gorilla population. The survey found that there are now 880 gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, up from 786 in 2010. The best way to celebrate that news is to get yourself over to Uganda and see the gorillas firsthand, an unparalleled travel experience. If you visit Bwindi in April and May, the $500 per day permit will be reduced to $350. To make the most of your time, consider Africa Adventure Consultants new 10-day Uganda Flying Safari. Eliminating many of the longer drives, the trip starts in the Kibale forest, where you spend two days viewing the chimps. Then it’s on to Queen Elizabeth National Park, where you can see over 95 recorded mammal species and enjoy a boat excursion that takes you for a close-up look at the largest concentration of hippos in the world (reported to be about 30,000). Finish your safari with 2 days of gorilla trekking at Bwindi. Now that’s a memorable trip! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/05/13 at 12:58 PM
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Thursday, November 08, 2012

Forgotten Eastern and Southern African Islands

While we’re on the subject of exotic locales, Chris McIntyre, managing director of Expert Africa, recently sent me an excellent blurb about off-the-beaten-track island destinations in southern and eastern Africa. “Unlike the Caribbean, these African islands are largely undeveloped,” says McIntyre. His list includes Mnemba Island, a private uninhabited island off the east coast of Zanzibar; Mozambique’s Vamizi Island, home to a lone eco-resort and some of the most endangered marine habitats and wildlife in the western Indian Ocean, including Green and Hawksbill turtles; and Malawi’s Likoma Island in Lake Malawi, an island populated primarily by fishermen. All of these choices are great places to relax after spending some time on safari. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/08/12 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Tanzania’s Best Kept Secret

I was hoping to return to Africa later this month, but I just couldn’t squeeze the trip in. The one locale I was excited to check out was Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park. Home to one of the largest prides of lions in Africa, it’s shocking that Ruaha is still an undiscovered gem in Tanzania. Even more surprising when you learn that Ruaha is the second largest park in the country. Yet, simply because of its locale, in the far less frequented southern tourist circuit, far away from the camera clicking crowds of Serengeti and Ngorongoro, this rough tract of wilderness pulsates with the feel of a long-forgotten Africa. Only a little over 7,000 visitors annually come to this region of broken hills, sandy rivers, and an altogether harsher kind of landscape. The parched plains are littered with granite boulders and bizarre-looking baobab trees. Currently only one third of Ruaha’s 20,226 square kilometers is used for tourism, leaving a great majority of wilderness untouched and undiscovered. One of the highly touted places to stay in Ruaha is Mwagusi Safari Camp, owned by native Tanzanian Chris Fox. Download it to your Africa wish-list file, along with me.
I’m off to bike and hike in Zion National Park next week. I’ll be back with some of my favorite Caribbean getaways the week of October 22nd. In the meantime, keep active! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/12/12 at 12:00 PM
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

“Love, Life, and Elephants,” A New Book by Dame Daphne Sheldrick

On my last trip to Nairobi, I had the pleasure of meeting Dame Daphne Sheldrick at the elephant orphanage she founded in 1977. I remember the mix of joy and sadness I felt upon entering the orphanage. Joy at seeing those miniature-sized elephants frolicking in the mud. Sadness at learning that their parents were brutally murdered by poachers who left these babies to wander in the bush.
         “We came to learn how intelligent these elephants are, with a familial instinct and an astounding memory,” Sheldrick told me as we sat at an outdoor table in the back patio of her house. Then her expression suddenly turned grave as she noted, “the elephant community is in a lot of trouble. Not only is poaching on the rise, but the intrusion of livestock into protected areas has led to a scarcity of water.” 
If last week’s New York Times article on the surge of African ivory being transported to Asia is any indication, the only elephants we might be seeing in the future will be orphans. You can read about Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s fascinating life in her just released memoir, “Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story.” 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/13/12 at 12:00 PM
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Thursday, March 01, 2012

La Jolla and Its Silly Seal Problem

Boasting a stunning rocky coastline, where sand-lined coves are hemmed in by the rock, La Jolla is always a highlight on any trip to San Diego. Add the numerous seals that like to sunbathe on those beaches and swim in the nearby waters and you have a great destination for families that’s far cheaper than visiting nearby Sea World. I brought my family here last Saturday to stroll the boardwalk that leads to the famous La Jolla Cove. We stopped first at Children’s Pool Beach to see the seals and was surprised to find a women with a megaphone harassing visitors who were getting too close to the seals on the beach. I was even more surprised to find another guy with a megaphone harassing the seal advocate. Here’s how the conversation went:
Seal Advocate: “Please get off the beach. You’re too close to the seals. There are pregnant mothers who need to sleep.”
Dude at Other End, A Diver Advocating for Access to the Beach (to Seal Advocate): “Please stop harassing humans. They have every right to be on the beach.” 
This is ridiculous, I thought, straight out of a Saturday Night Live skit. Adding to the confusion was a rope on the beach that served as a barrier. Yet, it was only three-quarters of the way across, with signs that read, “Beach Open.” Huh? Listen, San Diego City Council, make a finite decision. Either the public is allowed on the beach or not. Then arrest any person with a megaphone, which is probably doing more harm to the seals than approaching them with a camera. At least it would stop the noise pollution at such an incredibly scenic and serene locale. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/01/12 at 02:00 PM
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about us
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. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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