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Wildlife Viewing

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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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Wrong Way Penguin Starting to Eat Salmon

I love the story out of New Zealand three weeks ago that an Emperor penguin took a wrong turn while swimming in Antarctica and ended up 2,000 miles to the north, on the shores outside of Wellington. It was the first time in 44 years that an Emperor penguin has been sighted in New Zealand. Unfortunately, the young lad, who Kiwis are calling “Happy Feet,” started to eat sand, mistaking it for ice. He has since had four surgeries at the Wellington Zoo to remove all twigs and sand and is now on a fresh diet of salmon. The zoo hopes to keep him for another month, so he can regain his strength before hopefully making the long trek back home.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/07/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Good News Out of Tanzania

Earlier this year, I reported on the Tanzanian government’s plan to build a 260-mile highway that would slice right through the southern part of Serengeti. The moronic move would not only disrupt one of the world’s great migrations of 2 million wildebeests traveling north into Kenya’s Masai Mara, but could have been an easy way in and out for poachers. Thankfully, after listening to numerous conservation groups and international travel operators, the government scrapped that idea. Tourism is the number one industry in Tanzania, so it seems like the government finally got wise to the fact that they shouldn’t cut off the hand that feeds them.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/05/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Birdwatching at Mount Auburn Cemetery

On Friday, I’ll be waking up early to join Mass Audubon on a birdwatching outing at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Waking up early to visit a cemetery might sound like a macabre undertaking, but Mount Auburn is no ordinary cemetery. It was created on the outskirts of Boston in 1831 as America’s first rural or garden cemetery, a precursor to parks in urban areas. The city was yearning for a new aesthetic, a cemetery landscaped with rolling hills, ponds, flowering shrubs, and a mix of trees that provide shade not only for those in mourning, but for the entire public to enjoy their picnic lunch. It became a smashing success that would lay the groundwork for Frederick Law Olmstead to create Central Park in New York and the Emerald Necklace here in Boston some 40 to 50 years later.

Today, more than 200,000 visitors enter the gates of Mount Auburn annually. Sure, they might come to visit the final resting place of a relative or to stop and say thanks to a long list of luminaries in American arts and letters, like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Winslow Homer, and Buckminster Fuller, yet others like me simply follow in the footsteps of Roger Tory Peterson, the renowned ornithologist who once led bird walking tours here. The height of the spring migration for warblers usually happens around Mother’s Day each year. Bring your binocs and you might just spot the scruffy yellow chin of the divine Northern Parula warbler. To read more about Boston’s historic cemeteries, see my article from last summer’s American Way magazine, the inflight publication of American Airlines.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/04/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Watching the Spring Migration of Birds

It’s hard to focus on writing this morning, grabbing my binoculars every five minutes to view the red-tailed hawks flying by my window. They love to rest on the branches of the tall oak trees outside my third floor office. I love this time of year, when my feathered friends start to return north and their cacophony of voices wake me up at sunrise. It’s too early to spot my beloved warblers as they cruise the Atlantic Flyway to their summer retreats. I’ll be heading to Mount Auburn Cemetery, a favorite haunt of Boston birders in mid-April, to spot those beauties. Last spring, I pointed out a website, Westport Osprey, that was tracking the flight of ospreys as they were making their way north. So far in 2011, Hudson left his winter home of Venezuela and is already back in his nest on the Westport River in southeastern Massachusetts. As of March 15, Sanford was still hanging out in the Bahamas ordering another rum punch at the swim-up bar. Stay tuned to Westport Osprey to track his flight.  And make a plan to visit Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, run by Mass Audubon, to find the nesting Westport osprey, bald eagles, piping plovers and other shore birds.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/23/11 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, March 03, 2011

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 03/03/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Spotting Bald Eagles in Red Wing, Minnesota

An hour’s drive south of Minneapolis on the Mississippi River, Red Wing, Minnesota is best known for its restored century-old Sheldon Theatre and the 1875 St. James Hotel.  National Geographic Traveler magazine recently named it the 23rd most historic destination in the world. Come winter, folks come to Red Wing to spot a bald eagle. Hundreds of eagles gather along the riverfront to search for fish and other small prey. Each weekend from February 19th through March 13th, naturalists will be on hand at Red Wing’s Covill Park to provide scopes and binoculars and answer questions about eagle behavior and the recovery of America’s most famous bird.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/03/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Bird Watching in Costa Rica

Just as divers think of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as that ultimate diving locale, bird watchers flock to Costa Rica. In a small country the size of West Virginia, you can find more than 850 species of birdlife. Take the entire United States and combine it with Canada and you won’t come up with that many birds. And we’re not talking ordinary birds in Costa Rica like the backyard sparrow, but spectacular toucans, scarlet macaws, quetzals, 50 types of hummingbirds, and tall storks. The great multitude of birdlife in Costa Rica stems from its diverse terrain sandwiched into a sliver of Central American terrain. Within a relatively short driving distance, you can be atop 12,000 foot peaks or down at sea level on the Pacific coast, immersed in the dense rainforest or slicing through the hazy cloud forest. Sendero Tranquillo in the Cloud Forest, La Selva Biological Station, and Carara National Park are great places to start.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/02/11 at 02:00 PM
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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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