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Wildlife Viewing

Friday, December 10, 2010

New Audubon Field Guide Apps

I first met David Bradbury a decade ago when he was playing a version of polo on mountain bikes in Burlington, Vermont. When I later had to write a story for The Boston Globe on hiking Vermont’s tallest peak, Mount Mansfield, I wisely chose David to take me to the summit. Of course, he chose the most challenging route, up the Hell Brook Trail. When he’s not hanging with his wife, Emily, my favorite PR maven in Vermont, or his young children, you can often find him making first tracks down Stowe in the early morning hours. So when I heard that David is on the board of a Vermont company called Green Mountain Digital, creating nature-based apps for Audubon Field Guides, I knew the product had to be good. So far, they have 30 apps categorized by geographic region (Texas, Florida, New England, etc…) and type of critter (birds, insects, butterflies, fish).  I checked out the Audubon Birds New England app and found the photographs and songs of the 370 birds to be of the highest quality. Just launched is the ORVIS Fly-Fishing Guide, with casting tips and detailed knot tying videos. The apps can be viewed on any iPhone, Google Droid, iPod Touch, or iPad. Makes for a nice Christmas gift.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/10/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It’s The People Who Make Africa So Special

Everyone seems to go to Africa on safari. And yes, after spending the past week finding lions poking their manes out of the bush, watching a leopard gnawing on a goat high up a tree, and seeing family after family of giraffes, elephants, and warthogs, I can attest to that exhilarating feeling of wild abandonment. But as cute as those animals are, you have very little connection. It’s the people who make Africa a special place, especially in Kenya. From the high-end safari owner who feels it’s her civic duty to provide a water well, schooling, library, and HIV prevention education to a large slum in Nairobi even though she already employs many Kenyans on her payroll. Or the Maasai villager on the Tanzanian border, who after performing a tribal dance in headgear and dress, asks me if I’m on Facebook. He’ll happily send me pictures of the lions, he notes. Or the insightful safari guide, who received his college education in the States after a California professor visited Kenya and was quickly enamored with his brilliance. I turned him on to the African dance tunes of Deep Forest. Or the General Manager of a resort in the shadows of Mount Kenya, who being from India, taught me a secret of dealing with travel dysentery. Always eat yoghurt the first day of visiting a country, especially in places like India or Mexico, known for their laundry list of stomach ailments. Most of all, there are those smiling faces of young children in Nairobi schools and the Maasai villages. The ones I love to pass out “heart” stickers to. These people are the reason I return to Africa. Sure, I love Simba and Pumba like the rest of us, but it’s to the Kenyan people that I say asante sana for a wonderful trip. Hope to see you again soon!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/23/10 at 01:59 PM
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Friday, November 05, 2010

Say No to SeaWorld

Several years ago, I wrote a story about taking the family on a road trip along the California coast. The trip started in San Diego, where we had the pleasure to “Dine with Shamu” at SeaWorld. My kids were amazed as we had dinner watching an orca whale doing backflips right behind us. So it came as a shock when I recently read that one of my mentors in this travel writing business, Arthur Frommer, wrote, “I am ashamed. I will no longer recommend that tourists patronize the various SeaWorld parks.” In the wake of the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, Frommer received a letter from PETA’s Debbie Leahy, an expert on captive animal issues. In the letter, Leahy noted that 21 orcas have died in U.S. SeaWorld facilities between 1986 and 2008, and not one from old age. They died from severe trauma, intestinal gangrene, acute hemorrhagic pneumonia, pulmonary abscesses, chronic kidney disease, chronic cardiovascular failure, septicemia, and influenza. She also mentioned that SeaWorld has been responsible for the deaths of numerous dolphins, including three who died last year at SeaWorld Discovery Cove in less than three weeks time.

I’m paid to write travel stories, but some times I’m simply used as a pawn so companies like SeaWorld can make a large profit. I’m reminded of a hotel in Bali that had a spectacular beach. When I learned that the hotel had crushed the coral reef to bring in their sand, I was irate. As I grow older, I get wiser and try to dig deeper so that I’m convinced that what I’m promoting is ethical. Now and again, you make a mistake, but at least I’m not the only travel writer.

I’m leaving for Kenya on Sunday on a 12-day jaunt to pen stories for five publications. Next week, I’ll share those story ideas with you. The following week, I won’t be blogging. As always, thanks for checking in!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/05/10 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, September 10, 2010

Tanzania Plans to Build a Highway Through the Serengeti

Here are some words of wisdom to the current Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete, who just announced plans to build a highway that will slice right through the southern part of the Serengeti. “Build it and they won’t come,” as in the hundreds of thousands of Europeans and American travelers who make the trek to Tanzania each year to go on safari. Slated to be built in 2012, the 260-mile highway will connect Arusha, near Mount Kilimanjaro, with Musoma on Lake Victoria. The idiotic move will not only disrupt one of the world’s great migrations of some 1.2 million wildebeests traveling north into Kenya’s Masai Mara, but will be an easy way in and out for poachers. Make the wise move, President Kikwete, and find an alternative route.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/10/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Head to Uganda with An Award-Winning Photographer

Few people know Africa better than Rick D’Elia. Working as a renowned photojournalist, he’s spent the past decade recording the amazing work of relief and development organizations around the continent. By all means, see his talented portfolio at DeliaPhotographic. Now D’Elia plans to share the secrets of his trade, leading a tour through one of his favorite countries, Uganda. You’ll be immersed in the important works of NGOs in Kampala, meeting, greeting, and yes, taking shots of the folks hard at work. Then Rick will take you on a wildlife safari to see Uganda’s mountain gorillas, leopards, lions, and elephants. If you really want to see African culture and wildlife, and genuinely learn about recent politics and history, it’s hard to find a better guide. Obviously, you’ll also improve your skills as a photographer as well.

(Photo by Rick D'Elia)

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/17/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Caped Crusader of Birds, the Razorbill Auk

I was in Maine last week researching an article on birding for Yankee Magazine. My wife and I took a boat from a small fishing village in Down East Maine, Cutler, 10 miles off the coast to the southernmost nesting spot of the Atlantic puffin, Machias Seal Island. As soon as we arrived on the rocky shores, the plump black and white birds were whizzing over our heads finding herring to bring back to their young. We got close enough to the puffin to see its colorful beak, which was worth the ride over in the fog. However, we were also there to see another highlight, the black-hooded razorbill auk. A bright white line can be found under the bird’s eye. Contrasting with its sleek black head, the bird has the look of a superhero straight out of Marvel Comics. It was just as mesmerizing as the puffin to view. You can venture out to Machias Seal Island on a 4 to 5-hour jaunt with Captain Andy Patterson.

(Photo by Lisa Leavitt)

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/21/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mass Audubon Cruises to the Elizabeth Islands

Take the ferry from New Bedford or Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard, where President Obama plans to vacation once again this summer, and you’ll pass the far less congested Elizabeth Islands in Buzzards Bay. With numerous coves and a strong southwesterly wind blowing 15 knots almost every afternoon, this is a favorite cruising ground for sailors in Massachusetts. The waters are inundated with yachts, Hobie cats, sunfish, schooners, even the 6’ 2” long dinghy known as the Cape Cod Frosty. Only two of the islands, Cuttyhunk, the outermost island, and Penikese, a former leper colony, now a state-owned bird refuge, remain public. This summer, Mass Audubon will bring guests on naturalist-led cruises to both islands. Leaving from Wood’s Hole, you’ll learn about the natural and cultural history of the Elizabeths, and venture on foot to find Leach’s Storm Petrel and Tern colonies.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/10/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Poaching of Rhinos on the Rise in South Africa

As the world descends on South Africa for the World Cup this week and the safari season starts to get into full swing, we report some sad news from the country. David Mabunda, chief executive officer for South African National Parks, notes that rhinos are currently under siege from poachers. South Africa lost 122 rhinos to poaching in 2009 and is already on track to surpass that number this year. The horns are highly sought after in Asia for medicinal purposes and are thus worth far more than their weight in gold. So far, 25 poachers have been caught, primarily in Kruger. Responding to the increase in poaching, South Africa has set up a Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit, utilizing many of the country’s top anti-poaching experts.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/08/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Safaris for Kids

Safaris were once such a luxury that they were reserved only by honeymooners for that trip of a lifetime. Well, times have certainly changed. These days more and more safari outfitters are catering to the post-honeymoon crowd, otherwise known as families. At Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa, their “Kids on Safari” package (geared to children ages 4 and up) lets the little ones see the Big Five. They also visit the Born Free Foundation to watch animals that almost died in captivity released into the wild. In Zambia, Norman Carr Safaris has a special “Kids Go Wild” trip that teaches about the conservation of lions in the dense bush. Families also learn to play traditional African drums and mold clay pottery into African sculpture. At Olonana Sanctuary in Masai Mara, Kenya, owned by Abercrombie & Kent, children spend a morning with kids at the local Maasai school after touring their village.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/05/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Top 5 Wildlife Viewing Experiences, Phillip Island, Australia

There’s nothing quite as magical as watching over 1,000 wild and cute Little Penguins emerge from the water after a day of feeding as the sun sets over Phillip Island, just south of Melbourne. The children wait not-so-patiently on the shores, squawking their heads off and wanting to eat. Then, right around dusk, the mom and dad penguins can start to be seen atop the waves and soon are waddling on the shore. How they find their young in this nightly chaos is miraculous. But they do and they regurgitate their food into the mouths of the hungry children for a nightly meal to remember.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/23/10 at 01:00 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

Adventure Travel Trade Association