Archive for the 'Animals' Category
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This February 2023 , TotalAdventure was invited by the Adventure Travel Trade Association to join an ATTA market activation program in collaboration with Alliance de l’Industrie Touristique du Québec and Bonjour Québec and their regional partners.
On February 8th, I arrived back in Montréal for the first time in five years. I had a free. day before the delegation arrived , so I set out to explore the snowy city, which I know fairly well. I walked from our excellent Hotel d’Uville to the beautiful Mont Royal Neighborhood.
‘Notre Dame de Montréal.
A Painting Of Early Quebec settler and First Nations life in Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste. It is a very politically charged subject for good reason.
Afterwards I enjoyed an excellent Moules Frites in the Vieux Cite. That evening the rest of the delegation arrived.
Early morning Friday, February 10th, our bus departed for the Lanaudière Region for the first of several snowshoe adventures. I had not been on snowshoes in 30 years – on the old ones that looked like giant tennis rackets. The new kind are simple and sporty – allowing for fast tracking over very deep snow – usually two meters or more.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Auberge Lac-à-l’Eau-Claire, in Saint-Alexis-des-Mont. Afterwards we went ice-fishing – see in the video above , even getting to eat our catch afterwards , flash cooked on the spot.
At days – end , our crew was welcomed at the Sacacomie Hotel overlooking frozen snowy Lac Sacomie- with. maple whiskey in carved ice shot glasses. After downing the shots ,we threw the shot glasses over the side, towards the lake.
Winter Sunset over the lake.
Early Saturday morning, a bright sunny – 14 C ( about 9 F) we were off and running – with the dogs ! They are pure intelligence, enthusiasm and strength – nothing delights them more than pulling a fully loaded sled through the woods ,across the lakes and over the steep hills. The dogs have small houses – but rarely sleep in them – they prefer the warmth of a burrowed hole in the snow. They eat twice daily – a small breakfast before mushing – then later a large pot of hot meat and water – many calories to sustain their strength.
Eager To Run !
The next morning we were off to Quebec City – truly France in North America.
The Winter Carnaval. Quebecois love the outdoors in winter – they enjoy it as much or more than summer.
Quebec A Nuit.
Here the Fleur de Lis takes precedence over the Maple Leaf.
Above the mighty St.Lawrence – linking the Great Lakes to the Atlantic.
After First Nations storytelling at Ekionkiestha’ longhouse in nearby Wendake, we had incredible First Nations cuisine at their restaurant.
On Monday morning, February 13th, we explored Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier. First we biked , then we hiked, then biked again. Uphil in every direction — or so it seemed. The snowy forest was spectacular and silent. It was TotalAdventure’s first time Fat Tire Biking. I found it much like being on a stationary bike at the highest setting – great workout.
Each guest room has different theme – you can see them all in the video above. One thing in common though – it is cold – the room temperature is about -4 or 25 F. Understandably almost all the clientele are couples.
The season lasts into March . Then a movie shoot will take place before dismantling and forced melting by April. While winter lasts well into April and perhaps May, the warming sun can weaken the structure.
A Cold Way To Fry !
On Valentine’s Day, The Adventurers voyaged to our most remote area of the trip , Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, stretching northward from the St.Lawrence. While some did back country skiing, we did cross country skiing on the Saguenay River.
The water underneath the ice is 100 meters. Fresh water on top and salt down below- allowing a unique opportunity to catch both salt and fresh water fish in the same spot – inside a nice warm hut warmed by a wood stove, where you can cook your catch.
The next two nights were in the igloo village of Imago Village.
Our final day outside was in the Vallée des Fantômes. Named because the forest looks so ghostly in the deep deep snow that covers the five meter trees by more than half.
Cat wheels are the only way mechanized transport can bring people into the park.
On the final day , in Chicitoumi, at La Pulperie de Chicoutimi , TotalAdventure met with
TotalAdventure spoke on a panel discussing sustainability requirements . TotalAdventure is highly committed to sustainability with minimal development.
And the next day, we flew from Bagotville to Montréal to our respective destination in the USA or Canada. Only US and Canadian companies were invited to participate. Quebec is ideally situated from fly or drive vacations from the Northeastern USA – it’s only 5 hours from New York, and borders Maine !
In Antarctic Summer, beginning in Late November/Early December – the sun softens the coastal icepack , allowing sections of the continental ice sheet to break off into the water – in the this case the Pacific zone of the Southern Ocean. At the same time the salt water sea ice softens and breaks up, allowing ships to enter bays and for penguins to fish in more open waters.
We see here a mixture of land and sea ice.The whiter ice is remnants of broken and melting land ice. The flat grey ice is the frozen sea surface either breaking up or just freezing more slowly under the 24 hour summer sunshine. The seawater is -2 C or 28 F. Saltwater freezes at a lower temperature than fresh, which is Zero. Those icicles are natural art – from the broken off lip of a larger iceberg.
Our Zodiacs of the MV Hondius were able to plow slowly, though ice chunks often get caught in the propeller.
One advantage of the waterpoof GoPro, TotalAdventure shot lots of footage under the ice ! Watch the video above for extensive coverage ! Here the camera is upside down , seeing the bottom of the ice floes and the water surface.
TotalAdventure aboard the Zodiac with the GoPro.
On one of the colder days, around -3 C the surface turns slushy, as is the characteristic of salt water ice when forming.
Like clouds, every Iceberg is unique.And it’s true that what you see is only the tip – very large icebergs might be only 10% above water. They can also roll over. The Zodiacs steer clear of the larger ones.
From the deck of the Hondius. See the video for much more action !
All one iceberg. There is a cove inside. Extremely dangerous to approach as huge chunks of ice can crush you.
Closer , but not too close.
On top of an ice shelf, a Leopard Seal soaks up the summer sunshine.
Inside, the water looks almost tropical ,with swimming pool blue – but of course it’s not !
I might be cute, but I can rip your arm off ! And eat an entire Gentoo Penguin in 3 or 4 bites.
Inside the cove. Like an Antarctic resort. Just add beach chairs.
At The Bottom Of The Planet !
The weight of accumulated snow may flip this iceberg – a good reason to stay clear.
Ice piled along the shoreline. Our landing spots were limited.
At Latitude 65 South, Approaching The Antarctic Circle.
This past July,2022 I flew from the sultry tropics of Miami to the cool windy streets of Buenos Aires and on up to Salta, where I met a very good friend from São Paulo. Above are winter vineyards – resting from the warm months of producing amazing Malbec.
We met in Salta and spent the night there. As it was winter vacation, the city was packed with tourists from colder parts of Argentina, though it was pretty cold there on the day of arrival.
The High Desert. Just over the Andes from the Chilean Atacama, it’s a very dry part of the world. See the video above for the real experience.
In addition to excellent Malbec, grappa is produced by fermenting whole grapes.
I dipped a ladle in the jar to sample. Real firewater !
Then back to relax at Estancia Patios de Cafayate. Our room was palatial – see it in the video above. Because of the strong dollar – it cost less than when I was here in 2008.
The washrooms are as big as an average New York apartment. With a whirlpool tub to relax after a couple hours on horseback.
A warm evening fire – set during wine tasting.
Before returning to Buenos Aires, we drove North to Punamarca in Jujuy Province. High desert at 2500 meters, but hot sunshine with temperatures near 25 C.
Flying South To Aeroparque Buenos Aires.
A classic Argentina scene . Soon to be on the dinner plates of the best steak houses in the world.
For Example, La Brigada in San Telmo , Buenos Aires.
Where the Bife de Chorizo is so tender you can cut it with a spoon.
And Don Julio – considered now the Best In The World.
The Dollar is King in Argentina. When I arrived the rate was 260 pesos to the dollar on the Blue Market. ( Official rate was 135) When I left 12 days later it was 340 – a 40% increase in value. The above steak dinners were as low as $ 15 to 20 ( not Don Julio) and taxi rides are about $ 2. The peso has since stabilized, but now is a great time to visit Argentina. You need to pay in cash – credit cards are charged at the official rate.
At La Rural – Annual Cattle Show in Buenos Aires. Photo – Daniele Puharre
La Rural. Photo – Daniele Puharre
We also visited the Evita Peron Museum. I have Argentine friends on both sides of the political divide, so I will not take sides here. However we still live in a world of personality cults and unrivaled power by one ( or two) person – this has no place in a democracy.
Roadside in Salta Province.
Incredible Apartment or Office !
A Beautiful Last Evening Before Heading Up To Paraguay.
Click To See And Book Adventures In Argentina
The Highway From Asmara To Massawa Drops Over 8000 ( 2500m) Feet In Just 100 Kilometers. We left early morning temperatures not far above freezing arriving to close to 90 ( 32C) on the coast.
At the entrance to the city is the Palace of Emperor Haile Selassie. Though he was murdered by the Communist Derge in 1975, his palace continued to be used by officials until it was bombed by the Ethiopian Air Force in 1991, when Eritrea began its’ War of Independence. To this day, it is still in ruins, like much of Massawa , in contrast to well preserved Asmara.
The visa to enter Eritrea is only good for Asmara itself. To travel anywhere else in the county , an interior Travel Permit is required. This took about 2 hours to acquire the day before. One must arrange transport as well. The driver’s name and the car’s license number are listed on the permit . TotalAdventure passport number deleted for security purposes.
One must carry the receipt as well, to prove that the 51 Nafka ( $3 ) fee was paid.
Along the highway there may be toll collectors.Baboons demand bananas in order to allow cars to pass without harassment.
Massawa architecture is more Ottoman than Italian.
Statuary Of The Lion King.
Barbed wire – possible live bombs inside of another palace.
The port on the Red Sea – almost all ships from China.
On Haile Sellasie’s Porch.
L – 1011 TO Nowhere.
Wartime damage un repaired after 30 years. But people live here.
Its’ been a long wait for the bus – about 45 years.
Bottled water plant , shuttered in the 60s.
Mothers and Children.
General of the Troop.
Returning to Asmara – high above the clouds.
The New Generation Of Eritrea !
Axum Is One Of The Holiest Christian Cities On Earth. It Is Home To The Ark Of The Covenant – The Tablets Of The Ten Commandments Held By Moses.
In Middle Ages Europe ,In The Time Of The Crusaders, there was a tale of a paradise called The Land of Prester John. A land of unimaginable riches, and home to the Holy Grail. Somewhere near Ethiopia, though the Crusaders never got beyond Jerusalem.
A Truly Ancient Land.
Egyptian emissaries erected stellae in the Fourth Century, though quite a few have fallen.
Sunrise in the Land of Prester John.
The modern Church of Maryam ( Virgin Mary ) near the Ark Of The Covenant.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church claims to possess the Ark of the Covenant, or Tabot, in Axum. The object is currently kept under guard in a treasury near the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion.( Wikipedia) Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia by Menelik I with divine assistance, while a forgery was left in the Temple in Jerusalem. ( Wikipedia.) Melenik I was the son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba.
A Peaceful Dove – An Apparition ?
An Ancient Stellae Field.
A Cantankerous Camel.
Brutal Punishments For Sinners.
Rugged Trees For the Dry Climate.Tigray only gets a few showers in the summer.
One of the best restaurants in Ethiopia – in Adrigat.
Lamb and Beef so fresh you can eat it raw.
Hotel In Adrigat. Did not stay there.
Captured In Battle.
Debri Damo Monastery. Accessible only by rappelling up the cliff.
Even monks 80 or 90 years. old can do it. Once they can’t, they stay.
Two Fascinating Weeks In Ethiopia then came to an end. TotalAdventure moved on to nearby Eritrea, though it took two flights to get there. TotalAdventure would especially like to thank Awaze Tours for making our private journey possible. Also Special Thanks to our driver Engdu ! Ethiopia is not an easy country to navigate and Awaze helped make all this incredible experience possible.
The Simian Mountains In Northern Amhara State Were Formed By Extreme Volcanoes About 40 Million Years Ago. They Tower West Of The Rift Valley, Which Runs Almost The Whole Length Of Africa.
The Highest Mountain Is 15000 Feet ( 4550 m) . Snow is known to fall in the wet season. TotalAdventure experienced below freezing temperatures in the early mornings.
A Gelada Monkey Family Forages For Dinner. Snacks from tourists are strictly forbidden.
A Guard With An AK-47 Is Mandatory , To Guard Against Hyenas In Simian Mountains National Park. Hyena jaws are so strong they can snap a femur like a small chicken bone.
GeladaMonkeys sleep on the cliffs at night, in order to be inaccessible to hyenas.
A Father is unfazed by his human cousins. They are 5 times as strong !
Sunset From 11,000 Feet ( 3384 m) at the Simian Mountain Lodge.
A Fireplace Keeps The Dining Room Warm. Outside it was 26 F ( -4 C)
Our drive out of the mountain range. Drivers must be careful, with 3000 ft. cliffs on every curve.
As Timkat approaches, the entire country gets into celebration mode. We leave Lalibela on. Saturday – 2 days before. Roadside markets are busting, as people stock up on food for the large family feasts after a 24 hour fast.
A music man in the Highlands playing his masinko. Watch him play on the video above.
Coffee beans growing on the side of the road. Ethiopian Coffee is amongst the best in the world !
A boy brings coffee to market. Rural children work for their families, but not for others as far as we could tell. It’s a necessity that armchair moralists of the West may not understand.
All food is very fresh.
Two sisters off to market.
Restaurant Mountain Vista.
A colorful Injera lunch.Various meats and vegetables, mostly cold.
United States help is much appreciated. With 109 million people in a mostly desert country , extra supplies are needed.
A cold Saturday morning, everyone on the way to buy and sell.
Spices are abundant.
Spices Are Abundant.
Inside a market bar. TotalAdventure was obliged to try some of the local firewater – made from fermented fruit that still had seeds floating in it. Powerful ! Though it was only 9 AM, music was blasting.
Bamboo for sale.
The two day 500 KM journey from Addis Ababa to Lalibela is rugged and fascinating. Ethiopia is a land harkening to Biblical times, with a few modern twists like cars and smartphones.
The two day
On the first night , TotalAdventure stayed in Kombolcha and posted for the first time to the Magazine. After that , the voyage became too bsuy, exploring and traveling until well past sundown, meals with locals, and slow internet made daily contributions difficult. The next morning, before leaving the city, we passed through a market on the main street.
People walk for miles from the countryside to sell. their wares in the market.
Ethiopian markets have many spices In the US this would be sold in tiny packets for many times the price.
Salt , perhaps from Danakil .
Outside town, Gelada monkeys also shopped for food, asking passerby in cars. While many think the climate must be hot, as Ethiopia in in Africa, we were almost always between 7500 and 11000 feet – 2300m -3400m. In January daytime temperatures were generally in the low 70s F( 21C) to about 40 F at night ( 4C ).
Ethiopia is 33% Islamic and 62%. ( mostly Orthodox) Christian. In general there are no conflicts over religion.
Wheat is pulverized into fine powder by the hooves of oxen.
The powder is used to bake inerja – the ubiquitous bread that accompanies almost every meal in Ethiopia.
What appears to be a towel is the inerja. You use it to scoop up the meat and eat everything.
Evening in Kombolcha.
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In 1993, the Victoria Zoo became the Limbe Wildlife Centre through the partnership of the Pandrillus Foundation and the Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. The LWC is a wildlife rehabilitation and conservation education center. The animals there were orphaned as a result of human-wildlife conflicts such as bushmeat hunting or the pet trade. These are major issues in Cameroon and throughout Africa. Animals are often killed both legally and illegally for meat in unsustainable ways, and the infants are kept as pets in unfit living conditions for wild species. When they are rescued by authorities and brought the LWC, the animals are treated by their veterinary team and the rehabilitation process starts as they are integrated into conspecific groups and monitored by their team of specialists. Their mission is based not only on rehabilitation and release, but on educating the population to change views and opinions on wildlife and conservation so that these animals will be safe in the wild for as long as possible.
accomplish this mission, the LWC is open to the public for visits. Most of the
visitors to the Centre are locals bringing their families to see the animals,
but occasionally international tourists such as myself pop in, and there is so
much for us to be impressed by.
Upon entering the sanctuary, every person greets you with warm hellos, hugs, handshakes, and smiles. Once paying at the entrance, viewers can begin walking the tourist trail and viewing animals. The first visible animals are 3 family groups of gorillas and their impressively giant silverback males. They were the show stealer in my ape-loving heart, but there were so many other amazing animals as well.
Past the gorillas are two huge groups of chimpanzees (totaling 44 individuals). They are the liveliness of the LWC, shrieking, chasing, playing, and grooming. Just sitting in their presence could keep someone engaged for hours. There were many groups of guenons and mangabeys throughout the sanctuary, mostly plotting on how to steal small items such as food or toys from onlookers.
amazing group of animals are the “Papio” group, meaning the baboons, mandrills,
and drills. The members of this section became known to me as the most
underrated primates. All three species are beautiful in coloring and huge in
size (for monkeys). Not to mention they live in large multi-male and
multi-female groups with very interesting social dynamics and rules that
control everything from eating to grooming to space use.
Additionally, at the Centre there are non-primate animals native to Cameroon such as a Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), two dwarf crocodiles (Osteolaemus tetraspis), a python (Python sebae), a bay duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis), a blue duiker (Philantomba monticola), a bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) and an African civet (Civettictis civetta). These animals are often seen as the stars of the show, especially the crocodiles being so ancient and amazing.
Before leaving, one has the opportunity to check out the educational building to learn about the various species and the Centre’s history. There is also a great little gift shop with plenty of handmade items to help support the Centre. For lunch, there is a delicious restaurant within the Centre called Arne’s cafe. There you can get the most delicious veggie burger on the planet. It is definitely worth having a meal there.
The LWC does a lot more than just house animals, a huge amount of their work is in educating the public through visits, school programs, and community outreach. They are leading the fight in Cameroon for conservation and animal welfare, and are worth the time to visit, volunteer, or spread the message. If you are interested in helping with conservation there, the LWC accepts donations as well as volunteers. Give some resources or time to help these animals that can’t speak for themselves!
TotalAdventure does not currently have adventures in Cameroon, but we invite Cameroon companies to apply. TotalAdventure has some great trips to South Africa https://bit.ly/2WPNkPb
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For three weeks during the month of August 2019, I got the incredible opportunity to volunteer at the Limbe Wildlife Centre in Cameroon. The LWC initially was the Victoria Zoo until 1993 when a partnership was born between the Pandrillus Foundation and Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife in an effort to protect the local biodiversity and raise awareness about conservation. The Victoria Zoo then became a wildlife center focused on wildlife rehabilitation and conservation education. The animals there were orphaned as a result of human-wildlife conflicts such as bushmeat hunting or the pet trade. These are major issues in Cameroon and throughout Africa. Animals are often killed both legally and illegally for meat in unsustainable ways, and the infants are kept as pets in unfit living conditions for wild species. When they are rescued by authorities and brought the LWC, the animals are treated by their veterinary team and the rehabilitation process starts as they are integrated into conspecific groups and monitored by their team of specialists. Their mission is based not only on rehabilitation and release, but on educating the population to change views and opinions on wildlife and conservation so that these animals will be safe in the wild for as long as possible.
My job as a volunteer at the Centre was that of an assistant animal keeper. During my time there, I would get to assist keepers throughout the five different sections at the sanctuary: gorillas, chimpanzees, guenons and mangabeys, Papios (drills, mandrills, baboons), and quarantine. Mornings at the Centre would begin with friendly greetings, handshakes, and hugs shared with everyone nearby. Limbe is indeed the friendliest town I have ever visited.
One of the Head Keepers, Jonathan or Victor would then begin the morning with a general team meeting to discuss important news, tasks for the day, and to assign sections to all keepers. Once assigned to a section, the morning consisted of feeding, providing browse, and cleaning the enclosures of all animals. This experience surely shows how each species has their own little quirks. Chimps are definitely the loudest (and debatably the messiest to clean after), the gorillas hate being stared at, and monkeys oftentimes just want to cause mischief by taking your supplies! This experience gave me an appreciation for the quirks among individuals in a species, but even more so for the distinct personality traits between individuals. We all eventually formed our opinions on favorites and developed closer bonds more with some animals than with others.
Once all of that was finished, volunteers were usually asked to help create enrichment for the day.
Enrichment is environmental stimuli (often nutritional and structural) designed to improve the wellbeing of sanctuary animals by keeping them mentally and physically engaged and stimulating natural behavior they would be doing in the wild. For enrichment, we often made “leaf packs” (snacks wrapped in leaves and twine that primates must unpack to eat), as well as re-used and washed plastic bottles filled with browse and other nutritional supplements, boxes, and other variations. Some days the chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are given sticks to remove honey from crevices on a termite mount, to practice their tool use, or are given ice blocks with treats to try to break and melt. The idea is to induce critical thinking and problem-solving. At noon, everyone at the Centre breaks for lunch. A local Cameroonian dish is served in the meeting hall every day for volunteers and staff. This varies daily but sticks to a few main ingredients: rice and beans are popular, fish (as Limbe is a fishing town), oils, spices, and a traditional African meal fufu was very common. Fufu has multiple variations depending on what it is made with, but it is basically a dough-like food used to fill stomachs when food is scarce. The Cameroonian lunches were not my favorite part of the experience, but I was so grateful for people to share with me their food and culture.
In the afternoons, keepers were tasked with observing their animals for monitoring, which freed up time for volunteers to work on maintenance projects around the Centre with the construction team. During the time I was there, the LWC was working on building a new rehabilitation aviary for the rescued African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) in their care. So, my afternoons mostly consisted of helping in construction and painting. Other options included harvesting browse for animals, preparing food, etc. At one point, I was even offered the opportunity to help with observations. The LWC is dedicated to being knowledgeable about the specific animals in their care and providing the best possible care, so I was able to watch a group of guenons consisting of two species, mona monkeys (Cercopithecus mona) and putty-nosed guenons (Cercopithecus nictitans), to try to problem-solve some social issues they were having. Close observation and research are the best ways to learn about animals to make adaptations to their environments or social groups for their benefit. This gave me practice for my future career in primate research and helped them prevent monkey injuries due to conflict. If you are a long-term volunteer with the LWC, you have the option to start your own research project based on the observation of animals in their care.
After work was always pleasant, returning to the volunteer house to shower, eat, and rest. Of course, it was different from my luxurious life in the US in almost every way. Shower water had to be warmed on the stove, and mosquito nets hung over the bed, but it truly brought one back to a simpler place in time.
Overall the work was hard and the days long but working at the sanctuary gave one a sense of pride in their work and a sense of meaning. Coming back to the house at the end of the night has a sense of camaraderie and belonging. All the little outside worries that exist in western society seemed to fade and no longer matter. With upbeat Cameroon music and delicious grilled chicken smell, and the extreme friendliness of locals in the air, it could truly make one rethink the meaning of home.
TotalAdventure does not currently have adventures in Cameroon, but we invite Cameroon companies to apply. TotalAdventure has some great trips to South Africa https://bit.ly/2WPNkPb