Category: Wildlife

Dogs Around the World

First, a big wag of the tail for this week’s team of #frifotos hosts who came up with the (travel-related) theme of DOGS, giving me a great excuse to finally post these dogs shots from all over the world in one place. Question is….where to begin on a Round-the-World photo journey of dogs? Since all journeys start at home, we’ll start here, then we’ll continue throughout the US and on to Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and back home again.

One man’s travel destination is another’s backyard – the same may be said for dogs, of course. So I will begin with one of my Surf Dawgs photo series taken at a favorite local beach right here in my (dog’s) own “backyard”, Del Mar Dog Beach, California:

Moving out geographically, and back in evolution, coyotes and wolves are great examples of canine wildlife. These beautiful “dogs” were photographed in Arizona:

Coyotes of the American Southwest

  Mexican Gray Wolves
 
Still in the southwest, I will always love this moment when these pueblo dogs came to greet me in New Mexico, making for a truly iconic capture of Native American pueblo life:

Dogs of San Ildefonso Pueblo

Now I’m not going to drag you through every state via dog pictures, but there is one more state deserving mention, as it is well known for hosting the annual Iditarod sled-dog race. A few years back I had the pleasure of taking my daughter Dog-Sledding on a Glacier in Alaska,  and gave her the video camera (listen to the interview/commentary!):

Getting to visit all the sled-dogs and puppies in training after the ride resulted in plenty of wonderful photos, this one being my favorite:

Blue-eyed girl and blue-eyed husky 

And on the subject of girls and puppies, let’s travel to Guatemala, where this woman was selling a basket full at the Chichicastenango Market:

Chichicastenango Market: Puppies for sale

Next stop, Peru, where this dog and his buddies enjoy the scenery:

Dog & Donkeys overlooking the Sacred Valley and Andes of Peru

Some of the happiest dogs I’ve ever seen during my travels are found in Chile:

Pair of dogs and pair of lovers in Puerto Varas

….where they also have jobs that they love, such as this….

Little guard dog with big attitude in Puerto Natales

or this…

Rancher and his dog herding sheep in Patagonia

Ah yes, the sheep herders. What better segway to hop over to Europe?  Landing first in Ireland:

 
Satisfied Border Collie watches his flock

Then on to London, UK, for this canine appearance in the Lord Mayor’s Parade:


Dogs on Parade

And to Spain, where these dogs enjoy shopping the avenues of Barcelona:

Dogs and Shoppers in Barcelona

Enough of the domesticated dogs for a bit, let’s head down to South Africa, and to my personal favorite wild animal to spot in the wild, the African Wild Dog:

African Painted Wild Dog


African Wild Dog of Madikwe

It is such a thrill to watch them in the wild, and to get them in good light, I even shot a video and blogged about the Wild Dogs here: Madikwe is for the Dogs.  A must read for dog/wildlife lovers! Oh what the heck, here’s the video too:

Before we leave Africa, Here’s a shot from Namibia which illustrates the difference a dog makes – without the dog, this scene would be, well, depressing.

Scene of daily life in Katatura Township

Now, from a land where few children have shoes, to a land where few dogs don’t.  I’m talking about Japan, where the dog is a fashion accessory and Tokyo department stores have entire floors dedicated to canine fashions. I’ve blogged about how these little dogs are Big in Japan, but here are a couple of the more blatant four-legged fashion victims:

Proud owner poses her fashionable toy dogs


The men in Japan are not immune to dogs as fashion accessories


Little Dog, Big Attitude. Kyoto, Japan.

Finally, Asia is home to what I consider to be the happiest dogs anywhere in the world, living an even better life than their human counterparts. They reside in the tranquil Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

Dog enjoying best view in the world, Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan

Dog Amongst Prayer Flags, Punakha Bhutan

Of course, this is a case where a picture speaks a thousand words. I’ve seen plenty of happy dogs, and plenty of sleeping dogs, but this blissful dog was truly in an elevated state of consciousness:

The ultimate meditative state – doggie nirvana

When it comes to travel, truly, the most important dogs anywhere are the ones who wait at the door and greet me with enthusiastic wags and slobbery kisses when I return home from my travels.  It’s not so easy for my older dog, Jambo, to jump up and rush to the door anymore, but bless his heart, he always makes the effort when I come home, always. And there’s the younger dog, Java, who jumps like a circus act and whose tail never stops spinning.  They bring so much joy and love and laughter, and home would never be home without them.

Jambo
Java

And thus ends my Round the World adventure by dog photos.  Hope you have enjoyed, and if you are on twitter, be sure to share your own dog pics and follow the hashtag #frifotos!

For the Love of Elephants – Sheldricks and Amboseli

“It is easy to love elephants….because they will love you back”
– Caretaker, Sheldrick’s Elephant Trust

The anticipation was growing, and by the time we pulled up the dirt road at Sheldrick’s we could hardly contain ourselves. The day had come, the moment was near – we were all about to meet our adopted baby elephants face to face!

Two days before I left home to lead this very special Travcoa’s 2011 President’s Journey: Grand Safari to Kenya & Tanzania, my September 2011 issue of National Geographic arrived in the mail, featuring an entire article on the very elephants we were about to meet, titled Orphans No More. The baby elephant featured on the lead page was in fact Travcoa’s own adopted elephant, Shukuru!

We gathered round the feeding stations where caretakers held big full bottles.  Then, the first group of baby elephants came happily down the path toward us.

It all happened so fast – these were the youngest bunch, still learning their way, and the next thing we knew there was milk everywhere as the babies eagerly emptied the bottles fumbling and slurping for every last drop.

Then, they were escorted out as quickly as they came.

But wait! The next group was not far behind, and these babies had been around longer and had somewhat better manners as more of us got to hold bottles and meet our own adopted elephants.

Then these adorable kids were allowed “playtime” to wallow in the mud for a bit while we watched and took pictures and oooh’ed and awwww’d.  They were simply so darn cute we just wanted to bring them all home with us.  I somehow I managed to keep myself from running in to the mud to play with them….that probably would not have been so great for my camera, which I was using to make possibly the cutest elephant video ever:

Wait, there’s one more baby elephant bow….
 

They are a tough act to follow, for sure.  The good news is, you don’t have to travel all the way to Africa to foster an orphaned elephant! You can read all about the elephants and select your own online here, at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Orphan Project.

But should you already be in Kenya,  then there’s no better place to learn more about elephants in the wild than Amboseli National Park, and a visit to the Cynthia Moss Research Station (Amboseli Trust for Elephants).  If we could have stayed all week, we’d never have tired of hearing stories from Field Researcher Vicki Fishlock, who hosted us and enthralled us with her knowledge and enthusiasm.

Of course, there is no shortage of opportunity in Amboseli to observe elephants in the wild, and sometimes the encounters are quite close!

Whether up close or from a distance, spending some time watching a matriarch and her family is a real treat, especially when there is a very young one at her side.

I think I could go back to Africa again and again and again and never tire of watching elephants. But for as much wonder and heartfelt joy that I get watching elephants in the wild, nothing will ever compare to the few precious moments experienced with the orphaned elephants at David Sheldricks. That was truly one of the greatest highlights of my life. And guess what….I’m already planning a return in 2012.

The Top 20 + 10 Viewer’s Choice of 2010

Thanks to all who have visited Mira Terra Images this year! In this post I present the Top 20 and 10 (Top 30) images of 2010, based on visits and views by YOU, the internet public! What’s interesting about this list is that it doesn’t reflect the most licensed, sold, or published images; and perhaps it more accurately reflects a list of images which ranked highest in Google search results. Regardless, however it was viewers got here, these were the favorites of 2010, starting at #30:

30 -Husky Kiss

29 – Brazilian Dance Performers – Rio de Janiero, BRAZIL

28 – Roxy Surf Girls – San Diego, California USA

27 – Penguin Kiss – Simons Town, SOUTH AFRICA

26 – Girl with Hat – Bathsheba, BARBADOS

25 – Portofino Coast – Portofino, ITALY

24 – Misty Machu Picchu – PERU

23 – Native American Pueblo – Santa Fe, New Mexico USA

22 – Home on the Amazon – BRAZIL

21 – Dia de los Muertos Skeleton Party – MEXICO

20 – Kinkajou – Golfo Dulce, COSTA RICA

19 – Maasai Boys – Ngorongoro, TANZANIA

18 – Ecuadorian Dolls – Otavalo, ECUADOR

17 – Architectural Detail – Brasilia, BRAZIL

16 – Cheetah Mealtime – Kwandwe, SOUTH AFRICA

15 – Samba Dancer – Rio de Janiero, BRAZIL

14 – Adobe Home – Santa Fe, New Mexico USA

13 – Daily Life on the Amazon – BRAZIL

12 – Mayan Calendar – Antigua, GUATEMALA

11 – Cathedral – Brasilia, BRAZIL

TOP TEN VIEWER’S CHOICE

10 – Namaste – Kitipur, NEPAL

9 – Itamaraty Palace Interior – Brasilia, BRAZIL

8 – Snow Bicycle – Amsterdam, THE NETHERLANDS

7 – Peruvian Textiles – Pisaq, PERU

6 – Samba Carnival Dancer – Rio de Janiero, BRAZIL

5 – Fu Dog, Forbidden City – Beijing, CHINA

4 – Lucky Bamboo Christmas Tree – Chonqing, CHINA
(this soared into the Top 10 just this past month – apparently Google’s search term “Bamboo Christmas Tree” didn’t get many image results)

3 – Itamaraty Palace Staircase – Brasilia BRAZIL

2 – Fu Dog at Forbidden Palace – Beijing, CHINA

and the NUMBER ONE VIEWER’S CHOICE IMAGE OF 2010:

1 – Mexican Gray Wolves Mating – Sonora, Arizona USA

Which is your favorite? Please share and comment below! Thanks and have a Happy New Year!

How Cool is Ucluelet?

And what/where is Ucluelet, anyway?

Clue:

Ucluelet is this cool little town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Cool because it sits on the foggy coast of the Pacific. Cool because it is surrounded on either side by the Pacific Rim National Park. Cool because the Canadian locals are friendly and easy-going. And cool because, amongst other activities, there’s surf!

We arrived by car from Victoria, a long 5-6 hour drive through fantastic scenery, but such harrowing roads that it quickly earned a place on my list of “never again” travel experiences. Never again, that is, until we had to leave the same way we came. But I’ll get to that later.

The Pacific coast of Vancouver Island is known to be a storm-watcher’s paradise. Winter is the best season for storm-watching, but any time of year one can appreciate the ocean’s dramatic meeting with the land on this rugged and wild coast. For surfers, they’ve probably heard of Tofino, which is up the road about 40 minutes drive from Ucluelet. We had every intention of checking it out, but found that Ucluelet offered everything we could need or want for a surf safari, wildlife safari, ocean safari, great dining options, and great lodging…less the crowds of visitors to Tofino.

As a “Native of Paradise” (born in Coronado, California), there are few places in the world I would considering moving to, if I absolutely had to. I could live in Ucluelet, quite happily. That says alot.

Of course, it helped that our accommodations were absolutely gorgeous at the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, perfectly situated on a rugged rocky promontory surrounded by expansive ocean, rocky inlet, and lush forest. The lobby entrance is perhaps the most dramatic and tasteful architecture I have ever seen, beautifully bringing the outside in. And the views from the rooms are equally and unquestionably spectacular.

We took a stroll down the road at dusk on the evening of our arrival. We were told to “make yourselves heard” so as not to startle any bears that might be wandering around. My 7-year-old daughter clung to my legs and begged my husband to carry her. I took this opportunity to teach her the camp song “The other day…I met a bear…” and soon her fear turned to courage. We sang and laughed and laughed and sang, and skipped gleefully down the road. We must have been sufficiently loud, as no bears crossed our path; and we only quieted enough to watch a doe and her fawn foraging on the roadside ahead of us. The peace of the forest contrasted nicely with the roar of the ocean. That first night – falling asleep listening to the rising tide and the waves crashing into the rocky shore all around – is something I won’t put into words, it simply must be experienced.

It doesn’t take a trip into Pacific Rim National Park boundaries to sight the wildlife, it’s everywhere. In fact, most of our wildlife sightings occurred roadside or just around town…or even just from our balcony at Black Rock.

Bald Eagles are most abundant, with pairs nesting in the treetops and fishing in the waters, or simply soaring in the fresh cool ocean air.

And speaking of ocean, the marine life is pretty incredible. While much can be viewed from shore, we opted for an afternoon out on a cruise to explore the Broken Group Islands unit of the park. Whales are a given, especially with resident Humpbacks in the area. Harbor Seals are often spotted. Stellar Sea Lions are easily seen…and heard. But the elusive Sea Otter is not so cooperative for most visitors. We got lucky.


BC Marine Wildlife – Images by Kymri Wilt

That’s not to say there isn’t anything to find if you don’t have sea legs. The beaches offer plenty of tidepool creatures, for a touchy feely encounter.

And speaking of squishy things, if you plan to hike on any rainforest segment of the West Coast Trail, best watch your step so as to avoid an encounter with these guys:

The park boasts several beaches, including one really long one appropriately referred to as”Long Beach“. Between exploring tidepools, surfing, and building forts of driftwood, one can easily pass the day away at the beach.

We did just that, and found a great spot for a scenic lunch (or dinner) at the Wickaninish Restaurant. They offer a nice selection of vegetarian entrees and kid’s menu as well – a welcome change (and the only disappointment) from our resort.

But our favorite foodie find was right in town in Ucluelet, this little local’s spot hit the spot every time with healthy, yummy, tasty homemade food. Delicado’s has something for everyone, and if you’re a surfer, or a lover of southwestern flavors, don’t even think of looking further! The owner and crew are totally cool, and the decor is fun, too.

Time both flew and stood still. Days passed with no set agenda and spontaneous adventures. Nights passed being lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean. And then, it was time to leave.

Remember that horrendous drive I mentioned earning a spot on my “never again” list? Well, since we had not opted to fly in and out of Tofino, we had a rental car which had to get back to Victoria, and tickets on a plane which had to leave Victoria that same day. All of that meant a very early morning departure to hit the road. Our time was too short. We’d seen alot, experienced a dose of both adventure and serenity found nowhere else on the planet, and captured plenty of wildlife with a lens.

Everything but the bear – the Black Bear – for which we booked a cruise and scanned the shores and hoped to spot on our guided wildlife outings. Nope. Of course, it’s not until the bags are packed with miles to cross and a flight to catch that the elusive black bear presented itself. Right smack on the side of the road, who would have thought, drive-by wildlife viewing free of charge?! So much for the “never again” list entry – had we flown into and out of Tofino, we’d never have seen a bear. So that 5-6-hour-totally-stressful-but-scenic-harrowing-road-drive from Victoria to Ucluelet…..now, TOTALLY WORTH IT. (I still think I’ll fly next time).

It marked the perfect ending of our British Columbian adventure, and so this video marks the perfect ending to the story. (turn off the sound if you don’t want to be humming camp songs all day….)

Portraying the Pantanal

What is the Pantanal exactly? My local guide in Brasilia, who has never been, thinks it is part of the Amazon with thick rainforest and lots of rain. Is it the jungle? No. Is it even part of the Amazon? Not exactly. The name “Pantanal” comes from the Portuguese word pântano meaning wetland, bog, marsh or swamp. The Pantanal of Brazil is it’s own ecosystem entirely, and makes for the largest wetlands in the world.
So here it is the end of the rainy season, and the Pantanal should be flooded, right? I prepare for muddy roads, puddle filled trails, fording knee-deep through muck, getting soaked, all that. Another year, perhaps. But not this year. The rainy season of 2008/2009 so far has been the driest on recent record in the Pantanal. The roads are dusty, not even a puddle; the air is scorching hot, no raincloud or raindrop in sight.

The water level is so low that our lodge, which is supposed to look out over flooded plain and wetlands, instead looks out over dry brush, not even a waterhole to be found. The climate is changing all over the world, and quite notably for the animals of the Pantanal.

The Pantanal adventure begins with the drive to the remote Cordilheira Lodge at the Caiman Ecological Reserve. The first sighting is a good one – the Capybara, the largest rodent on the planet. Awfully cute for a rodent. Especially when the whole family appears, adults and little ones, splashing in and out of the cooling waters of a river.

And just a few feet away, what’s that? Caiman?!! Yep. Interestingly enough, caiman and capybara co-exist peacefully. Caimans just aren’t interested in expending any energy to chase down a big furry rodent. Instead, they can get a delicious seafood meal by just sitting in the cool water with their jaws open as the water flows over the rocks. They are not drinking. They are simply waiting for a fish to come tumbling into their mouths and snap, how easy is that? I’ve yet to see a caiman without a smile. They all wear a big ear to ear grin in fact. What’s to complain about? Here they are living in the protected wilderness of the Caiman Ecological Reserve, in the heart of the Pantanal – best life to be had for these reptiles!

At last arriving at Cordilheira Lodge, I settle in to laze through the afternoon heat from my porch. The forest edge is nearby, and I spot a creature making it’s way from the tree line across the cut grasses and straight toward the compound. I jump from my hammock and grab my camera, excited to capture another wild mammal of the Pantanal so quickly and easily! Turns out, the exotic creature in my eyes is an everyday nuisance to the Lodge staff – a pesky scavenger on par with a possum or a raccoon back home. But of course, I recognize it now – remembering the Coati in Costa Rica which bravely stole a snack sack from the zipline rest area. Still, this is a wild animal, and living in the wilds of the Pantanal, and it certainly posed nicely….
The feathered wildlife sightings in the Pantanal are far more rewarding for both guides and visitors. In any season, the Pantanal is a bird lover’s paradise. Here are just a few favorites:


Toco Toucan, Yellow Headed Caracara, Burrowing Owl



Greater Rhea, Great Black Hawk, Jabiru Stork

Perhaps the Pantanal is best known as prime habitat for the Hyacinth Macaw. A visit to the rescue/rehab center doesn’t guarantee a sighting. In fact, only the empty nest box stood as evidence of their existence. But when you least expect it, there it is. In the wild. And it is beautiful. THEY are beautiful. To watch these gorgeous Macaws in their native habitat is utterly amazing, and the true highlight of a visit to the Pantanal!



That’s great and all, but what about the jaguar? I never saw it, but it more than likely saw me. They are quite rare to catch a glimpse of – the guide had only seen one four times in the past five years at the Pantanal. But the other guides told an interesting story about the jaguar and politics. Apparently, the jaguar is a big fan of Obama, as it chose to make an appearance on Election Night 2008.
A group of Americans were staying at the Lodge, and glued to the satellite tv to watch the election coverage on November 4. When it came time for the safari outing, only a Danish couple broke away from the media to get out in nature. And guess what. Only the Danish couple was graced with the sighting of a jaguar. They missed a few hours of Obama and McCain on tv, but they saw a jaguar in the wild, they watched it, they took pictures, and everyone else missed it. So the Danish couple, along with everyone else, still get 4 years of watching the media cover Obama. But everyone else, unlike the Danish couple, missed a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a jaguar in the wild. So the lesson is this: given the prospect of choosing between two once in a lifetime events, go for the one that CNN doesn’t cover!
But there are other mammals to be discovered in the Pantanal, such as the Howler Monkey, and the Crab-Eating Fox.

By the way, for those of you who winced at my earlier post about all the mosquitos in the Pantanal, let me just say that the joy of watching wildlife in the wild, zooming in on a Savannah Hawk in perfect light, or getting video of caimans gliding with capybaras in the rivers, well, moments like these make it all worthwhile. Yes, it’s incredibly buggy, but the bites go away….the memories last a lifetime.
That’s it from the Pantanal. For more captivating images of the Pantanal lodges and wildlife in the wild, visit Mira Terra Images.

Madikwe is for the dogs!


Wild Dogs, that is. Also known as African Hunting Dogs or Painted Dogs, these are elusive and beautiful canines, and are number one on my personal “Big Five” list for African wildlife photography.



Lucky is an understatement. Not only were they out, but they were out in the best hour of daylight. Not only were they out in the best hour of daylight, but they were active. Not only were they active, but they were actively hunting!

As luck would have it, a lone waterbuck wandered into their territory. Note the “deer in the headlights” stance.

As luck would have it, I managed to steady the video camera long enough to capture the scurry of excitement as they gathered the pack together to circle the buck.

As luck would have it, for the buck anyway, the rest of the pack were already finishing off their meal from last night’s kill, and with bellies full, they had little enthusiasm to join these few. After a feeble attempt to encircle the buck, the 4-5 dogs realized they were outsized by this buck, and allowed it to wander on through. But oh, the excitement to see and hear them ready for a hunt!

(Dedicated to Jambo, our own wild dog)

© 2020

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑