We arrive at our anchorage outside Port Stanley on time this morning around 7am, and after anchoring, the tendering ashore starts promptly. I’m up at 6:45am, have breakfast in the stateroom, and take the first tender ashore to meet our excursion operator. We are driven most of the way to Bluff Cove Lagoon in a large minibus, and then transfer to 4x4s for the last 5-10 minutes to get to the penguin rookery.
We see both Gentoo penguins and King penguins with their young. Most of the Gentoos are moulting, so they are pretty miserable, just sitting there trying to survive the unseasonable cold, wet weather (see banner image above). This is Autumn going into winter in the southern hemisphere, and it is only 8°C today. Mind you, we are at 52° South latitude right now, so the weather can’t be expected to be that warm.
Mission accomplished: I saw penguins on the Falkland Islands!
Bluff Cove Lagoon is a small part of a 35,000 acre sheep and cattle farm, where the owners offer access to the penguins and other wildlife. They also operate a small museum, gift shop, and most importantly the Sea Cabbage Cafe, where complimentary sweet treats and hot beverages are served to their guests!
I walk along Port Stanley’s waterfront road, stopping here and there to see some of the quaint buildings and other sights. The Maritime Museum is well worth seeing. Passengers from the Roald Amundsen (Hurtigruten, 500 passengers) are also in town, wearing their distinctive coats. I do no shopping, and return to the ship by 12:30pm, and have a very nice Vietnamese rice and stir fry lunch in the Lido.
I download all the photos and videos I shot today into my computer and start the task of entering titles and locations. Thankfully, the GPS unit I have on my Canon EOS R is working perfectly. Having all the photos geocoded combined with having access to the Internet makes annotating the photos with place names much easier and faster.
The cruise has been wonderful so far. Tomorrow we sail the Magellan Strait to Punta Arenas, then explore Beagle & Cockburn Channels before rounding Cape Horn and sailing through the Chilean Fjords. The upcoming week is looking spectacular!
I take my time leaving Hotel Alma this morning. Traffic is light as I drive west from Calgary through the Foothills and the Kananaskis area to Canmore, where I stop to recharge my Tesla at the Supercharger. I grab a cappuccino from Beamers Coffee, which is about a 7-minute walk south of the Supercharger. Back at the Supercharger, while enjoying my coffee I take a photo of the old Moon over the south end of Mt. Rundle before resuming my drive.
The very popular Castle Junction rest stop offers the classic view of Castle Mountain, the Sawback Range and the Bow River. I use three different focal lengths of lenses with my dSLR to capture the scene (see banner image above for cropped fisheye view). I discover later that my telephoto shot of Castle Mountain also captured a raptor in flight near the mountain – bonus! I pull into the rest stop at Eldon in Banff National Park for a rest and to have some lunch. Before resuming my drive, I take a panoramic photo of Castle Mountain from this viewpoint – there is spectacular scenery everywhere you look in the Canadian Rockies!
I recharge at the Golden Supercharger for a half hour before driving Rogers Pass to Revelstoke. Tackling the highway construction westbound doesn’t seem as bad as the eastbound experience. This is the second-longest driving segment for my road trip, so I’m tired by the time I arrive in Revelstoke later in the afternoon.
I’m staying at the Swiss Chalet Motel in Revelstoke on the main drag: Victoria Ave. The Village Idiot Bistro is recommended by the desk clerk, so I go there for dinner. It’s a very casual place with a patio going full bore since it is about 27°C downtown. I sit inside out of the sun and have a High Country Kolsch draught (Mt. Begbie Brewery). It is kind of sweet, but it’s a good summer beer that goes well with my grilled halibut which is excellent, and is served with grilled tomatoes, green beans, onions, and goat cheese – a very heart-healthy choice.
I have a Standard Queen Room in the motel, which is small, but nicely updated with a Queen bed, fast Internet, full bathroom, and air-conditioning. Each unit has a parking spot right outside the door, and the office doubles as the breakfast room. The motel is centrally located – it’s an easy five minute walk to the railway museum, and a 15-minute walk to the shops downtown. There is free parking downtown if you drive.
Today we trade our posh Le Meridien hotel in Kota Kinabalu for a wilderness lodge in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. We fly to Sandakan in East Sabah this morning, drive along the Kinabatangan River (Sabah’s longest at over 500 kilometres) to Sukau and the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge.
Along the way we pass through many kilometres of oil-palm plantations, and arrive in time for lunch (served buffet-style). When one of the staff takes my bag to my cabin, he is attacked by a troupe of Macaque monkeys and is bitten. Not an impressive start to my stay!
Late this afternoon we take our first river cruise in search of Pygmy Elephants, but our guide Junior only finds fresh elephant dung, since they appear to be on the move. We do see a large group of Proboscis monkeys high in the trees beside the river, Silver Langur monkeys, and the Borneo Civet after dark as we return for a late dinner.
The cabins at the lodge are pretty basic, with no air conditioning, just fans and screens on the windows. There are bugs in the room and especially the bathroom. I started taking my Malarone anti-malarial medicine a couple of days ago in preparation for this segment of our travels, however despite the lodge being located right on the river, I see no mosquitos.
April 11, 2018 Wednesday – Kinabatangan in East Sabah, Malaysia
We leave the lodge by boat at 6:30AM for a 2.5 hour trip along the Kinabatangan River. We spot a beautiful Stork-billed Kingfisher soon after we leave the dock. Unlike yesterday evening, today I have my full camera kit with me for the boat trip, I take some good photos of a female Proboscis monkey with a baby in a tree, some Hornbills, a Black and Red Broadbill, a male Blue-eared Kingfisher, a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, an Oriental Darter, some Silver Langur monkeys, a Wrinkled Hornbill, and a small Monitor Lizard. This is my most productive day for wildlife photography!
Our guide Junior gives a presentation on how he started out as a waiter in a resort, becoming a guide 35 years ago, and had the opportunity to work with David Attenborough on The Living Planet series. The biodiversity on Borneo is very concentrated, lending itself to feature films about the rainforest, such as the National Geographic Great Migration series. Junior tells us he is self-taught as a guide, but he is licensed by the government. Same goes for our other guides, which includes his son.
On the afternoon boat trip, we go up a tributary of the main river, where we spot: a Stork-billed Kingfisher (again), a Roller Broadbill (aka Dollar Bird), and an Oriental Darter bird. We see a couple of wildlife bridges built by the government wildlife service to help the Orangutans cross the river channel (since they don’t swim). Our guide tells us the wildlife bridges are mainly used by the monkeys.
I skip the night cruise, since photography is pretty well out of the question, and I really don’t want to be bitten by bugs, pick up any leeches, or attempt to photograph bugs by flashlight.
April 12, 2018 Thursday – Kinabatangan to Sandakan in East Sabah, Malaysia
On our morning boat trip, we see: Proboscis monkeys feeding (including a male), a Cattle Egret in breeding plumage, a pair of Hornbills, a male Black and Red Broadbill guarding its nest, and a young Crocodile on the muddy shore.
After lunch, it is time to leave the lodge by taking a 2.5 hour boat trip down the river to the jetty at Sandakan. This turns out to be an endurance contest, despite having a rest stop half way at Abai Jungle Restaurant and Lodge, a lodge on the lower river run by the same company (S I Tours) as where we were staying. The boats are going about 40 knots and when we are in exposed sea water in the Sulu Sea, the ride is very rough and noisy. I wear my noise-cancelling earbuds to reduce my stress level.
Once we arrive at the jetty in Sandakan, our bags are taken by hand carts to the bus waiting for us, and we are driven a short distance to the only deluxe hotel to be found in Sandakan, the Four Points by Sheraton. It has an infinity pool, gym, 2-level lobby with a piano, and is over 20 stories high. It’s quite pretentious, however I’m happy to have an American-style room with air conditioning, hot water and comfy bed after the last few nights spent in the river lodge!
I drive everyone to the Sonoran Desert Museum this morning, which is 15 miles west of Tucson. We stop to charge the Tesla for 20 minutes at the Tucson Supercharger, which is just east of the city. We then drive another half hour bypassing the city westward into the beautiful Sonoran desert.
It rains lightly while we are at the Sonoran Desert Museum, which keeps the daytime temperature down to the point we are wearing light coats for most of our time here. Since we arrive just after noon, first stop for most of us is to have a snack and drinks at the coffee shop before we walk the trails. We spot a beautiful Bobcat, nesting hummingbirds, a Peregrine falcon in flight, and lots of other birds, animals and of course all kinds of cactus. Our last stop before departing is the caves and a breathtaking mineral display.
After driving back into the city, we meet some friends for dinner at the well-rated El Charro Cafe restaurant in old town Tucson. Being Valentines Day the place is busy, however the Mexican food is terrific. The drive back to Dragoon Ranch starts out with pouring rain as we leave the city, but it thins out by the time we pull into Benson for a quick shopping stop at Safeway. I wash the ranch road mud off the Tesla outside before I park in the garage and plug it in to charge.
Catalina State Park is on North Oracle Road – another park just a few miles from where I’m staying. The entrance fee is $7 for a day pass. I park the car in the lot at the trail head and then start walking. There is a small stream flowing through a wash which has to be crossed, but I manage to step and balance on rocks, not getting wet in the process. The first trail I try is the Canyon Loop Trail, but it proves to be too much for me given that the sun is shining and I have no sunscreen on.
So after 20 minutes, I turn back and choose the Birding Trail. It is flat, has some shade, and is a whole lot more interesting. There are indeed lots of birds on this trail, including a nesting pair of Great Horned Owls. I also come across a huge number of bees swarming on a blooming tree. They are all up at the top of the tree, but I can hear them buzzing. Even this trail is a mile loop, which is somewhat strenuous on such a warm day, so I return to the car, leaving the park by 10AM. There are lots of local people at this park, and there is a campground.
After having breakfast at the hotel this morning, I drive to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The museum is in the western part of Suguero National Park. The desert landscape in this area is spectacular, and the museum presents very interesting displays of the various ecosystems found in the desert. The two captive Coyotes are quite active, and bark like dogs for awhile, getting everyone’s attention. Several docents are displaying birds of prey on their arms and describing their respective features and behaviour, so I take some wonderful closeups of the Peregrine Falcon, Spotted Owl and Barn Owl.
I have some lunch at the little cafe off the gift shop, although there are two other restaurants on the site. The museum has a surprising number of live birds and animals on display in enclosures, including Javalinas (wild pigs), snakes, prairie dogs and squirrels, lots of birds, and some cats. The caves are fun to explore, having stalagmites and stalactites and a gallery of nicely-displayed minerals that are found in the area. So it isn’t just cactus on display, although there are endless varieties of those as well!
Monday, December 12, 2011 – Day 22 – Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica
I take a tour this morning, which takes us over the new highway to San Jose, but we turn off early and go to the upper reaches of the Taracoles River for a mangrove swamp boat trip. We see nesting Scarlett Macaws (from a distance), Crocodiles, a Jesus Christ Lizard, and some birds. The boat trip really doesn’t live up to my expectations, since it is so rushed, and we really don’t cover much of the river. The mangrove boat trips I took on previous visits to La Ensenada Lodge and Tamarindo were so much better!
The bus then takes us to nearby Orotina for a train ride back down to the coast near where Rotterdam is docked. The train trip is interesting, especially when the middle passenger car derails! The train crew uses a diverter to manoeuvre the car’s wheels back on the rails in short order. We see lots of interesting things along the way, including fields of cantaloupe and watermelon, the backyards of many Tico houses, some cute kids waving at us as we pass by, a long tunnel, and we cross over a river and see ever changing vegetation as we descend to the Pacific Coast. The bus is waiting for us at the station at Mata de Limon to take us back to the ship, which is only five minutes away.
Oct 31, 2010 – Sunday – Whangamata to Rotorua, New Zealand
Our B&B is located in a small community just south of Rotorua called Lake Okareka. At this location, we don’t have to put up with the sulphurous smell that is so apparent in the city, and we are hoping the light pollution may be subdued enough to allow us to take some astronomical photos of the night sky. Lake Okareka B&B is quite deluxe, and our hosts Patricia and Ken are very helpful. This B&B is now closed, but there is a new property, in the same area with the same owners.
Once we unpack and have a bit of a rest, we drive back into town and have a look at the hot bubbling pools of water and mud in Kuirau Park, which is a civic park that is free admission. This evening, we go to the Lovely India Restaurant for dinner, and order the Butter Chicken, along with some Lamb and vegetable dishes with rice. The food is superb…the best Indian food I’ve had in a long time!
After returning to the B&B, Ken tells us he has found a good spot to observe the stars from. He shows us a lovely beachfront park which is only about a five minute drive away. An alternate site is the neighbour’s place next door to the B&B. They are away, so the place is dark, and it is so convenient. I setup my astronomy camera and take a time lapse sequence starting at sunset, however the clouds are factor tonight, so I call it an early night.
Nov 1, 2010 – Monday – Rotorua
Patricia makes us a continental breakfast each morning, accompanied with a savoury frittata. This is the only B&B who have a super automatic espresso machine, so I take advantage and have two Cappuccinos each morning!
Today is a down day, which means no activities involving driving. I catch up on my JoeTourist blog, sort through the hundreds of photos taken so far on the trip, do some laundry, and take a long walk around part of the lake. The Lake Okareka Walkway is a boardwalk over a marshy area of the lake where the wildlife are protected, so there is ample opportunity to see marsh birds such as Black Swans, ducks, Pukeko birds, and many other birds, including their young.
We drive into Rotorua for dinner, and after wandering around for a while, settle on Café Ephesus (now closed). This small, unpretentious restaurant is run by some Indians, but offers mainly a Greek menu with some Middle Eastern influences. We have a very nice dinner of a mixed Greek platter and a pizza, which we share around. We also buy a bottle of wine from a vendor across the street and bring the bottle to the restaurant. “Bring your own” is quite common in New Zealand restaurants – not something that is encouraged in North American eating establishments!
This evening after dark, both my friend and I setup our camera gear again on the hill beside the B&B. It is quite cool this evening, so I leave my camera clicking away and retreat back to the warmth of my room at the B&B. I shoot a wide field time lapse video of the Crux-Centauri region: Alpha and Beta Centauri slowly slide below the hill while the bottom star of the Southern Cross moves north along the ridge line. Eta Carina is visible in the frame for the full duration of the video from 9:50pm to 11:45pm. This time of year is not ideal to observe the Southern Cross, since it is upside down and low in the sky. The Milky Way is clearly visible as a wide band of red visible behind the hills.
Nov 2, 2010 – Tuesday – Rotorua – Waimangu Volcanic Valley
We drive the 17 kilometres south to Waimangu Volcanic Valley, which offers a very special experience with volcanic pools. Although publicly owned, this park is run by a private operator, so admissions are charged. We choose the self-guided EcoTours, since we feel it offers the best value: Walk/Hike and Boat Cruise option at NZ$77. Please note that discounts are offered, so check out the website and ask for the discounts at the admission booth.
Walking the 4.7km from the entrance to the lake jetty takes us about two hours at an easy pace. The slope in this direction is generally downhill, with a few steep grades and the occasional uphill section. Anyone who can normally walk this distance on flat ground should have no problem with this walk/hike. Be sure to take water and a snack with you, since there are restrooms, but no refreshment stands along the way. If you get tired, there is a shuttle bus you can catch in two spots mid way, as well as at the end where the boat jetty is located. We also take the boat tour of the big lake located at the end of the trails – Lake Rotomahana. It is worthwhile if for no other reason, to appreciate the sheer scale of the largest volcanic eruption which took place during human recorded history – Mount Tarawera in 1886.
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, is north of Kapa’a on the Kuhio Highway. Watch for the signs and turn right to get to Kilauea Point and the little community. There is no entrance fee, but please drop a donation in the boxes provided. The lighthouse grounds can be home to wildlife. We found an Albatross on a nest, and the nearby cliffs are covered with nesting Shearwaters, Red Boobys, and Laysan Albatrosses. Kilauea Point is the most northerly point on Kaua’i, and Kaua’i is the most northerly of the Hawaiian Islands, so I assume this why the birds find this a good location for nesting. I also spotted a flock of about 6 Nene Geese (native Hawaiian goose).
When the Trade Winds are high, this area around Kilauea Point experiences huge surf, causing some spectacular wave action. Moku ‘Ae’ae Islet and blowhole is a sight to see just off Kilauea Point. There is a small community at the turnoff to Kilauea Point, and I would recommend Kong Lung – a funky store filled with unusual gifts some might be interested in. I also recommend the Lighthouse Bistro for lunch or dinner (located beside Kong Lung). You can’t go wrong ordering their fresh fish of the day. Very good food – highly recommended.
Just past Kilauea Point is Anini Beach County Park. This is a good spot for a picnic lunch, and the fantastic white sand beach is rarely crowded. Anini Beach would make an ideal destination for a whole day’s outing, since it one of the safest for swimming (not too common on Kaua’i due to the offshore reef), and it has good picnic facilities. Another good beach just past Kikauea Point is Kalihiwi Bay. As you can see by the photos, the surf was up while I was visiting in January 2001, so no swimming was possible. The surfers were certainly out there riding the waves, although the emergency rescue was called while I was there, so it was even a bit too rough for some of the surfers!
Princeville is the next community along the North Coast. It is one of those planned communities, which are so common in Hawaii. Everything revolves around the superb golf courses, and yet I find all of them so sterile and cold. No doubt the exclusive properties are very expensive to purchase, and yet they hold no appeal to me whatsoever.
Past Princeville is the Hanalei Valley, which is very picturesque. Hanalei is a small community located on a superb little bay with the same name. The valley is rich and fertile, and many crops are grown here, including lots of taro. Needless to say, there is a great deal of rainfall in this area. Hanalei Bay can experience spectacular surf when the winds are high. If you rent a kayak, stick to the inland waterways.
Ha’ena Beach (aka Tunnels Beach) is normally calm and is a good beach for swimming and snorkelling, but as you can see by my photos, the surf can get very high. Ke’e Beach is much smaller than Tunnel Beach, but it is the end of the north shore road. While you are there, have a look at the Waikanaloa Wet Cave.
Near the end of the North Shore road is the Limahuli Gardens, but they deserve their own article!