Tag Archives: Adventure

Danger, Thrill and Beauty. The Unique Blend in the Everglades.

My orange-colored ear plug fell on the floor. Then it flew overboard and disappeared in water spray. The roar of the airboat engine grew exponentially as we flew over the sawgrass prairie at high speed.

airboat in everglades ud123When we slowed down and finally stopped altogether, the sky and land seemed to merge here, in the middle of this unique wilderness of 1.5 million acres. I took out the remaining ear plug. And listened.

saw grass prerie in Everglades ud123The sawgrass prairie was beautiful and very peaceful. But danger was lurking in the shallow water, only 4-5 feet/1.2-1.5 meters deep on average. Over 200,000 alligators with a typical body length of 9-12 feet, a mouth equipped with 80 sharp teeth and over 1000 pounds of closing power in their jaws, call this swamp home.

alligator swimming in everg;ades ud123

alligator sunning itself ud123They went about their daily life quietly in the water and on land. I was, without a doubt, a guest in their home.

an alligator swims away ud123

Alligator in everglades on the roadside ud123Luckily humans are not on their menu unless we threaten their young. They observed me as I observed them, keenly, and I could see the skies reflected in their eyes. Mesmerizing.

alligator eye 1 ud123I understood that in the Everglades, one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, danger is married to beauty.

mangroves and sawgrass in Everglades ud123

Everglades mangrove forest ud123

everglades trees ud123The sawgrass prairie bloomed with Spider Lily and other beautiful flowers.

spider lilies in everglades 3 ud123

flowers in everglades ud123

flowering Everglades ud123And so did the hammocks.

flowering bush in Everglades ud123I found the airplants most intriguing. A seed lands on a tree, then grows and blooms. Just like that. One of the thousands of small miracles in nature.

airplants in everglades ud123And crisscrossing the prairie I found many of my favorite marsh birds, like the Great Blue Heron, the Great Egret and the Snowy Egret.

saw grass prerie in Everglades 2 ud123

great blue heron in Everglades ud123

great egret in Everglades ud123

snowy egret in everglades ud123A family of Wood Storks got disturbed by our noisy approach and took flight.

woodstork in Everglades ud123

two woodstorks in flight ud123

wood storks in flight ud123And I spotted impressive Osprey nests, several feet high. At one of them, a juvenile was considering the benefits and dangers of flying. Her mommy watched nearby. And waited.

osprey chick ud123

an Osprey chick in Everglades 2 ud123

mother osprey in Everglades ud123I saw many other birds enjoy the peace of this wilderness, like this Red-Shouldered Hawk, but it was a challenge to ‘shoot’ them from a fast moving airboat.

Hawk in the Everglades ud123Particularly if they were moving too, like this female Anhinga, who was trying to swallow her catch.

female anhinga 2 in Everglades ud123Coming back to the airboat station, I spotted two familiar handsome males. A Red-Winged Blackbird and a Boat-Tailed Grackle.

a large airboat ud123

male red-winged blackbird ud123

male boat-tailed grackle ud123From here my journey continued through the Big Cypress National Preserve. I made some interesting discoveries, like the smallest federal building in the US, the Ochopee Post Office.

smallest post office in the us ud123I also visited some wildlife centers on my way to Everglades City, which really was a small, idyllic village with a few roads and houses on stilts due to frequent flooding.

building in everglades city ud123I also spotted both modern and older versions of swamp buggies parked in front of the houses.

modern swamp buggy ud123

swamp buggy in Everglades city ud123And found a nice place for lunch. Alligator was on the menu, but I opted for a chicken sandwich.

lunch place ud123

cocos palms in Everglades 2 ud123Arriving to the western side of the Everglades, I visited the historic museum in Chokoloskee, an area inhabited for centuries by the Calusa people, and for thousands of years by their ancestors.

Indian museum ud123

chokoloskee museum ud123My last adventure was a boat cruise through the western Everglades mangrove estuary known as the 10,000 Islands.

mangrove forest in everglades ud123After speeding past many islands, we suddenly got company. Two Bottlenose Dolphins followed our ‘sister boat’ and then kept diving back and forth under our boat. In addition to us humans, dolphins are the only other wild species that like to play and have fun 🙂  Unfortunately coming up for a photo-op was not included in their scheme of fun for the day.

dolphins swim behind the boat 2 ud123

two dolphins dive under the boat ud123After a while they decided the fun was over and headed for their own underwater explorations. We continued towards the ocean past lovely small islands until we reached the southern Gulf of Mexico.

south Gulf of Mexico island ud123

Southern Gulf of mexico ud123On our way back, we got company again. A young West Indian Manatee stayed with us for quite a while. This ‘sea cow’ can stay under water up to 40 minutes at a time so it was a thrill to capture it coming up for a breath next to our boat a couple of times.

manatee 2 ud123

manatee ud123

manatee 3 ud123Close to the shore I spotted an Osprey in flight above a mangrove island. That was a great ending to my adventure in the Everglades.

osprey 1 in Everglades ud123It was an unforgettable trip from the eastern Everglades through the Big Cypress National Preserve to the western Everglades. And I am more determined than ever to do what I can to preserve this wonderful wilderness, and others, for the future generations.

Thank you for coming along. See you later alligator.

Alligator 2 in everglades ud123

Mama Osprey’s Little Wingman. And Danger Lurking.

Happy Mother’s Day to Mama Sandy! Being a mother is wonderful, but also exhausting and full of trials. Mama Sandy knows. She looks weary. I am not sure this picture shows two chicks, but this is the closest I’ve come this week to confirm that there still are two of them.

weary Mama Osprey and 2 chicks ud59But that doesn’t mean that the younger chick didn’t survive. S/he could just be in the middle of the nest and not yet looking out much. And even in the next picture s/he could be right in front of Sandy’s head.

osprey chick ud59The bigger chick is certainly thriving. S/he is wingersizing already. That long, out-stretched wing belongs to him/her!

This morning I took a solo walk to check on them. See, Dylan is not allowed to take long walks until next Thursday. He had surgery to repair a Cherry Eye in his left eye, which is still red. He has a cone to protect his eye, and is on three medications. Needless to say he doesn’t appreciate his current restrictions.

Dylan after surgeryAnyway, this morning I heard Mama Sandy give a sharp alarm call several times. I looked up in the sky, but couldn’t see anything flying overhead. At one time she was making herself ready to fly out, but changed her mind at the last moment. I was baffled. What was making her so upset?

mama osprey ready to defend the nest ud59I walked closer to the nest and discovered the reason she was on edge. The young Great Blue Heron was watching the nest intensively from the other side of the deep pond.

young great blue heron ud59After being discovered, he flew across the pond landing almost below the nest. And Sandy gave another sharp warning.

gbh flying ud59

younger great blue heron ud59Sandy was on her toes and ready to defend the nest. Because Papa Stanley didn’t fly in to assist her, I gathered he was out fishing. So I walked around the marsh to see who else was at home. The first one I spotted was the small Tri-colored Heron. She was hunting and didn’t pay much attention to me.

tricolored heron ud59The tiny juvenile Little Blue Heron, whom I saw last week for the first time, was also there. I think she’s made the salt marsh her new home.

juvenile little blue heron ud59On the north side of the marsh, two baby Mottled Ducks were having breakfast. Diving so often that I had a difficulty in capturing both of them up on the surface at the same time.

two ducklings ud59Mr. Mallard was also visiting the marsh for the first time this year. He posed nicely for the camera.

mr mallard ud59Walking further towards the beach end of the marsh, I had to laugh at this Northern Mockingbird.

Mockingbird ud59As soon as I walked by his tree, he started serenading me in advance of Mother’s Day. I took a 30 second video so he can serenade you too. The master of the songbird universe.

Reaching the end of the marsh, my attention was drawn to a Great Egret, who seemed very upset.

great egret ud59He was vocal too, and soon enough I saw why. The young Great Blue Heron was flying right towards him. I guess the GBH had decided he didn’t want to get his butt kicked by Sandy again, and wanted another piece of land to conquer.

young great blue heron ud59The Great Egret flew away, and the young GBH soon was the King of the Hill at the west-end of the marsh.

younger Great Blue Heron ud59I walked back towards the Osprey nest on the south side of the marsh. The only bird I saw there was a Blue Jay. He was moving all the time and gave me a hard time to get a shot.

blue jay ud59While I was occupied with him, I saw Papa Stanley circle around the nest with a fish. Mama Sandy did not say anything so he flew away with the fish. After reaching the nest, I sat down on “my” bench to change the battery in my camera.

mama osprey ud59I could only see Sandy. Then I saw a dark shadow flying over my head. It was Stanley coming back with the fish.

papa osprey brings a fish ud59He landed at the corner of nest. But nobody was hungry. This was around 10 a.m. and I guess Sandy and the chick(s) had just eaten. So he took the fish and flew away, presumably to eat it himself.

papa osprey delivers extra fish ud59

papa osprey flies away w fish ud59I’m sure he’ll need that extra energy as he’s fishing at least four times a day now, and probably eats less than any of them.

It was a gorgeous day and an eventful walk. Reaching our driveway a Mourning Dove was welcoming me home.

mourning dove ud59

With that I wish all mothers and grandmothers a wonderful Mother’s Day tomorrow.

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Lions out of Focus

Generally speaking, focus is the central point of attention or activity.  We may agree that it’s important to focus on whatever we want to get done. I’d like to add that how we focus on something may actually determine whether or not we’ll live to tell the story. Seriously.

I learned this lesson many years ago in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. Before dinner on our first day at the safari lodge we opted for a sunset game drive. We climbed into a typical “safari jeep” ready for an adventure. Our guide drove us around the park and we saw many different types of antelopes, zebras and water buffaloes. Very exciting! But more excitement was to come.

antelope in Zambia Luangwa National Park
A large antelope in South Luangwa National Park

About an hour into the drive, our guide told us that before we’d return to the lodge for dinner, he would drive us down to the Luangwa River to see the sunset. It was spectacular, he said, and we might spot animals who come there to drink in the early evening hours.

A few minutes later we approached the river banks. Already from afar, we could see a herd of elephants crossing the river.  We stopped on the high river bank and the driver left the engine running (we were in the wild). My hubby, who sat in the front passenger seat, rigged his camcorder.

Elephants crossing Luangwa River Zambia safari
A herd of elephants crossing the Luangwa River (click to enlarge)

The view was magical. On the left side of the vehicle we could see elephants of all sizes: large adults, youngsters and adorable babies.  And on the right side a gorgeous African sunset. My hubby was recording for dear life.

Luangwa river Zambia sunset
Sunset on Luangwa River

That’s when we spotted a group of female lions. They were basking themselves in the last rays of the setting sun, probably strategizing about the upcoming hunt. They were very close and very calm.  We watched them breathlessly from the relative safety of our vehicle.

A lioness on the bank of Luangwa River

Suddenly my hubby moved. His eye still on the viewfinder he stepped down from the open jeep to get a better view. And landed right in front of the lions! He was so focused on capturing the sunset that he had not seen what all others saw, the lions. In an instant, he was the easy catch, a free meal, so to speak. I was about to scream, but the driver was faster. In a fraction of a second and without a word he grabbed my hubby’s arm and pulled him back into the vehicle. Then he backed out of there, slowly and calmly.

Luangwa River Zambia
Luangwa River at sunset

That was a close call. My tiny lesson was that how we focus on something matters. Of course we should focus on what needs to get done. But not so narrowly that we lose sight of what is going on around us. Things can change fast.

 

Confessions of a Rescue Dog

“I’ve learned to trust again. I’ve learned to play again. I’ve conquered my fears. But most importantly, I’ve learned never to lose hope.” That’s Bumble’s message to his readers on the back of his new book “Confessions of a Rescue Dog“.  He generously shares what he has learned and let’s the reader peek into his world through touching and humorous observations.

Bumble plans his escape.
Bumble plans his escape.

Bumble hopes this book will be a heart-warming treat for pet lovers of ages 10-100, but more importantly, he hopes it will raise awareness and much needed funds to help more shelter animals find loving forever homes. He wanted to post an excerpt for you to read here. It’s about one of his favorite activities, visiting a small uninhabited island for a swim and a nice picnic:

“I love to go to this one particular island. It’s uninhabited and few people ever go there. It has shallow white beaches, and the sand is soft. My family likes the crystal clear water, and we spend hours snorkeling. This is where I also go into the water to swim and snorkel. It’s such a wonderful beach….Last time we were there we got a surprising visitor, completely unannounced. We were all swimming and suddenly mom was screaming. I thought she’d been bitten by a big fish, like a shark or something. I was ready to swim to her rescue!

Bumble goes swimming.
Bumble goes swimming.

Then I looked more carefully and saw a large dolphin. They are nice, intelligent animals and not fish. Mom had told me that earlier when we saw two of them swimming ahead of our boat. This one was swimming around mom, who was now standing waist deep in the water. She had been a bit scared when the dolphin first came to nudge her, but now she was delighted. The dolphin stayed with us for a while and then swam out to the ocean. The whole experience was very special.

Another thing that I love about these small outings is that we usually go out in the morning and return just before sundown. That means lunch on the beach somewhere, and I mean an excellent lunch on the beach. Mom never brings my bowl or my food, so I get what they get. Usually chargrilled chicken breasts or yummy sausages! I love the lunch time on these trips. I get pieces from everyone, and no one keeps a count. That’s what I call a picnic! I’m suggesting we make a small boating trip a regular feature in the weekend calendar, every week. No one would ever be bored.”

You can read another excerpt here. It is about the time when Bumble had just come from the shelter to his new home and was rediscovering how to play.

His book is finally available on Amazon US as a paperback and also on Kindle! In addition, it will be available on other on-line book sellers in the US and on Amazon’s sites world-wide in the next few days.

We both hope you’ll enjoy it!

OMG! He Did It!

Finally we are up for air, my writing partner and I. You see, last November right around NaNoWriMo time, Mister Bumble insisted that he wanted to write his story. He would call it “Confessions of a Rescue Dog”. He asked me to type it since I’m a bit faster than him.  When I hesitated, he went to his archives and brought me a quote. That did it.

Bumble borrowing laptop ed

The quote was written on a simple piece of white paper and it read: “Rescue animals aren’t broken. They’ve simply experienced more life than other animals. If they were human, we would call them wise. They would be the ones with tales to tell and stories to write… animals dealt a bad hand, but who responded with courage. Don’t pity a shelter animal. Adopt one! And be proud to have their greatness by your side.” -Anonymous

I thought his story was worth telling. In fact, it’s quite heart-warming and uplifting. So he started narrating and I started typing. And typing. For the whole month of November. Then came December and we both got busy with other things. I re-engaged in some income generating activities and Bumble concentrated on his work, namely protecting our home from shady characters. We made a few efforts towards editing the manuscript late at nights, but achieved little.

the manuscipt ed

The holidays came and went. The manuscript was covered by soft cushions in a corner of the sofa in my office. Until one day, when Bumble was digging there to make a bed for himself, it fell down on the floor. And I knew we had to finish the book.

We got to work. Reviewing, editing, reviewing again. Then one day great illustrations appeared in my inbox. My son had finalized the cover and several other images for the book. Now we just had to get to the finish line.

front cover final

So finally our joint labor is bearing fruit. 175 pages of treats for pet lovers.  Just before midnight yesterday, the book was submitted for publishing. Bumble did it! He wants to help other animals find loving forever homes so he committed us to donate a portion of the sales to the Humane Society’s shelter here at home.  We have been there, seen all the dogs, cats, rabbits and birds waiting for a new home. It’s a large and well run no-kill shelter.

We’ll let you know when and where Bumble’s story will be available. When you read it, please remember not to take all his observations about me literally. While I think that he’s a fairly accurate analyst of human behavior, I have noticed that he tends to exaggerate a bit when I’m concerned.

Have a wonderful weekend ♥ Tiny and Bumble

Why I Prefer an Elephant’s Butt to Her Belly

For weekend reading I thought I would tell you a short story, just a bit longer than my usual seventeen syllables. This is a true story about elephants and how they taught me a “tiny lesson”.

It was a nice December morning in Africa, more exactly in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. A good friend from Sweden had come to visit us and we decided to go on a safari over the weekend to show her the beauty of the wild. We used to drive ourselves in our sturdy SUV and usually I would be the “safari driver” – so also this morning.

little elephant near the lodge

After an early breakfast at the lodge, we set out into the wild to spot some animals. Our friend was particularly interested in seeing elephants. We knew they were plentiful in this particular park because big herds had moved in from neighboring Rwanda where a conflict was raging at the time.

We drove quite a while, from the south to the north of the park, first on a narrow gravel road and then followed a small trail hardly distinguishable in the tall grass. Suddenly we saw elephants crossing the trail in a distance. We got a bit closer, then stopped and idled. We watched in awe as a huge herd, probably 50-60 elephants crossed our path from a sparsely wooded meadow on the right to a grassy opening on the left. Everybody was there, from the huge elders to the small cuties. We watched and filmed the rare sight at a safe distance. Needless to say our friend was excited!

After about half an hour, we could see the heard had settled to eat at the far end of the grassy area. Only two adults were still on the right of our trail, busy eating from trees at the far end of the meadow. I quickly scanned the situation and decided it was time for us to continue our journey. I shifted to the first gear and slowly, quietly started moving towards the point where they had crossed the trail. Everyone continued to film and observe the herd. We were doing fine, none of the elephants had taken notice of us. Or so we thought.

Suddenly we heard a high-pitched alarm. I turned my head to the right and saw a huge elephant belly right next to our truck! A belly, not a butt or a head! The trunk making the noise was high above our vehicle, the front legs right above our heads! The matriarch had been managing the herd’s crossing from behind some tall and dense shrubbery next to the trail. And she had remained behind… waiting for the two latecomers to get their act together. That made sense. But for us my hasty decision resulted in a surprise that could easily have turned deadly.

As I am telling this story now, you already know the outcome. Metal to the pedal, everyone tumbled around in the truck, we all screamed, the video camera hit the roof…but we made it. We now have a reminder of this adventure – with the alarm sound, elephant belly, our screams and all – on DVD. But the truth to be told, I rather watch the latter part of this DVD filmed back at the lodge, where we met this charming young man.

I have thought about this small incident afterwards. I now know why I definitely prefer to see an elephant’s butt rather than her belly. I also learned a lesson, ever so tiny: I’ve got to get my facts right before leaping into a decision. Shooting from the hip might sometimes prove deadly.

Have a great weekend everyone – may your adventures be just a shade safer.

Tiny Business

I hope you all had good holidays and that your new year has started well. And thanks to all my blogging friends for interesting and inspiring readings on a daily basis during my first six months of blogging! What a wonderful community! And thanks to all followers and visitors for stopping by from time to time.

For the next ten days or so I’ll be changing my Florida capris and sandals to a business suit, boots and an overcoat, my old Explorer to a variety of jets, and my calm ocean views to bustling city views with myriads of people, traffic jams and ancient buildings.

It’s time for me to open my window to the world again. That means it’s time for non-virtual work, face-to-face type of business elsewhere on this beautiful earth.  This probably also means sporadic connectivity and much less time for blogging. I will try to post whenever I can, but will only be able to catch up on all my favorite blogs once back home again. I look forward to that. Be good.

travels

Running to catch flights

learning and teaching lessons

cultural workout.