I’M GOING ON A SAFARI!!!!
A little over a year or so ago, I read about Gerry Van der Walt from Wild Eye Photo Safaris as being the one to watch on Periscope for wildlife. I started watching him on safari tours and it was amazing to see the lions, hippos, elephants, rhinos, big cats, etc ~ and all of it was live. But I became “hooked” when I switched over to Snapchat which is my preferred forum for seeing all the wildlife updates. Gerry posted lots of the baby animals. Seriously, what’s cuter than those amazing strong animals as tiny (and not so tiny) babies. Cue: Heart Melting!!
Gerry and the rest of the Wild Eye team are very consistent with updating their social media, so much so that when Gerry went quiet for a few days ~ I became worried something happened on one of the safaris. Those animals do get close to the vehicles. Turns out, I missed the snap where he said he was going somewhere without wifi and he would be off-line.
The photos and snap stories are so amazing and I shared many of them with my husband and daughter. Through Gerry’s instagram account, I found a youth photographer, David whose award-winning photo is now on exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History’s Nature’s Best Photography Exhibit. If you’re in Washington, DC and have an interest in wildlife/photography, I highly recommend seeing the exhibit. The “Leopards” photo was taken while David was on a Wild Eye safari in the Timbavati Private Reserve.
Youth Photographer viewing “Youth Photographer” winners at the Museum of Natural History
I’ve dreamed about going on a safari ever since those Wild Kingdom TV shows back in the day. Whenever my husband and I discussed going, it always came down to time and money. Mostly money. It seemed out of our reach. And I’m not a fan of being on tour groups where I’m required to be around a lot of people and on their schedule. I was overwhelmed with the logistics, money and basic planning. I didn’t want to go on a trip of a lifetime and not enjoy it because I didn’t know what or where to go. It seemed too daunting to tackle.
Things changed this past fall when one day Gerry asked on Snapchat “What’s keeping you from going on a safari?” My first thought was “the logistics” and secondly, I thought about the cost. It must be common to everyone because he immediately addressed how Wild Eye can organize a tour based on a budget provided by the guest.
I took a chance and emailed my per-person budget along with possible dates. Gerry wrote back within hours and asked pertinent questions about my preferences: which were the top animals I wanted to see, luxury v. eco-lodge, and did I prefer to be with other people or on a private guide. A few days later, Gerry recommended we go on a privately guided safari in the Timbavati Private Preserve in South Africa with Michael from Wild-Eye. Having already seen David’s (youth photographer) great photos from Timbavati, I was sold.
Timbavati borders Kruger National Park and, because there are no fences, the animals go back and forth between the park and the preserve. Bottom line, we wouldn’t be going on this trip if I hadn’t stumbled onto Wild Eye through periscope. They’ve made it too easy to plan such a fabulous adventure.
More on the details of planning in my next post but if you want to follow Wild Eye to see their fabulous wildlife images, you have your pick of social media outlets:
- Gerry (Wild Eye founder) is on Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat as: Gerryvanderwalt
- Gerry’s The Wildlife Photography Podcast is on Itunes/Soundcloud
- Our guide is on Instagram and Snapchat as: Michael.Laubscher
- For additional info on Wild Eye click here
Posted in Animals, Photography, Safari, Travels, Wildlife | Tagged Adventure, Eco-lodge, Photography, Safari, South Africa, Timbavati, Travel, WildEye Tours, Wildlife | 7 Comments »
A Big Island adventure not to be missed is going to the 13,796 foot Mauna Kea Summit which at night offers the clearest and most awe-inspiring views of the night skies to rival any on Earth. I spent a lot of my time at the summit looking around and thinking “what a fantastic world we live in and I wish everyone could participate in this experience.”
It’s not required to go with a tour group to the summit but because we didn’t rent a 4-wheel drive (required for the top part of the mountain), we decided to join a tour. We were very pleased with the knowledge and friendliness of our tour guide/driver from Hawaii Forest and Trail . The trip lasts anywhere from 7-8 hours ~ depending on weather conditions and travel time. Our trip was right around 7 hours.
Abandoned Humuula Sheep Station
A picnic dinner is served at the historic (abandoned) Humuula sheep station located at 7,000 feet (half way up the mountain) and allows people to acclimate to the higher elevation. Some people were affected and others not at all. Thankfully, we were in the not at all category.
Throughout the tour, our guide provided a lot of historic and cultural information. Because the temperatures and winds make it downright winter-like at the top, the tour company provides winter jackets.
Thank goodness for the jackets provided by the tour company ~ definitely needed.
It was very interesting to be standing amongst the world’s largest collection of research telescopes.
The large dish-shaped structure is one of 10 very long Baseline Array radio telescopes that are spread out across the United States and used simultaneously. Astronomers use the telescope to make detailed studies of space objects. Each antenna is controlled remotely by the Array Operations Center in Socorro, New Mexico, but there are local site technicians at the Mauna Kea summit.
Most sacred part of Mauna Kea and off limits to visitors
The Hawaiians consider the mountain to be one the most sacred places in the islands and it is not without controversy that it is used commercially. There is an area of the mountain which is off-limits and I’m glad most people respect it.
A highlight was the spectacular sunset which looked like other-wordly to me especially when the sun was low and in the clouds far below us.
On the way down the mountain, we stopped at 9,000 feet for delicious hot chocolate and star-gazing and then we stopped at the visitor’s center for a bathroom break and a little shopping in the gift shop. Photos of stargazing will follow in a future post.
Before you attempt traveling to the summit, here are a few precautions: guests should be able to hike on uneven, rocky, wet, and sometimes muddy terrain. Because of high altitude, I would caution anyone who has respiratory, circulatory and /or heart conditions, pregnancy or generally in poor health. Scuba divers shouldn’t make the ascent within 48 hours of diving. Children under 16 are not allowed on the tour. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes, long pants and a sweatshirt/sweater. Dressing in layers is best.
Interesting Facts about Mauna Kea:
- It is estimated to be approximately one million years old
- Last eruption was about 4,000 years ago
- It is a dormant volcano but could still erupt
- The area of Mauna Kea takes up about 28.8% of the island
- Mauna Kea means White Mountain
- Snow falls on both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa
Posted in Big Island, Hawaii, Photography, Travels, USA | Tagged Altitude, Astronomy, Big Island, Hawaii, Mauna Kea, Photography, Sunset, Telescopes, Travels | 3 Comments »
Early morning hike to Mau’umae Beach
Mau’umae Beach is my favorite on the Big Island (Hawaii). It’s secluded, sandy, and I can usually have it all to myself on a weekday if I get there early enough. The water is almost always calm so it’s a great place to snorkel. If you happen to be there during the winter months, keep a lookout for whales or dolphins just offshore.
Getting to Mau’umae Beach requires a short hike from Spencer Park or you can drive from the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. If you’re coming from Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, you will need to get an access pass from the guard shack and they only give out 10 passes per day so go early. Once you have your pass, follow the road for approximately 300 yards and take the second right turn. Continue across two small wooden bridges until you arrive at the unpaved parking area above the beach. The trail down to Mau’umae Beach is marked by a sign.
HIking to Mau’umae Beach from Spencer Park
Along the Ala Kahakai Trail to Mau’umae Beach, Hawaii
From Spencer Park, park at the far left side of the parking lot and take the coastal path for about a quarter mile. Fishing is popular along the hike and the views of Mauna Loa are spectacular!
Along the trail to Mau’umae Beach, woman fishing and Mauna Loa in the background.
If you’re on the Big Island, I highly recommend you visit this small, secluded and beautiful beach.
Posted in Beach, Big Island, Hawaii, Hiking, Photography, Travels | Tagged Beach, Big Island, Fishing, Hawaii, hiking, Secluded | 3 Comments »
When I was younger, there was no question that I would stay with family and friends when ever I went back to the Big Island (Hawaii) for a visit. But with a family of my own now, and my desire for more privacy, I usually book several different places to stay. The island is big enough to warrant moving locations to be closer to either the volcano or the beaches.
Sunset view from 118 Puako Beach
On our July visit, I booked an AirBnB vacation home for the first time. I’m thrilled to say the seven night stay at a two-bedroom, two bath beach house in Puako was a big success with everyone.
Waiting on Sunset in the Puako Beach House Yard
The location couldn’t have been better for us. We could see the ocean from the living room, patio and master bedroom. I love waking up to the sound of the waves crashing on shore. We were able to go to several beaches in close proximity to the rental home.
Bikes come with the Beach House rental
Upon arrival to the island, my brother loaded me up with all kinds of local foods for us to feast on while we stayed at the house. He thought of everything ~ fruits, main meals, coffee, desserts, vegetables, chips, etc. Yum! 118 Puako House came fully stocked with essentials so be sure to check in and then do your grocery shopping.
A Daily Visitor to the Beach House
Birds aren’t the only visitors to the beach house. Keep an eye out for unwelcome critters especially the dreaded centipede. They are red and nasty looking. Always check your shoes before you put them on and check your bed too. Anywhere they may hide ~ don’t come away with a painful bite.
If you book a home in Puako, be sure to rent one on the oceanside. The ocean breeze makes it much more comfortable during warmer days.
Posted in AirBnB, Big Island, Hawaii, Photography, Travels | Tagged AirBnB, Beach, Big Island, Bikes, Birds, Hawaii, Puako, Sunset | 5 Comments »
As a family, we’ve hiked in locations around the world and have been lucky enough to hike in Germany, Slovenia, Guam, Hawaii, Virginia, and many more. But I wasn’t surprised when my daughter deemed the Kīlauea Iki Trail on the Big Island as her all-time favorite hike. It’s a fascinating place located within the Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kilauea remains an active volcano to this day.
At the Kīlauea Iki sign, you can go in either direction but I would advise taking the trail to the right and hike counter-clockwise which will lead you through a rain forest, the 1959 lava lake, steam vents, cinder cones, and large fissures in the lava. Keep an eye out for the native nēnē (Hawaiian Goose) ~ we saw two but they were too fast to get a photo. The nēnē are the sixth most endangered waterfowl species in the world.
The rainforest section of the trail is well-worn but be careful with the rocks and occasional exposed roots. We started early in the morning and didn’t see anyone else until we got to the lava lake.
On hikes, my daughter only uses her phone to take photos but while we were on the trail, her college released the dorm assignments and she was excited to learn where she would be living for a year. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the dorm she preferred and it was the only sad part of the hike. But, fast-forward six months later, and she’s thrilled with her suitemates and her dorm.
The ‘Ōhelo berries are a favorite treat for the nēnē and can be found throughout the trail. It is a hardy plant that even grows on the lava. The plant is a relative to the blueberries and the berry can range in color from dark red to pale yellow.
The amazing view from the rainforest.
It was a little surreal to see a runner come through as we walked along the deserted and isolated lava crater but he obviously runs this trail frequently.
Be sure to follow the Ahu (stacked rocks) to find your way through to the other side of the trail. Please don’t disturb them!
If you go, here are a few words of advice:
- The trail is moderate to challenging. It’s steep and rocky. The descent/ascent is 400 feet (122m).
- It’s a 4-mile (6.4km) loop. It took us approximately 2.5 hours and we stopped for a snack.
- The trail head is 2 miles (3.2km) from the Visitor’s Center.
- Once you’re at the Kīlauea Iki parking lot (off of Crater Rim Drive), you may go either way from the trailhead. We preferred to go right which took us through the rainforest first then down to the crater floor.
- Be sure to bring water, food, hat, sunscreen, camera and rain gear. Be prepared for all types of weather conditions: hot, dry, wet, windy (!). Please remember to “leave only footprints” and bring all your trash and items back out of the area.
Posted in Big Island, Hawaii, Hiking, Islands, Photography, Travels, United States | Tagged Big Island, cinder cones, Hawaii, hiking, Islands, Lava, Photography, Rainforest, Travel, Volcano, Volcanoes National Park | 4 Comments »
Having grown up in Hawaii, I’m used to the occasional earthquake, big surf, an active volcano and unpredictable weather. And then there’s the ever-present threat of a tsunami. While having dinner with my brother this past week, he recounted his story of surviving a 7.7 earthquake, landslide and the largest locally generated tsunami to hit the Big Island in the 20th century.
In 1975, over Thanksgiving weekend, my older brother and cousins decided to go camping in Halapē which sits at the base of the 1,000 foot cliffs of Puu Kapukapu. There were eight hikers in his party ~ most between the ages 19 to 25 and one brought his dad with him. They also had four horses. This is his account as he told us the other night over dinner:
On Friday, 28 November 1975, they hiked in the early afternoon to fish and pick ‘opihi. Once the fish/’opihi were on ice, they had a campfire dinner. He was still awake when the first earthquake hit in the early morning of 29 November. Actually, it was a foreshock measuring 5.2. The second earthquake, measuring 7.7, is the one that rocked the entire area. It bounced the rock he was sitting on so that it moved in a circle. He tried to hang on but after a few seconds he found himself on the ground.
His group, along with the Boy Scout troop also camping in the area, ran for the trail that would lead to higher ground but there was a horrendous noise coming from the mountainside which they knew was a landslide ~ the large falling rocks impeded their ascent. They turned around to avoid being hit by the boulders, but someone screamed they saw the ocean rising. There was no time to do anything else, the wave smashed into the cove and swept him away. He was tumbled under the waves until his need to breathe began urgent; he was certain he would die. His thought was “I now know what it’s like to drown.” He swam as hard as he could to get to the surface and, miraculously, made it to the top long enough to take a big gulp of breath before the second, and much larger, wave slammed into him. He was tousled towards the rock and hung onto a big boulder. His ability to hang on to the boulder is what saved him.
Unbelievably, only two of thirty-two campers perished in the tidal wave. The US Geological Survey estimated the second wave was 14 meters high (just shy of 46 feet). This tsunami was caused by the largest locally generated earthquake (part of Kilauea Volcano) ever recorded in Hawaii history and because the epicenter was only 19 miles from my brother’s location, the waves hit within a matter of minutes. Many of the surviving campers were hospitalized for broken bones, concussions, etc. My brother walked away with one or two scratches. He has one heck of a guardian angel watching out for him. It gives me the chills just thinking about it.
We are currently staying at a beach house right on the water and we see the tsunami signs all along the road. On Friday night (9 July 2016), the tsunami sirens, located directly across the street, jolted us out of bed. We were especially alert due to the story of the 1975 tsunami we had just heard. I’m proud to say the only thing I grabbed was my purse ~ thinking that I needed my license to drive. We headed for higher ground while listening to the radio for further instructions. Turns out it was a system malfunction but I’m not sorry we evacuated ~ better safe than under water.
There’s a scene in the movie Leap Year where the lead male character asks “if your apartment was on fire and you had sixty seconds, what would you grab?” ~ I’m happy to know the only thing that mattered to me was my husband and daughter.
If you’re ever at the beach in Hawaii and there’s an earthquake, don’t hesitate ~ head for the high ground!!
Photos of the aftermath (courtesy of the Pacific Tsunami Museum):
Posted in Beach, Big Island, Hawaii, Travels, United States | Tagged Beach, Big Island, Halape, Hawaii, Islands, Kilauea, Tidal Wave, Tsunami, Volcano, Volcanoes National Park | 5 Comments »