A Travellerspoint blog

HUATULCO, MEXCIO

January 21-28, 2014 Waterfalls, iguanas & butterflies, and a stunning sunrise!

sunny 37 °C

My first trip of 2014 was to Huatulco, Mexico. I was hired to photograph a Destination Wedding there :) The bride & groom put me up at the amazing Dreams Huatulco Resort. As I was going through my photos to select ones for this blog post, I realized I didnt actually take that many of the resort itself, but this was my room. large_IMG_4893-001.jpg

View from the beach bar :)
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One of 6 pools (3 of which were infinity pools).
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The resort was located on Tangolunda Bay, one of nine bays in Huatulco.
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I went for a walk to the other end of the beach where there was a pier (above photos), lots of birds fishing, local fisherman, and loads of tropical flowers/plants.
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I only had 2 days of 'work' while there, one day to shoot the wedding, and a second day to do more family photos, otherwise the rest of the days were mine to do as I wanted. So one day I headed to the Yee-lo-bee Butterfly Farm. I just took a taxi and paid the entrance fee once there. Taxi & admission was around $30. Much cheaper than the $80 the resort wanted for a tour! I met 3 Canadians ladies there, and we toured the place together, then stopped for freshed squeezed lemonade afterwards :)
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The 'farm' is a giant greenhouse dome filled with tropical plants and 100s, if not 1000s of butterflies! I think I spent about 1hr in there, trying to photograph each kind of butterfly. If your patient they will eventually land on you :)
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Caterpillar
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Also at the butterfly farm was an iguana hatchery! Bonus! They had Black Iguanas & Green Iguanas of various ages. They breed them here, then release them into the wild ... or so they say.
Black Iguana
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Green Iguana
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They asked if I wanted to hold them ... of course!
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The baby Green Iguanas were my favorite! So cute! They look like the little Giecko gecko from the commercials, lol!
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Colorful bougainvillea were everywhere!
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There was also a pond area at the butterfly farm with these odd looking ducks.
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After a few lemonades, I hopped back in my cab, which had waited for me, and headed back to the resort. Its really only a 10min drive or so, so dont let a cabbie charge you a ton of money! So on the drive back my cabbie decided to hit on me. First he asked if I liked Huatulco. I said yes. Then he asked if I'd like to move here. I saw where this was going right away, lol! This isnt my first time out of the country, I'm no fool. So I answered him with a big NO. But that didnt deter him. He then asked if I liked dancing. NO. He still proceded to ask if I wanted to go to a disco with him that night. No deal. And then finally he asked if I'd like to go to a nude beach with him! Hahahahaaaa, no thank you greasey Mexican, no thank you!!
Back safely at the resort I enjoyed a beautiful sunset.
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The next day I took a stroll through town and found a little spa and got a 1/2hr massage for a fraction of the cost of one at the resort's spa. I also came across a local tour agency offering all the same excursions that the resort was. I booked a tour to a waterfall. Resort's price ... $85. Local agency price ... $40! If you've never been on an all-inclusive vacation before, my #1 tip would be to never ever book excursions through your resort. Just walk across the street to a local agency and get the same tour for half the price. Literally. Resorts always tell you that the local places will rip you off. Not so. I use local agencies wherever I travel. Its the big resorts that are ripping people off!
The drive to the waterfall, however, is brutal! Long, potholes, twisty & turny, up & down! If you get motion sickness easily, take Gravol beforehand, and try to sit in front of you can.
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The walk from the parking lot to the falls is easy, but theres is 2 sets of steep stairs.
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But the walk back was a different route along the river with no steep stairs.
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The waterfall is named Cascada Magica. It has many tiers, a rope swing, and shallow areas for safe swimming. But my favorite part was that there were only 5 other people there!
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After a few hours at the falls, lunch was at a coffee plantation. I'm not one for trying new food, but I did try fried cactus (yuck), and hibiscus juice (yum). They actually put the flowers in water. Let it sit overnight. Then drain the water out & add sugar. It tastes a bit like fruit punch, but not as sweet.
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On the last day I got up at the butt crack of dawn to watch the sunrise. The sun doesnt rise at my beach, so I hitched a ride with the front desk girl's surfer boyfriend to a place called La Bocana.
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The sunrise was the best I've ever seen!
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There was a little pond/pool of water where the river ended with a perfect little boat with peeling turqoise paint floating on it. It was just screaming for a photoshoot ;)
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Silhouetted heron
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After taking more than enough photos of the little boat, I walked across the beach to the ocean where there was a giant piece of driftwood covered in birds sunning themselves as the sun came up.
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I was the only one on this beach, other than the friend that came with me, and a local surfer girl.
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2 birdies gossiping
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So many birds!!
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I took a walk to the far end of the beach where there was a massive flock of American Black Vultures. No one else was on this beach, just me & the vultures! In that moment I forgot I was in one of the most touristy countries in the world!
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I walked very slowly amongst the vultures. They didnt fly away, not even one.
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But they all had their beady little eyes on me! Every time I took a step they'd turn their heads collectively as one, and stare at me. I'd stand still and wait for them to go back to feeding, then take another step ... and they'd all turn & look at me again.
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They were busy feeding on a stingray carcass.
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Not gonna lie, I was nervous that'd they'd attack me. But they didnt. One thing I learnt in Africa is to give wildlife space, move slowly, and they'll mind their own business.
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Cute little hut on the beach.
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After 6hrs at this awesome beach, I had no choice but to head back to my resort. It was time to checkout and head to the airport :( But not before I found a cute little parrot!
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Thats it for Mexico. Next up will be Indonesia :)

Posted by ChantelleS 26.07.2014 12:00 Archived in Mexico Tagged wildlife beach mexico bird waterfall iguana animal butterfly Comments (0)

DOG SLEDDING & SNOW SHOEING - ANGLIN LAKE - CANADA

Dog sledding & snow shoeing at Anglin Lake, Canada

all seasons in one day 6 °C

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My best friend and I drove up to Anglin Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada for a day of dog sledding & snow shoeing ... 2 things which I've been wanting to cross off my bucket list for awhile! We live in Saskatoon, so it was only about 2.5hrs drive north to Anglin Lake. It is located about 65km north of Prince Albert.
This is a photo of the snow/ice covered lake.
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It was only $50 for a 1hr dog sled run, with complimentary snow shoe rental which we could use before or after the dog sledding. We chose to go snow shoeing first, as we had arrived about 1.5hrs early just in case the roads were bad ... but they were fine.
Here we are all geared up and ready to go. It was +6C this day in January, if you can believe it! No worries of getting cold thats for sure!
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The snow was really deep ... up to our knees in some places. We were snow shoeing virgins, lol, neither of us has done this before and were under the assumption that snow shoes allowed you to walk on top of the snow! But with snow this deep you still sink in quite a bit, making for a good workout!
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We stopped for a break at some chairs we came across ... and built a lil' snow dude and attempted to make snow angels :)
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Next up was the dog sledding!!
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This is where the dogs were kept. They each had their own dog house with their name on it :)
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This is Blackjack ... i this he's drunk in this photo, LOL!
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I just love his eyes!
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We were introduced to our team, and then shown how to harness & hook them up to the sled.
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The dogs were SO EXCITED! And LOUD! So much barking & excited whining ... they just wanted to GO! LOL! In the next sequence of photos, watch the lead dog! She was like a bucking horse, so eager to go!!
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Come on guys, lets GOOOO!
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All 4 legs off the ground, hahaha! I love this dog!
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Ignore my dorky pants please, lol!
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And we're off! SO MUCH FUN!
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It had been really windy the previous day and there were a few fallen trees that we either had to go over slowly, or stop, get off the sled, and help move them off the trail.
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Then outta nowhere it started snowing perfect, fluffy snowglobe-like flakes :) Beautiful!
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A fan-fricken-tastic day! We absolutely loved every minute of it :)
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Posted by ChantelleS 03.02.2014 11:02 Archived in Canada Tagged trees snow winter dog canada sledding snowshoeing Comments (0)

CAPE PENINSULA, SOUTH AFRICA

African Penguins, ostriches, scenic coastline, Cape of Good Hope, lighthouse, and Table Mountain cable car! So much to do & see on the peninsula!

sunny 20 °C

I spent a few days in the Cape Peninsula (the area from Cape Town, south all the way to the Cape of Good Hope). One morning I took the train from Simonstown up to Cape Town. It took about an hour and cost $2 Canadian! Steal of a deal compared to a taxi which would've cost $46 Canadian. And very scenic as it follows the coastline for quite a ways before cutting inland. If you travel the way the locals do, you can save alot of money! From the train station in Cape Town I took a cab up to Table Mountain to take the cable car to the top.
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But it was too windy so the cable car was closed :( And here I thought I had picked a good day cuz it was sunny and clear, with barely a breeze, but at the top of the mountain that breeze was wind. I stuck around for 2hrs waiting for the wind to die down (no point in heading back to Simonstown just yet, I came all this way, I wanted to see something!). This was the view from the lower cable station.
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While waiting there were a few gift shops to look through, a place to grab a cheap lunch (chicken & mushroom pie for $2.25 Canadian), an ice cream booth, etc. After the 2hr wait I was in luck! The wind died down and they opened the gates. It cost $205 Rand ($26 Canadian). It only took 4min to ascend 1065m (3195ft)! It rotated 360 degrees as it rose, so no matter where u stand u get a good view, just make sure to grab a spot by a window ... unless your scared of heights, its really high!
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Follow the cables ... aaaaaaall the waaaaaay down! Thats how high 1065m is! If the cables look nearly vertical to you, thats because they are! By far the steepest cable car I've ever been on!
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Once at the top, it was FREEZING cold!! The sign at the lower cable station said it was +3C at the top, but with the windchill it was below freezing! Bring a jacket for sure! I had a hoodie & jacket, but could have also used a toque & gloves ... my fingers were freezing from taking photos. There were many trails to follow with signage explaining the flora, history, etc. I only stayed up there about 20min or so, cuz it was THAT cold & windy. Heres some photos I managed to get of the various views from the top.
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One brave little birdie in the cold!
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The next day I made the mistake of going on a Peninsula Tour. I should've just rented a car, or even a taxi for the day. The tour was a waste of time, especially if you're a photographer. They advertized a huge list of places to be visited on the tour, but what they didnt mention is that you dont actually stop at them, you just drive by at high speeds as your guide says "Oh and that was an ostrich farm", or "Oh that back there was Long Beach", etc. We made a few, very brief stops, but thats about it. So I didnt take too many photos, as there werent very many photo ops ... unless blurry pictures taken through the vehicle's window at high speeds is your kind of photography.

We made a 5min stop at Camps Bay Beach. Once we were back in the van and on the road again our guide decided to mention that the mountains in the background were the 12 Apostles. Would've been nice to know that while looking at them.
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Next up was Hout Bay. We actually stopped here for an hour ... for an optional boat cruise out to Seal Island. This was an extra cost. I chose not to, since Seal Island is where my shark boat anchored offshore from a few days prior. So I wasted an hour looking at the many souvenir stands, and had some toast & coffee at a nearby restaurant.
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Another 5min stop at a lookout point overlooking Hout Bay.
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Then we drove along the very scenic Chapman's Peak Drive. It was absolutely gorgeous ... but we didnt stop even once to take photos anywhere of it! Ugh! So this is a 'drive by shooting' of the twisty turny road that clung to the mountainside.
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We started to see some wildlife the closer we got to the tip of the peninsula. We actually stopped for 2 bontebok (a type of antelope I never knew existed), 7 ostriches, 5 eland, and an itty bitty tortoise on the road.

Bontebok ... crappy photo I know, but they were far away. I only bothered to take a photo cuz I've never heard of, nor seen them before.
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Ostrich on the road!
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Eland, the largest of all antelope.
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Then we stopped at the Cape of Good Hope ... The south-western most point of the African continent. There was really nothing there but a sign ... and at least 50 ppl lined up to take a photo with it. I tried uploading the photo, but it wont post :(

We then had lunch at the very expensive Two Oceans restaurant at the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula. The menu was mostly seafood & meat, so I got a milkshake and headed to the snack shop next door for cheap pizza, lol! Thats a backpacker's budget for ya! I'm glad I did though, cuz while everyone else was wasting their time waiting for their expensive meals, I took the funicular (like a cable car on a train track) up to the lighthouse at Cape Point. Only $6 Canadian, or you can walk the whole way up for free. If I'd had more time I would've. By the time they were all done eating, they only had about 10min to look around, whereas I had a whole hour. This is the view from the restaurant.
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The funicular only takes you this far ... then you have no choice but to climb those steps to get to the very top.
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The sign at Cape Point, right before you start climbing the stairs. There were also 'Beware of Baboon' signs, but I didnt see any baboons.
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The lighthouse at the top
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View of the cliffs. This is where the Indian & Atlantic Oceans meet! Very turbulent waters!
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The last stop on the tour was my fave ... Boulders Beach, home of the African Penguin!! Again, we only had about 10min here, which is most definitely not enough, so the following day, the last day of my whole trip, I walked 20min from my hotel in Simonstown to this beach, and spent the WHOLE day with the penguins :)
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It cost 45 Rand ($5.60 Canadian) to access Boulders Beach. They give you a ticket which also gets you into Foxy Beach, so be sure to hold onto it. Boulders Beach is where 99% of the penguins are. They can be founding nesting, swimming, sleeping, suntanning, etc. The African Penguin is a protected species so you have to stick to the boardwalks. Theres penguins all along the walk, but if you just walk straight to the very end of the boardwalk, thats where the majority of them will be!
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Beautiful Boulders Beach!
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Two penguins in love :)
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Braying penguins ... the sound they make sounds like a honking donkey, lol!
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Nesting area on the beach
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I absolutely loved watching them waddle around! Its seriously the cutest thing in the world!!!!
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Waddle, waddle, waddle :)
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Mama and baby penguins
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Babies huddled together for warmth.
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A young penguin shaking himself off after a swim in the chilly water.
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Young penguin losing his fluff.
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Suntanning penguins!
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Weeeeeeee! Bodysurfing right onto shore!
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Kissy kissy!
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There were also a few Rock Hyraxes, aka Dassies, to be found.
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Black Crakes at the beach
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Well thats it, that all! I'm finally done my Africa blog, yay me :) Only took 8mths, lol!
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Posted by ChantelleS 14.12.2013 19:50 Archived in South Africa Tagged penguin wildlife car bird south coastline africa cable scenic cliff lighthouse ostrich peninsula Comments (0)

FALSE BAY, SOUTH AFRICA

Great White Sharks, Cape Fur Seals, 1000s of Spinner Dolphins, and Orca Whales!

overcast 18 °C

Heres my fave photo from this leg of my trip!!!!!
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After 3 nights in Swakopmund, Namibia, I flew back to South Africa. I landed in Cape Town at 7:30pm and took a prebooked shuttle (with Centurion Tours) 45 min south to Simonstown, where I stayed for 6 nights. I stayed at the Simonstown Quayside Hotel. It was located right on Jubilee Square (main area of the town with lots of shops & restaurants).
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My room looked over the harbor, main pier, and mountains.
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My first full day here rained. Actually it poured. Sideways. It was SO windy! But the next day was sunny/cloudy, albeit a tad chilly (only 10C). But the good news is, my shark diving tour with Apex Predators wasn't canceled! Woohoo! I prebooked my tour online, but if you'd rather book in person, the Apex Predators office is actually located in a 'mall' beside my hotel. Quite convenient. When choosing a shark diving operator, dont cheap out! The last thing you want when dealing with Great White Sharks, is a flimsy cage! I chose Apex Predators because the owner/operator & marine photographer extraordinaire, Chris Fallows, is known worldwide. Just google his name! If I remember correctly, it cost just under $200 Canadian (I was there in off-season though, it costs more in high season). My hotel was located at the pier where the dive boats departed, so I literally woke up, rolled outta bed, and walked to the end of the pier to meet the group of ppl who would be joining me :)
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The boat departed the Simonstown harbor at 7:45am. We left 1hr later than scheduled due to wind in the morning. This is the view from the boat looking back over Simonstown.
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We anchored just offshore from Seal Island ... basically a massive rock absolutely covered in Cape Fur Seals!
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Just look at all of them! Those arent rocks, those are ALL seals!!
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Then the cage went into the water, and the crew started chumming the water (throwing fish guts overboard to attract sharks).
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The chum, aka shark bait.
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Chumming the water.
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And then we waited. And waited. And waited & waited & waited. The entire time the crew kept chucking fish bits overboard trying to attract a shark. In movies they make it seem like if you put even one toe in the water you will get eaten by a shark. But in reality, it takes forever. Eventually one Great White came relatively close to the boat cuz there was a dead seal floating nearby. But just as it was about to raise its head & massive jaws out of the water to eat the seal, (and I was ready with my camera zoomed in & focused on that dead seal), someone else stepped in front of me to take their own photo and I completely missed seeing the shark!!!!! By the time the person moved, all I got to see was the side of the shark :( So disappointed I coulda pushed that person overboard, lol! This is the most I saw of a Great White. (If you want to see incredible photos of Great Whites breaching, google Chris Fallows' name!)
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Mr Chris Fallows doing what he does best! And yes, I was very jealous of his lens!
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So I didnt actually bother getting into the cage in the freezing cold water (only 8C). No point in getting hypothermia if theres no sharks to see :( After 6hrs of nothing, we headed back to the harbor ... and guess what we saw along the way?!!!! NINE Orca Whales (aka Killer Whales)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!large_IMG_0614-001.jpg
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They were hunting a pod of 1000 Spinner Dolphins! Chris was driving our boat as fast as it could go, and we could barely keep up with them! But eventually he got us into the middle of the pod of dolphins! It was unreal ... jumping dolphins and frothing water as far as I could see in every direction! This was definitely a major highlight of my entire trip to Africa!!! (And worth all the money I paid to see sharks).
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Adorable baby Orca & its mama :) Notice ALL the dolphins in the background!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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This one was no more than 1 meter from our boat when it surfaced!! I actually gasped cuz it was SO close to my face when it surfaced!
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So all in all, even though I didnt get to see Great Whites, the Orcas and ridiculous amount of dolphins totally made up for it :)

Posted by ChantelleS 08.12.2013 14:16 Archived in South Africa Tagged boat penguin ocean south africa seal dolphin whale Comments (0)

NAMIB DESERT, NAMIBIA

Sand dunes, camel trekking, chameleons & many other desert critters

sunny 22 °C

At the southern edge of Swakopmund is Desert Xplorers. From there I rented a camel and went on a short trek into the desert. For $300 Namibian Dollars ($37 Canadian) I rode a camel for 45min in to the desert. (There were various options for shorter / longer treks too).
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My grumpy camel!
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A hug made him happier :)
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Cheeeeeeese!
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If you've never rode a camel before, its definitely something to cross off your bucket list, but let me warn you, it'll be the most uncomfortable ride of your life!
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Another day I went on a 4x4 jeep safari, booked threw Living Desert Tours. I did the half day tour for $600 Namibian Dollars ($75 Canadian). My guide was Chris, who was fantastic, and an expert on all things desert-y.
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The Namib Desert is massive. Over 2000km long! A single dune can be up to 32km long & 980ft high!!!! I would have really loved to have gone to Sossuvlei (where those really, really big dunes are), but only having 3 days here, I only had time to visit the 'small' dunes of Dorob National Park (the outskirts of the Namib, between Swakopmund & Walvis Bay). If you've never seen sand dunes before, the 450ft tall dunes here are still incredibly impressive!!
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'Road' through the dunes.
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This is Chris with a Horned Adder, an incredibly venomous snake!
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I cant remember the name of this dune beetle, but it stands on its head in the early morning so that the dew runs down its back and into its mouth. Clever.
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An itty bitty Shovel Snouted Lizard
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Scrub Hare. We also saw a jackal, but I didnt get a photo of it.
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My fave desert discovery was this pregnant Namaqua Chameleon!!!
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Curly chameleon tail :)
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Chris put a worm in his hand, and the chameleon climbed right in! A completely wild chameleon! We also got to see her change from light pink to dark grey right before our eyes! Amazing!
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Then Chris put a second worm in his other hand so we could watch her super long, super fast tongue in action!
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Then he put the chameleon back on the sand, and placed another worm a few feet away, and we watched as she stalked her prey, lol.
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Her tongue was just too fast! i couldnt capture it!
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Chris had an amazing way of finding creatures out in the desert! When you look at the the dunes, all you see is sand. But we'd be driving along in the jeep, and all of a sudden he'd slam it into park, jump out, run up a dune and start digging, and voila ... an adorable Palmetto Gecko!
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He even got his very own photoshoot :)
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I absolutely love the patterns & ripples in the sand!
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We made a stop at the base of a 450ft sand dune, took off our shoes, and all ran to the top!
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Views from the top ...
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Our last stop was atop a dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean ... world's biggest beach thats for sure!!! You can barely see the road, but that is the hwy from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay, and onward to the airport. Quite a scenic drive with sand dunes & ocean the whole way!
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That's it for Namibia. Three days is most definitely not enough time. I only saw a tiny portion of this amazing country. Some day I hope to return and see the massive dunes at Sossuvlei, Fish Canyon, visit the Skeleton Coast, hike in Spitzkoppe, and go on safari in Etosha. Still so much to see & do there!
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Posted by ChantelleS 02.12.2013 21:25 Archived in Namibia Tagged desert wildlife sand safari lizard dune jeep gecko chameleon Comments (0)

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