A Travellerspoint blog

June 2020

Pristine and bountiful Mayhem dive site in Raja Ampat

Mayhem is often listed among the best dive sites in Raja Ampat; this site has a great variety of encounters, from large schools of fusiliers, snappers, jacks and batfish to wobbegongs and pygmy seahorses on the bottom

Mayhem is often listed among the best dive sites in Raja Ampat; this site has a great variety of encounters, from large schools of fusiliers, snappers, jacks and batfish to wobbegongs and pygmy seahorses on the bottom

Giant moral eel; in terms of body mass, it is the largest moray eel but the slender giant moray eel has greater length; I was somewhat surprised that we didn't see a greater variety of eels and sea snakes

Giant moral eel; in terms of body mass, it is the largest moray eel but the slender giant moray eel has greater length; I was somewhat surprised that we didn't see a greater variety of eels and sea snakes

The Mayhem dive site is actually a large submerged pinnacle; Mayhem lies along the western edge of the Dampier Strait just offshore from the island of Gam; the dive must be timed to avoid the strong currents

The Mayhem dive site is actually a large submerged pinnacle; Mayhem lies along the western edge of the Dampier Strait just offshore from the island of Gam; the dive must be timed to avoid the strong currents

Barramundi have become one of the most popular fish in Thai cuisine; it is often eaten steamed with lime and garlic, as well as deep-fried or stir-fried with lemongrass

Barramundi have become one of the most popular fish in Thai cuisine; it is often eaten steamed with lime and garlic, as well as deep-fried or stir-fried with lemongrass

Checkered snapper; this species is a nocturnal predator that mainly feeds on fish, but will eat crustaceans, gastropods and cephalopods

Checkered snapper; this species is a nocturnal predator that mainly feeds on fish, but will eat crustaceans, gastropods and cephalopods

The week diving in Raja Ampat was definitely among the best of my 3  month time overseas; it also seems quite inexpensive given the amount of diving, lodging, food, etc. that was included

The week diving in Raja Ampat was definitely among the best of my 3+ month time overseas; it also seems quite inexpensive given the amount of diving, lodging, food, etc. that was included

Pinnate spadefish; these giant fish would see my camera and immediately swim towards me; I guess fish never know what they look like unless they can see their reflection

Pinnate spadefish; these giant fish would see my camera and immediately swim towards me; I guess fish never know what they look like unless they can see their reflection

Giant barrel sponge; with every barrel sponge I would peek inside to see if anything was hiding; I didn't check this one since I didn't want to bother the fish lingering above

Giant barrel sponge; with every barrel sponge I would peek inside to see if anything was hiding; I didn't check this one since I didn't want to bother the fish lingering above

The area is so remote that we never saw any trash in the water; since it lies on the Equator, Raja Ampat isn't subject to destructive cyclones that can destroy coral reefs

The area is so remote that we never saw any trash in the water; since it lies on the Equator, Raja Ampat isn't subject to destructive cyclones that can destroy coral reefs

Green table coral; this pattern of growth increases the exposed surface area of the coral to the water column; polyps are provided greater access to light and it is easier for them to feed on zooplankton with their tentacles

Green table coral; this pattern of growth increases the exposed surface area of the coral to the water column; polyps are provided greater access to light and it is easier for them to feed on zooplankton with their tentacles

Trumpetfish; this species can grow to 3  ft and feeds on small fish and crustaceans; they will often track divers or snorkelers but never get very close and are harmless

Trumpetfish; this species can grow to 3+ ft and feeds on small fish and crustaceans; they will often track divers or snorkelers but never get very close and are harmless

It's easy to see why the dive site is called Mayhem; several ocean currents merge here so you can see why the fish traffic is like the Katy Freeway and 610 interchange

It's easy to see why the dive site is called Mayhem; several ocean currents merge here so you can see why the fish traffic is like the Katy Freeway and 610 interchange

Clark's anemonefish; one item I wish I'd brought was ear plugs; it was quite noisy on the boat from deploying the anchor to kitchen sounds to loud conversations

Clark's anemonefish; one item I wish I'd brought was ear plugs; it was quite noisy on the boat from deploying the anchor to kitchen sounds to loud conversations

I'm surprised they haven't made a Jaws-like movie about barracuda; they seem like the piranhas of the seas since they will eat anything

I'm surprised they haven't made a Jaws-like movie about barracuda; they seem like the piranhas of the seas since they will eat anything

Posted by VagabondCowboy 00:14 Comments (0)

Only one day to see Kruger National Park, South Africa

More than a million visitors come to Kruger National Park each year in search of the Big Five; unlike the Serengeti, many of the roads are paved with lots of traffic so I'm amazed more animals aren't killed by vehicles here

More than a million visitors come to Kruger National Park each year in search of the Big Five; unlike the Serengeti, many of the roads are paved with lots of traffic so I'm amazed more animals aren't killed by vehicles here

Fish eagles mate for life and when one dies the other just stops eating; Kruger is a huge national park measuring 220 miles north to south and 40 miles east to west

Fish eagles mate for life and when one dies the other just stops eating; Kruger is a huge national park measuring 220 miles north to south and 40 miles east to west

We only had one day to see Kruger National Park and it didn't start out well; I never expected to be so cold and wet in the South African summer

We only had one day to see Kruger National Park and it didn't start out well; I never expected to be so cold and wet in the South African summer

We didn't have the best safari guides in Kruger; they did little spotting for us and they traveled the same roads multiple times (and slowly)

We didn't have the best safari guides in Kruger; they did little spotting for us and they traveled the same roads multiple times (and slowly)

Uniquely among social carnivores, female wild dogs, rather than the males, disperse from the natal pack once sexually mature; the species is a specialized diurnal hunter of antelopes, which it catches by chasing them to exhaustion

Uniquely among social carnivores, female wild dogs, rather than the males, disperse from the natal pack once sexually mature; the species is a specialized diurnal hunter of antelopes, which it catches by chasing them to exhaustion

The African Comb Duck is a very unusual sight here; one of the largest species of duck, their wingspan ranges from 46 to 57 in with males much larger than females

The African Comb Duck is a very unusual sight here; one of the largest species of duck, their wingspan ranges from 46 to 57 in with males much larger than females

More than 12,000 elephants live in Kruger and they've actually been relocating some because biologists felt the land couldn't support the large numbers

More than 12,000 elephants live in Kruger and they've actually been relocating some because biologists felt the land couldn't support the large numbers

Kruger became South Africa's first national park in 1926; the park is in the NE part of the country and linked to parks in Mozambique and Zimbabwe forming the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park

Kruger became South Africa's first national park in 1926; the park is in the NE part of the country and linked to parks in Mozambique and Zimbabwe forming the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park

We found this sad looking lion right next to the road; a large male lion was trying to mate with her and she just wasn't very interested

We found this sad looking lion right next to the road; a large male lion was trying to mate with her and she just wasn't very interested

Southern Red-billed Hornbill; it is native to the savannas and dryer bushlands of southern Africa with the males being larger and heavier than the females (males also have longer bills)

Southern Red-billed Hornbill; it is native to the savannas and dryer bushlands of southern Africa with the males being larger and heavier than the females (males also have longer bills)

Wild dogs are very endangered but we saw a pack of about 30 resting next to the road; their natural enemies are lions and hyenas but the main threat to their survival is humans

Wild dogs are very endangered but we saw a pack of about 30 resting next to the road; their natural enemies are lions and hyenas but the main threat to their survival is humans

Long-tailed shrike (aka magpie shrike); this species occurs in woodlands, particularly riparian areas, and in the Kruger National Park is found in river valleys with thorny mopane trees

Long-tailed shrike (aka magpie shrike); this species occurs in woodlands, particularly riparian areas, and in the Kruger National Park is found in river valleys with thorny mopane trees

The African white-backed vulture has a 6-7 ft wingspan and is critically endangered; vultures are being poisoned by humans, although not intentionally, in order to kill hyenas, lions, and other predators

The African white-backed vulture has a 6-7 ft wingspan and is critically endangered; vultures are being poisoned by humans, although not intentionally, in order to kill hyenas, lions, and other predators

I wish we could have spent several days exploring Kruger since it's so vast; we visited the southern section which is the most popular because it is closest to Johannesburg

I wish we could have spent several days exploring Kruger since it's so vast; we visited the southern section which is the most popular because it is closest to Johannesburg

Posted by VagabondCowboy 00:30 Comments (0)

Excellent dive at Sardine Reef, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Moray eel; our journey started in Waisai and ended in Sorong on the island of New Guinea; Sorong has frequent flights to Jakarta

Moray eel; our journey started in Waisai and ended in Sorong on the island of New Guinea; Sorong has frequent flights to Jakarta

White tip reef shark; on most dives we saw white tip and black tip reef sharks along with tasselled wobbegongs; I was the oldest guest on the boat

White tip reef shark; on most dives we saw white tip and black tip reef sharks along with tasselled wobbegongs; I was the oldest guest on the boat

Tasselled wobbegong; the dive site, Sardine Reef, arises from the density of fish on the reef; there are so many that it feels similar to swimming with a school of sardines

Tasselled wobbegong; the dive site, Sardine Reef, arises from the density of fish on the reef; there are so many that it feels similar to swimming with a school of sardines

Oriental sweetlips; we did 3 or 4 dives a day with the first being at 7am; the crew helped me greatly as we had to board a speedboat to take us to each dive site (we couldn't anchor over reefs)

Oriental sweetlips; we did 3 or 4 dives a day with the first being at 7am; the crew helped me greatly as we had to board a speedboat to take us to each dive site (we couldn't anchor over reefs)

Grey reef sharks are fast-swimming, agile predators that feed primarily on free-swimming bony fishes and cephalopods; their aggressive demeanor enables them to dominate many other shark species on the reef, despite their moderate size

Grey reef sharks are fast-swimming, agile predators that feed primarily on free-swimming bony fishes and cephalopods; their aggressive demeanor enables them to dominate many other shark species on the reef, despite their moderate size

Clown triggerfish; most of the world's coral reefs biodiversity and rare species of marine life can easily be found in this archipelago about the size of Switzerland

Clown triggerfish; most of the world's coral reefs biodiversity and rare species of marine life can easily be found in this archipelago about the size of Switzerland

Sardine Reef is 4 km NE of the island of Kri; our divemaster showed us several pygmy seahorses but there was no way my camera could capture such tiny animals

Sardine Reef is 4 km NE of the island of Kri; our divemaster showed us several pygmy seahorses but there was no way my camera could capture such tiny animals

The tail of this white-lipped moray eel suggests that it's a big one; I had dinner with the group on the boat but I preferred the lunch and breakfast menus(although I didn't eat those)

The tail of this white-lipped moray eel suggests that it's a big one; I had dinner with the group on the boat but I preferred the lunch and breakfast menus(although I didn't eat those)

School of longfin spadefish; this peaceful and very social species will grow to 2 ft in length; we saw them often and they never seem concerned with us

School of longfin spadefish; this peaceful and very social species will grow to 2 ft in length; we saw them often and they never seem concerned with us

Black tip reef shark; Raja Ampat is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo, and the smaller island of Kofiau

Black tip reef shark; Raja Ampat is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo, and the smaller island of Kofiau

Tasselled wobbegong; we saw these sharks on most dives always resting, usually in a protected area and always very well camouflaged

Tasselled wobbegong; we saw these sharks on most dives always resting, usually in a protected area and always very well camouflaged

Two-stripe damselfish; upon getting close, these fish will duck down inside the coral to hide; they are popular in the saltwater aquarium trade but can be very territorial

Two-stripe damselfish; upon getting close, these fish will duck down inside the coral to hide; they are popular in the saltwater aquarium trade but can be very territorial

Posted by VagabondCowboy 04:00 Comments (0)

Gili Islands were disappointing end to Lee's winter journey

The Gilis were supposed to be a tropical paradise but I was disappointed; the coral was limited and in bad shape, there was lots of trash in the water and on the beach, and there wasn't much to do

The Gilis were supposed to be a tropical paradise but I was disappointed; the coral was limited and in bad shape, there was lots of trash in the water and on the beach, and there wasn't much to do

Our snorkeling trip was a cheap way to see all 3 of the Gili islands; we agreed that the snorkeling wasn't as good here as it was on Nusa Lembongan

Our snorkeling trip was a cheap way to see all 3 of the Gili islands; we agreed that the snorkeling wasn't as good here as it was on Nusa Lembongan

Gili Air is just one of Indonesia's 13,708 islands; Gili Air is named after the Indonesian word air which means water (that seems really odd)

Gili Air is just one of Indonesia's 13,708 islands; Gili Air is named after the Indonesian word air which means water (that seems really odd)

White-spotted pufferfish; Gili Air is the closest of the Gilis to Lombok and can be reached in about 20 minutes by local boat or just 5 minutes by speedboat

White-spotted pufferfish; Gili Air is the closest of the Gilis to Lombok and can be reached in about 20 minutes by local boat or just 5 minutes by speedboat

The Gilis are known for their large population of green sea turtles; Gili Air is the most populated of the 3 islands with 1500 local residents

The Gilis are known for their large population of green sea turtles; Gili Air is the most populated of the 3 islands with 1500 local residents

Lee is in the center of 48 life-sized statues (they were cast from actual people) symbolizing life and continuity that are just off the west coast of Gili Meno; they are designed to create a future home to corals and sponges

Lee is in the center of 48 life-sized statues (they were cast from actual people) symbolizing life and continuity that are just off the west coast of Gili Meno; they are designed to create a future home to corals and sponges

Squid; a popular activity on Gili Air is taking an Indonesian cooking class which I persuaded Lee to do (Lee found good restaurants on the island and loved the cheap prices)

Squid; a popular activity on Gili Air is taking an Indonesian cooking class which I persuaded Lee to do (Lee found good restaurants on the island and loved the cheap prices)

This guide from our snorkeling tour easily dove down to take photos of the turtle for someone on the boat; I thought the guide was intrusive but the turtle, surprisingly, didn't flee

This guide from our snorkeling tour easily dove down to take photos of the turtle for someone on the boat; I thought the guide was intrusive but the turtle, surprisingly, didn't flee

Giant mottled eel; I saw two reef sharks during my stay - one snorkeling off Gili Air and the other while riding the glass bottom snorkeling boat

Giant mottled eel; I saw two reef sharks during my stay - one snorkeling off Gili Air and the other while riding the glass bottom snorkeling boat

This was the view from our hut on a sunny day; the best snorkeling on the island was on the east side (where we were) with the NE and SE corners being the best spots

This was the view from our hut on a sunny day; the best snorkeling on the island was on the east side (where we were) with the NE and SE corners being the best spots

This is the shore road that ran in front of our hotel; there are no paved roads on the island with the only transport options being horse-drawn carts, electric scooters, bicycles and walking

This is the shore road that ran in front of our hotel; there are no paved roads on the island with the only transport options being horse-drawn carts, electric scooters, bicycles and walking

Don't think we always had sunshine!; there are no big hotels on Gili Air - most properties just have a few bungalows with homestays also popular

Don't think we always had sunshine!; there are no big hotels on Gili Air - most properties just have a few bungalows with homestays also popular

Scrawled filefish; the water visibility differed greatly day to day and beach to beach so you just had to swim until you found a good area

Scrawled filefish; the water visibility differed greatly day to day and beach to beach so you just had to swim until you found a good area

Everywhere on the island you're encouraged to take a snorkel trip to visit the waters of all 3 islands; it was a good deal since it only cost $7 for 10am-2:30pm (lunch not included)

Everywhere on the island you're encouraged to take a snorkel trip to visit the waters of all 3 islands; it was a good deal since it only cost $7 for 10am-2:30pm (lunch not included)

Bigeye barracuda; Lee found a gym that he liked as well as places that offered good yoga classes and massages at very affordable prices

Bigeye barracuda; Lee found a gym that he liked as well as places that offered good yoga classes and massages at very affordable prices

There are no supermarkets on Gili Air, just small mini-marts selling sodas and chips; most of the help on the island is young men who come over from Lombok

There are no supermarkets on Gili Air, just small mini-marts selling sodas and chips; most of the help on the island is young men who come over from Lombok

I was not keen on riding in this horse-drawn cart but the guy at the hotel didn't trust giving us directions for where our snorkel tour would start

I was not keen on riding in this horse-drawn cart but the guy at the hotel didn't trust giving us directions for where our snorkel tour would start

Humphead bannerfish; you can walk around Gili Air in a little over a hour (it's about the size of Memorial Park) but navigating the many dirt paths criss-crossing the island can get confusing

Humphead bannerfish; you can walk around Gili Air in a little over a hour (it's about the size of Memorial Park) but navigating the many dirt paths criss-crossing the island can get confusing

Titan triggerfish; the tourism brochure says the Gilis are 3 perfect tropical islands sitting in the sparkling ocean which just isn't the case (have they not noticed all the trash?)

Titan triggerfish; the tourism brochure says the Gilis are 3 perfect tropical islands sitting in the sparkling ocean which just isn't the case (have they not noticed all the trash?)

There was an abundance of colorful beach bars on Gili Air that had an Austin vibe to them; the islands are suffering from the lack of Chinese visitors due to Indonesia currently banning anyone from China due to the coronavirus

There was an abundance of colorful beach bars on Gili Air that had an Austin vibe to them; the islands are suffering from the lack of Chinese visitors due to Indonesia currently banning anyone from China due to the coronavirus

Yellowbar parrotfish; just like the Nusas, you could not drink the tap water on the Gilis but the hotel furnished plenty of bottled water

Yellowbar parrotfish; just like the Nusas, you could not drink the tap water on the Gilis but the hotel furnished plenty of bottled water

Blackeye thicklip wrasse; the Gilis are predominantly Muslim and we would hear the calls to prayer but the mosques weren't near enough to disrupt sleep

Blackeye thicklip wrasse; the Gilis are predominantly Muslim and we would hear the calls to prayer but the mosques weren't near enough to disrupt sleep

We had one nice sunny afternoon; the Gilis are popular for people wanting to get certified to scuba dive since it is relatively cheap here

We had one nice sunny afternoon; the Gilis are popular for people wanting to get certified to scuba dive since it is relatively cheap here

Orangeband surgeonfish; in hindsight, I think we would have enjoyed exploring the islands of Bali or Lombok more than staying on Gili Air

Orangeband surgeonfish; in hindsight, I think we would have enjoyed exploring the islands of Bali or Lombok more than staying on Gili Air

Posted by VagabondCowboy 22:12 Comments (0)

Ostriches and caves in South Africa's Klein Karoo region

Two ostrich-feather booms, during 1865–1870 and 1900–1914, truly established Oudtshoorn and were the engine of the local economy; the town's growth was initially constrained by the limited supply of water in the area

Two ostrich-feather booms, during 1865–1870 and 1900–1914, truly established Oudtshoorn and were the engine of the local economy; the town's growth was initially constrained by the limited supply of water in the area

Lee volunteered for this ostrich massage; it made for a fun photo op and at least the ostriches didn't have long black tongues like the giraffes in Nairobi

Lee volunteered for this ostrich massage; it made for a fun photo op and at least the ostriches didn't have long black tongues like the giraffes in Nairobi

I had never seen baby ostriches before; Oudtshoorn is home to the world's largest ostrich population, with a number of specialized ostrich breeding farms such as the one we visited

I had never seen baby ostriches before; Oudtshoorn is home to the world's largest ostrich population, with a number of specialized ostrich breeding farms such as the one we visited

The Cango Caves were discovered in modern times in 1780 by a local farmer; today you can only visit the caves as part of a guided tour which was pretty entertaining

The Cango Caves were discovered in modern times in 1780 by a local farmer; today you can only visit the caves as part of a guided tour which was pretty entertaining

The Cango Caves didn't compare to Carlsbad Caverns but did make for a nice stop; some of the chambers were quite large with more being discovered as explorers continue to map the system

The Cango Caves didn't compare to Carlsbad Caverns but did make for a nice stop; some of the chambers were quite large with more being discovered as explorers continue to map the system

The Cango Caves are one of South Africa's finest, best known, and most popular tourist caves; the chambers extend more than 2.5 miles but only 25% i open to the public

The Cango Caves are one of South Africa's finest, best known, and most popular tourist caves; the chambers extend more than 2.5 miles but only 25% is open to the public

We learned so much about ostriches during our visit to the ostrich breeding farm; they had an elaborate set-up to incubate the eggs and you could even stand on a ostrich egg without it breaking

We learned so much about ostriches during our visit to the ostrich breeding farm; they had an elaborate set-up to incubate the eggs and you could even stand on a ostrich egg without it breaking

Stoffie was the friendly 13 year old dwarf ostrich at the farm we visited; dwarf ostriches are extremely rare and can't survive in the wild because they can't run fast or protect themselves like normal ostriches

Stoffie was the friendly 13 year old dwarf ostrich at the farm we visited; dwarf ostriches are extremely rare and can't survive in the wild because they can't run fast or protect themselves like normal ostriches

The sausage tree grows a fruit that is up to 2 feet long, weighs about 15 pounds, and looks like a sausage (I think they look more like potatoes); the fresh fruit is poisonous but it can be cooked

The sausage tree grows a fruit that is up to 2 feet long, weighs about 15 pounds, and looks like a sausage (I think they look more like potatoes); the fresh fruit is poisonous but it can be cooked

There were so many strange items in the grocery stores (even more at the informal food stalls on the street); if I baked bread it would probably look like this charcoal panini bread!

There were so many strange items in the grocery stores (even more at the informal food stalls on the street); if I baked bread it would probably look like this charcoal panini bread!

Feathers were the rage in the early 1900s and the local farms still supply them for Rio Carnival and the fashion houses of Paris; surprisingly, the feathers are more valuable now than ostrich meat

Feathers were the rage in the early 1900s and the local farms still supply them for Rio Carnival and the fashion houses of Paris; surprisingly, the feathers are more valuable now than ostrich meat

This ostrich is actually smiling but they don't have any teeth; I fed her and she would occasionally peck my hand with a hard bite but without teeth it did no damage

This ostrich is actually smiling but they don't have any teeth; I fed her and she would occasionally peck my hand with a hard bite but without teeth it did no damage

Male African masked weavers have several female partners and build a succession of nests, typically 25 each season; these colorful birds typically build their nests in trees over water

Male African masked weavers have several female partners and build a succession of nests, typically 25 each season; these colorful birds typically build their nests in trees over water

The traditional Dutch houses here reminded me of the Heights in Houston; the town of 60,000 is best known as being the ostrich capital of the world

The traditional Dutch houses here reminded me of the Heights in Houston; the town of 60,000 is best known as being the ostrich capital of the world

Posted by VagabondCowboy 21:51 Comments (0)

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