Tag Archives: Wildlife

COVID travel blues? Be a local tourist!

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is dearly missing some trips away and going somewhere new. I cancelled a trip to Vegas in May, and more recently I also cancelled a long weekend away in Austin TX as COVID rates had been increasing.

However… I did decide to do something else! I had a look on Google maps and found a few things that are nearby to me and also outdoors that I could enjoy. It’s not quite Vegas, but the point of travelling is to experience something new and different – and there are plenty of things I hadn’t seen near me.

Here are a few of the ‘new’ things I checked out recently:

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
https://fossilrim.org/

This is like safari in the middle of Texas. Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is an endangered species research and conservation center near Glen Rose, Texas. The facility has over 1,000 animals from 50 species.

It was located an hour and a half’s drive from me and I went with a friend who also loves animals. We bought tickets in advance at $25 each and drove through the park to see many deer, zebra, mountain goats, and giraffes. It was a great photography opportunity too.

Interlochen Christmas lights
http://lakeinterlochentx.com/christmas-lights/

Interlochen is a local area to me in Arlington Texas famous for its Christmas lights. It’s a 40 year tradition and only open for about a week in December. There was a lot of traffic to drive in and through the neighborhood, but it was a nice and ‘safe’ evening trip from the comfort of the car. We saw a lot of different lights and it was great to enjoy other people’s serious efforts to decorate for the most wonderful time of the year!

Parr Park Painted Rock Trail
https://familyeguide.com/parr-park-rock-art-trail/

This find was definitely thanks to browsing on Google maps. It’s a section of a large forested park that displays hundreds of painted rocks. I was really pleasantly surprised by this – I expected to find a small patch of badly painted rocks, when in fact there were literally hundreds of painted rocks in many different styles. I went with an arty friend who actually enjoys painting rocks, and it was a good outing in fresh air and walking through the forest.

I had read through the reviews on Google and took the tip of parking close to the church with a parking lot, rather than the Google location that took us to someone’s house!

Lolo Falls

So, I’m not sure why this has four 5* reviews on Google, because I was completely underwhelmed when I found this! I followed the directions into a very residential area, parked the car, and wondered if I was at the right place. My friend stepped towards the little river and said she’d found it!

We spent about a minute laughing about this waterfall, then walked the path and bridge nearby. It was a nice day and a lovely neighborhood, and a good excuse for some exercise.

So there you have it! I am glad I took the opportunity to enjoy some of the attractions at my doorstep – they are easy to overlook. It’s not quite the travels I had in mind for this year, but at the end of the day, I was able to enjoy some new experiences and when I have good company, I always have a great time!

I wholeheartedly encourage you to explore what’s outdoors and close to you – whether it’s a local forest, lake, or tourist attraction. As tempting as it is to stay cooped up indoors, you’ll have more fun going outdoors, getting some exercise, and seeing something new, whether it’s by yourself or with some low-risk friends, family, or people in your household.

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Filed under Art, Safari, Texas, Travel, Wildlife

Costa Rica: San Jose, Monteverde, Volcan Poas and Manuel Antonio

It’s been a month since I moved to San Jose, and I have mixed feelings about it.  It’s a loud and busy city.  And it doesn’t help that I’ve been having stomach pains for the past two weeks, which is very unusual for me.  The doctor tells me I have an inflamed colon!  So I am taking medication and taking it easy.  Unfortunately, it’s not helping how I feel about being in San Jose!

On the plus side, teaching has been going really well and I was pleased to have positive feedback from my students.  I also had a friend come to visit me for a week – the perfect excuse to do some travelling in Costa Rica.  That’s one thing that San Jose is great for – it is the travel hub for the country so pretty easy to get to anywhere.

Our first stop was Monteverde for a night, about four hours away by bus.  Monteverde is beautiful and famous for its cloud forests.  We stayed at Pension Santa Elena hostel, a no frills place.  In the afternoon we accidentally joined an adventure zip line tour.  My friend and I bailed after the practice lines as it was just too scary!  In the evening we went to the serpentorium for a guided tour which was really interesting.  They have a number of snakes and frogs that are native to Costa Rica.

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Dinner was at the Tree House, a really lovely restaurant with a unique venue.  There’s a tree in it.

The next day, we went to Selvatura Park for their hanging bridges in the cloud forest and the hummingbird garden.  This was definitely the highlight of the whole week of travel.  The bridges were high up in the trees and the views were outstanding.  I intend to go back!

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We had lunch at a nice place called Amy’s Restaurant before heading back to San Jose.

The next day, which happened to be Christmas day, we went on a tour of Volcan Poas, the Dakota Coffee estate and Sarchi Arts and Crafts.  The tour was really brilliant and I recommend it highly.  The volcano was covered in cloud when we arrived but fortunately cleared after 20 minutes for some spectacular views.

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The Coffee tour was really interesting and full of information.  And the Arts and Crafts was really just a big shop full of tourist stuff, but still interesting to see.  It was great that they picked us up and dropped us back off at the hotel for the tour.

And finally we went to Manuel Antonio for one night.  It takes about four hours by bus from San Jose.  Most of the first day was spent at the beach, and the following day we went to Manuel Antonio Park.  We rolled up rather foolishly at 10am to find the queue was over an hour long.  The wise thing to do is turn up early – say 8am.  It was completely worth the wait and we hired a guide so actually got to see some animals like sloths, bats, frogs and monkeys.  We stayed at the Cabinas Maria Teresa, which was a really nice treat with air con and a lovely shower.

It was a great week of travelling in Costa Rica, and I’m looking forward to doing some more!

 

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Filed under Costa Rica, Travel, Wildlife

Speak of the devil, I got the hummingbird photo!

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What a beauty!

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One month since the move to Costa Rica

Playita sunset

Today marks one month since I arrived to Costa Rica, and it has been a great month.  I have felt so many moments of active happiness and joy, where I catch myself thinking ‘wow, this is beautiful’ and smile to myself for being here.  I have watched beautiful sunsets, swam in pristine oceans, hiked through forests, seen wild sloths, monkeys and iguanas, watched hummingbirds in my host family’s garden – in fact, there is a hummingbird teasing me right now as I have been trying to get a photo of one!  They always disappear by the time my camera is in my hand.

That is just the natural beauty side of Costa Rica.  I’ve also really been enjoying my TEFL course.  It’s been challenging and interesting, and I’ve been enjoying teaching classes this week.  I’ve met some wonderful people, teachers and students, who I have been fortunate enough to enjoy this adventure with.

I think I’m starting to miss London a bit, the convenience of so many places to go to and see.  I do love Manuel Antonio and Quepos, with its beaches and nature on the doorstep, but I’m quite looking forward to heading back to the capital, San Jose.  I have been offered an English teaching position with a school – I’m not sure if it’s quite the right one for me so I will send out a few more applications and see what happens.

I’m really looking forward to investigating more of this beautiful country…

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Filed under Costa Rica, Travel, Wildlife

An update on the move to Costa Rica!

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Two weeks after my arrival to Costa Rica – and I have to say that I’m starting to feel quite at home here!

I spent a lovely few days in San Jose at the Hotel Presidente http://www.hotel-presidente.com, which was a nice way to get over my jet lag (there is a six hour time difference from London).

I then took the 4 hour bus ride to Quepos near the west coast, where I was met by my host family.

Costa Rica is certainly very different to the UK.  It’s a lot hotter and sunnier, and everything is in Spanish!

San Jose is quite a small capital (most are compared to London) but busy and lively enough.  Quepos, on the other hand, is a very small town surrounded by luscious greenery and lots of wildlife.  There are plenty of lizards and birds to be spotted in the trees.  I go to sleep to the soothing chirruping of bugs and wake up to a chorus of the local cockerels.

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My host family is really nice.  I have my own room, get to practice Spanish at home and am fed fresh Costa Rican food everyday!

So far I’ve enjoyed two hikes through the rainforest.  One was a trip to find a waterfall (unsuccessful), the other to visit a beautiful secluded bay that cannot be accessed by the public.  That was a really tough physical trek for me!  But completely worth it!

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I also enjoyed a whale watching day trip to Uvita, which is 1.5 hours away by bus.  My group was very lucky to find a mama humpback whale with her baby within 20 minutes of leaving the shore.  And we saw a pod of dolphins too!  Our guide told us it was quite rare to see both on the same day.

My TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course started last week in Manuel Antonio, which is 15 minutes away by bus.  I have a great teacher and lovely classmates.  The course itself is a little intense, but I’m learning so much and think it is really beneficial.  This evening I have been working on a lesson plan for a lesson that I will be teaching tomorrow!  They have certainly thrown us in at the deep end – with a lot of help of course.

The pros:  change of lifestyle and scenery, adventure, meeting different people, sunshine, improving my Spanish, enjoying learning

The cons: Quepos is very humid (San Jose is cooler and drier), a lot of mosquitos

Overall, very good 🙂 and just the change I was looking for.

This weekend, I plan to visit the local market, go to Manuel Antonio wildlife park and veg out on the beach.

In the longer run, after my course is complete I will head back to San Jose to look for work.  Mainly because I prefer the climate, but also because there should be more work available there.  So far so good!

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Filed under Costa Rica, Travel

The Old House – Kasane, Botswana

Checked in yesterday to this wonderful lodge and loving it so far! Welcoming staff and good restaurant food. Also enjoying the local warthogs and mongoose outside my room!

http://www.oldhousekasane.com

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g297318-d2367668-Reviews-The_Old_House-Kasane_North_West_District.html

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Filed under Africa, Travel, Wildlife

Etosha National Park and tour – Namibia

June 2014 

Namibia: Etosha wildlife park, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay tour 

In addition to the wildlife sanctuary, I decided to go on a four day tour withChameleon Safaris.  This included two days in Etosha wildlife park (safari) as well as visiting Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.

http://www.chameleonsafaris.com/namibia_safari_04_day_etosha_swakopmund.asp

This was actually the highlight of my holiday, and that’s saying a lot given I was already doing something amazing on the sanctuary.

I joined with a couple of volunteers I met at the sanctuary and shared a room with one of the girls.  Naankuse dropped us off at the office for Chameleon Safari.  We had breakfast and tea/coffee before a little introduction and someone talked us through the tour and showed us the route on the map.  We met our tour guides who seemed really nice, and we loaded our stuff onto the vehicle – like a cross between a people carrier and a safari truck.  I think there were only 8 of us in total, we all got our own window seat so that worked out really nicely.

We were on the road a lot – it’s a big country and we covered a lot of ground.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with the ‘accommodated’ safari, particularly as I knew a tent was on the cards and I’d never stayed in a tent before.  The tour guides were really friendly, chatty and informative.  They prepared all of our meals and kept the journey interesting.

We arrived at Etosha on the first day and started straight away with a safari trip.  I wouldn’t dare try doing this safari without someone knowledgeable – I would have no idea where to go, where to look for animals or what they were.  In fact, I imagine myself ending up lost and stranded in the park while it’s locked up at night… definitely do a tour with guides if you haven’t done it before!!

It was so amazing to see wild animals in their natural habitat.  Over two days of safari, I was fortunate enough to see elephants, leopards and rhinos.  Apparently leopards are quite hard to spot, so I was lucky to see one right by the roadside after a kill.

The accommodation felt like a god send after the basic accommodation at the sanctuary.  HOT water and comfortable beds!  Amazing!  The first night’s accommodation was in a terraced bungalow, very nice and comfortable with a nice bathroom.  The second night was in a tent.  I was a bit apprehensive about this as I’d never stayed in a tent before… but this tent was awesome.  It had a double bed, separate toilet, shower and kitchen area, even a barbecue area!!  I’m pretty sure I was ‘glamping’.  I’d like to think camping is always like this, but I’m pretty sure it’s not!

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Filed under Africa, Namibia, Safari, Travel, Wildlife