We are nearing an end to the segment of the cruise where we sail through French Polynesia. The last stop is Easter Island or Rapa Nui, which is actually claimed by Chile, some 2,200 miles away. It is located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeastern point of the Polynesian Triangle. It is famous for its still extant Moai statues, thought to have been built by the Polynesian people several millennia ago. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
When we arrive there Friday, March 30, we will tour the island for 2 days with a small party of people from the cruise, led by a professor from Chile, who is widely regarded as being an expert on the island. So, we’ll report in on that trip, probably sometime the following week.
Meanwhile as we sail away from the South Pacific, we get to view beautiful sunsets and sail outs. Probably sunrises too, but we’ve been asleep for those. We also got a chance to go dolphin watching with a professor from Berkeley; watched fisherman bring their catch in on the island of Nuku Hiva, observe some native dancers and go on a tour of Nuku Hiva led by locals.
Wellington (Whanganui-a-Tara in Maori) is the capital city of New Zealand and its most populous urban area. It is in at the southwestern tip of the North Island, which lies in the latitudes known as the “Roaring 40s”. There it is exposed to the winds blowing through Cook Strait, so is the windiest city in the world, with the winds averaging 17 mph.
Because it is so windy it is ideal for generating wind power. And so, as part of our tour, we visited the largest source of power generation in the region, Meridian Energy’s East Wind Farm. The turbines, which are located at the top of a mountain, are enormous. Along with our fellow tourists and a couple of guides off we went we went in a couple of off-road jeep type vehicles up the unfinished gravel roads leading to the top of the mountain to see the turbines. And miraculously enough we didn’t fall over the edge.
It’s hard to believe but after that the roads leading to the beach below got even worse. Regardless we persevered and made our way down to where the seals hang out. Unfortunately, we were greeted by heavy winds and cold, torrential rain, which didn’t bother the seals one bit. So, we piled out of the jeeps and got very close to the seals—only yards away—to observe them as well as birds in the wild. It was well worth the effort, wind, rain and all. It had a land that time forgot quality to it, but it’s the only way to see what it’s really like in this type of environment. Plus, the guides made coffee.
Here below are some photos from this adventure on the rocky, storm swept beach.
We made our way to Stewart Island, also known as Rakiura by the Maori people who arrived from Polynesia about 800 years before Captain James Cook claimed it for the British Crown. It is the 3rd largest of the New Zealand islands measured by size. But the population is only about 400 people. So, we docked in the Tasman Sea and took tender boats over to the island to look around, which took all of 5 minutes, and then we were off with a local on a boat ride in the Tasman Sea.
While cruising around the Tasman Sea we were able to see a bunch (actually a rookery) of Albatross searching for fish, made easier for said Albatross by the ship’s mate who tossed fish over the side to attract them. If you get a close up look at these birds you understand why you don’t want an Albatross around your neck. They are big and aggressive, with large beaks which they do not hesitate to use.
We were also able to sail by the rock formation where the penguins hang out in the neighborhood, and saw lots of them, maybe numbering about 100. After that we headed back to the big ship to continue to sail on to Dunedin, which we reached the next morning.
Here are some photos of Albatross, Penguins and rock formations in the Tasman Sea.
When you head out to the bush country you just don’t know what you are going to find. For the second (of three) Safari days out in the bush, the plan was to find some elephants in the morning, and maybe more lions in the afternoon. That meant getting a wake-up call at 4:30 AM and piling into the jeep and into the woods by 5:00 AM.
As it turned out, we didn’t find any elephants until later in the afternoon. But we did find a male lion. We also found a cheetah hanging out by a watering hole. Watering holes are a popular spot to hang out in the bush, except for the fact that some of the animals regard the others as dinner. So, the animals likely to be targets tend to go as a group—safety in numbers—while the lions hang out around the periphery waiting for one of the targets to stray from the group. Then the lions pick them off.
Another thing. Looking at the stars from the pitch black African bush takes your breath away. Without any distracting ambient light, you can probably see the stars the way the sailors saw them hundreds of years ago.
Anyway, here (below) are some more photos of animals and the countryside out in the bush. Next, we head for a short stop in Maputo, Mozambique. There are more photos available at Evocative Photos.
Here we are at Thanda Game Reserve to go on a Safari. Thanda is our “base camp” in the same way the Ritz-Carlton is a base camp. The place is just spectacular. (See the photo below of our villa).
After we arrived we got settled in and went for our first game drive, lasting from 4:30 until 7:30 PM. The drive consists of boarding an open jeep that holds 9 plus a driver and tracker, and then heading out to the African bush in search of lions, elephants, hyenas, cheetahs, buffalo, rhinos, hippos and whatever else materializes.
We were not disappointed. It wasn’t too long before we saw some buffaloes, gazelles, a giraffe and a wildebeest or two. Most important, we discovered sundowners. As the sun begins to set, around 6:00 PM or so, it’s time to stop the jeep, pile out, look out over the African plains and have a glass of wine or a gin and tonic before venturing out into the bush again. If you are going to be devoured by a hungry lion, you might as well be fortified by a G&T, I suppose.
Anyway, this is just a very brief hint of how spectacular a Safari can be. More in the coming days.
Some photos of a small sample of the animals and scenery we saw on the first of many game drives below.
We are back in Spring Lake after a 21 hour trip–but not before stopping at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Maui on the way to the airport. It actually bears a slight resemblance to the Edwin Forsythe Wildlife Refuge in South Jersey–except that it lacks the swarms of mosquitos that the Forsythe Refuge has.
Took an Autumn trip with Visions Photographic Workshops to the Bronx Zoo, the largest in the United States with 265 acres. Some of the more interesting sights included Tigers and Gorillas, as shown below.