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Category Archives: Wildlife

Watch this mesmerising penguin colony timelapse

This video may be a few years old now, but it is still just as fascinating. Over a three-month period, an Adelie penguin colony was filmed in the Ross Sea. Every 45-minutes, a photo was taken and then stitched together to create a memorizing timelapse. The footage was taken by Jean Pennycook from the National Science Foundation and was shared on the Armed with Science blog.

It’s not the Adelie penguins waddling that is interesting to watch. Throughout the film, the ice can be seen ‘breathing’ as the tide rolls in and pushes it up and down.  Over the three months, the ice begins to shift, break away and then finally melt into the sea.

The person behind the project was Jean Pennycook, an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow for the National Science Foundation. She was a school teacher for over 25 years and her website Penguin Science provides resources to school children around the world. This includes lesson plans, call-ins and teaching and learning forums with a focus on penguins and the Antarctic. Throughout her time in the Antarctic, she broadcast daily updates around the penguin colonies and at its peak during breeding season, her website was receiving over a million users a month.

Adelie penguins are a fascinating species. They only live along the fringes of the Antarctic coast, preferring to be close to the water. Along with animals like emperor penguins and snow petrels, they make up some of the most southerly living seabirds. To get technical, they are part of the Pygoscelis family which split more than 38 million years ago into three subspecies. Research suggests there are more almost 4 million breeding pairs of Adelie penguins in 250 colonies. Colonies are decreasing in numbers on the Antarctic peninsula but increasing in East Antarctica. This has led to an increase of over 50% since the last census was completing, suggesting that they are not at risk as a species.

The penguins breed between October and February and build their nests from stones found along the edge of the Antarctic. Both parents take turns to incubate the eggs over a month and once hatched, they stay in the nest for a further month. Within 2 months of being born, the chicks have dropped their juvenile plumage and take off into the sea. They are some of the smallest of penguin species and reach around 50 cms and 5 kg in weight.  They have distinctive black and white marks around their eyes and along their body which gives them the appearance of wearing a tuxedo. They have a red bill, but long head feathers cover most of it. They can swim up to 5 miles per hour. They feed on krill, squid and silverfish, but they are in turn preyed on by orcas, skuas and leopard seals.

Would you like to go and see Adelie penguins? Take a look at our Antarctic cruises, get in touch with one of our Polar experts at +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or contact us here.

TROPICANA BIRD PARK IGUAÇU

Toucan in the Bird Park

Brazil’s Iguaçu Falls National Park is full of exotic wildlife. Exploring the tropical waterfalls is a real ‘bucket-list’ experience, but there’s much more to discover. Often overlooked, is the Parque das Aves or ‘Bird Park’, an ornithological sanctuary. Here rescued birds are find a home. This attraction is a bonus for any wildlife enthusiast. Our private excursion will take a behind the scenes look at the park. You will spend time in the company of chattering songbirds, start at either 7.30am, 10.30am or 2pm. Though we recommend the early morning slot for keen twitchers.

You will have the chance to see staff at work, watch feeding and see rare species up close. Learn how passionate park rangers care for these beautiful, vulnerable creatures. Parque das Aves is also home to a blissful butterfly garden, and a resident boa constrictor. Round the visit off by enjoying some light refreshments and fresh fruit from the region. A delicious, sweet end to this insightful birding experience. This can be booked as part of any tour of the region.

New Suites at Napo Wildlife Centre

AMAZON IN STYLE

You can’t beat spotting Amazon wildlife at Napo Wildlife Centre in Ecuador. This lodge is set within the Yasuni National Park. This comfortable eco-lodge has now added four panoramic suites. If you fancy the jungle with a private whirlpool on a panoramic balcony, this is your place. Not to mention a cosy living room with a glass floor above the water to spot caiman alligators passing below. From your hammock, you might spot pre-historic hoatzins, huge arapaima fish, and even giant otters on the hunt for piranhas.

After taking a half-hour flight from Quito. Napo Wildlife Centre sits by Anangu Lagoon, a couple of hours by canoe from Coca/San Francisco de Orellana. You can explore the virgin forest on guided hikes, take canoe-rides and visits to a nearby parrot clay lick. For bird-watchers, there is a watchtower. For a bit of culture visits to an indigenous kichwa community. Ecuador is one of the most accessible places to visit the Amazon and one of the most diverse. You could easily combine this with a Galapagos cruise.

Whale watching in Costa Rica starts in July

Now is the time to head down to warm waters of the Golfo Dulce in southern Costa Rica. Pacific humpback whales arrive on their annual migration to mate and socialize. After spending the southern summer in Antarctica, they head to the tropics the breed. They stay until October. You will get up-close to giant sentient beings that share the planet with us. These southern whales hang-out in the protected waters of the Golfo Dulce and the Ballena National Marine Park. Here they enjoy shallow coastal waters and protection from natural predators like sharks and Orcas. National Geographic rated Costa Rica the 7th best place in the world for whale watching. Watch their tail-slapping displays, breaches above the water and spot their distinctive humps.

“I remember vividly the first time I saw a humpback whale in the wild. Suddenly, a spray of water erupted from the calm blue-green water a few hundred yards off the beach. The long, black and barnacled form of a mother humpback whale surfaced gracefully for air. Our little group pointed excitedly at the huge whale. Then we gasped in delight as we caught sight of the smaller shape of her baby swimming by her side.
We jumped into a boat, and at a respectful distance, we cruised along with mother and baby as they slowly swam along the dark green coast thick with rainforest. Pairs of Scarlet Macaws flew overhead as sunset neared, heading to roost in tall shoreline trees for the night. The whales disappeared out of sight, and we motored back enchanted.” Shannon Farley.

 
If seeing whales and dolphins up close in their natural environment is on your bucket list, you can go on Costa Rica whale-watching tours from Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge starting toward the end of July through the end of September. Keep a look-out also for visiting whale sharks, the largest fish in the sea. Nicuesa Lodge is giving a special offer of one free night when you stay a minimum of three or more nights. Contact us for more details.

10 places in Latin America that will take your breath away

Latin America is so full of wonders, it’s almost impossible to pick just 10. Our travels have taken us all around this varied continent and we’ve whittled it down to our absolute bucket list favourites.

Torres del Paine

Perhaps one of the most spectacular places on earth, the Torres del Paine National Park spans a large area of the Andes in southern Chile. Hiking through the park reveals some of the most exquisite scenery in South America as well as plenty of wildlife from roaming guanacos to circling condors. An absolute must.

Angel Falls

Flickr: ENT108

Angel falls are the tallest in the world. As water cascades over the edge it plunges 2,648 feet before heading the ground. Like something out of the movie Avatar, the falls remote location mean very few tourists visit so you’re likely to have the falls all to yourself. One of the best ways to see them is a scenic flight over the top.

Blue Hole

The Great Blue Hole is located off Belize’s Caye Caulker. Scuba divers from all over the world to visit this mecca to swim with manta rays, sharks and colourful exotic fish. To fully appreciate the shape of this sunken underwater cave, it’s best to take a light aircraft flight over the top. The nearby Hol Chan Marine Park and the three atolls of Glover, Lighthouse and Turneffe are all top notch scuba sites.

Cartagena

No other city exudes the charm of Cartagena. The colourful UNESCO city is flanked by the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. The best way to explore the city is by foot. This cultural hub is packed full of museums, galleries, and churches to explore. By night, head out to explore the excellent restaurants and nightlife.

Rio de Janeiro

While it may be unoriginal to put Rio de Janeiro on a bucket list of South America, we simply couldn’t leave it off. The gorgeous hedonistic city is surrounded by towering mountains, the biggest urban forest in the world, miles of golden sandy beach and the Atlantic. No trip to Brazil is complete without a visit to this fantastic city.

Tulum

The golden sandy beaches fringed by palm trees are spectacular, but what makes this beach so special is the Mayan temple which loams over the beach from its clifftop site.

Pantanal

For wildlife lovers, there is no better place on earth. This vast wetland that sits just below the Amazon in Brazil is home to hundreds of animal species, from colourful hyacinth macaws, jaguars, caiman, giant otters, monkeys, tapirs, herons, hawks, marsh deer and egrets.  Best explored from one of the many comfortable lodges in the park.

Uyuni

Truly one of the world’s natural wonders. This huge 12,000 sq km expanse of white salt seemingly stretches on forever, only punctuated by an island of giant cacti. Nearby, it’s possible to see a train cemetery of rusting steam trains, hot springs, geysers and workers piling up salt. Be sure to stay in one of the hotels made entirely from salt.

Bocas del Toro

For rustic luxury and Caribbean vibes, visit Bocas del Toro, an archipelago off the northern Panamanian coast. The capital Isla Colon is home to colourful wooden houses, preserving its original Caribbean flair. Stay in one of the many over-the-water bungalows and spend your days swimming, snorkeling, swinging in a hammock, eating lobster and beach dwelling.

For tailor made tours to Latin America, contact the experts here or call us on +44 (0) 207 407 1478

King Penguins in Tierra del Fuego

King Penguin

If you want to see King penguins but don’t want to go to Antarctica, go to Tierra del Fuego. A few years ago, a small colony of King Penguins started nesting at a local Estancia. This is the only place to find the second largest penguin within the American continent. We will be offering a day trip to see these graceful creatures. The itinerary starts in Punta Arenas and consists on a short flight to Porvenir and then a drive to the the reserve and then fly back. This is a perfect addition to any Torres del Paine itinerary with some idle time in Punta Arenas.

Tierra del Fuego means ‘Land of Fire’ after the fires the indigenous people kept going. The archipelago is shared between Chile and Argentina. Much of it is flat steppe grasslands, but a chain of rugged mountains runs down, covered in a permanent ice field. We also offer cruises that ply the islands’ fjords and include a stop at mythical Cape Horn.
Here are some Chilean holiday ideas.

Albatross Breeding Season Comes to Galapagos

The albatross breeding season has started. The waved albatross is the largest species of bird in the Galapagos Islands. They only nest on Española Island, where they can be spotted from the April until the December. This coincides with the cooler season when waters are richer in food. They are called the waved albatross after the wavy lines on their breast. Their courtship ritual is one of the most entertaining spectacles in the archipelago. During the courtship, the male approaches the female, then moves around her. They clack their beaks noisily together and point towards the sky. An eerie rattling sound follow, and much honking prevails. They sway around elaborately leading each other on. The movements are repeated many times. They manage to find their partners from previous years. It is said that they mate for life, which can be up to 40 years. They only lay one large egg on bare ground, which weighs nearly 300g. Once-hatched they rapidly grow, until 6 months later are ready to fledge. One reason they like Española island is it is flat and they can easily take off the cliffs. Film copyright David Horwell.

If you wish to book a Galapagos cruise contact the experts.

Lonesome George returns home

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Almost five years after the death of Lonesome George, the last Pinta tortoise has returned back home to the Galapagos Islands. He remains were sent to New York in 2012 to be preserved by taxidermists and was exhibited at the American Museum of Natural History in 2014.

For those who don’t know Lonesome George, he was the last survivor of the Pinta Islands sub-species. He was found on Pinta Island alone in 1972 when most believed that his species was extinct. After being brought to the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, there were efforts by the park to mate him with female tortoises, but unfortunately this was unsuccessful. At the point of death, his age was unknown, but is thought to be well over 100 years old. He was the star of the show at the research station and during the 40 years he lived there, tens of thousands of tourists visited him.

The Ecuadorian Pacific archipelago is famous as the place that Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution. There are 15 species of giant tortoise that inhabit the islands, three of which are now extinct, including George’s sub-species.

The expertly preserved body arrived back on Puerto Ayora on an Ecuadorian military plane and is now on display at the park. Would you like to see Lonesome George or the other wildlife on the Galapagos? Call to speak with one of our travel experts today on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or see our sample Galapagos tours here.

10 exotic creatures you’ll see in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on earth and a must for wildlife enthusiasts. While it would be impossible to list every species of flora and fauna (there are over half a million species in the Central American country, more than 4% of the world’s plants, insects and animals) we’ve picked 10 of the most exotic, unique and intriguing.

Three-toed sloth

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Flickr: Martha

This arboreal creature is native to the rainforests of Central and South America. These slow-moving tree dwellers move at a top speed of 35 metres per day. This isn’t surprising when you know that they spend almost their entire life sleeping. Interesting, these clean creatures descend to the forest floor to defecate, a dangerous move for a creature which moves at such a slow pace and something scientists still don’t understand.

Strawberry poison dart frogs

This colourful little frogs may look cute, but they are one of the most poisonous creatures on the planet. In many parts of South and Central America, local tribes rolled their blow-dart tips over the frogs’ skin coating it in poison and paralyzing any animal they hunt. Researchers have found many medicinal uses for the toxins including anesthetics. Their bright colours are there to ward of predators and they have the ability to morph colour.

Ocelot

Flickr: Valerie

Flickr: Valerie

This sleek nocturnal cats are found in almost every country in North, Central and South America with the exception of Chile. They are small, measuring in at around twice the size of a domestic cat. They are fairly elusive and certainly the hardest to spot on this list. They were once hunted for their fur which decimated the population, but today they are not considered as threatened.

White headed capuchin monkey

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Flickr: Alias 0591

This medium sized new world monkey is native to the forests of Central and South America. It plays an important role in the rainforest ecology by helping to disperse seeds. They live in troops of over twenty males and females and eat fruit, insects and amphibians. This species of monkey is particularly smart creating and using tools and using plants for medicinal uses.

Chestnut-mandibled toucan

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Flickr: Don Faulkner

The chestnut-mandibled toucan can be found in Costa Rica in abundance. This large colourful birds most distinct feature is its elongated beak which it uses with precision to open fruit and nuts. They tend to move around in flocks of around 10 members and rarely fly further than 100 metres at a time. They can be heard yelping and singing in chorus during evening roosts.

Mexican tree frog

Another interesting frog to spot in Costa Rica also known as the Baudin’s tree frog. This nocturnal frog is interesting due to the deep sounds it makes at night. Unlike the poison dart frogs, the Mexican tree frog is not poisonous and is commonly found throughout forested areas of the country and other parts of North and Central America.

Golden orb weavers

If you suffer from arachnophobia, this won’t be a creature you’ll want to spot in Costa Rica. Found throughout the warmer countries of the world, the golden orb weavers are also called the banana spider due to its habit of hiding in bunches of bananas. They are expert hunters and their strength allows them to the occasional catch small birds and snakes. They are venomous, but it isn’t lethal to humans.

Coati

Flickr: Neil Turner

Flickr: Neil Turner

Also known as snookum bears or hog-nosed racoon, this coati is closely related to the racoon. They are fairly passive creatures, but when threatened they can lash out defending themselves with their sharp teeth and strong jaws.  Interestingly, coatis walk plantigrade, which means they can walk upright on their legs, much like humans. They are not yet threatened, although their loss of habitat may start to have some detrimental effects to the population.

King vulture

Flickr: patries71

Flickr: patries71

When most people think of vultures, they think of large birds crowding around a fresh kill, and this is correct. But what most people don’t know is, like their Andean and Californian condors, they are very graceful when they glide and circle overhead. The numbers are estimated to be 100,000 so they are not under threat and their wingspan can reach over 6 feet.

American crocodile

The American crocodile which is found throughout North, Central and South American, although they are now considered threatened with estimates of only a few thousand left in the wild. These crocs have become particularly large along the Tárcoles River in Costa Rica where locals and tourists feed them. Here they can reach up to 5-metres and over half a ton in weight.

To see Costa Rica’s wildlife for yourself, call one of our specialists on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here. Take a look at our Costa Rica suggested tours here.

10 strange creatures from Latin America

The world is fully of wondrous creatures, like the jaguar which roams the jungles of Latin America. However, some evolved to be a little weird looking. One must always remember a quote from Darwin when thinking of these animals.

“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man”
– Charles Darwin

Rosy-lipped batfish

The rosy-lipped batfish and red-lipped batfish which hail from Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands. As you will notice, their most prominent feature if their bright human-like lips. These poor swimmers have specially adapted fins which they use to walk along the ocean bed.

Frogfish

The odd looking frogfish uses its camouflage to both protect themselves from predators and lure in prey. The frogfish moves very slowly before striking at their prey in as little as 6 milliseconds. They can be found in the waters around Cocos Island, Costa Rica.

Amazon horned frog

Also known as the Surinam horned frog, this large amphibian inhabits the rainforests and mangroves of the Amazon Basin and grow up to 20cms long. They are most active at night and use their long tongue to catch prey.

Hoatzin

These pheasant-sized birds, which live in a huge area of the Amazon, may not look that strange, but it doesn’t get its nickname stinkbird for nothing. Its smell comes from the fermentation of food in the bird’s digestive system.

Axolotl

Also known as the Mexican salamander, this little amphibian originated in the lakes that underlie Mexico City. Interestingly, axolotls don’t undergo metamorphosis and spend their entire life living under the water using gills to breath.

White-faced saki monkey

These strange looking new world monkeys inhabit the jungles of French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela and Brazil. They live in the lower canopy and feed from insects and fruit. The white-faced saki monkey mates for life and strengthens their bond by grooming.

Panda ant

These little creatures get their name from their distinct markings which resemble a panda. Found along the coastline of Chile, they are relatively rare and were only first discovered in the 30s. Though they are called ants, they are in fact a type of wingless wasp.

Venezuelan poodle moth

Only discovered in 2009 by Dr. Arthur Anker in Gran Sabana in Venezuela, not much is known about this cute little moth.

Blue parrotfish

The strangely beautiful and magical blue parrotfish can be found in the warm Caribbean waters along the coast of Colombia and Central America. Like other parrotfish, they develop beaks which they use to scrap the algae from rocks.

Pink fairy armadillos

These pygmy armadillos are tiny compared to other species of the same family, measuring up at only 10cms. They are slow movers, other than burrowing which they can do super-fast, particularly when threatened.

Would you like to see the strange wildlife of Latin America? Give us a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to speak with one of our wildlife specialists or send us a message here.

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