KiwiTravelWriter in the capital
kiwitravelwriter-wellington:

How to travel alone! Why, tips and warnings!How do you travel? With a partner? Friends? On a tour? Alone? Solo?
I’m a passionate nomad, a solo…View Post

Do you travel alone?

kiwitravelwriter-wellington:

How to travel alone! Why, tips and warnings!

How do you travel? With a partner? Friends? On a tour? Alone? Solo?

I’m a passionate nomad, a solo…

View Post

Do you travel alone?

The Dunedin Chinese Gardens were high on my ‘to-do’  list and I suggest you put them on yours too. Along with the Scottish settlers, the Chinese have been in the Otago region since 1863 (incidentally, the same year my mother’s family arrived on Banks Peninsula,  from Cornwall.)

This Chinese Scholar-garden, Lan Yuan, is tucked in beside railway tracks and the Toitu OtagoEarly Settlers  Museum in the city centre – on the corner of Rattray & Cumberland Streets. It’s the only authentic Chinese garden in New Zealand and in fact is the first in the Southern Hemisphere and one of less than half a dozen outside China which surprised me.

Despite being in the city, it is an amazingly peaceful and quiet place and I know when I’m back in Otago I will revisit this wonderful garden.

Look at the photos and I know you too will love them.

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Chinese gardens were high on my Dunedin ‘to-do’ list. The Dunedin Chinese Gardens were high on my ‘to-do’  list and I suggest you put them on yours too…
Elvis - memories of Graceland on the aniversary of his death

Elvis – memories of Graceland on the aniversary of his death

(Extract from Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad. Available from Amazon and all other e-book sites, for Kobo, Nook, Kindle and others   – if you have read it, I would  really value a small review  (on Amazon, Goodreads etc) so others know whether to buy a copy – seems many only buy on reviews)

… The sixties were an important time for me too, flower power or blooming idiots we…

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Just a few of the native birds I saw at Zealandia this morning. Free bus from downtown for visitors

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Zealandia EcoSanctuary Wellington New Zealand Just a few of the native birds I saw at Zealandia this morning. Free bus from downtown for visitors

I didn’t expect to find butterflies galore in Dunedin New Zealand. However the Otago Museum has them in abundance in their Discovery World Tropical Forest, and delight all who see them – including me.

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Butterflies galore in Dunedin I didn’t expect to find butterflies galore in Dunedin New Zealand. However the Otago Museum has them in abundance in their Discovery World Tropical Forest, and delight all who see them - including me.
Gujarat, India … photos of the day

As well as the albatross nesting on Taiaroa Head ( Royal Albatross Centre) the area is also home to the world’s only working Armstrong Disappearing Gun.

I had no idea what a ‘disappearing gun’ was, but it seems it got its name by recoiling back into the pit by the force of  the firing of it.

As well as seeing the gun in its underground circular pit I was also a good place to see other albatross nests that are unseen from the observation room I’d been in earlier. ( see more on my blog)

Facts for you gun enthusiasts:

  • 1886 manufactured in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England
  • 1889 installed in Otago
  • 6-inch breechloading gun on a hydro-pneumatic carriage
  • weight 18.6 ton
  • range *km ( 8,800 yards)

So, if you are a gun or history buff make sure you add the Fort Tour to your bird watching!

Disappearing gun in Dunedin As well as the albatross nesting on Taiaroa Head ( Royal Albatross Centre) the area is also home to the world’s only working…
Travel writing for free?

Travel writing for free?

This is a chain of posts and comments from my Facebook page and thought it was worth sharing with a  wider audience. Thanks to all the writers / journalists/ bloggers who commented … I have removed names and links to their FB page to stop spam etc

Here also is a rant from Harlan Ellison (I love ranters who I agree with :):) )

Heather Hapetahas shared a video with you…

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My weapon of choice is a bright green, double-barreled, pump-action, pistol.

My weapon of choice is a bright green, double-barreled, pump-action, pistol.

I have just been asked for permission to use this for secondary students – which I have given. I’ve not put it on my blog before – it was published a few years ago as a guest post for  2camels about worldwide festivals. See their website for a couple of other festivals that I’ve written for them.

Songkran
My weapon of choice was a bright green, double-barreled, pump-action, water pistol.Never has…

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Worldwide, albatross were once hunted for their feathers, which were then used to make hats. They have the biggest wingspan of any bird, reaching up to 3.5m (11.5ft) and the larger albatross species can spend up to five years at sea.

Tora (in Māori) live over 60 years, they mate for life and sadly some do not find another if their partner dies. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the killing of a “harmless albatross” dooms the ship’s crew.

3-metre wing span

3-metre wing span

While in Dunedin, traveling in a NZ RentaCar and staying in some fabulous cottage accommodation, I visit the award-winning Royal Albatross Centre – for a 90 minute tour. Very handy from my Ngaio Cottage base on the peninsula.

Known as Pukekura  in Maori, Taiaroa Head is the place for albatross viewing, interactive marine conservation displays, and historical tours of Taiaroa Head and is one of the local must-visit places.

In Dunedin, New Zealand, it’s owned and operated by the Otago Peninsula Trust, a charitable trust, whose objective is the protection and enhancement of the Otago Peninsula – the only mainland place in the world to view Northern Royal Albatross in their natural habitat. This site is ideal as its very windy – giving them good flying conditions.

The first record of a nest and egg here was in 1920 but because of predators (cats, rats, stoats, ferrets) and interference by people, it wasn’t until 1938 that the first chick was successfully fledged. In 2007 the 500th chick hatched – well done to their guardians. A 7-month old chick weighs about 11kg while its parents are only 8 or 9! No wonder they need to fly at speeds of around 120 ks to get out to sea, find food and get back to feed the quickly growing chick.

This is my 3rd time here and for the first time I understand why we can only see them from behind glass: it seems they are very noise sensitive so keeping us invisible and quiet ensures they’re not disturbed by our “ohhs and ahhs” of delight!

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Worldwide all 22 species of albatross  are in trouble; eight are critically endangered, nine are classed as vulnerable and the remaining five are likely to become endangered, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Sadly the birds are inadvertently caught by fishing boats that use baited long lines and it’s estimated that this kills more than 100,000 albatrosses a year – about one every  five minutes.

More of my Dunedin  stories to come will be about  penguins,  boat trips,  settlers museum, heritage city walks, the Taieri Gorge train, Chinese gardensbutterfly house and the Orokonui eco-sanctuary and more, adding to those already written. (Sign up to get them as emails as soon as they’re published – top right on this page)

One of Dunedin’s must see attractions: Royal Albatross Centre Worldwide, albatross were once hunted for their feathers, which were then used to make hats. They have th…

Otago Peninsula was a volcano some 10 or 13 million years ago – give or take a week or three!

65-thousand years ago it became an island when sea levels rose and, more recently, it became a peninsula.  Captain Cook and the hardy self-sufficient pioneers fought battles with the elements along the notorious 2000 kilometres coastline which is now scattered with shipwrecks.

The area is not just a day trip from Dunedin but a destination in its own right and during my ten days in Dunedin – traveling in a  car from  NZ RentaCar - and I spent time in Ngaio Cottage in Broad Bay.

This cottage, built in the 1930s,  when my hosts, Julz Asher & Lutz Ritter, bought it I’m told ‘it looked very different’ to the charming, well-appointed accommodation it is today. ‘It was unlivable. In fact, everything is new – except a few boards,’ Lutz said.

The fittings and furniture were chosen with care, resulting in beautiful and tasteful atmosphere. I have no idea how many stars this place has, but I’d give it 4 or 5!

This is a fabulous place to stay and use as a base to explore the peninsula, and the Dunedin region – check out these photos.

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I’m not the only one who rates Otago Peninsula:

  • Neville Peat a local nature writer based in Broad Bay says the whole area is a ‘kind of supermarket for marine life, souped up by currents and adjacent deep-water canyons.
  • Botanist and environmentalist David Bellamy said the peninsula is ‘the finest example of ecotourism in the world’   while Mark Carwardine,  zoologist and outspoken conservationist, writer, TV and radio presenter, wildlife photographer, columnist,  best-selling author, a wildlife tour operator calls New Zealand a “wildlife hotspot”. He also says it’s one of the best places in the world to see great wildlife and recently he was on a whirlwind tour, searching for our equivalent to Africa’s ‘big five’, the New Zealand ‘small five’ – all endangered species: hector’s dolphinkeakiwituatarayellow-eyed penguin all  which are found on or around this amazing outcrop of land.

I have written some stories about the area, and more to come about –  albatross, penguins, castleboat trips, fur seals, settlers museum, bus stops, birds, gardens, heritage city walks, the Taieri Gorge train, Chinese gardens, butterfly house and the Orokonui eco-sanctuary and more.

View of the harbour from the couch

View of the harbour from the couch

 

Otago Peninsula – ‘finest example of ecotourism in the world’ Otago Peninsula was a volcano some 10 or 13 million years ago – give or take a week or three!
Not quite my ducks in a row

… but the swans are!

Not quite my ducks in a row

… but the swans are!

Sarawak’s first marine national park, Talang-Satang was established with the primary aim of conserving Sarawak’s marine turtle population. The park includes the coastline and sea around four islands in southwest Sarawak: this area has 95% of all turtle landings in Sarawak.  I’m thrilled to stay overnight on two of them. One turtle arrived on the first island, ten on this one,  Talang-Talang.

I arrive on Talang Talang - photo by Gustino

I arrive on Talang Talang – photo by Gustino Basuan Sarawak Tourism Board

Marine turtles are amongst the world’s longest-lived creatures, but only about one in one thousand eggs grow to maturity about 30 to 50 years old!

Ten turtles arrive overnight and I watch as they laboriously dig the holes for the nest, lay about 80 eggs, cover them up and go back to sea. We then see the forestry staff carefully dig them up, record the details,  and rebury them safe from predators.

I hope some of the sixty hatched eggs (that had been buried safely about 45 days earlier)  that I was privilege to count into the release bucket, are among those very low odds and return to this island to complete the process.

My photos tell the story. (There are no overnight photos for 2 reasons – one, I wanted to just enjoy the experience and two, it’s hard to photograph at night with no flash allowed!)

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A turtle may lay 10,000 eggs in her lifetime, but once they reach the sea, as few as 10 hatchlings will survive to reach maturity. Some don’t even get to the sea … ghost crabs and birds are always waiting for a meal to appear.

The Sarawak Forestry has conservation programmes at which volunteers can help (holidays with a purpose) : the eggs are either removed from nests and placed in guarded hatcheries, or left in place and guarded round the clock by Sarawak Forestry wardens. After 40 to 60 days incubation, young hatchlings are released at night to reduce losses from predators.

Please note: The Sarawak Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme is not suitable for everyone. Accommodation facilities are basic and everyone is expected to help with cooking and cleaning-up. Volunteers join a team of dedicated conservation experts whose mission is to monitor every turtle landing on the island and so help to preserve Sarawak’s natural heritage. Volunteers can expect a rewarding ‘Back to Nature’ experience but should bear in mind that the programme is not a beach holiday.

More Info http://www.sarawakforestry.com/htm/snp-np-satang.html 

Reef-balls similar to this protect the sea from nets and dredging. Great!

Reef-balls similar to this protect the sea from nets and dredging. Great!

Turtles Galore … my bucket-list item achieved in Sarawak, Malaysia! Sarawak’s first marine national park, Talang-Satang was established with the primary aim of conserving Sarawak’s marine turtle population.

“You are lucky I’m a pacifist’ I tell Gustino, from the Sarawak Tourism Board, “if  not, I would slap you!”

“Don’t worry”, he tells me, “many will come tonight”.  I remind him of the old saying about birds and how one in the hand is worth two in the bush – and that that specific turtle was the one in the hand. He laughs, “don’t worry, you will see them tonight” he reassures me.

We leave Sematan town for the national park

We leave Sematan town for the two hour trip to the national park

We are on an island which is part of the Tanjung Datu National Park the smallest in Malaysia’s largest state : the tonight he’s talking about is the island where we will be in a few hours, Talang-Talang. (all National Parks are managed by Sarwawak Forestry)

He, as our host, was woken at about midnight by the ranger who was patrolling the beach to watch for landings. Perhaps they thought we were exhausted (true) after a week at the Borneo Music Expo and the Rainforest World Music Festival but seeing turtles lay eggs has been on my bucket-list for ages and I’m scared I’ll miss out!

no lifeguards here!

no lifeguards here! 

Anyway, miss out that night I did but this is what I’m told:

  • it was her second egg laying visit in 10 days
  • she laid 104 eggs (80 last time)
  • the eggs were transferred immediately to a safe area (the monitor lizards must hate the rangers)
the eggs are buried at the same depth as the mother did .. but now safe from predators

the eggs are re-buried at the same depth as the mother did .. but now safe from predators

Despite being disappointed I did hear gibbons calling early in the morning – they remained out of sight but it was thrilling to hear them again, my first time had been in Sabah last year.

After breakfast we boarded our fishing boat for a one-hour trip to the island where I’ve been told “you will see them.”

See my next blog to see if I was able to tick off one of my bucket list items or, if I had to abandon my pacifist leanings and slap my host!

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Here is a pictorial journal of our stay on the island.

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One turtle arrives in the middle of the night “You are lucky I’m a pacifist’ I tell Gustino, from the Sarawak Tourism Board, “if  not, I would slap you!”
A gift for my daughter … who grew up believing this before Google existed. (she now knows better)

A gift for my daughter … who grew up believing this before Google existed. (she now knows better)