Walvis Bay, Namibia

After Etosha, we took drove back down and towards to the coast for our fourth stop of our tour of Namibia to a place called Walvis Bay. Walvis Bay is the second largest city in Namibia, but we weren’t here to see Namibia’s cities, for we had booked a boat tour of the bay to sea seabirds and their famously large populations of seals.

We arrived at the port, and you could see a seal already bobbing around in the water so we boarded the boat and set off. We had just started leaving the port when one of them jumped onto the back of the boat and was fed a fish by the one of the crew. He fed him some more and then a smaller seal emerged which pushed its way to the front and over the door. The other one, feeling cheated, did the same and the two of them seemed quite excited as if they had never seen this part of the boat before and the smaller one ran up to the front of the boat to check it out. The man then got a broom and pushed the fat one back through the door and into the water so the smaller one, having lost its confidence, jumped over the side of the boat. After that excitement, we left the port and followed a spit of land out to sea which was home to a large sea colony that spanned a couple of kilometres. These were fur seals and many of them had pups that were learning to swim but also on the beach were groups of jackals which were too small to eat the seals but seemed to have fun chasing them in and out of the water. We also had seals diving into the waves our boat made, and they followed us as the spit ended and we entered open water as we briefly caught a glimpse of a humpback whale coming up to breathe. I used to pretend to like birdwatching because it made me feel mature, but I’ve recently come to the realisation that, bar a few, I find birds to be incredibly boring but maybe I just don’t get and when one day I do, i’m sure i’ll regret the times I didn’t bother to look up because if I knew what I was looking at, i’d already have an enviable list of species. My dad on the other hand is a very keen bird watcher so I took a seat and enjoyed the bumps of the waves for a good hour or so as he held on, looking through shaking binoculars at the different seabirds flying above us. We did eventually find an interesting bird being an African penguin. It would pop its head up, inspect the boat, then dive down again to re-emerge in a different spot. This game of whack-a-mole is a common characteristic of looking for wildlife at sea and would happen once again because as we turned back in the direction of port, we found a group of other tour boats circling an area which, as we approached, was teaming with life as a pod of Heaviside’s dolphins swam in front of us. My dad then spotted a sunfish floating on the surface which looked quite surreal and finally, what everyone had been looking at, the humpback whale that had re-emerged to swim alongside our boat as we left. In my time looking for wildlife, I’ve been able to stay in some very nice places but never had the actual task of looking for wildlife been so fancy then at Walvis Bay since before the tour ended, a table mat was put on the seats and what followed plate after plate of little pastries, snacks, seafood, tarts, drinks and even champagne. It was very random and unexpected, but I thought id leave it in there for anyone who wants to see wildlife in style they can book at Catamaran Charters (not sponsored but id be happy to be😊).

Etosha National Park, Namibia

Our third stop on the tour of Namibia took us to the most famous national park in the country: Etosha. The park is made up of open grassland that surrounds a salt flat which makes up most of the park, providing an incredible opportunity to see animals walking miles out.

Our first of two days at the park saw us following the back roads to the right of the camp as we drove to the various water holes on the map. Etosha has an incredible number of gazelles that adorn the sides of the road and can be found at almost every opening in the park. The first water hole we visited was one of the more popular ones with just as many jeeps as there were zebras, wildebeest, oryx and ostriches who walked in between the cars as well as fighting and taking sand baths. After this, we tried to go where there were less cars so we drove to various smaller water holes, some of which didn’t contain water. You aren’t allowed to leave your vehicle except for in certain fenced picnic spots so we stopped at one of those which had a large gap in between the gate and the fence that any leopard or lion could slip through, so I guess it was more of a placebo, but it was a necessary stretch nonetheless. The day was exiting but the novelty of seeing a gazelle began to wear off and they became quite annoying when your mind tricked you into thinking they were something interesting like a cheetah. We had to be back by sunset, so we directed ourselves towards the exit but on the road in the distance we found the safari signal for something impressive being a mass of parked jeeps. We drove up and spotted through the bushes a lion standing up under a tree. My brother enjoys his photography but unfortunately, I don’t think he understands that animals move and that you can only capture them in certain positions for a couple of seconds so one by one the lions stood up and walked into the bushes and each time my brother was changing some settings or even reading a book. One of the great entertainments of Etosha is seeing the battle between professional safari jeeps who follow some unwritten rules of right of way, how to park, when to move, etc. verses people who bring their own cars and happily pile in front of someone else’s view or into another vehicles exit route and have to revers back whilst being staired down by all the other drivers. Fortunately, the lions became so lazy that many people’s attention spans had expired in the time we were there, so we were able to drive through the cars until we found the spot that they had all retreated to which, though slightly further back, was not covered by any bushes and provided a much greater view of the pride.

We left the park and returned the next day having done a bit of last-minute research which told us that the water hole in the main camp was the place to be when the sun set so armed with that knowledge, we set off to see the expansive plains. These were a sight to behold for as barren as they seemed at first glance, looking through the telescope gave a completely different view; one of a plain teaming with life as huge herds of wildebeest and zebras marched on past giraffes and elephants. What was amazing was how far out the animals were (which is why you couldn’t initially see them) as there didn’t appear to have much water or vegetation. It was here that I made one of my proudest spots of the holiday being a spotted hyena walking towards the edge of the plain before it soon collapsed in the first bit of shade it arrived at. The second day was spent doing more of the same as but then we made our way back to the main camp ready end our time at Etosha at the aforementioned water hole. We read that elephants came here to drink which sounded cool but we had seen a fair few that day so I wasn’t expecting anything extraordinary but just a around a minute after arriving, a heard of 25 elephants walked up to the water. The sound of their movements alone was amazing as everyone made an effort to be silent but then one elephant stepped into the water, then another, and another, and another, until every single one of the 25 elephants was fully submerged in the water at the same time. The smallest ones had their noses just above the water level like a periscope and the sound was deafening as their movements created waves in the small pond whilst they flapped their ears and sprayed water on themselves. The whole spectacle only lasted a few minutes before the group sprayed dust onto their backs again and set off in a mesmerising march; a fitting end to Namibia’s biggest park.

Rhinos of Waterberg, Namibia

The Waterberg plateau was our second stop and is one of Namibia’s more famous geographical formations. Best seen from the camp, it makes you feel small as you look out into its never-ending canyon and is a great place to play Africa by TOTO.

It does have to be said that you will se a lot less wildlife in Waterberg than most places you’d likely visit which does give it a more pristine and untouched feel which I prefer because finding animals by yourself in places they aren’t that common is more satisfying then being driven up to a water hole. Rhinos unfortunately, due to their systematic poaching to give China magical cancer-curing rhino dust, cannot be left alone because they haven’t exactly won the genetic lottery by being slow, big, unable to hide and having poor eyesight all accompanying a horn worth more in weight then gold and cocaine. This does though, provide a great opportunity to be walked right up to them since they’re used to human contact because they must be protected by armed guards 24/7 and require daily tours to pay for the huge costs of protecting them. If you book 3 or more nights at Waterberg, you get the rhino walk for free which is what we were pleasantly surprised by so on the morning of the second day we set off with a guide.

He would radio the guards who would tell him approximately where the rhinos were, and he would lead us down the trails to take us there. The guide said there was a 100% success rate and I guess I can confirm that on the one trip we went on we did see them. There are 6 white rhinos below the plateau which is the group you go to see on the rhino walk but on the top of the plateau, which you can only visit by booking the safari jeep at the national park office, (more about that later) the animals are actually trapped up there with the exception of monkeys and leopards (we saw leopard tracks but they were too sneaky) who are nimble enough to climb the rocky cliffs. This makes the anti-poaching teams job a little easier on the top of plateau as it offers a natural barrier and provides great habitat for the black rhino, which is rarer, more aggressive, and elusive; not allowing themselves to grow accustomed to humans. There are also white rhinos on top of the plateau too.

We walked for about an hour and a half only seeing an ostrich but then we walked into a fire escape which provided a long straight to look up. I assume the guide knew they were in the area, but I didn’t so I looked down the opening and saw a weird brown pile on the floor which turned out to be rhino crap. It was too far away so I handed the guide the binoculars se he could tell me, but he pointed them a bit higher then where I was looking and calmly said that there was a rhino. Somehow, I had missed the grey slab so unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be pursuing an illustrious career in poaching. It ran off and I thought that that would be it but we walked up nonetheless to try and catch another glimpse. They soon came back into view and I thought we should stop and take some pictures before they ran off again but the guide pressed on. We were getting closer and closer, and I thought they were going to run off at any moment, but we just carried on walking until we were probably about five metres away from a mother and her calf. They were eating hay that had been laid out for them alongside a water trough, so they didn’t feel very wild, but it was amazing to be so close and have nothing between you and them. Of the population below the plateau, two had been born in the 16 years they’d had them but one of them had been killed by a poachers bullet a week after being shot so a complete waste and another had been killed in a fight with another rhino, so the rhinos of Waterberg have achieved net zero in only 16 years. This was an incredible experience and in the evening, we went on the tour of the top of the plateau.

We didn’t see any rhinos on the top of the plateau which is accessed by a steep hill that is fenced off, so that the animals can’t get down the road, which might seem unfair but it provides a layer of ant-poaching as well as allowing buffalo to live there which are banned in the rest of Namibia due to diseases but since they can’t come down, they are allowed in Waterberg and we did see them. The format of the safari was that we drove up into the plateau and stopped at two hides. The bushes were much thicker and closer to the road than other places, so we really didn’t see anything by car bar a few kudus. The two hides gave us a chance to see two different groups of giraffes which, I feel bad for saying, are the most boring and dullest animal I could possibly think of being. They look magnificent and surreal when you first see them but once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Their personalities are all the same and every step they take requires a minute of overthinking. They seem to live in complete silence which made the hide feet like a sensory deprivation room where every crack and creep was amplified by 10. We saw the buffalos leaving just as we entered the which were cool but the guide said that in the second hide, he could see a cloud of dust as he drove up and we walked through the tunnel entrance to get to the water hole and salt lick which he said was a black rhino which was running away as we arrived because it must’ve heard someone speaking or something but hey, gotta save something for next time.

Ovita Game Farm, Namibia

During the summer (winter there) of 2022 I travelled to Namibia to finally tick off Africa and experience a proper African safari. Usually, I focus on a particular animal and write about the process of finding it but I really had no plan in Namibia with the only animal I really wanted to see being a leopard. (I didn’t see one because you’d be shocked to find out that they’re very sneaky.)

The first stop on our tour of Namibia took us to Ovita, Namibias first pure game farm a couple of hours from the capital of Windhoek. On the drive there we had passed countless plots of savannah land which, though fenced up, were nowhere near as protected as Ovita or some of the bigger reserves and the difference was stark. We passed a group of 4 kudus which felt surreal to see such the animals from NatGeo just metres away and I thought that was a lucky encounter that wouldn’t be replicated since we hadn’t seen anything on the way there but just pulling into a protected reserve and the difference was clear. Quite notably in Ovita were their populations of impala which would stand in the road and even after their group had been split in two, the two groups on either side of the road looked just as big. The bungalows were the best positioned of all the places we stayed in Namibia as you only had to look out the window to look at the huge plain that surrounded the water hole which allowed you to follow animals for a few minutes as they walked to the water and back at a distance with which they were comfortable enough not to be skittish or nervous. In the 10,000-hectare reserve we were also able to see groups of kudus, which seemed to stay on one specific hill whilst we were there, down the road and turn right from the rooms as well as oryx which we saw twice. The first I spotted as we were driving, and it stopped and looked at us before running up and over an embankment kicking up a lot of dust as it showed us all its strength to run up the steep slope. The second felt quite magical as it was night-time, and we had finished eating when an Oryx began drinking from the watering hole. It was only lit up by the lights from the restaurant so all that could be seen clearly was its iconic silhouette against the water. The final day gave a great insight into the ins and outs of running a game farm. The day we left, a bunch of trucks had parked, and around 30 workers were setting up tents tents ready to stay the foreseeable days since today was the day a helicopter was coming to round up animals in the reserve, of which there were many, for them to be captured and sold live to be released into other game farms that needed to restock on their elands for example. This may seem like wildlife is simply being taken out of its land but this system of restocking animals which is quite unique to the Africa and its tourism funded reserves has meant that wildlife which had previously been hunted out of areas are able to return as reserves which have an excess can sell them off which is a key part of their funding. Ovita is also a hunting farm which to the city dwelling, middle-class, pet lover seems like a horrible thing for wildlife but its places like this where you realise that when nature has economic value, its numbers will explode. We ended our stay with a game drive to see the hippos which had been introduced in a similar way to fill the void of a fat grey animal after elephants and rhinos were poached out of the area in the early 2000s because unfortunately their value alive cannot be matched by the value they have dead in China and Vietnam with ivory as trinkets and rhino horn as one of the unlucky chosen materials written into Chinese medicine along with pangolin scales and tiger bones to name a view which act as magical fairy dust that cures anything.

Wolves of Zamora, Spain

It’s been a while since I last posted due to the fact that I forgot my password and live the incredibly hectic life of a 16 year-old student meaning that I couldn’t find the time in 4 years to retrieve it but nonetheless i’m back for the many millions of sneaky leopard fans to once again rejoice in my eloquent writing. I had actually written this story at the time so it remains preserved in its original form but was never published. I can also confirm that the picture hasn’t been enhanced just to silence all the rumours that it’s too good to be true.

During the half term of 2019 we went back to Zamora for the third time to look for wolves. The first two times were unsuccessful but they didn’t go to waste as the story of not seeing them still won me runners up in wildlife blogger of the year.

We arrived at the same hotel as the previous time and got ourselves comfortable. We wasted no time as the evenings and mornings are the best times to see them so we set off and drove along the dirt road. That evening was unsuccessful but I saw a dog on the other side of the valley which restored my confidence that I could spot a wolf which after two unsuccessful attempts here was much needed. The next day came around and we set off to the dirt road. We set up the telescope and carried out the general scan of the valley which had become more of a routine by this point. We were there for about an hour taking turns on the telescope when on my dad’s turn he spotted them. Both times we’d been here my dad had seen them but by the time he’d adjusted the telescope to my height and focused in on them, they were gone so this time my hopes had risen but I was already prepared for the feeling of not missing it. Luckily I was taller this time and was right on it as soon as it was my turn on the telescope and I was directed to a shed on the furthest point of the valley where you could only just make out a pack of three grey-orange wolves hanging around this abandoned shed. I passed the telescope back to my brother, mum and dad who had been generous with giving me the most time with it knowing how much I wanted to see them. They disappeared into the bush so I hopped back onto the telescope and scanned the area when, in a field a couple hundred metres away from the shed they reemerged. Selfishly, I didn’t tell anyone as I wanted a good long look at the animals that had eluded me before and then with the element of surprise on my family, I took out my phone and pressed it against the telescope and took a record shot. I don’t know why I bothered as it might as well have been a few rocks in the field but it was enough for me. Once my family realised what I was looking at they kicked me off and told me to share but I was happy having ticked all the boxes that I’d come for.

Chasing the pod, Oman

During the Christmas holiday of 2019, i went to Oman looking for Oryx, Gazelle and of course the Arabian Leopard but to my surprise after a week of scanning mountains and driving through Savannah, we hadn’t seen a single land mammal and i certainly didn’t expect that the animal id squeeze a story out of a desert was a dolphin.

We woke up at 5:am and drove to the port for a boat trip my Dad had booked to see birds. We met our captain and he took us to his six seater boat and after navigating through the port, we finally broke out on to the open sea. After about ten minutes we first caught a glimpse of a pod of dolphins jumping in the water but this was very far away and there weren’t very many but i clicked away at my camera expecting that this would be the only mammals we saw all holiday. We then stopped here and there to pour fish oil into the water to attract sea birds but this also attracted something else.

As I looked to the left I stared blankly at a pod of over 150 dolphins heading straight for our tiny boat. Soon they had caught up and I expected them to go around the boat but to my surprise they started following us. They were attracted by the waves our boat made causing them to jump just metres away from us. This species was called the spinner dolphin and they definitely lived up to their name as they demonstrated the coolest tricks that you cant even see in zoos. Some were just curious to look at the boat and would occasionally pop their heads out at a distance you could touch them while others raced the boat with ease as their strong tails propelled them through the water. Photographing them was quite hard though seen as they only emerge every couple of minutes to take a breath so i just faced my camera at the ocean and clicked whenever one was in frame.

They didn’t seem to have anything to do out in the ocean as whenever our boat turned they would follow us since they had nowhere to go so we had a long time with them next to us but finally we had to turn back. As we made our way back to the port the dolphins could be seen on the horizon with the sunset in front of them like some romantic movie. We also past some turtles, rays, fish and sea cucumbers before finally arriving into the port having witnessed one of the coolest things the Arabian sea had to offer.

Browns Bears of Brasov, Romania

During the summer of 2019 we went to  Brasov, Carpathian mountains, Romanian Transylvania. Romania is home to Europe’s largest population of brown bears with a total population of 6000 so I wasn’t going to leave without seeing one.

We landed in Kluj Napoca and from there headed east and with a quick look on tripadvisor, Brasov seemed like the place to go to see bears. On the first day in Brasov my dad offered to take me on a walk in the forest which I accepted and not long after, signs of bears emerged. We were walking in a forest about 50m away from a super popular ski resort and there were bear tracks just beside it so if by any chance the owner of Poiana Brasov ski resort is reading this, you have a minor child-eating security risk in the forest just next to the childrens playground. Although we didn’t see any bears that day, we knew they were there, so I remained optimistic.

The next day we went to the Libearty bear sanctuary to remind myself what a bear in the wild looked like and this was the best place to do that. It was a great place that rescues bears from very bad conditions, such as tiny bar cages as backyard pets, and takes them to their six hectare patch of forest where they are free to swim in the pools, play on the grass and take a nap far from human sight in there massive forest. It was a great place to train my eye because although there were 106 bears in the sanctuary, we only saw about ten because they were just as well hidden in the bushes and trees as a wild one. The rest of that day we visited Dracula’s castle where BBC Channel 5 were filming a documentary so hopefully i’m on TV but anyways, we went to bed but I couldn’t sleep very well for i was excited for the day ahead.

We woke up normal time to go for a walk in the mountains until 4:00pm and I had been impatient all day but the time had finally come. We drove to McDonalds where we met a guy called Grig who drove us to the gate of the bear reserve. There we met with the park ranger who drove us on a dirt track and dropped us of at a trail with the rest of the group as he went off to put the food in the feeders.

Armed with a can of pepper spray we excitedly advanced towards the hide where we would spend the next two hours. As we came close to the hide (or box of cereal if you’re a bear) A young male ran into the forest and the entire group buzzed with excitement while fighting for a space at the window. We got comfortable expecting to be there for hours until something appeared when the bear came straight back and, oblivious to our existence, it started munching on the pile of fruit and bread the ranger had left, and we all started clicking away at our cameras. After about ten minutes it walked of into the forest and didn’t come back for a while.

I got a bit bored and got off my seat to look out one of the side windows when I saw it no less than 25 meters away, the same brown bear looking at the hide in curiosity. I loudly whispered to everyone to let them know it was here but after about 5 people looking at the bear, it noticed it had been caught and scampered back into the vegetation. It was 10 more long minutes before another one emerged but this time it was a different one and 20 seconds after this bear had appeared another older black-coloured brown bear appeared. As they met there was a small brawl and their roars shook the cabin. In the end, the two settled down and set about doing bearly things. Occasionally the first bear would be seen plodding around the back but apart from that, it was just the two of them until another bigger male came, sending the third black one into a weird, derpy run but the second brown bear stayed. After two tense hours in the hide, it was time to leave and my mum, knowing there were four bears in the premises, shuffled us upfront to the guy with the pepper spray. As we walked out the cabin a bear could be seen to our right running back into the woods.

That was an amazing sighting which ill never forget but it just seemed a little fake so, even though you might question if that is a bear you’re looking at in my story about the “brown bear of Asturias”i do miss a good chase.

Jungle of Madre De Dios, Peru

During the summer holiday of 2018 our journey took us all the way to Peru and I usually say “to find” but in reality my mum chooses the destination and I make do for preferably I would have gone to the Pantanal to see jaguars but I probably won’t be taken to the Pantanal or any country when she reads this blog and calls me ungrateful.

This blog isn’t about any animal in particular but about all the little jungle things yet I was pretty fixated in a jaguar and I think i made that clear to my parents. We bounced along the rough jungle road for hours when the van finally came to a halt at a small riverside village where the journey still carried on but thankfully this time by boat. Wind in my hair, flies in my face, I felt free on the handmade boat zooming down the Amazon river and imagined an aerial shot of me with some inspirational music showing how minuscule I was on that tin raft just managing to keep upright battling the rough white water waves as the camera zoomed out.

We arrived at a small dug out dock and offloaded our luggage onto a dodgy looking tuk tuk and carried on the last part of our journey by foot feeling proud we came prepared with our waterproof wellington boots not letting a single drop in as we slipped along the muddy swamp. Like usual we take no time in inspecting the rooms and within five minutes upon arriving at the accommodation we were out in the jungle following the banks of a small lake that used to be part of the river but closed of by meanders. We hadn’t been here more than half an hour when a dinosaur was spotted squawking in a nearby tree. This dinosaur in reality was a Huatzin, a bird practically unchanged from its dinosaur form as an archeopteryx for it still inherits its claws on the tip its shoulder and the not-so-elegant form of flapping about while squawking before landing on a slippery branch and then falling off onto the soft padding of the fallen jungle leaves below.

Similar to the Huatzin is the macaw whose sighting was nearly the same. Three macaws sitting on one branch and in comes their friend who wants to hear the gossip about the jungle life and in doing so, snapping the branch his three friends were sitting on, sending them flying to the jungle floor but with some well mastered acrobatics, like fighter jets flying in formation, they take lift at the last second and fly up in unison to land on a much more sturdy branch hopefully having learnt their lesson.

A couple of days later we headed out on boat to a small lake where in the mud, fresh footprints telling me the activities of the night before such as tiny footprints followed by larger ones indicating that a family of otters had passed through to change lakes and a tapir had walked by almost digging a cavern with every heavy footprint it made and the heavy stomping of a deer indicating it was trying to show it still had energy to whatever predator was stalking it. We arrived at the lake and looked puzzled at our guide when he said we couldn’t take the punt for a spin so what exactly had we paid for because I’m pretty sure a 10 minute boat ride doesn’t cost 150$. After much nagging he let us use two of them probably to stop us annoying him anymore than we already had. We punted around with much difficulty and little patience until the ride ended and we came back. In the trek back to the easier-to-maneuver boat with an engine we spotted a group of monkeys hopping around from tree to tree making for a hard-to-capture shot (for me) of a monkey in mid air diving down.

Vicuñas, Peru

During the summer 2018 on a bus journey From Chivay to Puno (Peru) the larger part of our journey was through a national park.

We started moving midday and set off with the bus company through the jurassic park like gates. Within the first few minutes it didn’t seem to me like anything could live in that baron wasteland but the sight of a herd of vicuñas met my eyes as soon as the thought came into my head. I thought I had missed the only herd in about a thousand miles but in the corner of my eye another group skipped happily over the plains. Than another. Than another. Than of course, another. So fixated in the amount of vicuñas there were which I can only imagine was a fraction of that of the wildebeest migration, Id forgotten to take my camera out so without further due I plonked the device on the window ledge and found just how hard it was to take pictures on a shaky bus. I’m not much of a photographer and would much rather just enjoy the moment so as quickly as I had taken the camera out, I had put it back to stare out of the window for the next six hours immersed in pure nature.

I’m still confused as to what these mammals eat or drink and how they manage to sustain a diverse food chain ranging from the biggest puma or condor to the smallest snake or mouse.

Penguins of Paracas, Peru

During the summer holiday of 2018 our journey took all the way to Peru and I usually say “to find” but in reality my mum chooses the destination and I make do for preferably I would have gone to Patagonia to see pumas but I probably won’t be taken to Patagonia or any country when she reads this blog and calls me ungrateful.

We set off early and arrived at the docks and after what seemed like hours of haggling and being swapped around boats, we found our guide, Larsen, who looked like he belonged in a grumpier version of Baywatch and we hopped on our boat. We bounced around the waves until we arrived at the “Islas Ballestas” off the southern coast to see a white colored island covered head to toe in bird dung. A mixture of boobies, cormorants, Inca turns and of course a waddling group of a dozen Humboldt penguins greeted us along with a raft full of researchers and conservationist studying the species faeces. What a lovely job! We toured the islands and were bombarded with bird crap along the way. We ended our journey and sped off into the distance. As we did so, the driver pointed at a pair of eyes bobbling eyes stared at us. “Awwwwww! What a lovely seal.” the crowd exclaimed in uni sim. The driver, unphased by its cuteness, didn’t make and attempt to swerve and ran the helpless creature over turning our once “Awwwwww!” into an “ Aaaaaaaaaah!”