Sunday, January 29, 2012


Today I have the pleasure of presenting a guest blog post by my old friend Jan Lewis. Jan is a keen birder who now lives in Broome in the Western Kimberley region of Western Australia. She recently undertook an expedition cruise to Antarctica on MS Expedition operated by GAP Adventures. I think you'll find her words and photos inspiring.

For most of us, visiting Antarctica seems an unachievable dream. But because I was turning 60 last year, I decided to see if getting there was at all possible. Following lots of googling, in November last year I had one of the best adventures I’ve ever had, travelling on a 13 day trip to the Antarctic Peninsula from Ushuaia, the charming Argentinean town at the tip of South America.

I decided to go in November, at the beginning of the season, because I wanted to see frozen landscapes and I got my wish ++. In the afternoon of our second day crossing the Drake Passage, the first huge icebergs appeared, and thereafter we saw many. Huge, blue-striped, table-shaped ones that had broken off ice shelves and smaller wonderfully-sculpted ones that fallen from ice cliffs, all subsequently eroded by waves into strange and beautiful shapes.

For the next 7 days we explored numerous channels and bays between the snow-covered South Shetland Islands and the mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula, gazing in wonder at the cascades of ice that poured down into the sea - just like icing on a wedding cake! Pack ice partly blocked most of the bays and some of the channels, so we had wonderful experiences exploring how far we could get through the ice, thankful that our boat, the MS Expedition, was a lot more manoeuvrable than Shackletons. We also visited a couple of bases, including the old British base of Port Lockroy which has been turned into a museum and post office. In reality we saw only a tiny part of Antarctica - the pointed bit of land that juts north towards South America - but it was enough to get an idea of what the continent is like.

Travelling early in the season means that wildlife is only just returning to the frozen land. There were thousands of penguins – mainly gentoos and chinstaps – porpoising along the channels through the ice made by our boat or congregating on the snow- covered slopes, waiting for the snow to melt so they could claim their nesting spot on the rocks. Small patches where rocks jutted out were hotly contested, with lots of squabbling over the small stones that form the nest, and just a few eggs already laid. Every day there were 2 landings, going from ship to shore in inflatable zodiacs, which yielded several close up encounters with fat, lazy Weddell seas resting on the ice between their deep dives to find food. None had pups but the parents are adorable in their own right. These were the only seal species we saw – my ambition to see a leopard seal remains unfulfilled.

To my surprise, the weather was not the challenge that I expected. Some days an icy wind blew, but 4 layers of thermal or fleece clothing under my coat, a balaclava under my hat and occasional forays into the shelter/warmth of the ship’s bridge or down to the lounge for a cup of cocoa, meant that I was never really cold. Apparently the journey over the Drake Passage can sometimes be a nightmare, but we had a gentle swell in both directions and, on one day, enough sunshine to burn my face (to my surprise I learned that there’s still a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Despite international action on Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the hole is not yet closing – only increasing in size at a slower pace than previously). The flying skills of the birds that followed the boat on that section of the journey, including 4 species of albatross, provided endless fascination – for me at least. I couldn’t believe that some passengers were in the lounge playing Monopoly!

In summary, it was BRILLIANT. Go if you get the chance!

Jan Lewis

For further information on any of the products featured or to make a booking, please call me - Peter Emery on 0449 689 447. Alternatively call Ucango Travel on 1300 822 646 and be sure to ask me me by name, or just drop me an email.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Mountains of the Sea

I'm going to begin with Africa today, South Africa - The Rainbow Nation. That title befits Cape Town more than any other city in this spectacular country. There is history, glorious scenery, great beaches, wildlife galore and some of the best food and wine to be found anywhere in the world. There's accommodation to suit any budget from backpackers to the grandest of grand hotels. No one ever forgets their first glimpse of Table Mountain whether on a glorious clear day with blue African skies or with it's "tablecloth" of cloud draped over it's towering grey cliffs. At well over a thousand metres tall, it dominated the city and as you explore the area your eyes are constantly drawn to it.

A gentleman I know by the name of Steve Bolnick operates a tour company with a difference called "Walk In Africa". They take small groups on spectacular walks through some of this planet's most special scenery on this great continent. Their signature walk is one called "The Mountains of the Sea" Click on the link for details, but there are many others of varying grades depending on your level of fitness.   If this type of adventure appeals to you please contact me. My details are at the foot of this blog.

Okay. A change of scenery now. We'll go the Arctic with Abercrombie & Kent. Everyone know that that name is inextricably link to quality. Now you can travel with them to "The Land of the Polar Bear" aboard the luxury ship MV Boreal. Book by 31 March and save 5%. You can find the prices in the (very long) link below.

This will be a very special expedition. Just look at the itinerary. Don't miss out on this opportunity to see the polar bears. Who knows how much longer they'll be around?

Next it's off to Costa Rica with Kumuka Tours. This is a fantastic eco-tourism destination and this tour is suitable for almost any age from 16 to 65. It's a small group tour with a maximum group size of 16. Accommodation is in hotels and costs, departure dates and a detailed itinerary can be found at the following link. This is a growing destination. Go and see why.

For further information on any of the products featured or to make a booking, please call me - Peter Emery on 0449 689 447. Alternatively call Ucango Travel on 1300 822 646 and be sure to ask me me by name, or just drop me an email.

This weeks wildlife photograph features elephants digging for water in the dry Limpopo River on the border between South Africa and Botswana.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

This week in my new Wildlife and Wilderness blog I'd like to inspire you to try different things. For example, cricket fans might like to consider these packages for the upcoming Australian team's tour of the West Indies. Click on the link below for details.

True, it's not really a traditional wildlife and wilderness destination, but they are beautiful islands, particularly St Vincent. While Guyana on the South American mainland has some fascinating attractions.  Click on this link.

For those of you who enjoy small ship cruising, it's hard to go past Orion. The following link takes you to their website where you will find some truly spectacular "expedition" type cruises to many wildlife and wilderness destinations including Antarctica, Japan, China, the Russian Far East and our own beautiful Kimberley region. Click on this link for details Orion are a quality cruise company and a great alternative for people who want more from a cruise than deck quoits and dancing girls after dinner.

Finally today, I can't resist returning to my favourite continent for this. Wilderness Dawn do fantastic non-participation camping trips through the wildlife wonderland that is Botswana. Comfortable beds and tents, great food, superb guides and magical game viewing. Click on the link below to see their website with details of their tours and prices. (In US dollars.)

For further information on any of the products featured or to make a booking, please call me - Peter Emery on 0449 689 447. Alternatively call Ucango Travel on 1300 822 646 and be sure to ask me me by name, or just drop me an email.

Finally. Today's wildlife photo is a very handsome olive baboon. Samburu National Reserve, Kenya.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wildlife & Wilderness

Firstly I must apologise for leaving you all blog-less for so long. Initially a few family health issues got in the way, and then more recently I was diagnosed with a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) which necessitated  a week's stay in intensive care. Apparently I could have fallen off the perch at any moment, though I felt quite well the whole time. My only symptoms were a slight shortness of breath and mild chest discomfort. Anyway, as far as I'm concerned it gives me an excuse to fly business class next time. The doctor put my condition down to the dozen or so long haul flights in economy class I'd taken over the last three months. So, let that be a warning to you. On your next long haul flight wear your sexy pressure stockings, drink heaps of water, move around and maybe take an aspirin to thin the blood. Better check with your doctor on that last one though.

So, my "On Safari" business is expanding. I now deal with all wildlife and wilderness destinations, broadening my horizons beyond Africa to India, China, South America, Japan, Borneo, Europe and Antarctica. There are so many mouth watering wild places to discover, each with their own unique flora and fauna, culture and history.

I hope to inspire people to visit these wonderful places, to return with tales of amazing adventures with fabulous wildlife, memories of stunning vistas and with the taste of sensational food and wine on their tongues.

So here's a couple of great deals to whet your appetites. Just click on the links below and give me a call on 1300 822 646 - Ask for Peter. Or call me direct on 0449 689 447.