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Travel Feature

A World Traveler’s Lament: Monkey See, Monkey Probably Not Do

A media hullaballoo was stirred this week at the Cincinnati Zoo. A longtime gorilla resident named Harambe [which, ironically, means in Swahili, “all pull together” — as in communal action for social benefit] was shot and killed when a three-year-old boy snuck past a railing and fell into a watery moat in the gorilla’s enclosure. Eastern and Western gorillas — and a further subdivision of four or five subspecies — are the largest living primates, with DNA very similar to our own.

In terrestrial zoology, gorillas are ground-dwelling, mostly herbivorous, apes that inhabit the central African forests. They have been unjustly slandered as being brutish, as when people call a shambling, loutish big male an “ape.” In the wild, gorillas are said to live 35 to 40 years. But in captivity, despite what appears to be ferocious resentment and acting-out episodes, they have been seen to live 50 to 60 years. So Harambe could have lived maybe another 40 years had zoo officials not rushed to fell him.

New video footage of the 17-year-old silverback suggests he was trying to protect the three-year-old who fell into the zoo enclosure just minutes before the 400-pound animal was fatally shot.

For a few moments, Harambe and the boy had held hands, and footage shows Harambe was indeed being protective of the boy, not aggressive. There are now significant questions as to whether the gorilla needed to be shot. Zoo officials said that a tranquilizer may have taken too long to take effect, had there been imminent danger to the child. Protests are already up and running against the shooting.

So our treatment of animals is in the public eye again.

I somewhat share the sadness and grief of our poor treatment of primates, our close cousins, as well as intelligent animals such as elephants, dolphins, whales; I would include another favorite, giraffes, all of whom require huge acreage to feel at home, to feed, forage and thrive.

I also believe, as does the writer of this NY Times piece — that, in the future, we will regard the current-day treatment of these sentient beings with huge discomfort and embarrassment.
 
Who doesn’t love seeing animals in the wild? I have been to Africa eight times, but a zoo, for all its convenience, is a prison of hopelessness in many cases. It is rare to find a zoo that does not enrage and defeat the spirits of these noble creatures. One exception is the wonderful San Diego Zoo with its large roaming spaces, though, in fact, there’s never enough space for the needs of mega-fauna.

In China I saw domestic dogs caged in zoos, and the Westerner's heart broke for the evident senselessness and cruelty. These loving companion animals do not warrant a cage.
 
The killing of the mature gorilla this weekend may have been necessary to save the life of the child who invaded its cage-space but I still believe they could have tranquillized the animal rather than killing it (though not being there, I can’t tell).

In any case, a full-grown gorilla is in a sense sacred. There is not a huge oversupply of these magnificent near-humans. They are being hunted and shot and “accidented” out of existence, their numbers steadily dwindling. It is estimated that there are some 150,000 to 200,000 left in the wild, numbers notably reduced from a century ago, when habitat was less invaded, less violated by hunters, and assuredly less “touristified.”
 
In years to come, when more research is done, we will know much more of the intelligence of these creatures given us by a beneficent Deity. Our magnanimity to them will enlarge. Perhaps the zoos will be emptier, but larger. And the inhabitants of these zoos will be less afflicted and diseased, wracked with sores and grieving expressions.
 
Satisfying, to me, is the flamboyantly fabulous aquarium in Dubai's largest mall and hotel complex. There is an enormous depth of voluminous water, and thousands of genera of fish and mammalia, all fed steadily to avoid cannibalism of some of the species who would eat each other if not provided food.

I loved the vastness of the swim-space — hundreds of feet deep — which afforded the species room to circle and dive and explore and propagate. I know fish have split-second memories, but the kindness of the aquarium's capacity cheered the children and adult viewers, instinctually.
 
Zoos need to be like that, too -- expansive enough to let the animal's nature not be constricted and bruised for all his barred and minimized life.
 
This is not to say we should all be in court clamoring for Raymour & Flanigan bedroom suites for chimps, or the latest tablets for orangutans. But a measure of empathy and kindness would not be out of place for humans as they regard those less free than we.

Three Things You Need to Know About Biking in NYC

 

Honestly, if you live in New York City, you don’t need to drive — you don’t even need a driver’s license. However, if taxis are nowhere around (because you don’t live in Manhattan) or the only way you can get somewhere is by bus (because you don’t live in Manhattan), then having a bike can be helpful.

There are a few rules of the road you'll need to know before you get on two wheels, though:

1. Everyone Hates You

You’re riding down a busy intersection, fearing that that person texting to your left won’t see you and will cut you off. You, being the more alert and safer one, slow down and go on the curb to avoid getting hit. A pedestrian then shouts, “Sidewalks are for people.” You are filled with rage and adrenaline and yell, “Then what am I?” Now you continue on your route, feeling pleased with your well-timed comeback, all while avoiding danger.

The thing is, people hate bikers for no reason. Drivers get angry because they can’t make those illegal turns or speed up with you around. Pedestrians will never understand that you’re on the sidewalk for a total of five seconds and you have better coordination than their multitasking selves can handle.

And even then, they can never understand that you’re taking a safer route than crossing a very dangerous road (like Queens Boulevard, coincidentally named the “Boulevard of Death”).   

2. Idiots Will Be Idiots

No seriously, go ahead and make that illegal turn. Sure, it’s OK for you to cut through a gas station to save 30 seconds at the red light. No, why would I be mad if you double-parked when there was a completely empty spot available literally right behind you?

The first thing you’ll learn while biking is that the stupidity level of people is just off the charts.

You would think that that people would have learned something from their driving test or mandatory five-hour class, but that’s only a dream. I am convinced that the DMV only passes people with sob stories and anyone who pays them a fee.
 
Sooner or later, you will realize that if you worked for the police, you would hand out enough tickets to get New York state out of debt. For now, you’ll have to live with the people who refuse to signal and the jaywalkers who believe it’s OK for them to walk at a red light but it’s illegal for cars and bikes.
 
3. It’s Free Exercise and Transportation in One!

I’ve just told you why it sucks to bike ride in any city, but let me tell you why it’s amazing. You sail on by joggers, dog walkers, pedestrians, drivers, motorcyclists, and boarders. When you weigh the pros and cons of it all, biking is technically the best form of exercise and transportation. You get to places faster, you use muscles not used in other transportation modes, and you even get to rest and still go places. You basically are “fun exercising.”

Former Mayor Bloomberg caught onto this fact, and took the initiative to make New York City healthier. More bike lanes, stairs, food ratings, calorie counts, anything to do with smoking, trans fats, salts, and more.

And those are the ones that got passed, not like the infamous soda bans and taxes on sugary drinks. The best part? New Yorkers hated him but loved his initiatives.

What am I saying? Take a walk instead of a bus for three blocks, or ride a bike that mile to the shopping center. It’s way better than sitting down across someone who just won’t stop staring at you in that creepy way.

Or even when there’s no subway to a place that’s five miles away, just take the bike out and ride. The main thing is, biking places is so much easier since you’re reliant on yourself to get somewhere, you are getting there quicker by avoiding traffic, and you’re helping the environment as well as your body.

Addendum:

For the drivers out there — learn to follow the rules of the road, and hope you learn that those three seconds you save speeding or cutting people could cost someone a life.

Travelscapes: Coastal Carolina is Calling

For a small charming city, North Carolina’s Wilmington has produced a lot of famous people. 

Welcome To WilmingtonAmong the names that can be found on the local Walk of Fame includes basketball legends Michael Jordan and Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon; NFL quarterbacks Roman Gabriel and Sonny Jurgensen; tennis pioneer Althea Gibson; country music star Charlie Daniels; revered newscaster David Brinkley; actor Pat Hingle; and motion picture producer Frank Capra, Jr. 

Capra, who died in 2007, was the son of legendary film director Frank Capra. One of the reasons that Wilmington became known as Hollywood East was because of his tireless work bringing in productions. Tax credits and a rather balmy climate (it’s about as north as you can get and still find palm trees) also helped. 

Past CW Network television shows such as Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill were filmed there as well as the recent CBS’s summer primetime sci-fi soap opera, Under The Dome. Films that were shot here include Iron Man 3, We’re The Millers, and The Conjuring. A good way to learn about Wilmington’s place in the entertainment world is to take a 90-minute tour with Hollywood Location Walk

The film and television industry has also favored Wilmington because of zoning ordinances that have helped the town maintain its 19th century look. A 30-minute carriage ride with Horsedrawn Tours (they use rescued Percheron draft horses and don’t have to face the political scrutiny that Central Park operators have) is a great way to appreciate the city’s antebellum homes and other historic buildings.

Wilmington was settled by European Americans along the Cape Fear River. Its historic downtown has a one-mile-long Riverwalk, originally developed as a tourist attraction, and in 2014 Wilmington's riverfront — which was named the "Best American Riverfront" by USA Today — is minutes away from nearby beaches. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Wilmington, North Carolina, as one of its 2008 Dozen Distinctive Destinations.

City residents live between the river and the ocean, with four nearby beach communities: Fort Fisher, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach, all within half-hour drives from downtown Wilmington.

So Cape Fear figures prominently in many local institutions.

Although Wilmington doesn’t have a zoo or aquarium, it does have the Cape Fear Serpentarium which houses a very large collection of reptiles that include crocodiles, vipers, snakes, anacondas, and iguanas. Next door to the Serpentarium is the appropriately named Museum of the Bizarre which contains numerous film props and circus sideshow exhibits. 

The Cape Fear Museum of History details how Wilmington was affected by both the American Revolution and the Civil War. There is also a display case of Michael Jordan’s memorabilia from his days at both Laney High School and the University of North Carolina.

There is a touch of New York in Wilmington. The city’s Forest Hills section is named after Queens’ Forest Hills Gardens and there are many Tudor homes on its tree-lined streets.

There are plenty of reasonable places to stay in downtown Wilmington and the fairly new Courtyard by Marriott gives good value and has a great location. You can get a filling southern breakfast a block away at Basics restaurant.

Other eateries such as The Pilot House and Boca Bay are terrific fine dining seafood restaurants. If you prefer a more  informal setting, try Shuckin’ Shack which is obviously known for its oysters.

Wrightsville Beach, located on the Atlantic Ocean, is situated five miles east of Wilmington. There are plenty of hotels which aren’t operated by chains but are instead family-run businesses. A good example is the Blockade Runner Resort which opened just over 50 years ago and reminds you of those fun Catskills Mountains hotels from yesteryear particularly around breakfast time with its plentiful buffet. The Blockade Runner offers sailing and surfing lessons. Summer lasts a lot longer here and you can hit the waves without turning blue almost up to Thanksgiving

The boats from Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours dock right across the street from the Blockade Runner and pretty much guarantee that you can see a few dolphins on its 90-minute cruise. Just down the road from the hotel is the Bluewater Grille where you can enjoy terrific cuisine on a pier that juts out into the Atlantic.

Brunswick County’s Sunset Beach is located 45 minutes south of Wilmington and it’s just a half-hour north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. You can easily jog or ride your bike on Sunset Beach because of its tightly packed sand. There are also aviary and turtle sanctuaries here. 

The Sea Trail Resort located on the inland side of Sunset Beach has three championship courses but it also caters to the novice golfer thanks to the staff’s excellent instructors who are led by Raymond Reyes.

One drawback to Wilmington is that it has limited air service to our area. 

However, North Carolina’s capital, Raleigh, is an easy two-hour drive northwest on I-40 and there is JetBlue service between JFK and there. Raleigh is also a fun place to visit with its plentiful free museums. 

There’s a free bus route “(the “R-line”) that takes you to almost any place that you need to go. And Glenwood, a lively entertainment district situated there in Raleigh, features a lot of restaurants including the just-opened Raleigh Beer Garden. A fairly new Hampton Inn is located here as well.

For more info on Wilmington log onto wilmingtonandbeaches.com or call (877) 406-2356.

For more on Sunset Beach, try ncbrunswick.com or call 910-755-5517.

And to start exploring Raleigh go to: visitraleigh.com or call 800-849-8499.

 

The Legend of Norman Carr & One of the Greatest Safari Sightings Ever!

It would be the luck of the Gods to stumble upon a feisty young male elephant who would miraculously fend off a pride of 14 female lions on a Norman Carr safari in Zambia. It would be a battle for the ages... but not the death. And the video would go viral on YouTube and inspire close to a half a billion eyes in over 120 countries, all who've watched this extraordinary footage, a feel-good story with a happy ending. A rarity these days.

And now, for the first time, here is the true back-story of what actually happened that led up to this extraordinary sighting. One not soon to be forgotten.
 
Throughout my entire career, one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had as a journalist -- and in my life -- has been going on safari. Since 1994, I’ve been on some of the most memorable safari trips in six countries, some that might even impress some of the most experienced guides and adventure travelers. At times, surrounded by celebrity, though it never diminished the experience. Surreal moments like hot air ballooning with the likes of Zigfriend & Roy, or being chased by elephants with supermodel Naomi Campbell, watching rhino mating with actor James Earl Jones, Iman, Grace Jones, and the late Lord Lichfield. All well-documented by various newspapers and news agencies over the years. You see, fame means nothing in the bush. Fame has no influence over The Big Five. And I have the tales to prove it.  

48 Nsolo Shaddy Batwell BWAfter over 200 safari drives from as far away as Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Zanzibar, I thought I’d seen, not all, but more than most. And I guess I had. But even with so much history behind me, there was more to be made. For you see, little did I know one of the greatest sightings of all time was to come. One that would grab the attention of the world.  

Norman Carr is considered to be the father of Eco-community based tourism in Zambia. Born in Malawi, he was then sent to England to complete his education, and returned at age seventeen. Within a few years, he became an elephant control officer for then Northern Rhodesia.

During WWII, Carr served as an officer with the Kings African Rifles. The experience would change Carr forever. This is when he came up with the concept of walking safaris where people could smell and touch the Earth, and photograph animals and money would go directly to the local communities, one that would evolve into incomes and go to the African people. For the first time, visitors would shoot with cameras -- instead of guns.   

Without a doubt, Norman Carr's spirit still lives on vibrantly in South Luangwa Park where his Chinzombo Camp exists, and most of his ashes are scattered.  

We came to pay our respects. Literally a stone's throw from our sighting, there he lies, buried under a simple grave stone, with a safari-worn bronze plaque that reads: "May he rest in peace here in the spirit of the park which will forever be his monument." Ole Norman's spirit must have been hanging around the park that day. I can just see him talking to the bush Gods, going, "These people seem like nice folk. Let's give them a really good show!"

And he did not disappoint.

The shocking vision of 14 lions on top of this poor 8 year-old male elephant brought to its knees, had us writhing in emotional pain. "Oh no! Oh no!" is all our guide, Innocent, could exclaim. We thought we were going to see the most horrific kill one could imagine. Instead, we saw one of the greatest battles of any safari in any century.  

 

 

"Hercules" would be the elephant's name. Mindy Roberts, the young lady who keeps Norman Carr Safaris at the top of its game, would get the honor of naming him. And history would be made.

Long Island University Art Professor, Dan Christoffel, Australian journalist, Nina Karikowa, and UK naturalist Steve Baker would join me and we would forever be bonded by this defining moment. Who knew that right beyond Norman Carr's grave we would all bear witness to this shocking sight of 14 lions pummeling this young turk. And we would be transformed.

When you watch the video, you can hear both Steve Baker and I overcome with emotion. "Where are those other bloody elephants!" Baker would exclaim. And he was right. Till this day, we have no idea as to how this youngster got separated from his herd. Sometimes young male elephants wander away from the main herd to test themselves and act as young males do! Normally, if a herd of elephant are nearby, they would have come charging to defend -- to the death, if necessary -- one of their own. But they were nowhere in sight. And they would not come to help this poor animal.

Walking with purposeIn Zambia, they call November "Suicide Month." With temperatures sometimes as hot as 120 degrees fahrenheit, the rains are so desperately needed. The river beds are at their lowest point, some bone dry. And until the rains come, well, the animals get a bit crazy. And that's what makes this sighting all the more extraordinary. It's the feel-good story of the year. To watch this young elephant use every instinct it had to fend off this very hungry pride -- was a miracle in the making.  

Although the elephant got away, a cape buffalo an hour later had a much worse fate. The African sun had already set but we could hear the animal crying out in the distance. The following morning we would find the massive animal's corpse, picked to the bone.

Since the sighting, according to Roberts, Hercules has been sighted by sighted multiple times reunited with his herd. A miracle to be savored.

Norman Carr: Creating A Legacy

With his love and vast accumulated knowledge and deep respected relationships with government officials, Norman Carr created a legacy. He would set up National Parks where Princes and Dukes would visit and tell the world of this man who created something beyond.  “A Beyond” of natural wonders  to be experienced and savored. Travelers would  tell friends. And they would all come. And soon safaris would be a way of life for this new country, Zambia, in 1964, which just celebrated it's 50th anniversary. It would be right before his retirement in 1950 that Carr would set up his first tourist safari camp. And Kapani, which still exists today, was the last camp he built just outside the Luangwa Valley National Park, a national park originally initiated by him. It would be his final home from 1986 thru 1997.

After studying numerous photos of Norman Carr, it's easy to gain insight into this incredible man’s world. There can be no doubt that Norman Carr was an extraordinary person. If a word could describe the qualities and essence of his complex character it would be "humanity." Through all his activities, in all his works, he insisted that all the safari’s activities benefit the people of the South Luangwa and Zambia. This remains the  residue  of his influence, and the essence of Norman Carr Safari s today. The schools he created are still very active today and are always in need of support.

In fact, close to $10,000 USD has been raised for a local Zambian school fund from the footage. We know Norman Carr would be proud. Even now, I'm sure he's looking over us, smiling broadly, waiting for our return so he can share even more safari magic with us. We wouldn't miss it for the world.

Other Norman Carr Safari Camps:

Mchenja



Mchenja has one of the most glorious camp settings right on the banks of the Luangwa River. There are five specially designed octagonal tents that each have their own private en-suite open air bathrooms and Victorian style baths  with river views. Luxurious, elegant, stylish and overlooking a sweeping bend in the Luangwa, it is a stunning landscape to behold.   

Mchenja means "ebony" and you are surrounded by ebony trees. In fact, the lounge is built around one of the old fallen ebony trees where guests come to cool off in the camp’s plunge pool. Brunch is regularly served in the shady lounge but dinner is more spectacular -- often served on the river bank under the stars.

NCS Mchenja 2013-31.1You have walking safaris or game drives where wildlife is abundant. On our first game drive alone, we came across a kill of a cape buffalo by a pride of seven female lions still feeding along with 10 river crocodiles, an attempted kill of two cape buffalo by another pride of lions on the river bed, a leopard on the hunt and a huge heard of 60+ elephant seeking water for drinking and bathing.

Our safari guide, Aubrey Njobvu, proved to be very knowledgeable and inspiring adding to the sense of adventure. We were in safe and reliable hands, one of the key positive highlights of a Norman Carr Safari camp.  

Chongwe Safaris

Chongwe Safaris is one of the oldest and most reputable companies in the Lower Zambezi. Established in 1996, the safari camps are located in one of the best locations in the Lower Zambezi. There are four camps in a variety of settings including the confluence of the mighty Zambezi and Chongwe Rivers and opposite the renowned Mana Pools and a private island in the middle of the Zambezi River.

The camps are Chongwe River Camp,Tsika Island, Kasaka River Lodge or private Chongwe River House. At all four there plenty of activities including canoeing, fishing (fly and popper), boat safaris,
day and night game drives and walking safaris.

Chongwe River Camp -- Tented Camp: There are 9 tents strung out along the Chongwe River that have the best views in the Lower Zambezi. You can look over grazing lawns with a view of the mountains to one side and the Zambezi River to the other. Huge elephants always walk through camp, eating the winterthorn seed pods like candy. I know this, personally, as I literally had a regular male walk up behind me unknowingly while I fiddled with my cell phone trying to get on the internet. Yes, the internet is dangerous!

There are two luxury tent suites that occupy prime position at the confluence of the Chongwe with the Zambezi, offering a completely private, butler-serviced accommodation and dining options. Bedrooms in both suites are created from spacious colonial-style tents with plunge pool, fire bit and outdoor bathrooms.

Chongwe River House: Definitely one of the happier safari camps we've ever visited with huge open spaces, curving walls with branches inside, large open and private sitting areas, waterfall showers, pebble ceilings, inside waterfall, stunning views and completely exclusive and private with your own chef, guides, vehicles and hosts. Unique. Bold. Natural. Special magic. Private.

Kakuli Bush Camp

Kakuli is a tented camp with spectacular views of the Luangwa River. It is the only true bush camp that stays open almost all year when the green rainy season arrives.

Kakuli means "old buffalo bull," and was an effectionate nickname give to ole Norman Carr himself by the local people of the Valley. 
   
 
 08 NCS1There are four traditional walk-in safari tents each with en-suite bathrooms made with natural materials. The bar and dining chitenje (lounge) is constructed of reed and thatch forming the centre point of camp. The entire camp is on an elevated stretch of river bank overlooking a wide grazing lawn which follows the Luangwa River until it meets the confluence of the Luwi River.

A lovely thatched chitenje acts as the centre of camp. It is on a wooden deck overlooking the grazing lawn that leads down to the two rivers and is a perfect spot in which to relax and watch the wildlife meander by; the views from Kakuli are spectacular. This area of Luangwa Park offers guests some of the best gameviewing opportunities in all of Zambia. Again, you can go by foot or by with a vehicle.


What's most spectacular here is when the rainy season arrives, better known as the Rivers and Rainbows green season where you can go on a boating safari as the rivers are full and you have an entirely different safari experience. It is when the region comes alive and you have vibrant green colors that will remain in your memory banks forever. 

Again, Aubrey Njobvu is there to guide you. He is also the manager of this camp and no one knows better than he the resident pride of lions, leopards, wildlife habits and hidden wonders around Kakuli that await you.

For more information, go to: http://www.timeandtideafrica.com/

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