Africa, America, Countries

World Ppppenguin Day

They take their work seriously in Orlando, so much so they take their penguins home with them. So I expect their handler will be holding a house pppparty today for World Ppppenguin Day.

African penguins in the Eastern Cape

The penguins’ handler at SeaWorld Orlando showed his love for his ppppals when he showed us around their ppppen on my first visit to SeaWorld.

The lonely penguin: In the Eastern Cape, South Africa

I shared the story with the newbies on my second trip out there about how the gas station attendant was taken aback when he saw the penguins in the front seat of the handler’s car.

But he confirmed it when we visited the enclosure.

I smell ppppoo

Now we all think we know penguins and we will certainly have fond memories of feeding them at the zoo.

But it is only when you are up close and personal with them that they reveal their true selves.

On your shoe with a white gooey mess… yes, their droppings are white.

C’mhere you

And that will mean that they won’t be able to spot their ppppals’ ppppoo on the ice.

Visitors to the enclosure keep a safe distance, of course, which is just as well.

Because it’s blinking cold and also rather smelly.

Ppppersonal hygiene pppplease

But what they lack in ppppersonal hygiene (and after stomping around the park in the searing heat I’m one to talk), they make up for in cuteness.

And if you just take a deep breath it’s well worth it to get that money shot snuggling up to Pingu.

The other thing about penguins which is worth mentioning in the times in which we are living is that you could never get them to social distance.

Maybe it’s the cold which makes them cosy up to each other.

Pppport Elizabeth

They do in their thousands too on St Croix in Port Elizabeth where I had the privilege of seeing them in their natural environment.

It is there in South Africa’s Eastern Cape that you’ll find the largest African penguin colony in the world.

And again you want to be careful what you eat before you get on your boat because the waters around the island can be choppy.

Raggy Charters will do their best to chart a calm course but that’s just nature for you.

And perhaps bobbing along and watching the dolphins rise and fall around you through the spray just adds to the motion on the ocean sickness.

But then they do say ‘no pain, no gain’ and it is certainly a boat journey and an experience you’ll never forget.

So pppparty on for World Ppppenguin Day.

 

America, Countries

Oh Coral I am but a fool

Oh Coral I am but a fool but how can you keep your eyes on the ocean floor in goggles and a tube?

You see in life some of us are snorkellers while the rest, like me, are flappers.

If you’re a snorkeller you float like a jellyfish on the surface of the sea.

Reef top display

If you’re a flapper you thrash around like an extra in Jaws.

And in minutes your mind will be shouting for a rest which is when you commit the ultimate coral crime.

And stand (and) kill the life on the ocean floor off the Maldives.

We’ve been down this snorkHELL before through my misadventures in Barbados, Tobago and Jordan.

Turtle recall: I’ve seen you around

But I know, and respect, how important the coral is to us, and what the likes of the Florida Coral Rescue Center are doing for us and what lives under the sea.

SeaWorld and Disney Conservation are in board the initiative to save it.

While the coral is at risk from you and me it is also fighting off a deadly infection, stony-coral tissue loss disease.

And the Center has rescued coral from non-infected reef.

Now, I won’t blind you with their science, or the sex talk.

Only to say that the action group which runs out of Orlando is keeping true to the ethos of what the city was built on.

That all the living things who allow us to share this Earth with them come first.

SeaWorld Orlando and Disney are all about the thrills and spills.

But to preserve what we have then they, and we, know that animals and fishies are great in fluffy costumes.

And just as cool in their natural environs.

 

America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

WTM Holiday Snaps and a beautiful wrap Donald

And the last word is from Donald, a bit of a scoop from your favourite Travel blog.

While the rest of the world has been trying to talk to the Big Mouth we got him… well, we are old pals.

And Donald has a message for the world: ‘I love you all and I want you all to come and see me again soon in America.’

The Happiest Place on Earth is now also the Safest on Earth with reservations, social distancing, alternate rollercoast carts and new hospitality measures.

While Mickey, Minnie, Donald and the Gang aren’t about to let the virus turn their smile into a smell.

And are dancing, waving and welcoming us all in their own inimitable way.

Watch this space for new Disney features coming along soon.

While Visit Orlando also flagged up what’s happening up at Universal Orlando and particularly their Jurassic World feature.

All of which, and SeaWorld and Busch Gardens I’ll give you a taster of what’s in store… in my rollercoaster whizz around Florida.

Golden vision: Florida Kets

I had all planned to take a whizz around the Florida Keys before the other Donald closed America off in March but hope to put that right when I get the chance.

And it’s those areas with natural distancing like the Keys and island nations (and yes a lesson here to the UK and Ireland too) who have an advantage.

Sail away in Croatia

Water wonderland

And when you’ve got 1200 islands then there’s ‘one for everyone in the audience.’

As they like to say in the world’s longest-running TV chat show, Ireland’s The Late Late Show, or whatever the Croatian equivalent is.

But here is a country which, as a Balkans state, dealt better than the rest of Europe with the virus.

And which is perfectly placed to host the tourist’s new requirements during and post-Covid.

One area is in small boat holidays and yachting around the islands, another adventure in the Great Outdoors.

Kayak attack: In Croatia

My go-to people in Ireland for Croatia are Croatia Tours, and I went on pilgrimage with them to neighbouring Bosnia & Herzegovina where I started out on the road to Dubrovnik.

They have a seven-days Rivers by the Sea package, making the most of where the area where the Krka River enters the Adriatic, on June 26 £1255pp.

Where you’ll get to sea kayak, cycle, canoe, rock climb, hike and raft.

The Tuscan Islands

And Firenze too

We’ll also be spreading our wings more next year even when we do visit our favourite cities.

And that’ll help hotspots like Firenze breathe as we explore greater Tuscany, its adventure trails, cycling opportunities and thermal waters.

And its seven islands, chief among them Elba, the first island of exile for Napoleon, and Montecristo, it of Alexandre Dumas’ Count.

Able was I ere I saw Elba.

As every schoolchild, well, at least those of  certain age and lexical bent, will tell you.

And Tuscany was, and is, ere able to thrive in ‘il novo normal’.

And, of course, the Caribbean

Daddy’s Little Girl, as all our little girls do these days, is wont to show me amusing things she finds on the internetty thing.

And one we both find funny is a Jamaican tour guide who extols the benefits of inhaling the island’s plants.

I grab every chance to hook up with my Caribbean friends, Barbados, Tobago, Anguilla (heck, all of them) albeit these days over Zoom, if only to hope that I can draw some sun out from the screen.

And as usual their warmth came flowing us out as they reminded us that in their island their neighbourliness has helped them through this crisis and referred in passing to London where ‘people don’t know their neighbours but had been getting to know each other this year.’

Los Filipinos

For those of us too who in the second half of the century of years some of us are blessed to live, our cultural touchpoint for the Phillipines is the Thrilla in Manila, the nation’s capital which hosted Ali-Frazier III.

And of course the Philippines are knockout and our old friends at G Adventures are all over it.

Manila is on the island of Luzon, one of 7,641 in the archipelago.

And you’ll not be surprised to learn then that out of 7,641 islands that it should have boasted the world’s most beautiful island, courtesy of Conde Nast Traveler in 2016.

The exotically-named Atty. Maria Anthonette C.Velasco-Allones, the Tourism Promotions Board’s COO has an equally lyrical way about her.

As she described her islands and what they have to offer.

‘When the dark night is over and the sun rises, wake up in the Philippines.

 

 

 

 

 

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Ireland, the friendliest place in Europe

Forget about that ridiculous ubiquitous Ed Sheeran,, Country star Steve Earle’s Galway Girl is the definitive tribute.

Some of my earliest longings and fumblings were for Galway girls, on holiday to a Salthill mobile home park.

Of course, in the late 70s and early 80s, the tradition for awkward, gawky Glaswegians was to sit in the corner and well, just gawk at the girls.

The Salthill Strand

Galway, this year’s European Capital of Culture, tops a Conde Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards list of favourite cities.

And they’ll just love beating Dublin into second place.

The two Irish cities push the jewel of the Med, Valletta, into third.

The Maltese city boasts, for me, the most gorgeous harbour in the world.

And memories… I bent down there to tie my shoelaces 26 years ago, Miss F shouted Yes and one year later became the Indomitable Mrs M.

While my readopted city of Edinburgh also makes it onto the list at No.7 and the epic Athens at No.9.

Green Mickey

Ears to you, Mickey

Maybe y’all missed No Coal Burning Mickey, the eco-friendly alternative to Steamboat Willie, but Da Mouse is right on point with cleaning up the planet.

Mickey has come out on top of an Uswitch eco-friendly poll of the leading tourist spots around the world.

Who knew? Well, you do now.

Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney in Florida boasts a 270-acre 50+megawatt solar facility which operates enough sun to operate two Disney parks.

The solar facility has the power to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 52,000 metric tons.

Which is equivalent to removing 9,300 cars from the road each year.

Of course the warmest thing you can get at Magic Kingdom is a Mickey hug. And here’s to when we can all repeat this.

And, of course, his is a hug that wraps around the world, from Florida to California, to Paris, to Hong Kong.

All our old faves are on the poll, Niagara Falls, our pals at Universal, Universal Studios Orlando, Universal Studios Hollywood and SeaWorld Orlando.

And the others we’ll get round to when we…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Adventure, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

The travel pack… we (you, me and the turtles) came from the sea

If I could talk to the animals, learn all their languages, maybe take an animal degree, I’d study elephant and eagle, buffalo and beagle, Alligator, guinea pig and flea – Bobby Davro

And this is one I’ve been thinking on, and I’m possibly spurred on my old pal, Ireland’s Travel Writer of the Year Isabel Conway of Travel Times.

She is walking in Kinsale, Co. Cork for endangered animals. Although while she’s doing something I’m more Mr Do Little than Dr Doolittle.

So to launch this series (and I’ll try and stick to this one this time) I’m starting at the beginning…

Where we came from, the sea, and celebrate all things who live there, big and small, colourful and grey, beautiful and those who only a mother could love. First off turtles…

Turtley Japanese

It’s easier when they come to the surface

Yakushima, Japan: Now my first issue in getting to know our old friends from the sea is that I’m not a great swimmer, and an even rubbisher snorkeller.

And more of that later but here’s how you can see a sea turtle without even getting your feet wet.

The rainforest island of Yakushima, off Kyushu‘s southern coast, is home to the largest spawning grounds for loggerhead turtles in the North Pacific.

Between May and August, more than 500 turtles take over the shores of Inakahama Beach and lay their eggs.

And here’s where it becomes a spectator sport.

Because later in the summer we get to see the newly-hatched infants scramble their way to the ocean.

Turtley Bajan

And we’re limin’ in Barbados

As magical as that sounds you really want to try and dip your toe in the ocean.

And strap on that big rubbery snorkel and mask to the face… and believe me if I can do it you can too.

The first encounter I had with turtles in their natural habitat should have been on my first trip to Barbados.

Only I’d overdone it on the rum, both that early morning at Foreday Morning.

That’s the booze, mud, paint and Soca festival for the locals.

And then on the boat which took us out to meet our heroes in a half-shell.

And so while I did see schools of beautiful fish I never did get to meet Mr Turtle.

Fast forward a year though and I was back and determined to catch me me turtle.

As fate would have it I didn’t just get to shake snorkel and shell with one turtle but two.

I was staying at Club Barbados couples hotel, alas alone…

I had invited the Scary One, perhaps not very clearly.

And maybe when one of her beloved gardening or interior decorating shows was on and she had distractedly said no.

Before coming back at me a few days before I travelled to ask me why she couldn’t come.

Anyhoos I went out solo and found that I was the only single in the hotel… and the ocean.

Like the Scottish buses you wait all day for one, and two come along the same time, Mr and Mrs Turtle.

And because this is a family blog I’m not going to tell you what they were up to.

Turtley Floridian

Paradise Coast

And you’d better bring your fins with you when you go to SeaWorld in Tampa Bay in Florida.

That is where I met me sea turtles that were recuperating (and few better places) before being returned to the sea.

Where they’ll swim for years in a loop from the Atlantic Ocean to North Africa.

Before using magnetic fields to find their way back to within 40 to 50 miles of the beaches where they had been hatched.

And to think that I can’t even get to the end of my road.

Without having to either ask someone for directions or call for a search party.

Hatch of the day

Now again because it’s all about us the turtles have been known to make their way to the nest beaches of Marco Island and Naples.

And those who make it their life’s mission to know and protect our turtle friends say.

That the Paradise Coast at the southernmost tip of Florida is where to go for your turtles.

Turtley Maldives

And here in Kuramathi and its wee sister island the 1.2km Kandolhu you get so close to the turtles they become your friends.

Which obviously means giving them names.

Selma was the superstar in Kuramathi in the Maldives when I visited, well the half-shell superstar.

Her keeper Vanessa, a German from the Black Forest, well away from any sea, is the human superstar as she runs the Island Eco Centre.

If you can snap a new turtle with your Go-Pro camera.

It is left out in your room for you on Kandolhu then you too can adopt a turtle.

Now since us humans are all making such a mess of it since we wriggled out of the seas and evolved.

Into the flawed form we now occupy, wouldn’t it be better if we slithered back into the seas.

Only, the turtles probably prefer us to keep our distance.