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Flashback Friday: Beautiful Beasties

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

Here we go, this week's nerdy obsession! Along with all my other fascinations, I really enjoy the many beasties with whom we share the world. I seek out bioparks, wildlife sanctuaries, and other (ethical, cruelty-free) animal experiences wherever I travel. This has resulted in excursions along questionable roads, expeditions into rainforests, trudges across muddy, sheep-sh!t covered fields, and untold hours crouched uncomfortably in inhospitable swamps or laying flat on the ground above a cliff. It also explains how photos of elephants belong in amongst those of the Canadian wilderness! Since I plan to travel to Africa within the next couple of years, I'm going to refrain from using this post for pictures of African animals in bioparks in England, Spain, Italy, and Canada but here's a very small sample of some of critters that have delighted me along the way.

Some of these animals are iconic of their country. Who doesn't love a Highland Cow (hee-lund coo)? These shaggy beasties were often seen in Scotland.

A visit to Iceland gave us many encounters with the gorgeous Icelandic horses. I thoroughly enjoyed a riding excursion while visiting. I was blown away by the smoothness of the unique tölt gait.

On the Greek island of Hydra, cars and motorcycles are forbidden. The only motor vehicles permitted are the garbage carts. Like many island communities, it is small but very hilly. The local taxi service is a "fleet" of donkeys.

An excursion into the Sahara allowed us to experience another type of animal transportation. We were highly amused by the antics of this young camel as she complained loudly to her mother and her keeper about the slow fruit service before suddenly dropping to the ground in a deep sleep.

I've enjoyedphotographing various beasties in and around water. Good ol' Tripod the Caiman kept a close eye on us but had obviously recently enjoyed a good meal. The week I spent on this Amazon expedition was full of exciting animals every day, all day.

On tours in Iceland and Newfoundland, I was able to see humpback and mink whales in the chilly Atlantic waters. The humpbacks stayed close and put on a great display of their feeding habits. They were much more satisfying to watch than my local orcas, but I suspect that is because of how often I've been able to see orcas in my area of the world.

River otters are also fairly common locally but these Peruvian river otters were incredibly aggressive in protecting their den. The entire bevy chased and harassed a fleeing and bleeding caiman. There was none of the cute playful behaviour I have become accustomed to seeing here in local waters. This fellow was trying to intimidate us in the boat.

While watching the otters, the putrid odour of skunk drifted by. Our guide directed us to look up to see the "skunk chicken" or hoatzin. Its main defence is its stink. Predators avoid them and the local people say the meat tastes like it smells and causes a lingering body odour. We were told of a young lad who was banished from his village for the week it took to clear his system.

Baby animals are always adorable.

I think, however, one of my favourite encounters was in Costa Rica while on a G-Adventures tour. We were travelling between destinations when the driver pulled to the side of the road because he thought he spotted a sloth low enough for some good viewing. I moved away from the group to see if I could get a better view of the area he was indicating. I leaned against a tree to steady my camera when I realized this fella was literally inches from me on the same tree.

Sadly, in some locations I travel the beasties most often encountered are feral cats and dogs. In Central and South America I notice dogs, but in Greece there are huge numbers of wild cats feeding from garbage bins, grabbing fishing scraps, and begging for handouts. Although the kittens are enchanting, it's a truly heartbreaking situation. I was delighted to recently see a Netflix show called "Cat People" and learned of a cat sanctuary, called God's Little People Cat Rescue located on the Cycladic island of Syros, not far from Paros, where I took this photo. They are doing good work.

Another week has passed. I hope everyone has fabulous plans for the weekend, whether that is chilling and relaxing or getting out and exploring. Our terrible rains have stopped and we're hoping repairs will be able to move along rapidly. Non-essential travel by land to other areas of Canada continues to be impossible. Planning for a January Jaunt heading south is coming along nicely but I am wondering if that will happen now that governments are again adding travel restrictions. Springtime dreams for Europe and beyond are beginning to be considered as I continue to watch border restrictions with crossed fingers. I am motivated to plan and research future travel which is sure to include many more encounters with beasties. Like, share, and comment to let me know you are enjoying the content. All those shares really help me to build the audience and connect with other travellers. Become a member to receive notifications of new content, a monthly newsletter, and access to our member's-only forum, The Ramblers Refuge.

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