With a newly broken toe, I walked a long trail and climbed 374 steps to the summit of Bartolome Island, which is famous for Pinnacle Rock, a towering obelisk that rises from the shore and is the best known landmark in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. I’d broken my toe when I slipped on a wet boat deck, exhausted from snorkeling in deep water, but I wasn’t going to miss this view even though a storm was rolling in. It started to rainhard as our group made its way down. Amazingly my cameras weren’t damaged. My son took pity on me and carried my heavier camera, and we both protected them as best we could under our shirts. We’d left the camera bags in the boat.
Photographs are powerful souvenirs from trips. When we look at a photo that we’ve taken, we remember so much more than what the photograph seems to reveal. We can relieve the whole experience.
We remember the people we traveled with, even meals we ate that day, the weather, and in my case, the mishaps that occurred while I was taking the photos. Sometimes, it’s easier to remember the injuries than the many more times I escaped unscathed. Anyway, I’m not complaining, because every bug bite, black eye, bruise, scraped knee and broken bone was worth it. I’m lucky I didn’t fall from a cliff or attacked by a wild animal, as has happened to some photographers when they were engrossed in taking a photograph. I’ve had some close calls, such as encountering a tiger snake in Tasmania, Australia, while my friends and I were on a walk. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see and photograph so many wonderful places, animals and people.
As we were driving along a highway in Kauai, Hawaii, my husband pointed out the surfers on this beach, so we stopped, where I took a lot of photographs, including this fabulous sunset over Niihau Island. Afterward, as I was climbing up the rocks to the parking lot, holding a camera in each hand with the straps wrapped around my wrists, I lost my balance and fell on my face. I got a black eye. But I saved my cameras! And look at this photo!
I was so intent on photographing roses at the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden during the Texas Rose Festival that I didn’t notice tiny ants crawling over my bare toes in sandals. The ants looked harmless, but they were fire ants. I brushed them off, but it was too late. Wow, their tiny stings hurt for days! Now I know why Texans favor cowboy boots. Cowboy boots are not just for riding horses.
Look how smart these tourists are wearing their rubber boots as they listen to their guide talk about giant tortoises in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. You can see a giant tortoise in the background on the right. We had just arrived on the Galapagos Islands. It was hot, and I decided against wearing any boots. I thought I’d just wash my flip-flop-clad feet if I stepped into mud. But mud wasn’t the only hazard. As I stood on a trail, I saw tiny ants crawling over my toes. Yes, fire ants again! They’ve invaded the Galapagos Islands! They stung me, and I had to deal with that pain plus sun-burned feet. (And later sun-burned shoulders, too.)
This is the most iconic view of Machu Picchu in Peru. Even though I took a bus up a steep hill to the entrance, there were a lot of steps to reach this point. Normally, I could have easily walked it, but I was still weak from acute altitude sickness in Cusco, which is at an elevation of 11,152 feet. It was a relief to come down to 7,970 feet at Machu Picchu. I happy to make the journey to this magnificent place, even though I felt so weak. Somehow I managed to take a lot of photos!
I have a scar on my knee from scraping my knee when I stepped into a hole at Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge in Mound City, Missouri. I was hurrying to a viewing stand, not paying attention, and found myself on the ground. “Are you ok,” my friend asked as she helped me up. “More importantly, are your cameras ok?” she joked. My knee was scuffed up, but my cameras were fine! We were there to see the more than a million snow geese that visit the refuge as they migrate, shown in my photograph here. Seeing and hearing the rush of those birds as they lifted en masse into the air was a magnificent experience, worth the pain, although next time I’ll be more careful when I walk!
I got scratched by some dried weeds when I took this photograph of a bison cow at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in Kansas. (There was a tall fence between us, so no danger from the bison.) I thought the scratches were all that happened to me until a week later I felt what I thought was a scab on the back of my shoulder. I scratched at it. The scab started walking. It was a tick! I’m sure it crawled on me in that tall grass. For months after that, every time I felt tired or had a headache, I thought I had some kind of tick fever. I even got tested for it, rare for me. Results were negative. Phew!
Sometimes, we venture into dangerous areas, where lions and leopards roam freely, and miraculously leave unscathed. We watched as this Cape Buffalo Bull enjoyed a mud bath in Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa. Guess he didn’t like us spying on us, because after his bath he started our way. His buddy, who had taken the first bath, was watching us from the bushes. Fortunately, it was a stand-off . Our guide backed up the jeep, and we were out of there! Cape Buffalo are dangerous. They can gore you.
My friend Anita recorded this encounter in Tasmania, Australia. I had a crazy notion that I wanted to pet a Tasmanian Devil. The keeper at NatureWorld held this young devil so I could have my wish. “Nice devil, devil,” I said as I stroked him. A young man also wanted to join in. The once calm devil jerked his head around, and growled. You can see the man’s hand pulling back in the bottom photo. I didn’t lose any fingers!
Four of us were on a hike in Tasmania, when Anita saw this very poisonous tiger snake heading our way. For some crazy reason, my husband threw a stick near it, thinking he could scare it away, but that just provoked the snake, which reared up. You never saw four people run so fast in the other direction. We jumped in the car and hurried away.
Because of the weather, the captain of our boat warned us that the trip along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai could be rough and said we could reschedule, but we only had two days left on the island. I’d never been seasick before. How bad could it be? Even though my husband and I took the recommended seasick pills, we both got sick. How sick? I used three buckets! TMI, I know. The swells were seventeen-feet high. We couldn’t even think of eating the sunset dinner buffet. The sun refused to come out from behind the clouds, and we had to put away our cameras, so we didn’t get any close photos of the humpback whales we saw. But it definitely was a memorable trip, even without beautiful photos.
Here’s one of the videos I shot before the seas got really rough. You can see how gloomy it was. You can also see a humpback whale breaching in the distance.
A pride of lions gathers at a carcass of a Cape Buffalo at MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa. The upper left photo: This was our first view of the pride as we drove in an open Land Rover to the lions at the buffalo kill. We had rocked over a very bumpy river bed through high grass, and then suddenly there were the lions about fifteen feet away. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. In the upper right photo, the male adult lion suddenly see us. In the lower left photo, my heart starts beating wildly as the male lion stands up and appears to be coming toward us. In the lower right hand photo, the male lion has plopped down to digest his meal, bored with us — thankfully!
On a recent trip to Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa, my husband and I were lucky to see lions in two prides. The lions in each pride were eating a Cape Buffalo that they had killed. (Yes, it’s the Circle of Life, but I didn’t like that part…) Mala Mala adjoins Kruger National Park, which is almost five million acres, about the size of the state of Connecticut.
It was unnerving at first to be so close to these large predators that could easily attack and kill a human. In our first sighting, we rode in an open Land Rover, bumping and rocking down a hill onto a sandy river bed, pushing our way through tall grass and vegetation. A female lion emerged from the grass. We drove past her into a clearing by the Sand River, where the rest of the pride was eating the buffalo. We parked about fifteen feet away. We were assured that the lions and other wildlife see the vehicle with its passengers as one nonthreatening entity and don’t seem to mind our presence as long as we are seated in the vehicle. (I was never tempted to leave it!) I felt my pulse quicken, though, whenever a lion would look over at us and rise up. A few made brief eye contact, which my own cats do when they want something. Fortunately, the lions never walked closer to our vehicle than ten feet. I got nervous for a moment when the lions growled at one another over their meal. For the most part, the lions took no heed of us.
I’m so grateful for this amazing experience. Click on the photos to get a better look.
Female big cats in each of these photos have suffered some kind of injury, probably from hunting. In the top photo, the female lion on the left side has a big cut in her right flank. Our guide told us the injury was about three weeks old and would probably heal, although it looks pretty bad to me. This lion was nursing cubs. The lions are resting after eating. The female lion (in a different pride) in the lower left photo has a swollen back right leg. She was limping when we saw her and had moved away from the pride. A mother cheetah in the the lower right photo has a cut to her back right flank, probably incurred from the horn of the male impala she’d killed the day before, our guide said. She had three cubs.
The cats behaved in many ways like my own house cats. The way they played, rested and sat was so similar. After they ate, some of them sprawled on their backs, looking as if they didn’t have a care in the world. The lion cubs were so adorable. But I never forgot for a second that these big cats could be deadly. Even my own well-fed cat Malcolm brought down a bird that had flown into our chimney. He leaped nine feet into the air and batted it down. I was able to rescue the bird, though, and released it unharmed.
Where I live in the Midwest, we have have almost no large predators, such as mountain lions. Occasionally, you hear of a mountain lion sighting. Most of them have been killed off years ago. Grizzly bears roamed my area 200 years ago. We do have smaller cats, such as bobcats. Last year, while I was walking in my neighborhood, I saw a bobcat sitting in the grass of a large mowed area near some woods. She stared at me as I walked past. That was a little freaky! Bobcats can kill a deer. Later, I saw the bobcat trotting across the street into the yard of the president of the homeowner’s association. (The bobcat knew to go right to the leader of the human pack.) The president told me that the bobcat’s cubs were in a tree overhanging her back deck.
Lions and other big cats are magnificent creatures, but because of the danger they present and because their fur is coveted, they have been severely hunted, and their numbers have really dropped in the last century. Lions are considered a vulnerable species, and I hope they can be protected and their numbers in the wild increased. Game reserves, such as Mala Mala and the vast Kruger National Park in South Africa, are working to protect this magnificent animal. At the bottom of this post is a news article about lions in South Africa.
Well fed, this pride lounges along a creek. Note the cub nursing.
“Lions may be the well-reputed kings of the savannah, but South Africa’s lucrative trophy-hunting industry means the regal cats are more likely to know the inside of a paddock ringed with an electric fence than the country’s sweeping plains.
To the dismay of animal rights activists and environmentalists, growing numbers of the predators are being farmed for hunting, with more than half of South Africa’s roughly 8,000 lions now in captivity.
“The principle that you breed wild animals for economic exploitation is an international norm. It takes place everywhere in the world,” said Pieter Potgieter, chair of the South African Predator Breeders’ Association.
But “the problem is with the lions because the image has been created in the minds of people that the lion is the king of the animals. Walt Disney with his Lion King and all these things, they have created that image,” he added.
The big cats are bred in pens then leased to zoos or game farms, where they are kept in cages or used as pets to attract tourists.
When they mature, some of them are released into the wild. The release usually happens just days before trophy hunters shoot them.
Breeders treat lions just like any other farm animals before leaving them to the mercy of trophy hunters.
“In principle, a lion is no more or less than any other animal species,” Potgieter said.
An estimated 3,000 or so lions live wild in South Africa, compared to more than 5,000 held in paddocks.
In the rolling savannah plains in the country’s centre is Bona Bona Game Lodge, situated near the corn-farming town of Wolmaransstad.
A few hundred metres from the lodge, which is also a popular wedding venue, are large cages with nine placid lions and three Bengal tigers. It housed three times that number of lions before an annual auction in June.
The lions are fed weekly, each Sunday morning — an exercise visitors pay an entrance fee of 80 rand (6.8 euros, $9) to watch. Animal lovers pay 300 rand to play with cubs or give them a feeding bottle at most zoos.
“Cubs are rented out by the captive lion breeders to eco-tourism resorts to be petted by tourists, who are assured that such cubs will be set free,” said Chris Mercer of the animal rights group Campaign Against Canned Hunting.
But a fuming Mercer says: “Tourists should know that these cubs will not be returned to the wild. They will, instead, be returned to the breeders… as semi-tame targets for the lucrative canned hunting industry.”
“These cubs are farm-bred, held in confined spaces until they are old enough to be hunted,” he adds.
Paul Hart, who runs Drakenstein Lion Park in the southern Cape region, said it was the “process of removing cubs from their mothers at birth specifically so that they can be used as play things and to increase the speed of breeding that is inherently cruel, not to mention the methods employed to ensure the cubs are docile with tourists.”
Critics say some lions are also specially bred for their bones, which are sent to Asia to end up in potions, but farmers deny that claim.
Amateur trophy hunters — most of whom come from the US — each year kill about 500 captive-bred lions in South Africa.
Hunters are ready to part with $22,000 per male lion, in addition to just about as much for other logistical and taxidermy costs. A lioness however comes in much cheaper at $4,000.
The trophy-hunting practices also raise controversy.
In the Northwest province with the most lion-breeding farms, the cats are often released, hungry, just four days before a hunt.
Unleashing them into unfamiliar turf means they are unlikely to escape their pursuers.
But farmers justify the practice.
“Whether you kill a cow, a sheep or a pig, or you kill a lion, it’s exactly the same thing. It’s an animal,” Potgieter argues.
A recent study by the Duke University in North Carolina has shown that two thirds of the African lion population have vanished over the past 50 years, to around 35,000 from nearly 100,000.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service also recently announced it would launch a review on whether to list African lions as endangered species.
Such a listing would prevent US hunters from bringing lion trophies from Africa back to the United States.” Story by Jean Liou.