We moved off the islands to the mainland, and had a night to check out the beautiful boutique retreat called Santorini, 12 kilometres from Vilanculos. With just five suites in the main villa and lots of lounges and salas to chill in, it is a great place for couples to relax and unwind after a safari. There are also 2 private 2-bedroom villas available, Villa da Praia and The Chapel.
The villas sit on a hilltop, looking out over Kingfisher Bay, deserted beach as far as you can see, the island of Benguerra on the horizon, a few dhows sailing across the bay.
Activities include SUP, kayak, sun downer cruises, snorkelling and visiting the islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago, catamaran cruises, and fishing. Scuba diving can be arranged, Fat tire bikes will be available soon. Or you can just relax with a book and let your butler bring you a glass of wine.
&BEYOND, BENGUERRA ISLAND, MOZAMBIQUE
&Beyond Benguerra Island is a mix of classic chic in the spacious and beautifully appointed 'casinhas" and simple safari elegance with it's dhow bar on the beach, evening beach dining by paraffin lantern light, and star-gazing around the fire.
The casinhas all have their own infinity pool, shaded outdoor lounge on a private deck, beach loungers, and a shaded outdoor double bed swing. The food was absolutely top-notch, Ines' vegetarian needs were deliciously catered for, and our butler Gilario was charming and on the ball. For our last meal they set up a private beach lunch on the wild side of the island, at the foot of the Red Dune, and we had as far as we could see of the 11k of coastline to ourselves.
At azura benguerra, mozambique
Some images from our stst at Azura Retreat Benguerra Island, our current location on a 7-week recce across southern Africa.
Azura prides itself on its cuisine, and rightly so, it is delicious. We have a butler called Jonas assigned to look after us when we are not checking out the marine life.
This barefoot luxury resort has been built with local materials, by 450 subsitence fishermen islanders trained by rhe resort in building techniques, from making the bricks, raising the roofs, and crafting the furniture. The resort now employs 100 locals, has built a primary school for 400 kids, sponsors secondary school education for island kids on thr mainland, and has just built the island's first clinic all through the Azura Rainbow Fund.
A few pics from an overnight inspection at Chobe Elephant Camp, a very good value for money camp if you want to be close to the Chobe River, but away from the crowds of Kasane. There were lots of ellies, a couple of herds of buffalo around 400-strong, a pride of 8 lazy lions, but the cherry for me was this very cool and rarely-sighted Caracal.
We work hard at what we do, we put in long hours, we do the extra miles to find special places and to really know our products, and keep our field knowledge at the highest levels in the business, and we take the time to build excellent relationships with our suppliers in order to get the best deals for our clients. And the main reason we do it is to give away the fruits of our success.
The two things that make us happy the most are happy clients and good feedback, and seeing the fruits of our donations. Many of them are hard to see - we don't really see the effect of giving to Malaria No More, Water Aid, or the Rhino Trust, though we do get much satisfaction from their updates and reports of positive news - but when we get to see tangible results, we are beaming.
Today I got some photos and videos from the kindergarten at Ishinde in rural Tanzania, where we contribute to the annual running costs. The project is amazing; a few determined, smart,local lads set up a foundation and decided to provide education for the pre-schoolers of their village. They raised money, built the school bit by bit, made helpful friends along the way, and now have 80 pre-schoolers attending the kindergarten. Education is the future, we believe at least, and many of our projects involve education of one sort or another. And who wouldn't smile at happy, well-fed, kiddies learning in a fun environment.
February 2nd to 9th we took 10 lucky clients to Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos for a week of humpback whale watching and snorkelling. We were in the water with them 5 days out of 6, and spent 2.5 hours in the water with whales in total. We had mother and newly born calf action, a very pregnant female with suitors getting their courting in a bit early, and multiple mother-calf-two-male-escort encounters. We were lucky enough to encounter some very friendly dolphins. 5 guests also joined Ines for morning Nomad Yoga.
We return next year, February 8th to the 15th. Join us. More info here.
Just back from 2 weeks with clients on St Helena. Here are a few images. I don't have many as I picked up an ear infection on the 2nd day, and only did 3 days diving out of 10. The whale shark action was plentiful, the Chilean Devil Rays put in numerous appearances, we spotted a few hammerheads at the surface, and we spotted most of the endemic St Helena fish life, and even saw a tiny non-endemic frogfish to boot. Join us in 2020 - find out more here.
There is a video available here https://gopro.com/v/MJWXa2amMG68R
I'm sitting in Douglas-Charles Airport's cafe, selecting my favourite images from the last two weeks here in Dominica on our special permit Sperm whale swims. Two weeks ago, after the first two days with no whales seen or heard, i was wondering if this year's trips would be a damp squib compared to my last visit in 2016. I needn't have worried. From day three, the whales came to the party, with up to nine individuals, from three "units" or families, cavorting together.
On the second week, the group had in-water encounters with whales every one of the first four days, and a brief Pilot whale swim, though, to give them the full gamut of whale watching experiences, on the last day they were silent again.
Interactions lasted from 60 seconds, to 35 minutes at a time. Some days we travelled from the southern tip of the island to the far north searching until 3 PM, other days we found them in less than an hour and were back on the deck having tea and medals before 2PM.
2019's two weeks are both full already, there are spots left in 2020. See here.
Next month, we return to Dominica to spend two weeks snorkelling and free diving with the largest predator in the ocean, the magnificent Sperm whale. Of all the cool encounters I have had in 15 years of marine adventures, being a few metres away from the giant eye of these super-intelligent deep-diving hunters is somewhere in the top five.
Over 20 different Sperm whale families have been identified in the waters around Dominica, and there are about 10 that are seen regularly. Based on researchers’ images, It is known that they have been using these waters since at least 1984, but likely much longer based on their life history. Sperm whales can live to be older than 70 years, meaning they meet a lot of other whales over their lifetime. It would appear that families have preferences with each other, and these social preferences endure across decades, suggesting that individuals can remember each other despite long separations.
Researchers think this social recognition is mediated by distinct dialects of Morse code called ‘codas’. Each family has a slightly different coda repertoire, but also share coda types with the other units in the Caribbean. Shared repertoires delineate socially segregated ‘vocal clans’ – collections of units that share a similar coda dialect. Units which share the same dialect associate and spend time together and units that have different repertoires never gather together.
In the Caribbean, the '1+1+3' coda type, which sounds like 'Click-pause-Click-pause-Click-Click-Click', is unique to the region. It has been used for at least the last three decades, and is made the same way by all the whales use it, like a marker of Caribbean nationality.
For more info on our Dominica Sperm Whale trips, go here.
Fifty-five million years ago, a group of hoofed mammals began a slow move from shore to sea, in time evolving a set of extraordinary features to thrive in their new environment.
Today’s whales share many anatomical traits with other mammals, but the unique adaptations of species such as Physeter macrocephalus, the Sperm whale, illustrate how organisms can transform over time as they carve out their place on the planet.
The sperm whale's sleek shape is well-suited for deep diving, this species' specialty. Sperm whales can dive over 6,500 feet, remaining under water for more than an hour. Sperm whales dive deep into the ocean for prey like giant squid.
Unlike fish, which swim by moving their tails side to side, whales and dolphins move their flukes up and down. Sperm whale flukes are the largest, relative to body size, of any whale. The sperm whale's flippers, or pectoral fins, help the animal manoeuvre through water. They also share bone structure with the human arm and hand.
In fact, the bones of cetacean flippers are the same kinds of bones as in the human arm, with an upper arm bone, two forearm bones, and hand, wrist, and finger bones. In whales, fingers are elongated and may have additional bones. The joint between upper arm and forearm is immobile, creating an effective paddle.
Among sperm whales' (and other toothed whales') most amazing adaptations is echolocation, the use of sound to locate objects based on their echoes−and a way of navigating the world that is also used by some land mammals, including bats. The whales use this ability to, among other things, hunt successfully for deepwater prey, such as giant squid, their meal of choice.
To create sound, the whale pushes air through one of its nasal passages to a pair of flaps that vibrate to create sound. The sound passes through the spermaceti organ (in blue, top of the skull), bounces off an air sac, and is redirected to the whale's "melon" organ (in yellow). Called "junk" by whalers, this organ contains fatty tissue that transmits sound, focusing the pulses in the process and allowing sperm whales to direct, or aim, sound waves.
The sperm whale's head is actually an oversized nose, which in mature males can make up a third of the animal's body. Sperm whales use their uniquely shaped nose to generate sound.
At the crux of the whale's jaw, the lozenge-shaped yellow portion (shown above, right) is the "acoustic fat pad." As echoes bounce back toward the sperm whale, they are received by this deposit of fat in the back of the whale's long, thin jaw. The sound is then transmitted through the ear bones.
This is what happens when all you eat is giant squid.
For more info on our Dominica Sperm Whale trips, go here.
Infographics courtesy of © AMNH/5W
Photo taken under permit from Dominica Department of FIsheries
We were recently at the excellent NAD Lembeh Resort to check it out. The dive guides are superb, the 2 divers per guide ratio unique in the area, the boats super spacious and well-organised, the blackwater dive is an excellent was to see some weird and wonderful juveniles, the camera room the best in the business, and the resort staff are impeccable. We saw numerous species of octopii, half-a-dozen species of frogfish, and too many shrimp species too count.
Photographer, conservationist, dive and field guide, teller of bad jokes.