• Semarang, Java, Indonesia

    We docked in Semarang this morning and were greeted by dancers and music as we got off the ship.  There were three tour buses waiting to give us a tour of the island as we rode two hours to the Borobudur Temple.  We had a police escort to the temple and back to the ship which allowed us to travel more quickly through the country.

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    Borobudur Temple

    The Borobudur Temple is the world’s largest Buddhist temple dating back to the 9th century.The temple consists of nice stacked platforms, six are square and three are circular.  These are topped by a central dome.  It is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and originally has 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a stupa, a mound like structure which contains relics).

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    IMG 8687There are 2,672 of these relief panels 

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    One of the 504 Buddha statues on the temple

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  • Cirik Island, Indonesia

     

    Today we docked near the island of Cirik, a tiny little island in Indonesia. Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world to form a single country, consisting of five main islands and some 30 smaller archipelagoes, totaling about 18,110 islands of which about 6,000 are inhabited.  The island of Cirik is uninhabited.

    Our ship anchored a nautical mile from the island and we rode zodiacs to land.

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    The ship used three Zodiacs to shuttle us from the ship to the island.  There were ten of us in each Zodiac.

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    Our friend Dave stepping from the ship onto the Zodiac.

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    We arrived on the tiny island

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    We spent about an hour walking in the sand around the island and then boarded the Zodiac to ride back to the ship.

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    Here I am getting back on the ship.

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    We enjoyed a delicious dinner on Deck 9 at the Hot Rock Grill where we cooked our own meat on a lava rock.

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    The hot lava rock is 400 degrees and is placed in the center of the plate to cook the meat.

  • Kumai, Kalimantan, Borneo (Indonesia) - Day 2

    We were told that our cruise ship was the first to come to this region of Indonesia.  When we got off of the ship, there were many residents taking pictures of us.  We were transported today in five buses with a police escort as an honor (or at least that’s what we were told).

    Dayak Longhouse

    We started the day with a bus tour of the city of Kumai, a port in Central Kalimantan province and the first stop was a visit to a Dayak longhouse,  Dayak longhouses are community houses and are 300 to 600 feet long. These buildings host dozens of families. The houses are built 6 to 9 feet off the ground to keep out wild animals and protect from flooding.

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    We were greeted with dancers and drummers performing traditional dances. 

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    At one part of the performance a dancer pulled me into the dance to dance with her.

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    This dancer pulled me (of all people) out of the crowd to dance with her.

    Arut River Tour

    Our next stop was a boat ride down the Arut River to get a glimpse of local life. Here we rode past homes, fish farms, a saw mill.  A police boat escorted our boat down the river.

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    The Police who escorted us.

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    A little boy rows his mother and baby sister down the river.

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    Typical homes and boats that were located on both sides of the river.

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    A sawmill along the river.

    The Market

    All vegetables, poultry, fish, etc are displayed unrefrigerated in the market area.

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    Fresh fish (but not refrigerated)

    ESTANA PANGERAN MANGRUBUMI

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    This home was built to house a Sultan’s seven daughters. Inside these gates is a rambling wooden compound and a beautiful garden area.


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    Even though this may look like a mirror, it is actually a door frame with two fancy hand-carved doors on the other side.  These beautiful doorways are all through the house.

    Istanakuning “Yellow Palace"

    This palace is not actually yellow, but once was the Sultan’s main residence.  This is a replica of the original residence which burned in 1990.  Since we were the first cruise ship to ever stop in this city, the Sultan invited us to lunch.

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    There were ceremonial dances and swords fights for our entertainment.

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    This is the Sultan’s twin brother greeting us as we entered the palace.

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    The Sultan with his personal physician

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    Birdhouse buildings

    There is a huge industry in Borneo of bird's nest ‘factories’.  There are 100s of these tall metal buildings are built to attract the white-nest swiftlet. Therir nest is composed entirely of saliva.  These nests are purchased by the Chinese and used to make a soup by soaking and steaming the nests in water. The soup is reputed to possess medicinal properties that nourish and vitalize the organ systems of the body, help increase energy and metabolism, dissolve phlegm, improve the voice, relieve gastric problems, aid kidney function, enhance the complexion, alleviate asthma, suppress cough, cure tuberculosis, strengthen the immune system and improve concentration," wrote Craig Thorburn, an environmental scientist from Australia in his research paper, "The Edible Birds' Nest Boom in Indonesia and South-east Asia." Bird's nest soup is also considered an aphrodisiac by some and an infant superfood by others that helps babies grow tall and smart.

     These nests fetch high prices and the buildings to lure the swiftlets are popping up all over Indonesia. Our ship docked near many of these buildings (pictured below in the nighttime picture) which can be quite a nuisance because of all the bird feces and the loud chirping noises played over a speaker to attract the swiftlets.

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    We ended the day with a delicious meal cooked we cooked ourselves on a lava stone up on deck 9 with our new friends Dave and Emmy.IMG 1983

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    The lava stone is 400 degrees and is in the center of this platter.

  • Borneo and Tanjung Puling National Park

    We arrived in Kumai, part of the Kalimantan province of Borneo island, which actually belongs to three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. We anchored along the Sekonyer River and boarded a traditional Kiloton wooden river boats to ride into the UNESCO-listed Tanjung Puting National Park, famous for its orangutan conversation program. We enjoyed the park first by boat and then by walking the trails into the rainforest.

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    Borneo

    We boarded our Zodiac at 6:40AM for a one mile ride down the river where we boarded our traditional Kiloton wooden river boats. We spent the next five hours cruising through Tanjung Puting National Park on the Sekonyer River.  We arrived at Pondok Tanggui Orangutan Preserve around 9:00 am in time to watch the orangutan feeding.Once we arrived we walked on a muddy trail into the rain forest for about a mile to the feeding platform.

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    Pondok Tanggui National Park has the largest wild orangutan population in the world with 9 species of primates, 3 species of primates endemic to Borneo, proboscis, red leaf-eating monkeys, and Bornean orangutans.

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    Thev primarily eat fruits, but can also eat bark strips, leaves, and termites

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    Orangutan are pregnant for 8 months and may wait 5-10 years between births

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    They live 45-50 ears in the wild

    After our visit in the National Park we were served lunch on our boat while we cruised for another two hours Resort Pesalat to see  the afternoon feeding of more orangutans.  This feeding started with a huge bowl of coconut milk

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    Viper snake 

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    While we were walking in the rainforest to see the orangatan feeding, we got caught in a hard rainstorm.  

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    When we walked back to our boat after the feeding, I spotted a slightly fancier boat docked beside us.

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    We were exhausted when we arrived back at our ship around 6:30PM after a long and fascinating day!

  • Singapore - Day 3

    We checked out of the Conrad Hilton Centennial Hotel and left for a half-day city tour starting with a visit to the Gardens by the Bay.  Afterwards we visited the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck and finally lunch at a local restaurant before boarding our ship for the start of our cruise down the coast of Indonesia .IMG 1646

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    Our room #412 aboard the Vantage ship Ocean Odyssey

  • Singapore - Day 2

    Today we had a full day guided tour with our group from Vantage Travel.  We started the day with at the National Orchid Garden, home to over 6,000 species of orchids.

     

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    After the Orchid Gardens we continued our bus tour throughout the town.

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    Thian Hock Keng is a temple built for the worship of the Chinese sea goddess Mazu and is located in the Chinatown section of Singapore.  It was built in 1839 and is Singapore's oldest Chinese temple.

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    The government’s latest surveillance devices are robots on wheels, with seven cameras, that issue warnings to the public and detect “undesirable social behavior."

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    Artwork next to the practice cricket field with the Supreme Court building in the background.  The flying saucer-looking section at the top of the building is the Supreme Court.

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    The old Police station with window frames painted the colors of the rainbow.

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    The Merlion, symbol of Singapore

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    Five Boys by the Water

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    Sri Veeramakaliamman is a Hindu temple located in India town.

    We boarded a bumboat for a cruise down the Singapore River, where we enjoyed the city’s
    iconic skyline from the water

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  • We've arrived in Singapore!

    We left Lake Charles at 4:00 PM on January 20 for a flight to Houston and then on to San Francisco.  From there we had a 17 hour flight which crossed the International Date Line and totally missed January 21 before arriving in Singapore at 8:00AM on January 22

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    We had to submit paperwork to Singapore three days before our arrival and received our approved for entry.  When going through these gates, we scanned our passports and our thumb prints.

    Conrad Centennial Singapore

    We stayed at the Conrad Centennial Hotel which is located very conveniently to many of the iconic sights in Singapore.

    Once we arrived at the hotel, we dropped off our bags and decided to walk to the The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, a mall near our hotel.  On the walk from the hotel we stopped at the Youth Olympic Park and took these pictures of the Singapore skyline.  The building on the left side of the picture is the Science and Arts Museum.

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    The Helix Bridge is the longest pedestrian bridge that links the Marina Centre with the Bayfront area.It is modeled after the double helix DNA, symbolizing “life and continuity, renewal and growth”. There are pairs of colored letters ‘c’and ‘g,’ as well as as ‘a’ and "t’ on the bridge, which represent the four bases of DNA.

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    This Digital Light Canvas in the center of the Marina Centre is an artwork space that consists of a 46 ft-tall light sculpture suspended from the ceiling with  countless full-colored LEDs and a circular 49 foot floor monitor consisting of individually controlled LEDs, which allow for graphics to be rendered in real time.       

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    In the Youth Olympic Park there  are drawings done by children that are decorations on the wall. This drawing by 11 Year old artist Joyce Han “I want to scale the highest mountain in the world!”  A replica of her drawing was built in the park.

     We walked through the food court at the Marina Centre Mall which was absolutely the largest food court we’ve ever seen with 60 restaurants! Alll the food choices were Asian, but we did notice these roasted chicken, pigs, and ducks on displayed, but were dismayed that all the heads were still attached. 

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    Once we walked through the food court, we exited the mall and continued walking until we reached the  iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The scene pictured below shows the Marina Shopping Center and the Arts and Science Center and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel with its observation deck behind.

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    We paid to ride the elevator up to the Observation Deck on ihe 56 floor where  From there we where able to get a wonderful view of Singapore.

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    The Flower Gardens are visible in the foreground and the barrage (the salt water barrier) is located in the upper left.  Notice all the ships waiting out at sea to be loaded or unloaded.

    Gardens by the Bay

    When we left the Marina Sands Hotel, we walked to the Gardens by the Bay. The Gardens are comprised of the Flower Dome, Floral Fantasy, Cloud Forest, and the Supertree Grove. We paid to tour the Cloud Forest which contained an amazing Avatar display as well as the largest indoor waterfall (according to the Guinness Book of World Records).

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    The Supertree Grove 

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    These super trees are home to a large array of plant life. The vertical planting panels installed on the trunks are planted with various species of bromeliads, orchids, ferns and flowering climbers. When dusk falls, the super trees lights up.  In addition there is a sight and sound show each evening.

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    We walked back to the hotel and rested for a couple hours before walking the same path again for dinner and to see the lights of Singapore.

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    By the time we walked back to the hotel, we had walked over 10 miles today.  What a great day!

  • Grenada--our favorite island!

    Today we visited Grenada and decided it was our favorite country on this trip.  Grenada is well known for its spices as it is “ the island of spice", but it also has world-class cocoa, amazing beaches and majestic waterfalls.  Christoper Columbus discovered the island in 1498 and named in Concepcion.

    Civilians (even children) are not allowed to wear camouflage in the country.

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    Welcome to the Spice Capital

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    Today we  took a bus tour of the island to get to Grand Etang National Park where we picked up a walking stick and hiked 1.75 miles to the Seven Sisters Waterfalls.

    Our guide pointed out some interesting trees that we’d never seen before— cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.

     

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    The fruit of the nutmeg tree

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    Eucalyptus Tree

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    And our hike began...

    When we arrived at the starting point of the hike in Grand Etang National Park, we were given hiking sticks which proved to be a necessity for us!  Apparently there was a hard rain the night before so the trail was very muddy and slippery.  The trail was mostly either very steep going up or down and not much flat area along the way.

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    Two of the Seven Sister Falls.  To see the other five falls we would have had to climb the first two set of falls—which we didn’t do!

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    New Year’s Eve on the Ship

    We celebrated New Year’s Eve on the ship with a fabulous production show and then listening to music in various lounge during the evening.IMG 1098

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  • Barbados

    Barbados

    Although the Caribs, Arawaks, and Portuguese had all inhabited Barbados for certain periods, the island was completely unoccupied when the British first settled there in 1627.  Gradual social and political reforms led to the country’s independence in 1966.

    The easternmost member of the Caribbean, Barbados floats by itself, 100 miles east of St. Lucia.  The capital city is Bridgetown which sits along the Caribbean Sea while the east coast faces the Atlantic Ocean.  Barbados is below the hurricane belt.

    Population is 286,641

    Caribbean general map

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    Today’s excursion from the ship was to a Botanical Garden on the island .   Along the way we passed some cows tied up in the yards of upscale homes.

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    We were supposed to be seeing 100s of different orchids at the gardens, but only a few survived after the COVID shutdown.

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    Our next stop after the gardens was the Sunbury Plantation Great House which was built in 1660 by Matthew Chapman, an Irish/English planter, one of the first settlers on the island. He was related to the Earl of Carlisle and through this association, was granted lands in Barbados. 

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    This office has the original furnishings for the owner’s office and where he kept the records for the plantation.

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    This is a lounge chair for the men

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    This lounge chair was for the ladies.  Both chairs have bottoms made from sugar cane to make them cooler to sit in,

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    This table sits 26.

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    bathtub

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    Master bedroom with his and her chamber pots

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    Men’s freeloader pants.  Notice they are open from the crotch to the knee

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    Horse drawn dessert cart

  • Saint Vincent

    We went ashore this morning at 8:30 and took a bus tour across the island to Fort Charlotte, the Botanical Gardens and stopped for refreshments at Paradise Beach.   It was colonized by the /French and English in the 19th century, but became an independent country in 1979.  St. Vincent is located in the eastern Caribbean Sea between the island nations of Saint Lucia and Grenada.  It has a population of around 100,000.

    First stop was Fort Charlotte which was built in 1806.  This historical Fort lies high above the island and offers panoramic views of Kingstown.

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    We walked up to the top of the hill to tour Fort Charlotte, that once housed 600 men .  No battles were fought there.

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    Botanical Gardens

    We visited the St. Vincent and Grenadines Botanic Gardens in Kingtown, Saint Vincent.  Establish in 1765, it is the oldest botanic garden in the western hemisphere ,

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    The Vincent African Parrot is the country’s national bird

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    Breadfruit can be used in any way that potatoes are used.

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    We ended the day at Paradise Beach Hotel where we were served rum punch.

  • Martinique

    Martinique was first settled by the Arawaks followed by the Caribs, the island was charted by Columbus in 1493 and claimed by the French.  With the exception of several British occupations, it has remained a French possession.  It is overseas possession of France.  We docked in the town of Fort-de-France, the capital and largest city.

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    St. Louis Cathedral

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    Fort St. Louis

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    Beach beside Fort St. Louis

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  • St. Kitts

    Today we toured the island of St. Kitts, which along with the neighboring island of Nevis, became an independent two-island nation in 1983. The country’s official name is the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.  It is located in the Leeward Islands of the West Indies southeast of Puerto Rico.

    St. Kitts was the first island in the Caribbeans to be settled with residents dating back more than 5,000 years.

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    We took a bus tour to visit the Romney Manor (circa 1626). For more than 350 years, most of the activity on the property was growing sugar cane.  When the St. Kitts government stopped sugar can production in the 2000s, Romney Manor became a batik enterprise.  

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    Batik creations hanging on the line.

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    The Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Caribbean on the other

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    It was carnival time in St. Kitts.  The parades started at 4:00AM and by noon the parades were over and the streets were filled with litter.

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  • St. Thomas and St. Johns Virgin Islands

    Today the Island Princess docked in St. Thomas at 8:00AM.  We walked off the ship and walked to the nearby stores to buy a Christmas tree ornament as a souvenir and took some pictures.IMG 0482

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    We were greeted at the shopping area by these talented dancers !

    St. Johns Catamaran Adventure

    We boarded the Dancing Dolphin Katamaran for a 45 minute ride to St. Johns Island and Virgin Islands National Park. This is our 56th National Park (out of 63). Once we were near the beach we rode an inflatable all the way onto the beach.  We came ashore at Honeymoon Beach and spent an hour snorkeling in the beautiful water.

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    Beautiful view of St Johns

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    Honeymoon Beach, St Johns

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    We snorkeled in the beautiful clear water

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    When we returned to the ship, there were some guest McCall and cockatoo birds onboard to greet us.  What beautiful birds!

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    These two were hilarious!  The owner would turn them towards us, but then a glass elevator would come down to that floor and the birds were turn around to see the elevator .

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    The cruise ship put on a fabulous Christmas variety show in the evening.

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    I finished the evening by watching It’s a Wonderful Life on the ship’s big screen tv on the top deck.

  • Hawaii Volcano National Park

    We drove the Chain of Craters Road down to Holei Sea Arch and stopped to see many different craters and lava flow from previous eruptions.

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    At the end of the Chain of Craters Road, we walked a short distance to see the Holei Sea Arch.  This lava rock formation is about 90 feet high and extends from the steep sea cliffs into the Pacific Ocean.

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    This picture shows lava flow above and the land below which extends from the Hilina fault. 

    We were told there are about six feral pigs to each person living on the Big Island and they are quite a problem to crops and vegetation. Dogs and fences help deter them.

    WIld Pigs Tribune Herald 2017

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    After a period of time crops make there way through the crack and start growing and blooming one again.

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    The Kilauea crater

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    Hardened lava 

    We drive over to the backside of the Kilauea Volcano, parked the car and then walked two and a half miles to tee the cratersDSC08786

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    ‘We ended the day back at the cabin watching War Horse, a wonderful movie,

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Helicopter ride near Mauna Loa and a visit to Lavaloha Chocolate Farm

    We took a helicopter ride with Big Island Safari Helicopters from the Hilo Airport in hopes of seeing Mauna Loa's eruption..IMG 9986

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    As we were leaving the airport, we flew over a macadamia nut farm outlined by the tall trees arranged in squares.

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    This is the giant Kilauea volcano.  No lava was visible when we flew over; just lots of steam.

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    This is Mauna Loa erupting.  We not on the side where we could see the lava flowing down the mountain, but we were told this lava was shooting 500’ in the air.  Obviously we weren’t close enough to get roasted, but it was an incredible site to see!

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    Lavaloha Chocolate Farm

    Afterwards we drove to a chocolate where we were driven through the orchard and then shown how the chocolate if made.

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    Ripe pods are picked and cut open.  Sees, or “beans” and juicy white pulp are stopped out of the husk.

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    Beans and pulp are put into large containers and fermented for about 7 days. The beans are turned about
    once per day.  Then the beans are gently roasted.  This is where they start to develop chocolatey flavors and aromas.

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    Winnowing: The beans are then cracked open and their thin, papery shells are blown away with fans, leaving “cocoa nibs."

    Grinding: The cocoa nibs are ground into "cocoa liquor” a paste that can be pressed to separate the cocoa powder from cocoa butter.

    Conching:  the cocoa liquor is refined and smoothed in a conch.  Sugar, milk, and other flavors are added.

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    Rainbow Falls

    After we left the chocolate farm we drove to Rainbow Falls.  Luckily, the falls were located by a parking lot because it started pouring down rain right when we got back in the car.

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  • The Big Island - Green Sand Beach, Black Sand Beach, Hawaii Volcano National Park

    Papakōlea (Green sands) Beach

    We started today by driving from our Air B&B in Pahala to a parking spot for Papakōlea Beach (commonly known as Green Sands Beach).  This was a 5.5 mile roundtrip hike and although it was not a particularly hard hike, the ground was muddy in places or covered with volcanic ash and uneven, and the winds were very strong.  The whole way there we were walking into the wind. When we started the hike early and there was only one other car in the parking lot when we arrived. As we hiked toward the beach and the time got later, we were passed by many sets of younger more energetic hikers.IMG 9796

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    This is the point where Tom had to stop and rest and I continued hiking alone.

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    This is the Green Sand Beach which gets its name from the green olivine crystals that make up the sand. The crystals come from the cinder cone next to the beach which was formed during an eruption 49.000 years ago.  Notice how steep the decline is to the beach.  Since Tom had to stop hiking about a mile before the end and I was by myself, I didn’t even attempt to go down that steep hill onto the beach.

    After we walked back to where we parked the car we realized there were pick up trucks giving rides there and back (illegally).  If we had known that at the beginning, Tom would have hiked to the beach and paid the $10 for a ride back to the parking lot (I probably would have too).

    Punalu’u (Black sands) Beach

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    Our next stop was a Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park. The black sand is made of basalt and created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and cools.

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    An unexpected discovery when we arrived at the beach was fifteen or so green turtles. The threatened green turtle feeds on marine plants in shallow waters along the coastline. Red seaweed, a favorite food of the green turtle flourishes on the coral-encrusted rocks in the shallow waters of the bay and the turtles are found basking on the black sand beach despite the presence of beachgoers. Visitors must remain 20 ft from the turtles at all times.

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    While driving from Black beach to the National Park, we passed theses beautiful poinsettia trees.

    HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

    We planned this trip back in July so we could tour our 55th National Park (out of 63) and here we are!

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    Our first stop was the Kilauea Visitor Center.  We walked across the street from the visitor’s center to the Volcano House where we enjoyed a delicious lunch. We had hoped to see the Kilauea Volcano from the big windows in the restaurant,  but unfortunately, there was a total fog out and there was nothing to see.

    After lunch we drove to the Thurston Lava Tube  parking area. The Thurston Lava Tube, one of many such tubes on the island, was created by a river of molten lava. According to the NPS website, “When a lava tube is active, lava travels along its floor at temperatures that exceed 2,000º F. When the supply of lava stops at the end of an eruption, or if it gets diverted elsewhere, it leaves behind an empty cave. When this lava tube was discovered in 1913, the roof of the tube was covered with lava drippings. Unfortunately, those soon disappeared due to souvenir collectors.”

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    We walked down a steep path through a tropical forest to get to the entrance.

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    Inside the Thurston Lava Tube

    Mauna Loa Volcano

    After walking over 7 miles today, we were exhausted and decided to drive back to our Air B&B and take a nap.  At 7:00PM we left again to eat some dinner and then drive towards  the Mauna Loa  Volcano in hopes of seeing the lava flow.  It was 52 miles one way and took us almost 4 hours to drive there and back.  The traffic wasn’t bad until we reached mile marker 34 on Rt. 200 where we joined the long line of visitors who also wanted to see the lava flow.

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    Although we didn’t have a tripod or a good zoom lens, it was very exciting to be able to see the lava flow!

  • Flight Home from Cape Town

    We left the hotel at noon for our transfer to the airport.  We left Cape Town at 5:39 pm for a 10 hour 15 minute flight to Istanbul, had a 9.5 hour layover, then a 13 hour flight to Houston.  Long two days!  Once we landed in Houston we were about to walk right through customs with Global Entry, but it took over an hour for our luggage to arrive. By the time we drove back to Lake Charles it was 1:30 AM.  A very long two day journey.

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    We enjoyed lunch at an airport restaurant where we were able to plug in our electronics and charge them before the long flight home.

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  • Cruising on a yacht from Cape Town

    We took a wonderful cruise on this beautiful yacht in the Atlantic Ocean around Cape Town .  It was beautiful to see Table Rock Mountains and the city from the water.  The water was especially calm so we were also able to cruise around Robben Island where the former prison (now a museum) where Nelson Mandela was a prisoner. 

     

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    The Cape Town soccer stadium where the 2010 World Cup was played. It seats 96,000 and is now used as an event center in addition to hosting soccer games.

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    We had plenty of appetizers and drinks while on the yacht.  (There has definitely been no shortage of food on this trip)!

     

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    The weather was beautiful, but a little too windy for me, so here I am looking ridiculous amidst the other ladies.

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    We saw hundreds of seals swimming in the water, but they also seem to enjoy basking in the sunshine on the buoys.

     

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    In the evening we enjoyed a private lecture by Christo Brand, Nelson Mandela’s prison guard and the author of two books --Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend and Doing Life with Mandela. Mandela was a political activist and a lawyer who was imprisoned for 27 years before the fall of apartheid and introduction of a multi-racial democracy in South Africa..  He was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and was elected President of South Africa in 1994, the first black president to serve. 

  • Hout Bay, Simon's Town and the Boulder Penguin Colony

    This morning we left the hotel at 8:00 for a drive down to Hout Bay on the Chapman Highway.  We stopped for a photo opportunity with Tom pointing at the Sentniel.  We continued along the coast until we reached the Cape of Good Hope where we rode a funicular to the lighthouse at the top and then walked the steps back down.  Our next stop was Cape Point and then we stopped for lunch at Simon’s Town.

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    Hout Bay

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    Riding up to the top of the point.

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    Eland Antelope

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    We ate lunch at Bertha’s in Simon’s Town before visiting the Boulders Visitor Center Penguin Colony.

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    Fun penguin facts from today at Boulders Penguin colony brochure:

    • From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the penguin colony has grown to about 2,200!!
    • The penguins are African Penguins because they are the only penguin species that breeds in Africa.
    • Old feathers are replaced during the annual moult. In this period, the birds lose their waterproofing and are confined to land for about 21 days. African penguins fatten up before the molt, which is a period of starvation.
    • After a year or two baby blues molt and attain their distinctive black and white adult plumage. African penguins generally start breeding only at about four years of an age. The main breeding season starts in February. They are a monogamous species and the lifelong partners take turns to incubate their eggs and feed their young.

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  • Cape Town - Day 2

    We started the morning with a bus ride up to the Kiswtenbosch Botanical National Gardens.

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    The Boy-Kaap are of Cape Town—very upscale and colorful

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    Lunch by the pier at Harbour House

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    The Cullinan Hotel

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  • Cape Town, South Africa

    On Friday morning we left the Mowana Resort in Kasane, Botswana by bus at 9:00AM. Only seven of us are going to Cape Town.  Our friends Joyce and Diana are flying home to Minnesota. We took a final group picture before we parted.

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    We rode twenty minutes to the Zimbabwe border where we went through border control and got our passports stamped. There we transferred to another bus, and road to the Victoria Falls airport where we boarded our flight to Cape Town, South Africa.  When we landed in Cape Town it was 59 degrees, MUCH cooler that the near 100 degree temperatures we left behind.  It was very windy!

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    Cape Town from the airplane with Table Mountain mostly hidden by the clouds.

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    We are staying at the Cullinan Hotel across from the Convention Center.

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  • Chobe National Park-Day 3

    This morning at 11:00 we walked down to  the Mowana Safari Resort ’s dock  to board a special boat equipped with swivel chairs and state-of-the-art zoom lens DSLR cameras.

    After the boat ride we were given the  memory stick from the camera to take home, containing all the wildlife photos we took along the way

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    Our first stop was to take some closeup shots of a group of warthogs.  When warthogs eat, they knell on their knees so they can reach the grass since their necks are so short.

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    Next, we spotted some hippos in the water only able to see their eyes and nose above the water.

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    We also were able to spot a few hippos out of the water. They are huge!

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    We spent a few minutes taking pictures of the Malachite kingfisher.  This little bird is only about three inches long, so it is balanced on a blade of grass.

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    We enjoyed seeing these elephants playing in the mud.

    We arrived back at the resort about 1:00.  I spent about an hour in the pool which felt so refreshing.  As we swam three monkeys were playing around the pool chairs and tried to grab  Cecelia’s purse and passport.  Cheryl and Dorian kept trying to shoo the monkeys away which was hilarious, but the monkeys kept bothering them.  Finally, they moved to chairs on the other side of the pool and the monkeys got bored and left.

    Final Game Drive

    Our final game drive was from 3:00-6:00 in the afternoon.

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    The pride of lions were waiting up from an afternoon nap.

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    A big yawn from the lion king.

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    King of the jungle

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    A pod of hippos

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    We ended the evening with cocktails on the deck in front of the baobab tree.

     

  • Chobe National Park, Botswana

    We started the day at 6:00AM with a game drive in Chobe National Park. We spotted a leopard shortly after we entered the park along with hundreds of impalas, Next we encountered an elephant that was being a little too playful and seemed as though he was going to ram the jeep.  A little too much excitement for some of the members in our group.

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    Leopard 

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    Impalas

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    An elephant running towards our jeep!

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    Our biggest excitement of the morning was watching a den of lions devour a Cape buffalo.

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    This is a picture of a Cape buffalo that the lions killed and ate.

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    In the afternoon we were able to see that same spot from our boat cruise on the water.

     

    The baboons were fascinating to watch.  Obviously, this little guy was not listening, so his dad picked him up and carried him to his mom.

     

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    The Chobe Explorer

    We cruised  the Chobe River on the triple-decker Vantage Chobe Explorer from late morning until about 4:00,. As we slowly cruised down the river we were able to spot animals from a different perspective than on our morning game drive on land.

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    Those swinging loungers on the top deck were very comfortable, but the sun was a little too intense to be sitting up there. The middle deck was nicely shaded with comfortable seating, so we spent most of the cruise on that level.

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    We enjoyed a delicious lunch on the bottom deck and then returned upstairs to take more photos.

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    Animals, Birds, and Crocodiles

    We were able to see the same spot  where the lions had eaten the Cape buffalo in the morning and now saw the buzzers and other birds feasting on the leftovers—until one of the lions started to walk in that direction.

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    As soon as the lion walks away, the birds return.

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    Yellow billed stork

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    Pied Kingfisher

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    Elephants playing in the mud

  • Botswana

    This morning we left the Iganaya Tented Camp around 9:00 and drove across Zimbabwe to get to our next destination in Kasane, Botswana where we are staying at the beautiful Cresta Mowana Safari Resort located along the Chobe River and near the entrance to Chobe National Park.  We stopped for lunch at Zulu’s and enjoyed an absolutely delicious fo

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    I had grilled chicken and a salad.  Tom had a hamburger and French fries.  Our friends Joyce and Diana had the pizzas picture above.

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        The outside of Zulus

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    Here we are eating our lunch together

    We had to go through passport control to get out of Zimbabwe.  That entailed getting out of the bus and waiting in a building to get our passports stamped getting back into the bus.  Riding another 100 feet of so before we had to get out of the bus again.  This time we and all our luggage transferred to a Botswana Bus.  That bus had to drive through a disinfected to clean the tires.  We walked across the border and had to step into the disinfective solution and place our other pair of shoes in it as well.  It looked absolutely filthy, so I can’t imagine it was keeping our any germs.


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    Here we are on the Botswana side holding our “theoretically: disinfected shoes.

    We got back in the bus and rode for about twenty minutes before arriving at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort located along the Chobe River and near the entrance to Chobe National Park. 

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    This hippo at the resort is the first one we’ve seen out of water, but that was about to change.

    We checked into our rooms and relaxed for about an hour before taken a private river tour on the Chobe River.

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    This is our boat today for our private tour of the Chore River.  We saw our first hippos out of the water and also a huge number of water buffalos, a giraffe, kudu, crocodile, elephants, crocodile, and finally some hippos our of the water!

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    We started out seeing just parts of the heads of the hippos, but by time time we finished the trip, we had seen seven

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    Delicious dinner outside by the pool

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  • Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

    The road was absolutely horrible and the ride was rough from the Palm River Hotel to our new location. We traveled by small bus into very remote areas where we drove by small villages along the way.  Each “village” contains the parents’ hut, Childrens’ hut, grandparent’s hut, and the outside kitchen.  There were road cows and goats walking along the road as we drove past.

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    The Iganyana Tented Camp, located outside of Hwange National Park , is the destination where we will be spending the next three nights. Once we were near the tent camp, our luggage and we were transferred from the bus to two safari jeeps to be driven into the camp.  

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    Our driver Dome (pronounced do me)

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    The road into the camp

    Our beautiful tent.  It has an air conditioner and electricity, but the generators don’t run when we are out on a game drive.  When we walk back to the tent and go inside, the heat is oppressive.  It takes about two hours to cool it down to a bearable temperature, but as it becomes evening, the temperature drops outside and the inside temperature is quite comfortable .  The generator turns off at 10:00 and we can unzip the tent flaps and are able to sleep quite comfortably. In fact, it gets very cool at night (low 60s).

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    This is the entrance to the lounge area, where we dined and had access to wi-fi.

    While we were eating lunch on the deck, a small herd of elephants came right up to the pool to get some water to drink. Seeing them so close was absolutely incredible.  

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    Dorian and Cheryl

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    The water is chlorinated, but the elephants don’t seem to mind!

    GAME DRIVE

    We took our first game drive in the afternoon when the temperature was 105 degrees.  Although the jeep had a canopy for sun protection, the temperature was oppressive, but we saw some amazing sites! Our driver and game ranger Ray was extremely knowledgable and made the game drives very interesting.

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    Male Kudu

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    Acacia Tree

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    Yellow billed horn bill

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    A giraffe out for a walk in the woods

    Termite mound

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    This termite mound is approximately 4 feet tall, but is 3-4 times that large underground where the termites actually live. Termites in Zimbabwe build gigantic mounds inside of which they farm a fungus that is their primary food source. The fungus must be kept at exactly 87 degrees F, while the temperatures outside range from 35 degrees F at night to 104 degrees F during the day.

    The mound is constructed out of a mixture of soil, termite saliva and dung. Although the mound appears solid, the structure is incredibly porous. Its walls are filled with tiny holes that allow outside air to enter and permeate the entire structure.

     There is a queen and king termite, workers and soldiers. The workers go out of the mound in search of food for the colony and bring it back through underground tunnels that lead back to the mound.  Elephant poop is all grain.  The termites cover the elephant dropping with mud, so the temperature inside the dropping is cooler.  Once it is coated with the mud, the termites eat all the grain and transport it back to the mound to regurgitate it to residents in the mound.  After the termites are finished with the elephant droppings, all that remains is the hollow dirt that once coated the dropping.

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    The elephants returned in the evening and stayed for over an hour and a half .  It was the highlight of our day!

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