August 02, 2013

Where The Wild Things Are: Conservation and Great Photography


The story and pictures were too good not to share,although this picture of a Snow Leopard and her cubs is not from this story.

by Christine McCabe

THANKS to the efforts of conservation-minded companies operating in some of the world's most remote regions, travellers have the opportunity to make like David Attenborough and experience our most charismatic and endangered creatures in the wild. Just pack a zoom lens and your sense of wonder. 
Bengal tiger, Madhya Pradesh, India: There are no guarantees when it comes to spotting the world's biggest "big cat", but in the rustling sal tree and bamboo forests of the Bandhavgarh National Park, home to one of India's largest tiger populations, their spine-tingling presence is palpable, and at dusk villagers on the park's outskirts are careful to pen their cattle. Guests of Taj Safaris' Mahua Kothi Lodge, 20 minutes from the park, head out twice daily to look for tigers. You may see nothing more than scat and prints or could have several sightings in a day. The drier months of April through June are your best bet. More:


Spirit bear, British Columbia, Canada: Also known as the Kermode bear, this rare and reclusive creature lives deep in the Great Bear Rainforest, an eerie, fog-shrouded realm of ancient cedars and hemlocks, bound by chilly fjords and forested islands. A curious white version of the black bear, Kermode are concentrated on Gribbell and Princess Royal islands and the best time to catch a glimpse is September when the salmon are running. At King Pacific Lodge, floating accommodation towed into position off Princess Royal every summer and accessible only by seaplane, guides lead guests deep into the forest, an obstacle course of fallen trees and trampoline-springy moss, where, with any luck, you'll spy a white bear gorging on salmon or daintily picking huckleberries. More:


Elephant, Africa: Chobe National Park in northern Botswana is home to the largest elephant herds in Africa; the total population probably exceeds 50,000 and hundreds of elephants may be seen in a day. The best viewing is to be enjoyed during the dry season (July-October) and it gets better as it gets drier, says A&K regional managing director Sujata Raman. She recommends the upscale Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero Lodge, with day spa, swimming pool and views across the flood plains. More:
• Another smaller scale but very accessible hot spot is the Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa's Eastern Cape (70km from Port Elizabeth). Founded in 1931, when only 16 elephants were left in the region, the park now has a population topping 550 and during the dry you'll see large herds gathered around water. Stay at the charming Elephant House. More:


Hippopotamus, Masai Mara, Kenya: While Uganda is thought to claim the highest concentration of hippos, guests of the Mara Explorer Camp in Kenya get to spend plenty of quality time with these enormous creatures. Just metres below the camp's tents, tucked away in scrubby forest on a bend in the Talek River, hippos congregate in deep pools, belching and farting, yawning and grumbling. If this doesn't keep you awake, a mongoose frolicking in your outdoor bathtub or a baboon helping himself to tea from your private veranda may do the trick. The camp is also the perfect spot to view lions and cheetahs as well as the great migration in July-September. More:

Mountain gorilla, Rwanda: Less than 900 of these gentle giants are thought to survive in the wild, with about half living in the southern Virunga National Park in the Congo and the Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda. Daily treks, up to eight hours long, are available in the latter. Park regulations permit one hour with a gorilla family (which is habituated to human presence). It is wise to avoid the wettest months, March to May. More:


Crocodile, Northern Territory: The Sampan River is home to one of the largest crocodile populations in the world. Forming the western boundary of Bamurru Plains, a working buffalo run just west of Kakadu National Park on the Mary River flood plains, the Sampan wriggles with these ancient reptiles, dozing on river banks, gliding through murky waters or lounging on the grey sand beach at the river's mouth. Wild Bush Luxury's Bamurru Plains operates river cruises April-October (the later and drier the season, the more crocs you will see). Also thrilling are the airboat tours of the flood plains and ethereal paperbark swamps. More: 

Snow leopard, Ladakh, India: You need pluck and luck to spot the world's most elusive big cat, but these days high-altitude treks to track the endangered snow leopard in Ladakh's Hemis National Park are luring a growing number of intrepid travellers. Winter is your best chance to catch a glimpse of the leopards as they descend from the higher, snow-bound peaks to follow their prey, including bharal (blue sheep) and ibex. And the mid-January to mid-March breeding season is optimum. Even so, this is a pretty hardcore adventure and there's no guarantee of spotting the "ghost of the mountains". Britain-based Responsible Travel claims growing success (with sightings on recent treks) as guides, from the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust, become more familiar with the creature's habits and territory. More:


Great white shark, Neptune Islands, South Australia: During winter mature great whites congregate to feed on New Zealand fur seals off the Neptune Islands, 70km south of Port Lincoln. Several operators offer cage dives but only Rodney Fox, one of the world's leading authorities on the great white, drops this device to the sea floor, allowing qualified divers a thoroughly immersive experience. (He also operates surface cages for non- divers.) The season runs from May to October with May to July being the best time to observe the huge females. More:


Orangutan, Sandakan, Malaysian Borneo: Located in a 4300ha reserve, the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary was set up almost five decades ago to rehabilitate orphaned orangutans. Raised boardwalks make this an easy stroll into the jungle to observe these beguiling creatures feeding from treetop platforms. Occasionally, a large ape may drop on to the boardwalk in front of you, which is wonderful and also slightly alarming. Leave your handbag at home; these mischievous chaps are partial to a spot of pilfering. Check out Orangutan Odysseys, which operates adventure and educational tours in Indonesia and Malaysia to support conservation efforts. More:;

Chimpanzee, Tanzania: About 800 wild chimps live in the remote Mahale Mountains National Park on Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania, where the only way in is by air, then boat. Guests of the rustic, lakeshore Greystoke camp (think beach dinners and sundowners aboard an old dhow) enjoy daily treks into the forest in search of a community of chimps habituated to human visitors. Groups are limited to six trekkers. The season runs June to March. More:


Most pictures and story with many thanks to The Australian


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