“Ok first things first! We are, under no circumstances, allowed to mention the word Shark throughout the duration of this dive course, is that understood?”
Our instructor then described all the unimaginable deaths that would await us in the ocean if we did not pay attention- exploding lungs, imploding eardrums, the bends, nitrogen narcosis, going too deep and turning the air in our scuba tanks into deadly poison. It all sounded such fun, we could hardly wait to get into the water and expire in some bizarre fashion.
Taken from ‘Leap of faith’ published in Costa Rica Traveler Magazine.
My bowels feel heavy; I am nearly touching cloth as a friend most elegantly put it after dining on a dodgy prawn curry in Calcutta.
“Don’t look down” a voice from behind me shouts- and so, of course, I look down.
And in that instance I make my final decision; I’m not going to jump. By the time I turn away from the ledge of terror, I find to my great relief that I have already come to terms with my spinelessness.
Taken from ‘Hard life makes smart monkeys’ published in BBC Wildlife Magazine.
The troop was wound up tighter than watch springs; stiff postures and gaping grimaces indicating that this was no lighthearted game they were playing. Like boxers in a ring, the most audacious of the males took it in turns to wear down the female raccoon with lunges and feints.
Eventually, stamina drained through constant harassment, she slipped and fell with a dull thud upon the forest floor- just what the monkeys had been waiting for. In a flurry of movement the untidy nest joined her upon the ground- minus the three pups within. Her best efforts to get them back were to no avail, for a raccoon does not have at its disposal a set of opposable digits or a prehensile tail, and hence, the drama ended with the inevitable crunching of bones, and the pitter-patter of blood upon the forest floor.
Capuchins have been described as the world’s third most intelligent primate following close on the cerebral heels of humans and chimps, a grand stature indeed for such a tiny monkey, but a reputation well deserved, for the behavior that governs their lives, the cruelty and compassion, reflects very closely indeed the very same characteristics that we ourselves use to define our own lofty intelligence.
Taken from ‘midnight at the oasis’ published in BBC Wildlife Magazine
At three in the morning I was rudely awoken by someone or something opening and closing doors around the house. I lay in my bed; eyes open to the darkness thinking terrible thoughts about turtle egg poachers armed with sharp machetes. I was scared, very, very scared!
A further five minutes of paralysing fear passed until I was able to pluck up enough courage to slip out from under the sheets, arm myself with a blunt table knife and confront whoever it was making all that noise.
Silently I stepped out from the house and shone the light beam from my torch towards the origin of the noises. All the lavatory doors were open, and poking out from the third stall was a very large rear end, not belonging to a sneaky poacher, but to a very fat black Tapir.
Taken from ‘Diving with dolphins’ published in Costa Rica Traveler Magazine
The lukewarm water was a cobalt blue, as transparent as newly polished glass. Sun rays pierced through the surface, casting fractals across the smooth skinned dolphins below. They circled me slowly; satisfying their curiosity as to what I might possibly be.
They smiled, as dolphins always do; they can’t help it, their faces are fixed with an expression of permanent mirth.
They clicked and squeaked, probing us with sophisticated radar, all the while smiling those enigmatic smiles of theirs.
I was smiling too; a facial expression that has no practical value under the sea. Water gushed into my mouth causing me to splutter and choke. The dolphins kept on smirking at me; sharing a joke perhaps at my inadequacies within their briny domain.
Taken from ‘sex and frogs and rock and roll’ published in Costa Rica Traveler Magazine
“Hey Gringo, Did you know that licking a toad cures depression?” said the unshaven man sitting next to me on the bus.
He had obviously noticed I was down in the dumps, and he, being an evidentially jovial (or possibly drunk) character had risen to the challenge of cheering me up.
“Yes it’s true” the man continued “But there is one teeny little drawback”
“And what would that be?” I asked, intrigued by this unusual conversation.
“Well, when you stop licking, the toad gets depressed again” and with that he burst into a fit of ear splitting laughter that turned heads and hurt mine.
Taken from ‘A monks tale’ Published in Asahi weekly
I could only conclude that the seal was dead. I had informed many tourists often enough on the plight of the monk seals in these waters. How fishermen waged war against them, shooting them on sight or dynamiting their breeding caves.
Now, here I was, looking sadly down at the evidence, killed illegally and then stashed in an underwater cave to avoid discovery.
Positioning myself towards its head at the back of the cave I reached out and gently touched its snout. It was as my hand made contact that the seal’s eyes opened.
Taken from ‘Osa the last wilderness frontier’ Published in Global Magazine.
A scarlet macaw is probably the world’s most handsome bird; nature’s rainbow, decked in finery fit for a carnival. There were a dozen of them up above, jostling noisily amongst the branches, singing their little hearts out. And oh what songs they sang; an onslaught of sound utterly at odds with their stunning good looks.
This ear splitting cacophony, capable of rousing the dead and giving headaches to the hard of hearing, had been my early morning alarm clock for the previous seven days, and as a result, I had acquired a rather large bag under each one of my eyes.
It was 4:30a.m and as usual, I was very much awake..
Taken from ‘The Enchanted isles’ Published in Global Magazine.
I have always been rather fond of boobies; lovely things that they are.
I saw my first pair on a television program at an impressionable young age and fell in love instantly, vowing that when, and if, I [eventually] grew up I should like to see as many as possible.
It is a well known fact that a young man, wishing to fulfill such a fantasy, should look no further than the exotic and far flung Galapagos archipelago, a place unlike any other where boobies can be seen in abundance.
A stroll along the golden sands will reward the enthusiast with sightings of hundreds, if not thousands of pairs, fully exposed, just begging, it would seem, to be touched, fondled and photographed.
So here I am now, lying on my belly, partially concealed in a bush, with my trusty zoom lens targeted on a gorgeous pair just three meters away. It’s such a thrill to finally see my very favorite bird.
Taken from ‘The windiest lake’ published in Costa Rica outdoor magazine
“Now, once more, space your feet a little further apart this time and angle the sail away from your body”
The wind surfing instructor remains astoundingly calm in the face of utter incompetence.
Time and time again I prove incapable of following his directions.
I have fallen off twenty nine times in less than half an hour and have so far managed to travel forty-two inches from the shoreline. Considering my lack of water sport skills, I feel that this is quite an achievement but I don’t think the Instructor would agree. However, throughout the entire ordeal he retains the tranquil demeanor of a man used to dealing with useless novices. He has a kindness and a diplomatic deportment which I find both encouraging and touching.
Taken from ‘jewels in the sky’ published in Nature landings.
A golden scimitar of sun seared away the clouds revealing a brilliant blue sky above. It was a welcome change indeed!
Swirling phantoms of steam danced amongst the trees; and the damp leafy earth smoldered as if on fire; it all smelt so very wonderful; musty and alive.
Scores of lovely little humming birds zipped erratically amongst the wispy vapors, animated by the sudden appearance of light and warmth.