• Too Good to be True: The Caribbean – 2007

    If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. But not on this occasion. A small ad in the Vancouver Sun’s Travel Section promised a 17-night Caribbean cruise on Holland America’s Maasdam for only $1,600 per person. So I immediately phoned the cruise line and asked what the catch was. “Yes, sir, you are correct. There is a bit of a twist to this cruise,” said the booking clerk. “It is a cruise to the Cricket World Cup and we’ll be visiting several islands to see different games, including the final in Barbados.” I couldn’t believe what I had been told. It was NO catch for me. I…

  • Tiger Tales – 2011

    Yadunath Sen spoke only one word of English. And that was “tiger”. And when he calmly, but softly, said “tiger” and pointed with his left arm into the distant bush he had our complete attention.  We were in Bandhavgarh National Park in India. It was our fifth – and last – safari in two national parks searching for the elusive and endangered tiger. And our luck appeared to have run out. At that time there were only about 3,000 tigers left in the wild and they had completely eluded us. One hundred years ago there were 40,000. But early one August morning our Toyota Land Cruiser eased to a halt…

  • Chimpanzees and Gorillas – 2009

    Sitting on a plane wearing protective breathing masks for a ten-hour flight seemed a little bizarre. But we were terrified of getting sick. And for good reason. We were on our way to see the gorillas high up in the mountain forests of Rwanda and Uganda and if we had even the slightest sniffle, we would be banned from visiting them. We were under surveillance as soon as we arrived early in the morning at a holding field for gorilla trekkers on the edge of Virunga National Park. The guides watched us closely for an hour for any signs of sneezing, coughing, or multiple visits to the washroom. Any symptoms…

  • The Night of the Hyenas – 2015

    My friend Ted is normally a calm, placid man. Nothing really bothers him. That was until 4.00a.m. in the pitch black of an African night, when he heard a rustling sound, looked at the shadow cast by the tiny light outside his tent flap and saw a hyena looking in on him.  For an hour the hyena stalked Ted’s tent. They are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa with jaws capable of crushing bone and known to attack humans. It eventually ambled off after marking its territory all around Ted’s tent. Thirty minutes later Ted came to breakfast looking as white as a sheet. Just hours before the…

  • Galapagos and Easter Island – 2013

    It was potentially the most exciting day of our six week journey. But it had started to rain. It was torrential and we could barely see more than 50 feet before our eyes. But emerging from the equatorial scrub was a 200 pound tortoise. Then another, and another. Pretty soon there were about 40 of the huge creatures slurping through puddles, following each other along the rough gravel paths. The rain, in fact, meant that virtually every tortoise on Isabela Island in the Galapagos had come out to take a drink of the desperately needed rainwater. Our guide said we saw more that day than she had seen in any…

  • Uluru – 2016

    From the air, we flew over miles and miles of red desert. And then out of nowhere, a massive sandstone monolith. We were looking down on Uluru, or Ayers Rock, stunned by the beauty of this vast freak of geology. In this remarkable terracotta landscape of dunes and scrub, Ayers Rock suddenly appears like a rusted battleship from the desert floor. It is a sacred place that has only really opened up for tourists over the past 20 years or so. In fact, when we were in Australia back in 1981 the only way to get there – it is smack in the centre of Australia – was to drive…

  • Cuba – 2017

    It was dubbed Obama’s Glasnost. Just before Christmas, in December 2014, the then president announced the opening of relations with Cuba after 54 years. He called the previous US policy, which sought to isolate the communist government, a failure. Although the US trade embargo remains in place, Obama started the thaw – and started a flood of interest by US citizens wanting to visit Cuba. We wanted to beat them to see this mysterious country before it was overrun with tourists, cruise ships and tour buses – and get there before Cuba, emerging from the 1950’s – lost its unique identity. And we were amongst the first tourists to book…

  • Counting Countries

    Radoslav Bozovic thought we were nuts. Absolutely nuts. We’d hired him to drive us through five countries in a day. We left Dubrovnik, Croatia, early in the morning, then drove through Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo and finally to Skopje, Macedonia. Actually we made the trip for a couple of reasons. Largely it was economic. We wanted to see Dubrovnik, but then had to make our way to Istanbul where we had already booked flights with Turkish Airlines down to South Africa. And there were no direct flights from Dubrovnik to Istanbul. To fly would have taken all day and cost twice as much as it did to drive. Not to…