Jul 172017
 

On July 2nd, Echo held an open house at Kunuku Dos Pos in Rincon.  For those who aren’t familiar with this organization, Echo is a non-profit group with a mission to protect the Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot (Amazona Barbadensis) on Bonaire and in the Caribbean.  We attended the open house to learn more about this wonderful organization and its mission here on the island.

One of Echo’s main projects is reforestation of the habitat of the Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot in Bonaire. By growing and planting indigenous trees at sites all around the island, Echo is helping to restore the unique habitats favored by this amazing bird.  In addition to the extensive reforestation effort, Echo also conducts research (such as nest monitoring and roost counts) and rehabilitates injured and illegally captured parrots.

This beautiful parrot lives at the Echo kunuku in a spacious enclosure. It was an illegal pet and can not be released into the wild. Echo cares for it, and others like it.

Echo also cares for a pair of Scarlet McCaws that were illegal pets and can not fend for themselves in the wild.

At Echo’s Kunuku Dos Pos, they also have an indigenous tree nursery, at which members of the public can purchase indigenous trees (which are favored by the Amazon Parrots) to plant on their own property.

The entrance to Echo’s kunuku in Rincon

Echo conducts public tours each Wednesday at 4:30.  Please visit if you are interested in learning more about its important work.

Email – Info@echobonaire.org

Call –  701 1188

A wild Yellow-shouldered Parrot in Rincon, Bonaire

Jun 252017
 

When most people think of “birds” and “Bonaire”, they picture the island’s unofficial mascot – the Caribbean Flamingo.  Bonaire’s flamingos are undoubtedly a thing of beauty and awe, but they are only part of the picture when it comes to Bonaire’s avian life.

A juvenile flamingo, rendered in Black and White

Over 210 species of birds call Bonaire home.  From shore birds to sea birds to land birds, Bonaire is an often-overlooked haven for birders and bird photographers.  It’s our goal to spot and photograph as many of these fliers as possible.

Luckily, we don’t have to leave the house to find beautiful subjects.  Our own yard is a rich source of inspiration.

A bananaquit rests in our garden in the bougainvillea

A Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot enjoys a snack in our backyard

Bonaire’s shore birds and wading birds can be found throughout the island in the mangroves, salinas, and ocean shores.

Easily identified by its bright red beak, the American oystercatcher, true to its name, enjoys a diet of oysters, clams and mussels.

Steve caught this American oystercatcher as it prepared for take-off

Sharing the shore with the oystercatcher is the common Brown pelican.  Although it seems rather large, the Brown pelican is the smallest of the eight species of pelican.

Brown pelican eating a fish

Approximately thirteen species of Herons and Egrets are found among Bonaire’s shores.

Reddish egret

A Yellow-crowned night heron feasts on a crab

A Green heron rests on a mangrove root

And finally, we’re excited to announce that scientists have discovered a new Bonairean bird species with a wingspan of 60.3 m (197.83 ft)!  We finally managed to photograph it in its native environment.

KLM Airbus A330 bound for Amsterdam

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

What is your favorite bird on Bonaire?

May 302017
 

On April 23, 2017, an oil spill occurred at Trinidad’s Petrotin oil refinery in the Gulf of Paria. As a result of a ruptured storage tank, approximately 20,000 gallons (or 300 barrels) of crude oil cascaded into Trinidad’s Guaracara River (according to Trinidad and Tobago’s Guardian Online).

During the past month, the wayward blobs of oil have traveled in a westerly trajectory in the southern Caribbean sea.  Thus far, Venezuela (and its Los Roques islands), Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba have all reported the presence of oil on their shores.

When I imagine our weekly walk at Sorobon, I don’t envision stepping on gummy toxic blobs of crude oil, but this is exactly what happened this weekend.  Laughing Gulls, Snowy Egrets, Flamingos and Royal Terns all perched nearby as if nothing was amiss – oblivious to the danger that surrounded them.

Oil Spill Effects seen at Sorobon

The oil, seen here at Sorobon, has morphed into tar

Sorobon is home to endangered sea turtles, endangered mangrove forests, flamingos, queen conch and many other avian and aquatic species. This delicate ecosystem is a showcase of nature’s finest work, and now it is suffering daily assaults as the oil continues to wash in with the tides. The extent of the damage is not yet known and can not yet be assessed.

Thankfully, Bonaire has dedicated contingent of conservation agencies and volunteers who have been working tirelessly to contain the damage.  Yesterday, Steve joined STINAPA and Dutch military forces at a cleanup at Lagoen.

Dutch Military Forces at work, photo by Steve Schnoll

Clean-up efforts underway at Lagoen, photo by Steve Schnoll

Photo by Steve Schnoll

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) has also been working around the clock to help coordinate clean-up efforts.  This morning it held a clean-up at the old shrimp farm near Sorobon.

Photo courtesy of STCB

Photo courtesy of STCB

Your Help is Needed.  STINAPA Bonaire is coordinating clean-up efforts for the coming days. Please send an email to volunteer@stinapa.org (make sure to include your name, phone number and address) if you would like to assist in these efforts on Bonaire’s east coast. Also, please follow the Facebook pages for Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire and STINAPA.

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If you find sea turtles, birds or other marine life affected by the oil, please call the STCB Hotline at (+599) 780 0433 or Stinapa at (+599) 717 8444.

Several friends and frequent Bonaire tourists have asked what they can do to help from afar. We will inquire and share what we find.

Online News Sources

Oil Spill Reaches Bonaire

Trinidad Oil Spill Pollutes Beaches in Venezuela

Oil Spill Reaches the ABC Islands

The Oil Spill is Spreading in the Gulf of Paria – includes an aerial photos of the spill site

 

 

Dec 312016
 

As 2016 comes to a close, we want to thank you for sharing our adventures with us.  We wish you all a happy and healthy 2017 filled with love and adventure.

Rain, rain and more rain.  That’s been the weather forecast on Bonaire for the past month.  But we’re not complaining.  This desert island, along with its flora and fauna, welcome the life-giving H20.

The increased rains also mean that dive and snorkel conditions have been less than optimal.  But it’s still Bonaire, which means that the diving is still incredible.

Here are some scenes from the island this week.

tattoosh super yacht

Paul Allen’s Tatoosh has been docked in town for several days. She is 303 feet of super yacht complete with a helicopter and two 46 foot boats.

Tattoosh from her stern

Tatoosh from her stern

The Courtyard Marriott has been completed and is open for business.

The Courtyard Marriott has been completed and is open for business.

The Salt Pier - one of the most interesting dive sites on the island

The Salt Pier – one of the most interesting dive sites on the island

A panoramic view of the Salt Pier

A panoramic view of the Salt Pier

Dancing beak to beak in Gotomeer Lake

Dancing beak to beak in Gotomeer Lake

Another pair of flamingo mates at Lake Gotomeer

Another pair of flamingo mates at Lake Gotomeer

Eared Dove atop cactus near Rincon

Eared Dove atop cactus near Rincon

A Blue-tailed emerald hummingbird shimmers on its perch

A Blue-tailed emerald hummingbird shimmers on its perch

How are you celebrating the new year?  As tradition dictates, Bonaire will have multiple fireworks displays on the waterfront tonight.

Sep 262016
 

We recently returned from a three week journey through northern Tanzania and Pemba Island in the Zanzibar Archipelago.  This is our travel diary.  We have many photos from our trip, and we will continue to post them in the following weeks.  

A Journey to Tanzania

Our Tanzanian journey began as we touched down at Kilimanjaro airport after a nine hour flight from Amsterdam. We were met by our amazing and tireless guide David Mark Makia (from Access2Tanzania) and taken to Arusha for a short stay.

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We visited three of Tanzania’s sixteen national parks during our safari – Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park and Serengeti National Park. At 14,763 square kilometers (5,700 square miles), Serengeti is the second largest National Park in Tanzania (second only to Ruaha which is 20,300 square kilometers or 7,838 square miles). We also visited the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you will find the vast Ngorongoro Crater – a volcanic caldera which is unique due to its dense population of wildlife living amongst human settlements (chiefly the Maasai tribe).

Tarangire Park Sign

Welcome to Serengeti

Steve and me at the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater

Steve and me at the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater

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During our scenic drives through northern Tanzania, we passed the Olduvai Gorge– the cradle of civilization and the site of Mary and Louis Leakey’s renowned archeological work. It is here that the earliest human footprints were found. Olduvai Gorge is located in the area called the Great Rift Valley, which crosses an expanse of East Africa. We were struck by an intense sense of awe and wonder as we traversed this area, as we realized that we are all African at our core.

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The Serengeti is truly the garden of Eden. Serengeti means “endless plain” in the Maasai language of Maa, and it’s easy to see why it was given this name. At first, a simple glimpse at the vast expanse of grassland reveals only flora of green and amber, a few hills and rock formations called kopjes. But once your eyes focus, the wildlife starts to reveal itself. You may spot a lion or pride of lions lying in the grass. If you are lucky, you may spot a leopard draped over a tree branch. Birds abound in every size and hue of the rainbow, with several reaching 1.5m (5 feet) tall . Overseeing the circle of life, eagles and vultures perch in the trees awaiting their turn to feast on a kill (there is a definitive pecking order as it pertains to a carcass). Zebras, antelopes and wildebeest appear all around – at times in great numbers. Elephants, giraffes and buffalo abound. Only a lucky few will catch a glimpse of a cheetah or rhino. We saw both.

A Leopard rests in a tree in Serengeti

A Leopard rests in a tree in Serengeti

The Great Migration of Wildebeest in Northern Serengeti

The Great Migration of Wildebeest in Northern Serengeti

Our guide for the ten day safari was truly a gifted naturalist and communicator. His knowledge of wildlife behavior and habitats appeared innate, although he went to university to study wildlife biology. He revealed himself to be a comedian, and he kept us entertained on the long and often bumpy drives through the parks. On most days, we were in the Land Cruiser for five hours or more, and several of our longer days we were in the truck for ten or twelve hours. Much of this time is spent driving through the reserves/game parks. For instance, our camp in Tarangire National Park was a two hour drive from the main entrance to the park. The drive to the camp is filled with wildlife, so it is quite thrilling.

Steve with our guide David in Ngorongoro Crater

Steve with our guide David in Ngorongoro Crater

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In the parks, we chose to stay in tented camps rather than lodges. We are happy to have made this choice, as the camps allow you to experience the wildlife as if you were part of its delicate ecosystem.

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The camps consist of a small number of large private tents and a central dining and meeting area. They are furnished with comfortable beds, desks, dressers and nice linens. The bathrooms are large and functional and some even have outdoor showers (we showered with elephants at Tarangire). At night, you can hear the lions roaring just outside of your tent – a reminder that you are truly in the wild. Most of the camps employ Maasai warriors as security guards. The Maasai aren’t guarding against mischievous intruders or thieves, rather, they are guarding against lions and other wildlife. In the camps, it is not permitted to walk alone before 6:00 am or after 6:30 pm. A guard must accompany you if you venture outside the tent during darkness. As soon as you unzip the tent or illuminate a flashlight, the Maasai guard was at your side in seconds.

Our Maasai security guard at Lemala Ewanjan Camp in Serengeti

Our Maasai security guard at Lemala Ewanjan Camp in Serengeti

Tented lounge area at Lemala Ewanjan Camp in Serengeti

Tented lounge area at Lemala Ewanjan Camp in Serengeti

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The Maasai are found only in Kenya and Tanzania. They are an autonomous people with a semi-nomadic nature. There are currently around 1.7 million Maasai people, and they live mainly around the game parks. Their livelihood is based on their livestock, and they consume only meat, milk and blood (although some have started to eat grains). Interestingly, they consume no vegetables. We visited a Maasai village in Ngorongoro, and they explained their culture and showed us the inside of a hut and also the school. Despite being a warrior culture, the people are kind and subdued. They have a proud and regal nature.

Maasai Warriors in Ngorongoro

Maasai Warriors in Ngorongoro

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At the end of the 10-day Safari we flew to Pemba Island, just north of Zanzibar in the Zanzibar Archipelago. These islands have been dubbed the Spice Islands, and the aroma of cloves, lemongrass and cinnamon fill the air. Pemba produces 70% of the world’s cloves. Pemba is a lush, verdant and hilly island where fruits and vegetables fall off the trees and vines. It is also known for its excellent diving, and we were able to experience some beautiful reef dives while there.  Pemba and Zanzibar share a Muslim culture, and the people are some of the kindest I have ever met. We were warmly welcomed to the island and treated with the utmost respect.

View from Manta Resort on Pemba Island

View from Manta Resort on Pemba Island

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We would like to thank Karen Stupic at Access2Tanzania for helping us plan and execute this trip of a lifetime. We also wish to thank our tireless guide David Mark Makia, who we now consider a part of our family.

 

Have you been on an African safari? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience.