Tag Archives: wildlife

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

3 Sep

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is to take and post shots of the sea.

As I’m surrently living in the centre of Korea (I’m smack bang in the middle between North and South) I don’t have much access to the sea! However, I am extremely lucky that I come from an island totally surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea and thus I will use this post to look back on all the good times I have had there and portray how beautiful Ireland really is.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

25 Aug

bug ethiopia

Sometimes you need to stop walking through life at such a fast pace, pause for a moment, and enjoy the little treasures that are right in front of you…treasures that are often only visible when you make the time to take a closer look.

I have many close up shots of beautiful and vibrantly colorful flowers and insects, but this is the only time that I managed to capture and focus both at the same time. A beautiful moment captured forever. 

Below are a few more of my favorite shots with background defocus. Enjoy! :)

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Carefree Puffins

18 Aug

I love the theme of this weeks weekly photo challenge so much that I’m going to do it TWICE!!

A few months ago I visited Skellig Michael, an island off the West coast of Ireland, which is home to 1,000’s of beautiful Puffins. I made a blog post at the time, but there were many more great photos of the carefree Puffins which I didn’t post on my blog, so this seems like the perfect opportunity to share them with you. 

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The Batu Caves – more than just bats!

5 Aug

The Batu Caves are a firm favorite on many peoples list of things to do in Kuala Lumpur. As they are situated just 20 minutes outside of the city and are accessible via Metro for the bargain price of ONE Ringgit, it isn’t surprising that every traveler I  met in Malaysia had also seen the caves, with all of them complaining about the never ending steps, warning me not to feed the monkeys and advising sensible footwear.

Personally I wore flip flops, gave the monkeys handfuls of peanuts and didn’t think the steps were THAT bad. No pain no gain, as they say, and the view from the top was pretty amazing!

If you have 2 hours to spare while in KL, this place is well worth a visit, as it is super cheap to get there and free to enter, very accessible from the city and is overflowing with wildlife ranging from bats and birds to monkeys, cockerels, and lizards. Plus, have you seen the SIZE of that Golden Buddha?! INCREDIBLE!

 

Getting there - Coach for "Ladies Only!!"

Getting there – Coach for “Ladies Only!!” These can be found all over Kuala Lumpur.

Monkeys, Monkeys everywhere!

Monkeys, Monkeys everywhere!

Look up! Despite the rain it was pretty magical.

Look up! Despite the rain it was pretty magical.

One full color, for the begrudgers

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Paradise has its faults – The Perhentian Islands

30 Jul

Having spent the last 5 weeks traveling around Indonesia and Malaysia, posting numerous positive social media updates and uploading photos of tropical beaches that would make just about anyone and everyone jealous, I feel I have some confessions to make. The first and most important one I will outline in this blog post. Just because a photograph looks “postcard perfect”, does not mean the destination is absolute paradise. Up until this trip I always thought I could define paradise. I thought that any beach with beautiful white sand, crystal clear waters, rows of hammocks swinging from palm trees and with a sprinkling of friendly beach boys selling Pina Coladas out of fresh coconuts was my idea of ABSOLUTE PARADISE.

On a recent trip to The Perhentian Islands off the East coast of Malaysia, I had to pause and re-evaluate my idea of paradise. Before my travels, everyone I had met who had travelled South East Asia said I simply MUST go to the Perhentian Islands.  (Both The Perhentian Islands and The Gilis (in Indonesia) seemed to be high up on everyones lists so I decided I needed to visit both!) One friend, Jessica, told me it was the best place she had ever been snorkelling in her life – that the water was unbelievably clear and the place was paradise. My friend Jeni told me that if she could go on her Honeymoon again, she would go back to the Perhentian Islands. In my mind, this place was going to be absolute paradise.

Is this paradise?

Is this paradise?

View of Coral Bay - the nicest part of the small island

View of Coral Bay – the nicest part of the small island

Praise aside, I had also done some research and knew not to have my expectations TOO high. These were remote islands, after all, with only a few hours of electricity a day and no roads, no cars and not even a donkey and carts like the Gili Islands. So, I’m sure you are waiting to hear what could possibly make me think this place was not perfect, so let me explain.

On the boat to the island I was pretty mesmerized.  Everyone had been right about the colour of the water…it was like NOTHING I had ever seen before. Taking into account I have now visited 43 countries, that is a seriously big deal. The water around these islands was so amazing that it almost looked fake, as if you were whizzing through the worlds largest swimming pool.

The water was CRYSTAL CLEAR

The water was CRYSTAL CLEAR

View of the beach from the jungle interior

View of the beach from the jungle interior

It wasn’t until we arrived on the island that the real trouble started. First of all, the ferry/speed boat will not take you the whole way to the shore. They stop about 200 metres from the beach and insist you pay a local beach boy 2 dollars to take you the rest of the way. Not very much money, but it’s the principal! Plus, can you imagine trying to maneuver yourself, your backpack and your suitcase from a ferry onto a teeny tiny unstable speed boat as they pull up side my side?! NOT AN EASY FEAT!!

On arrival on the actual beach you feel relieved to have landed safely, and dry, with all your possessions  But you can’t chill for more than 2 minutes as the race is on. As everyone piles off the little speed boats there is panic as people start running up the beaches to the various accommodation choices, searching for a place to stay. Why? There simply is not enough supply to meet the demand. Every few hours tourists arrive and they are continuously told by lodging after lodging that they are fully booked, despite telling us over the phone that they “don’t take bookings”. We went to over 10 places, and were turned away from every single one. We finally found some chalets at the end of the beach – ‘D Rock Garden’ that had a spare cabin for 3 nights. Regardless of price, service or what it even looked like we said yes and were relieved that we would not have to spend the night sleeping on the beach!

We spent 20 minutes trying to find the cabin as nobody would help us. To say the staff were unhelpful would be the understatement of the century, They were appalling. We eventually found it, and discovered our “en-suite” bathroom was totally flooded with who knows what covering the ground! We complained and they didn’t seem to care. We complained again the next day and they said they would “maybe look at it”. Wow, so helpful. I wouldn’t mind so much but we were actually paying quite a lot for this cabin, not that we had much choice. As we had paid for a room for 3 people, but were given only ONE bed, we asked for an extra mattress. We, miraculously got this, but they didn’t even put it in our room. They just left it outside our door, with no sheets, no extra pillow…nothing!

Here's your mattress, as requested!

Here’s your mattress, as requested!

Friendly signs everywhere!

Friendly signs everywhere!

We moved to a cheaper place next door on day 3, which was about 1/3 of the price and seemed a lot more simpler. We were greeted with a sign on arrival that said, “stay at least 2 nights. If you wish to extend, it depends on how generous you are. E.g if you book our snorkeling trip, but our breakfast etc. If not, forget about it. Thank you.” What a lovely way to welcome guests to your accommodation!!

Next, let’s talk about the food. Or lack there of. There is 3 choices on long beach – the blue plastic chairs, the red plastic chairs, and the yellow plastic chairs. The “western” food they serve, thats right they pretty much all serve the same menu, is some of the worst food I have ever tasted in my life. While the local food isn’t too bad, waiting between 1 and 2 hours for a bowl of noodles is pure ridiculous. The they tend to forget about you, or forget your order, which doubles your frustration.

Let’s talk about the beach, which Lonely Planet says is “the most popular backpacker destination in Malaysia”. Maybe this is true but heaven knows why! The beach is dirty, with cigarette butts and empty beer cans floating in the water and stuffed in the sand. There were even used sanitary pads floating in the water, which was seriously disgusting. There were so many beach boys speeding around in their boats all day that your “perfect view” was pretty much ruined.

While the snorkeling was one of the best experiences I had while on the island, swimming with turtles, Clown fish, trigger fish and hundreds more, it also made me quite sad. Nearly all the coral was dead, due to tourists stepping on it and the lack of experienced guides. The guides also didn’t seem to care about tourists touching the turtles and even dived in and tried to encourage then to come up above the water. These people are so busy trying to make a quick buck they really don’t care about their beautiful environment, something which surely won’t last forever the way they are treating it.

Amazing snorkeling wIth NEMO!

Amazing snorkeling wIth NEMO!

Snorkelling with Trigger fish

Snorkelling with Trigger fish

Let’s summarize – the accommodation is limited and you have to fight hard or run fast to actual find a place to sleep. The staff are unfriendly and rude. The food is bad and the waiting times awful. The beach and water can be quite dirty and the view isn’t even that great, and all the coral is dead due to lack of care. 

Now comes the question that is really bothering me. Are the Perhentians still viewed as “paradise” to some people?? Have I been too spoiled throughout my travels with beautiful beaches, friendly people, delicious food and stunning scenery that I can no longer see appreciate paradise when it is staring me in the face? Have I have gotten so old that I can no longer see the fun in staying in the dingey backpacker haunts I used once frequent?! Or am I right in thinking that tourism may have ruined the islands, as the rate of tourists visiting them has grown faster than the locals could handle?

What do you think, what is YOUR idea of paradise?

 

Asia’s Largest Bird Park

22 Jul

After a few days in KL I was running out of sights to see and activities to do. I had heard about the Bird Park but wasn’t sure if I was that bothered forking out 40 Rinngit to see some birds in cages. In the end I teamed up with another traveller from Prague and we set off to the Botanical Gardens. On arrival we decided we may as well see the Bird Park now that we were so close.

It was actually money really well spent. We wandered around the HUGE park for about 2 hours, and after a while we totally forgot we were actually in an enclosure. The area is so large and the nets are so high up, with trees and plants and flowers obscuring the view skywards, that it is actually quite easy to forget where you are. While some of the rarer birds, and the more aggressive ones, are kept in large cages, the majority appear to be walking, hopping and flying around at their leisure.

The tourists that we were, we decided to get our photo taken with some of these larger birds in the “photo booth”, of which you can see the results below. There is also a snack shop, a cafe and a large souvenir shop…but we didn’t waste much time or money in these.

If you have more than 3 days in Kuala Lumpur, or if you are there with Children, I would highly recommend a trip to the Bird Park. Pleasant way to kill an afternoon, only minutes from the city.

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fruit bird food

blue peacock

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cute colorful parrot

feeding parrotts

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pelican on table

flamingos pink

Skellig Michael – Puffin Paradise

10 Jun

Last Sunday, a day in which we experienced the most beautiful weather Ireland has seen in years, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Skellig Michael, an island located in the Atlantic Ocean, just 11 km off the West Coast of Ireland.

Skellig Michael, while not known to a lot of people (thankfully – that’s what makes it a hidden gem!), is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to one of the oldest Christian Monastic settlements in the world – founded sometime between the 6th and 8th century. It is also home to a vast range of wildlife, including Puffins, Seagulls and over 50,000 gannets! Not bad for a tiny island off the coast of Kerry!

Thanks to its status as a world heritage site, its obscure, remote and exposed location, only 13 boat licenses are granted each year and these tour operators are only allowed to run a single trip to Skellig Michael each day during the summer season. This means that only a lucky few get to see this magical place each year, and if you happen to land while the sun is shining, as we did, you can consider yourself truly blessed!

The boat trip to the island took about an hour, and we had nearly 3 hours to explore the island itself. This was the perfect length of time to climb the 618 slippery steps to the monastery that perches on top, to explore the expertly built beehive huts that the monks would have lived and slept in, which have remained intact and untouched for hundreds of years and to take in the spectacular views, scenery and abundant wildlife that is on offer.

It’s hard to believe such a piece of paradise, a tiny bit of history frozen in time, exists right on our doorstep. If you live in Ireland, I think you should do everything you can to visit this very special place. My only regret is that it took me 27 years to discover it.

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monastery grave stone crosses

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skellig michael steps

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