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Devilfish's year of adventures

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by devilfish, 22 Oct 2015.

  1. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Another travel thread! This one will be dragged out over the course of a year or so, and will be very inactive at times.

    As I didn't get the exact job I wanted this academic year, I have decided to take a temporary job for about 6-7 months and then to mostly travel for about 5 months from February 2016. Given that this will be one of the longest breaks I will ever get, I intend to make the most of it and once again make it multi-continental.

    Destinations are completely open and nothing has yet been decided, but so far I have too many plans to fit into a few months. Finances will obviously also be a major limiting factor; in fact, as my salary is due to drop with imminent changes to UK law, I am awaiting a revised budget estimate before settling on any destinations or splashing out on fancy equipment.

    There will be plenty of zoos visited wherever I go and I'm also hoping to look for some amazing animals in the wild.

    Given that even I know very little about this big trip and the smaller trips on either side, I had been reluctant to start a thread this early but as I had to travel urgently to Egypt last week I thought I'd start there.

    My 'Asian adventure' thread of 2013 ended up including parts of Europe and Africa too. To avoid confusion arising from inclusion of different destinations, I will probably use this thread as something of a base and then write reports in different country sections. Any better suggestions?

    Please feel free to ask any questions or comment at any point. :D
     
  2. zooman

    zooman Well-Known Member

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    Hello, sounds very exciting!

    So when can I expect you in Melbourne :)

    Any chance of being close to Manchester around December 5-11 this year.
     
  3. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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    Looking forward to your adventures and to the reports you're gonna share with us !
     
    Last edited: 23 Oct 2015
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    very cool indeed. I nominate Mongolia for a destination.

    I suggest just keeping it as one thread. One long epic thread of adventures. It is the best way.
     
  5. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    On the off chance that you head West, try to get to Cuba. The normalisation of relations with the US will change the country forever (which is a good thing, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to experience it beforehand).
     
  6. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Wow, lots of cool travel threads happening! Very exciting!
     
  7. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Thanks very much guys.

    If Melbourne gets on the list then it'll likely be earlier in the trip (maybe around March?)

    I will be working in Manchester that week. I think I'll be busy the weekend of the 5th and working nights the following weekend but at least that means I'll be off work on Thursday and Friday daytime. :)
     
  8. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions. I'll look into both. ;)
     
  9. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Thanks. I aim to head West again within the year. If in the Caribbean, Hispaniola is a priority. California and Sonora would also be nice (I was initially meant to be trying for California and vaquita next week, but that's fallen through due to cover at work.)

    Cuba is changing more and more. I'd have loved to catch it while Fidel was still in power but as you say, these changes are mostly good. My family frequently mention Cuba as a winter holiday destination, so I'm not too desperate to try and travel there alone, although I'd have different destinations in mind (like Zapata and a solenodon hunt in the south of the island). Who knows - maybe we'll make it there within a year? :)
     
  10. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Master Zoo, Egypt

    I flew into Cairo on a Saturday afternoon and took a taxi to Alexandria. En route I convinced the driver that it was time for a stop at 'Master' service station, and during this stop I took a quick walk around the zoo site. Only two species were on display; grivet monkeys and blue peafowl, but in much greater numbers than on my last visit in 2013. There were still plenty of empty enclosures, but some of these seem more complete than last time, and I'm convinced that there are more this year, too.

    I think I may have missed an animal or two; a pair of small cages similar to those used for grivets were complete with some spilt birdseed in/around feeding bowls. A couple of cardboard boxes and thin blankets in small shelters were noted. I think it's most likely they housed invisible chickens, but it's very difficult to make informed guesses in a zoo like this one. No evidence of the lovebirds or geese I saw in 2013 (https://www.zoochat.com/community/posts/661556)

    I really don't know what to make of this place. It's still not advertised (even on site) and seems to be just a shadow of its former self, but is it gradually growing?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 21 Oct 2016
  11. Jackwow

    Jackwow Well-Known Member

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    Devilfish, if your travels ever take you to Scotland be sure to get in touch.
     
  12. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, I will. :)
     
  13. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Alexandria Zoo, Egypt

    Fortunately I managed to sneak a quick visit to Alexandria Zoo a few days later, on my last morning in Egypt. I had set aside most of the morning to spend at the zoo and aquarium but family kept holding me up. Eventually my uncle joined me and we went round most of the zoo before stopping at the Director's offices. There hadn't been many significant changes since my visit last year but we wanted to ask about the lone Egyptian wolf, the shrinking of the bear cage and I wanted to establish the provenance of the zoo's last white rhino which died at the turn of the millennium. We didn't get very far with our enquiries, but the zoo's vet kindly volunteered to walk around with us, highlighting the zoo management's limitations given the politics involved within the government department responsible for running many of Egypt's zoos.

    I've written a lot about Alexandria Zoo on here in the past, so I'll just point out some changes briefly:
    - Of the two Nile red fox cubs on display last year (and the stars of last year's visit) one adult is now on display. A nervous animal but very beautiful, with characteristic silvery fur on its flanks. Once again, the highlight of my visit.
    - The zoo's last white rhino was thought to be over 25 years old when it died of cancer, but no further details are known. There is no definite record of her being a Northern white rhino.
    - Quite a few young baboons are on display in groups (away from their mothers); I'm not sure why. Several others were still with their mothers, so it may be out of necessity.
    - The zoo no longer has any gazelles or falcons on display
    - In the reptile house, one of the Egyptian cobras seemed persistently agitated without stimulus, displaying with its hood up.
    - A sleeping Burmese python was accompanied by a pair of chickens in its exhibit. Breakfast - I presume - but I just hope the meal won't be witnessed by a primary school trip.
     
  14. longleat diego

    longleat diego Well-Known Member

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    Bhutan would be fantastic getting there is the problem...
     
  15. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    I agree with Chlidonias. Keep it as one thread.
     
  16. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    The frustrating desert road drive (+Omar Oasis)

    I started writing this entry in the taxi back to Cairo airport but it was abandoned for some time. I've decided to push and post it as there might be another trip coming within the next few days.

    The Cairo-Alex Desert Road is one of Egypt's most popular routes. As such, attractions have been growing by the roadside for several years, ranging from massive supermarkets and malls to giant water parks. Apparently some families will travel from either Cairo or Alexandria to a rest-stop around halfway just to spend the day there.

    Along this road are four significant public animal collections as well as many private collections. Africa Safari Park is off the Southbound lane almost 60km from Alexandria, and about 9km away on the opposite side of the road is Lion's Village, which became infamous after some of the comments and announcements from the owner were published internationally (including claims that he would fight a lion). They now have branches across Egypt but I had discovered that morning that the Alexandrian branch has been closed, walled off, and the site largely demolished.

    Around the halfway point of the desert road are Master service station on the Northbound side, and Omar Oasis services a few kilometres away on the opposite side. Both have very small animal collections, but with nine enclosures mostly housing different species, Omar Oasis is by far the bigger collection of the two.

    I've been to the two service stations many times, and to Africa Safari Park once, but despite my efforts I have never made it to the Lion's village. On my way back from Alexandria to go back to Cairo airport, the same pleasant driver who drove me after my arrival came to pick me up. I had arranged to be picked up in the afternoon several hours earlier than I needed to, in order that I might fit in a zoo visit or two. I suggested to the driver that we stop briefly at the Lion's village and he promised that we'd comfortably fit in at least an hour there.

    I was therefore surprised when he drove straight past the Lion's village, insisted it was closed, drove past Africa Safari Park, insisted it was closed too, and then at my insistence he agreed to turn around at the next opportunity but then proceeded to drive past the next turning point. An immensely frustrating experience. The driver then kept telling me how much Omar Oasis had improved and how much I'd enjoy it. We stopped at Omar Oasis - admittedly it seems cleaner and the deer paddock has moved and been enlarged, but there wasn't much of an improvement.
    The driver had meantime ordered a meal in front of a football (soccer) match and insisted that we wait a while longer before setting off.

    Cairo's streets were very empty because of this football match, and surprisingly the fish garden's gates were still open late in the evening. The driver pretended not to hear me when I asked him to stop here, but I wasn't too fussed about this one given that night had fallen, the streets would have become busy soon, and the potential security risk of roaming a city park under cover of darkness.

    I eventually got to the airport about 6 hours ahead of my flight. A very frustrating journey - I don't think the driver could have possibly imagined how much trouble he'd be causing by taking me to the wrong zoo!

    What bothered me the most was the fact that visiting these places with family isn’t really an option given the distance we’d have to travel, and the prioritised need to get to our destination – over the years I’ve therefore come to accept that the only way to visit these places is to hire a private car. So I’d finally hired a driver & car, set aside time to visit, and had agreed a plan with the driver – and still it didn’t work. I find the memory of that journey immensely irritating even a couple of months later.
     
  17. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Thanks for the update! From your report it appears as if your driver was as football-obsessed as a few billion of us our on the planet. He obviously did not have an affinity for zoos.:)
     
  18. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Next destination confirmed.
    Last night I booked a trip to Tokyo, leaving on Sunday and staying for 4 nights. I'm going with a friend but he knows I have a couple of priority zoo trips. I'm disappointed it couldn't be a longer trip, especially as I've found very reasonable internal flights and I have a brief layover in Osaka, but we're squeezing the trip in between two wedding ceremonies.
     
  19. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Tokyo - Owl café

    On Saturday my friend and I were at another friend's wedding in the peak district. We got back to the hotel at 1am, only to have to leave for the airport at 6 am.* We had a 1.5h stop in Amsterdam but otherwise eventually arrived at 9.30am on Monday morning (today) having slept little on the journey.
    We had very little planned for the day apart from relaxing in the hotel, but on arrival we were told our room wouldn't be ready for several hours. We thought we'd take advantage of this time by visiting the Meiji Shrine and Harajuku. Whilst in Harajuku we stopped at an information centre and discovered that the famed 'owl café' was under a hundred yards away. So we went to explore.

    The Owl café is a small café which prides itself on giving patrons the opportunity to 'play with owls' whilst they enjoy a drink or snack. Tokyo also boasts similar cat, rabbit and snake cafés.
    I didn't pay for an experience and so didn't get more than a few steps into this small establishment. The whole set up consists of two rooms, and is about the same size as an average tea. The first is a larger room with a till, a small bar and some tables, with viewing windows into the second room, which houses the owls.
    The owls are labelled and kept on perches. I'm not sure what exactly happens during the experiences, but I think the idea is you watch the owls from the main room while you eat and drink, and then come in for an accompanied play session.
    Two experiences are available :
    1500 yen* (~£10) buys an hour experience with a free drink and glass souvenir. 35 minutes of that time is spent with the owls.
    1000 yen* (~ £7) buys a 30 minute experience with 15 minutes of that with the owls.

    Owls labelled:
    Little Owl
    White - faced scops owl
    Great horned owl
    Barn owl
    Rock Eagle owl
    Eurasian Eagle owl

    I chose not to go for any of these experiences, but instead managed to use the time productively for another zoo visit...
     
  20. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    I'm brimming with excitement and emotion so I've had to skip a couple of days*of reviews (3 aquaria) and jump to today, my day in Yokohama. Just a few weeks ago I was trying to think what my best unexpected animal find in a zoo was. I can't begin to imagine that anything will ever top today's. (To put carnivore enthusiasts out of their misery, it wasn't an Iriomote cat. It wasn't even a mammal, or a bird).
    Anyway, let's not drag things out. So that I don't completely ruin chronology, I'll start with Zoorasia - but that's not where I saw the treasure!