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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Around the World in 2016

Once again, I was fortunate to be able to do a lot of travel in 2016.

In February, I made my second trip to Kenya. I spent two nights at Giraffe Manor in Nairobi,
a place where endangered Rothschild giraffes arrive every morning for breakfast of special 'giraffe pellets' provided by the hotel so guests can feed the tall visitors. I got to visit the amazing David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage twice, during the public visit and again during a behind-the-scenes visit for people who sponsor one or more of the elephant orphans. Then I stayed at the incredible Elephant Watch Camp, run by well-known conservationist Saba Douglas-Hamilton. Her father, Sir Ian Douglas-Hamilton, founded the Save the Elephants research organization, and has been studying African elephants for more than 45 years. It was such an honor to meet Ian when he joined us for drinks and dinner one evening.

In May, I traveled to India on a tiger safari, topped off by a visit to the Taj Mahal. What a thrill it was to watch these beautiful and endangered tigers in their natural habitat.


From India, I flew to South Africa, where I was joined by a friend with whom I have made two previous trips to Africa. I have wanted to visit Kruger National Park for quite some time, although I found it disappointing during the terrible drought there. But I did get to see leopards a couple of times, as well as several lions.

July found me driving to Monument Valley on the Navajo Nation for a couple of days of photography. I explored on my own, and I also signed on to a sunrise and sunset tour that took me to places off limits to non-tribal members.

Later that month, I flew to England for a walking/hiking trip that included a visit to, and tour of, Highclere Castle, better known as Downton Abbey. I also visited the exterior of the home of Isobel Crawley in the series, heard some tales from the woman who owns and lives in the home, and visited the church where Lady Mary got married, as well as the village of Bampton and the village library, which was used as the hospital in the series. To top it all off, I got to have dinner with a delightful English couple I met while in South Africa.

In August I returned to Great Britain for a hiking trip in Ireland, my second trip to that beautiful island. We got totally drenched during one day's hiking, but otherwise we had pretty good weather. My group stayed in some amazing manor houses, and I got to revisit a couple of places I saw during my last visit in 2004. And while having lunch in Cork, I started talking to a local woman who invited me to join her. She took me on a trip to the Cork marina, bought ice cream for me and our taxi driver, and gave me suggestions about things to do during my short time in Cork. We stay in touch via Facebook.

September took me on a photography trip to the canyons of the American southwest -- Bryce Canyon, Zion and the Grand Canyon. Although I have visited these national parks before, it was great to return in the company of two excellent photographers and guides, and to visit areas of the parks I had not previously seen.

In late October I returned to Yellowstone National Park for a two-day guided photography excursion, although the wildlife I had hoped to photograph was very scarce. We saw no wolves or bears, both of which were high on my list of species to photograph. Even the abundant bison and elk were scarce. And our search for a great gray owl turned up none of these amazing birds. Still, Yellowstone is an amazing place.

My final trip of 2016 was a winter escape to Costa Rica in late November on a guided photography expedition. I was in Costa Rica on a hiking trip a couple of years ago and really like the country. I've never been into photographing birds, but the avian population in that country is just amazing.

I am so fortunate to be able to visit, and revisit, so many amazing countries and places in the US. Next year promises to be equally as exciting, including a photography trip to Cuba, a photo safari in Tanzania, a visit to the Normandy beaches of France, a return visit to Kenya, Berlin and Poland (Auschwitz), a trip to visit a friend in Scotland and a hiking trip in Joshua Tree National Park.