Burdened by Breakfast

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Burdened by Breakfast

The dense and heavy fog that filled Ngorongoro was just starting to abate as we reached the crater floor. Having spent the night sleeping on the rim of the dormant volcano, we woke invigorated by the splendour of our natural surroundings. We begged our guides to make sure we were the first truck inside the crater, and we got what we asked for.

Just as I was clawing the remnants of sleep from the corners of my eyes, we spotted a pride of lions sprawled in tall grass. As we approached, they barely flinched. The stains of blood smeared across their faces left them nearly comatose, burdened with the meat of a fresh kill. Behind them, we spotted a destroyed zebra carcass, picked clean. Hard to argue with the efficiency of nature.

The Curse of the Empty Pockets

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The Curse of the Empty Pockets

Unfortunately, my pockets were empty. In retrospect I should have known better. I should have packed some cookies from breakfast just in case. While travelling in a new country, it’s always good to have little odds and ends to give to the swarms of kids that come up to say hello. Or in some cases, a swarm of toque macaques.

I couldn’t resist those big brown eyes so I passed this fine fellow a stick, thinking he might enjoy playing with it. He quickly went about fashioning a pair of chopsticks and then looked back at me as if to say “So where’s the sushi?”

Lesson learned.

Life Inside A Volcanic Crater

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Life Inside A Volcanic Crater

I woke up before the sun. The crisp morning air was amplified by the altitude of camping on the ridge of a dormant volcano. I was on the last day of a week long safari through the pristine national parks of Tanzania. The last stop was Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive caldera. It is considered to be one of Africa’s greatest natural wonders and according to fossil evidence has been inhabited by various hominid species for over 3 million years.

We tore down our campsite as fast as we could and piled into the Toyota Landcruiser that had been our home for the last week. We were the first group to get to the entrance of the crater and hoped to catch the animals while they were still active.

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The crater was filled with low hanging clouds as we descended the winding roads to the crater floor. As we pulled on to the pathways that crisscross the crater, we immediately came upon a pride of lions. We slowed the truck and approached at a crawl. As we got closer, the faces of the lionesses came into focus. Splashed across their powerful faces were the red remnants of the nights feast. We stopped our truck and peered out the windows at the carnivorous creatures as they licked their lips. With full bellies fuelling their indolence, they were in no hurry to move on. So, with time on our side we soaked in the majesty of these powerful predators and contemplated the flourishing life, and death, inside a volcanic crater.

Not Your Everyday Traffic Jam

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Not Your Everyday Traffic Jam

Driving the red dusty road into Lake Manyara park in northern Tanzania leads you to some spectacular sights. Having to wait in your truck as a family of baboons slowly amble by is just one of them. Sure beats your everyday commute.

Why I Love Sharks And Why You Should Too

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Thanks to movies like Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, Bait and many more most of us grow up scared of sharks. Now, I assume at some point I was also scared. I’m sure that watching people get eaten by prehistoric flesh eating monsters worried me. But then I got over it.

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I’m not sure what it was exactly that did it but I imagine some of it has to do with scuba diving. I have had wonderful experiences with sharks. I’ve sat right beside a Port Jackson on a night dive watching him devour a sea urchin. I’ve seen Wobbegongs, Grey Nurse sharks and even one Blacktip Reef shark. Each experience I had with a shark blew my mind. The way they glide through the water effortlessly. They are just one big muscle, strong, quick and precise. They have evolved perfectly to their environment, the apex predator. Well, at least until we happened.

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Humans kill sharks at a devastating rate. We are responsible for a mass genocide. Human beings kill 100,000,000 sharks every single year. This is a staggering number. Now, the important thing to remember when it comes to sharks is that we are not attempting to control their populations. We are not breeding sharks like we breed cows or chickens. We are not ensuring the longevity of their species. According to scientists, we are doing it at a rate so fast that the shark populations have no time to recover. Sharks are slow growing and slow to reproduce. This means that if we continue at the same rate, most species of shark could be extinct within a generation.

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The worst part is that most of the sharks killed die by drowning. You may wonder, how can a shark drown? Well, they drown because fishermen who catch sharks catch them for their fins. Shark fins are considered a delicacy throughout many Asian countries. The fins are added to soups, but because they have next to no flavor, it is primarily used as a status symbol. The sharks are hauled up onto the decks of boats, their fins cut off and then pushed overboard. From there, they sink to the bottom of the ocean and slowly drown. The apex predator, an animal that hasn’t had to evolve for millions of years because of its sheer perfection in its environment is dying, finless at the bottom of the sea.

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Now, some of you may be thinking, why should I care? Sharks are scary and they might eat me when I go for a swim. Well to put that claim in perspective, are you afraid of elephants? Thanks to Dumbo and Babar you probably love them. However, according to statistics, elephants are responsible for about 500 human deaths a year. On the other hand, sharks are responsible for about 7, on average. Sure a shark may maim you or take a chunk out of your leg, but chances are you will survive.

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So, you still don’t care? Well, how about we approach it from another angle. Do you enjoy breathing? I sure do! Do you know what is responsible for most of the oxygen on planet Earth? Despite what you’ve heard, the rainforests are not really the lungs of the planet. The majority of our oxygen, 70-80%, comes from marine plants, predominantly algae. That is a staggering fact that not many of us appreciate. Now, what eats algae and marine plants? I would have to say fish. And to march further along this circle of life, what eats fish? Well, I would have to say sharks for the most part (and people!). Okay, cool. So what happens when there are no more sharks because we’ve put all of their fins in soup? There will be a lot more fish, right? And if there are a lot more fish, what are they going to eat? A lot more marine plant life and algae, right? And if our source that provides 70-80% of the oxygen that all living animals need to survive is severely depleted, what happens to us? You can probably guess.

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Although we continue to remove ourselves more and more from what we eat, we are still connected to every living thing on this planet. We need each other to survive. An important truth of science is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only change form. This means that for billions of years, the energy of the planet has been recycled and reused. We don’t own our energy, we are simply borrowing it until a time when we pass on and it takes another shape. So when we irresponsibly destroy an entire species, which lived on this planet long before we came along, we really are killing ourselves. So the next time you hear someone tell you how scary sharks are, maybe you should set them straight and tell them how much scarier a world without them would be.

When You Get Used By A Lion

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When You Get Used By A Lion

The sun was high in the sky as we wound our way through the labyrinthine roads of the Serengeti. We came upon a pride of lions relaxing in the shade of some small acacia trees. As we watched, hoping for action, a young male sprung to his feet. He flew through the air with laser like precision and within seconds he had covered the distance to us. He whipped around the back of our truck and directly at a nearby unsuspecting gazelle. The gazelle, looked back once, and then nonchalantly bounded through the air to safety.

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When I had finished photographing the whole scenario, I turned around to celebrate our experience with my fellow explorers only to find them cowering in the back seat.

“Wow! That lion totally just used us as a decoy! Wait… what are you doing down there? Did you get any photos?” I asked hopefully.

“Are you crazy!?!?! I thought he was coming for me!!”

It Takes Tanzania

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It Takes Tanzania

Earlier this year I was travelling in Sri Lanka and decided to go on a one day safari through Yala National Park. I was very excited to see elephants, crocodiles and warthogs. But the animal I wanted to see most of all was the leopard. We spent hours driving around at the end of the day, scouring the landscape for a trace. Eventually we came upon some paw prints but that was as close as we’d get.

Thankfully, that was all remedied when I went to Tanzania a few months later and spent a full week on safari. Our first day exploring the immense Serengeti, we came upon this gorgeous leopard up in a tree. We parked for the better part of an hour and used binoculars to have a close look. As I watched the leopard, I gazed directly into its golden orb like eyes and felt like it was staring right through me. An incredible animal that I pursued through two continents, but in the end it took Tanzania.

A Plain Elephant

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A Plain Elephant

Heading out on the first morning of our safari in Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania, a giant male elephant lumbered along beside the road. This giant needs to eat roughly 200 kg’s of food each day to sustain himself. And all of that on a vegetarians diet.