National Park of the Week: Canaima National Park, Venezuela

Photo by Brad Wilson

Best known for its characteristic flat-topped mountain formations known as “tepuis,” Canaima National Park is a geologic marvel that astounds the most experienced geologists and intrepid travelers alike. Between the table-top mountains, grassy savannah blankets the valleys and the perimeters of the tepuis, which cover about 65% of the park. The park is the sixth largest park in the world, measuring  three million (yes, million) hectares, and is located in Venezuela close to the border between Brazil and Guyana.

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National Park of the Week: Göreme National Park & Rock Sites of Cappadocia, Turkey

Image from

Image from

Found in a remarkable landscape entirely sculpted by erosion, Göreme National Park in Turkey is characterized by a rocky landscape honeycombed with networks of ancient underground settlements and outstanding examples of Byzantine art. Located on the central Anatolia plateau, the unique rock structures of Göreme not only create a distinctive terrain of mountain ridges, valleys and pinnacles known as “fairy chimneys” or hoodoos, but also reveal one of the most striking and largest cave-dwellings complexes in the world.

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National Park of the Week: Manú National Park and Biosphere Reserve, Peru



Containing much of the Peruvian Amazon’s  greatest flora and fauna, Manú National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the world and allows for once-in-a-lifetime sightings of rare and exotic animals.  The park is Peru’s biggest and consists of three parts: the “Cultural or Buffer zone,” where native communities live and tourists can enter unaccompanied, the “Reserved zone,” an area set aside for controlled scientific research and ecotourism, and the “Intangible zone,” the largest section that is strictly for flora and fauna preservation. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Manú offers adventurous travelers lush, untouched Amazon to explore and discover the unmatched beauty of virgin environments and unrestricted wildlife.

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National Park of the Week: Sarek National Park, Sweden


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Described as “Europe’s last wilderness,” Sarek National Park is a dream destination for hikers, mountaineers, and adventure fanatics who are looking for untamed and challenging terrain. The park is in the province of Norrbotten in northern Sweden and located north of the Arctic Circle (burrrr!). The park has precipitous mountains that reach heights greater than 2000 meters and has almost 100 glaciers. In addition, long, deep, narrow valleys and wild, turbulent waters wind between the mountain chains, creating a sensational sight of unrestricted wilderness. Continue reading

National Park of the Week: Kamikochi National Park, Japan



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Within of the northern range of the Japanese Alps lies Kamikochi National Park, an area comprised of a plateau surrounded by vertical peaks, reflective lakes and virgin forests. Kamikochi is considered part of Chubu Sangaku National Park (also known as the Japan Alps National Park) and was extensively used by the logging industry until the mid 19th century when British missionary Rev. Walter Weston (1861-1940) lobbied to preserve the area. There is a plaque commemorating him and on the first Sunday of every June, the Weston festival is held to celebrate the opening of mountain-climbing season.

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National Park of the Week: Isalo National Park, Madagascar


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With its multitude of intersecting rivers within deep canyons, yellow savannah grasses carpeting the bottoms of vertical gorges, and domineering sculpted buttes, Isalo National Park is an artist’s canvas of a desert canyon. Jocularly called “Madagascar’s Colorado,” Isalo was founded in 1962 and is located in the southern highlands of the island. The park covers an area of 800 sq km and offers prime hiking opportunities among natural pools and uniquely carved landscapes. Continue reading

National Park of the Week: Ras Mohammad National Park, Egypt


Overlooking the Gulf of Suez on the west and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east, Ras Mohammad National Park  in Egypt lies at the southern extreme of the Sinai Peninsula and offers waters that are considered to be the jewel in the crown of the Red Sea. The coastline, characterized by vertical overhangs at least 100m deep,  is surrounded by fringing coral reefs that emerged after a change in the coastline 70,000 years ago. Due to its location at the juncture of the two gulfs, the combining waters of varying salinity has lead to a magnificent array of reef and pelagic fish, diverse coral reef and luxuriant sea walls.

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National Park of the Week: Tongariro National Park, New Zealand



New Zealand’s oldest national park and the fourth national park to be created in the world, Tongariro National Park is internationally recognized for its outstanding volcanic features and is historically venerated by the Maori people. The park encircles three volcanoes, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Raupahu and covers almost 80,000 hectares of contrasting terrain. The three volcanoes are active, Raupehu being one of the most active volcanoes in the world, but that does not deter visitors from hiking up to the top and gazing out into the exotic conic formations.

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National Park of the Week: Banff National Park, Canada


Peyto Lake, one of the many lakes in Banff. Image via

Established in 1883 by three railway workers who discovered a natural hot spring on the slopes of the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park is Canada’s first national park and the birthplace of the world’s first national park service. Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, the park boasts more than a thousand picture-perfect glaciers and glacier-fed lakes, Castleground Caves (the country’s largest cave system), and several national historic sites. It also encompasses Banff, the highest town in Canada at an elevation of 4,540 ft, which makes it feasible and convenient to enjoy the sights over a period of days (which you will surely want to do).

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Queso and Identity


Scenic side road on the way to El Triunfo.

If queso was a food group it would certainly be my favorite. But that’s not what this post is about – even though cheese is a primary ingredient in many Mexican dishes and I had lots of it this past weekend. What this post is really about is the kinds of unexpected quirks one encounters when road tripping in Baja California Sur (B.C.S) and the unusual, but interesting conversations that come up with locals. Seth and I covered three towns: La Rivera, El Triunfo, and Todos Santos, for different lengths of time, but each with a distinctive story to tell.

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National Park of the Week: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Plitvice Waterfalls


Granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979, Plitvice Lakes National Park is Coratia’s largest and most popular park. Sixteen lakes, all inter-connected over a distance of 8 km by series of waterfalls and cascades, are set deep in the woodland and have a height difference of 135 meters (Veliki Slap, the largest waterfall, is 70 meters tall). Although the terraced lakes comprise only a small area of the total 300 sq km park, they offer a stunning sight with their changing hues throughout the seasons and garner practically all the attention from local and foreign tourists alike. Continue reading

The Green of Baja


Green is not the first color I associate with Baja California Sur and as the coastal outline slowly became clearer through my plane window I was stunned by the vibrancy of color I was witnessing. The “rainy” season of Baja, which only means a few inches of rain in a span of three months, had transformed the dry, craggy landscape into a verdant, blossoming oasis. In my previous trip to Baja, I had been informed of this phenomenon but I was unprepared, nonetheless, for the volume of greenery and pop of pink and blue flowers.

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National Park of the Week: Ruaha National Park, Tanzania

As Tanzania’s largest national park, Ruaha National Park boasts of untouched and unexplored ecosystems at the center of Tanzania. The 20,226 sq km park is the watershed between the Mzombe and the Great Ruaha rivers, with a distinctive escarpment, above which are large stretches of miombo woodland. Below lie undulating plains of dry bush country to treeless grasslands, swamps and evergreen forests, all with sand rivers intersecting through them. Continue reading

Plastic Bottles for Homes



A Canadian man, Robert Bezeau, who lives in Bocas del Toro, Panama, woke up from a dream one night that transformed the future of a village – and our perception of plastic bottles. Bezeau dreamed of a village where everything was made of bottles and instead of leaving the idea dormant in his mind, he decided to act on his vision and turn it into a reality.

One hundred and fifty million tones of plastic waste are estimated to be floating in our oceans, and at the current pace it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Assuaging this brutal prediction, Bezeau’s company, Plastic Bottle Village, builds houses, roads, and more from plastic bottles that are collected from the surrounding communities. Continue reading

National Park of the Week: Torres del Paine National Park, Chile



For the type of jaw-dropping  sights that Torres del Paine National Park in Chile has to offer, it is only fair to know a bit of geological history that formed these towering, sheer ridges and deep, mirrored lakes. Located in the southern tip of the Andes of South America, the landscape of the park is owed to earth movements which occurred 12 million years ago and the gradual glacial erosion thereafter, which formed the “torres” (towers) measuring more than 2,200 meters in altitude. The 2,422 square kilometer area was established as a park in 1959; since 1978 it has been part of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve system. Continue reading

Thoughts on Bison Farming


Source: Modern Farmer

Bison meat is not the typical protein one finds on the dinner plate every night (especially not in my vegetarian household), but it is a meat product that is known for being healthier than beef and – possibly – more environmentally friendly. “How so?” you might wonder. According to Modern Farmer there are several components to bison farming that give it a “greener edge.”

It’s believed that bison cause less trampling and erosion damage to the plains than cattle, that their diet is higher in grasses and thus less damaging to the long-term chances of the plains environment, and that bison poop functions as a natural fertilizer to their habitats.

This all mostly stems from a general idea that bison, being not domesticated and technically, even when ranched, a wild animal, are more in tune with nature, more balanced in their impact than cattle. They are also native to North America, unlike cattle, which were domesticated from Old World animals. “Because bison are a natural part of the North American ecosystem, bison ranching can be a beneficial to the natural environment,” writes the National Bison Association, a promotional group, on its site.

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Nigerian Ex-Militants to become the next Farmers


The Nigerian government is giving young ex-fighters the opportunity to help secure their country’s food production by providing them the resources and education to become a new generation of farmers. The new agricultural training program is not only an example of the government’s efforts to fulfill its longstanding pledge of reintegrating ex-militants into society productively, but also an example of a peaceful solution that reflects a government’s foresight of what could truly progress the welfare of its country.

In the summer of 2009, then-president of Nigeria, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, declared a general amnesty for the armed militants who had plagued the country’s oil-rich Niger Delta, the area made up of nine states in the south of the country. The region had seen a dramatic rise in attacks on oil refineries and the kidnapping of foreign workers beginning in the early 2000s. Many of the armed fighters were young men living in poverty with few job prospects, who were attempting to take by force what they felt the government owed them.

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National Park of the Week: Jiuzhaigou National Park, China



Five Flower Lake. Source:

Located in the northern part of Sichuan province in China, Jiuzhaigou National Park is comprised of a speckling of multi-colored lakes surrounded by deep woodlands and impressive conic waterfalls in between precipitous mountains. Given the high altitude of the jagged valley, 4,800 meters, the landscape has a range of diverse forest ecosystems over the 300 square km and half of which is virgin forest. About 140 bird species inhabit the valley as well as a number of endangered plant and animal species, including the giant panda, the Sichuan takin, and the golden snub-nosed monkey. Continue reading

Monkeying Around

Photo by Seth Inman

Photo by Seth Inman

Spider monkey encounters are commonplace at Chan Chich Lodge. Whether it be during an early morning bird walk or a late afternoon read on the porch futon, spider monkeys will likely make their swinging appearance from the tree top branches at some point during the day. They are curious, but daring creatures that will have no shame in shaking up a couple of branches above your head and letting fruits fall on you if they feel threatened (an inexplicable reaction in my mind when I humbly walk through the trails hoping to catch sight of a Tody Motmot).

Having been in Belize for over a month, I have several memorable anecdotes to share about spider monkeys, but I will share two that I believe encapsulate the magnificence of these intelligent creatures.

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Protecting Your Skin but Damaging the Reefs


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Sunscreen helps protect us from harmful sun rays, especially during the summer months when we habitually frequent the beach and enjoy the undulating caress of rolling waves. What we don’t usually take into account, however, is the impact that our “protective” sunscreen has on marine life, specifically coral reefs. Studies have shown that ingredients in sunscreen, such as oxybenzone for example,  leach the coral of its nutrients and bleach it white. This not only kills the coral but also disrupts the development of fish and other wildlife.

Chemical compounds in sunscreen lotions cause irreparable damage to reefs, which are crucial to the livelihoods of 500 million people in the tropics, scientist and policymakers said at the IUCN World Conservation Congress on 3 September. Hawaii is leading a legislative effort to ban the use of sunscreen that contains oxybenzone or similar harmful agents at its beaches. Continue reading