Reflecting: Half-a-World Away

Cardamom Siesta

Cardamom Siesta

Five months have elapsed since my departure from Cardamom County and Raxa Collective in Kerala — sufficient time, in my opinion, to think back on my experience and growth during my adventures there, as well as the time I have spent back in the United States.

Words cannot express how thankful I am for having been given the opportunity to travel farther and live longer away from home than I ever have before, and in a truly amazing, diverse, and different region of the world than I could ever imagine.  The head honchos, Crist and Amie Inman, have an ethos rooted deeply in progressive ecological conservation that is truly admirable, and for the area they are established, borderline revolutionary.

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The Ocean Never Sleeps

Image Courtesy The Huffington Post

It’s no secret that icecaps are losing mass due to increased global warming; and one of the world’s safeguards against carbon emissions, the ocean, is working overtime trying to sequester anthropogenic gases.  The ocean as a carbon sink has been well known for quite some time, although recently it seems as though it has been on the back-burner for many governments, organizations, corporations, businesses, etc.

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National Geographic Delivers

Image Courtesy: national geographic

Once again, National Geographic delivers mesmerizing high definition captures of nature in its new film documentary “One Life;” always looking out for ways to demonstrate the awe-inspiring power present in the natural world, “One Life” is bursting with unbelievable slow motion shots and incredibly detailed images.

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Salticidae

Image Courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org

Salticidae, better known as jumping spiders, are a curious family of spider that comprises ~13% of the order. They are best known for their two large anterior median eyes flanked by a smaller set, giving them exquisite vision, as well as their ability to jump distances many times the length of their own bodies.  Their unmistakable body structure, most notably the enlarged cephalothorax, makes them an easily recognizable family; and due to their reliance on vision to hunt prey, Salticidae are primarily diurnal hunters.

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Snowy Owl Migrations

Image Courtesy: http://imageveux.com

Climate change has had a significant impact on a multitude of global issues ranging from the environment to even politics; the Snowy Owl, Bubo scandiacus, is another organism that is feeling the effects of warming temperatures impede on its natural habitat in the northern circumpolar region. Varying degrees of climate change have significant impacts on the apex predator’s prey, which subsequently relocate, thus forcing Snowy Owls to migrate as well.

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Trance Around the World

A Goa Sunset. Image Courtesy: http://howanxious.wordpress.com

As a young, avid and ferocious consumer of music dabbling in amateur production, this post has been a long time coming.  No doubt everybody has their individual preferences when it comes to music, and I don’t want to be that person with the single-minded elitist views on what someone should or should not listen to (for the record my favorite band is The Doors), because I’m not.  I love trance music, it’s melodic, it’s uplifting, it’s beautiful, it makes people dance, it has great history, and when it’s done right it can be very emotional.

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The New King

Image Courtesy: http://Magnuscarlsen.com

In textbook fashion (and I can’t stress this enough), 22-year-old chess juggernaut (and this is probably an understatement) Magnus Carlsen of Norway has just recently dethroned 5-time world champion Viswanathan Anand in such an epic clash that one could imagine a very, very dramatic film produced from the whole debacle.

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Igor Siwanowicz Photography

Igor 1

Prepare to have your mind completely blown by award-winning insect photographer Igor Siwanowicz.  No artist captures the details like Igor Siwanowicz does with his distinct form of microscopic photography.  Every little bump and crack is accentuated, and every color shines brighter in Siwanowicz’s pictures — Fittingly, this style seems catered to capturing the strange exotic insects that inhabit the world.  Siwanowicz is not limited to just insects though, his portfolio is complimented by equally as impressive stills of reptiles, mammals, and even people.  One should especially note how often symmetry comes to play in the photographs.

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Wildlife Reigns at Cardamom County

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Even Macaques get lost in deep thought

It is no secret that the Periyar Tiger Reserve hosts a magnificently large collection of wildlife, that is what attracts tourists around the world — take a hike within the boundaries of the massive sanctuary and you are likely to see some amazing creatures. However, we cannot forget that the boundaries of the reserve are merely human constructs, designed by our minds to protect and preserve the organisms within. Animals abide by no such regulations, boundaries for them are constrained only by the habitats in which they may successfully occupy, thus, spillover is likely.

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Embracing Surfing

Photo Credit: Surfingindia.net

Oftentimes I find myself daydreaming of the saltwater breeze that accompanies the rolling bass of the heavy waves in the ocean — and I imagine those perfect waves… blue, crisp, clean and glassy, and the hollowest of tubes; peeling along the coastline in an epic demonstration of nature’s power.  This is a common dream for those who understand the absolutely humbling experience of surfing; it is a burning desire and need to envelope one’s self in the soothing serenity of the water.

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Uroplatus Geckos

Camouflage perfection in the Uroplatus. Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org
 The Uroplatus Geckos are a magnificent species of gecko endemic to the island of Madagascar, and also my personal favorite gecko — truly one-of-a-kind, these geckos are also known as flat-leaf geckos. Effective camouflage coupled with their flattened body structure and almost completely flattened tails allow these geckos to literally become one with the trees.

Orb Weaver Spiders (Araneidae)

Spiders are not the favorites of many people, and most people tend to avoid them at all costs or exterminate them on sight.  However, closer examination finds that spiders are amazingly adapted to their lifestyle, and beyond proficient engineers — a prime example of which are the Araneidae family, or orb weaving spiders.

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The Black Sea Nettle (Chrysaora achlyos)

Continuing my exhibition of exotic animals, I present a prime example of the bizarre and awe-inspiring ability for the ocean to produce truly alien creatures.  The Black Sea Nettle (Chrysaora achlyos), otherwise known as the Sarlacc or Black Jellyfish is found in the Pacific Ocean. A fairly massive specimen, its bell can reach diameters of 1 meter in length and its tentacles 6 meters. Displaying a vividly contrasting maroon hue against the ocean’s blue/green backdrop, Chrysaora achlyos preys upon zooplankton, and are often found en masse during red tide phenomenons in which zooplankton are responsible. Continue reading

My Animal of the Day – Pfeffer’s Flamboyant Cuttlefish

After much deliberation (1 day), I decided that I did not want to limit myself to just one particular group of animals to enthusiastically promote to the Raxa Family; instead, from now on I will be sticking my hand in a hat and pulling a name out with whatever insanely awesome or obnoxiously exotic organism I have chosen and posting it.  Truthfully, my love and admiration for certain organisms extends well beyond those of just reptiles and amphibians; so why constrain myself to just those?

Photo Courtesy Diverosa.com

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What Else is Out There?

Thanks to the World Wildlife Fund, 441 new species of plants and animals have been discovered in the Amazonian rainforest, including a truly bizarre looking monkey that apparently purrs like a cat when content, as well as a… vegetarian piranha.

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Newly discovered Titi Monkey. Photo Courtesy World Wildlife Fund

It is a good feeling in any naturalist’s gut, amateur or professional, too know that undiscovered species still remain in today’s world — where technology and advancements in various facets of our lives thanks to 21st century progressivism don’t leave much to the imagination; it seems as though the mystique of discovery still remains just as true to many of us as it did when we were children. Unfortunately this is not the case for absolutely everyone, but for those who are still amazed by the world, discoveries such as this are a blessing.

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Reptile of the Day – Thorny Dragon

Today’s reptile is the Thorny Dragon, Moloch horridus (Australia) — as its name suggests, this Australian lizard’s body is dominated by intimidating spikes in order to look unappealing and fend off predators.

Occupying scrublands and deserts primarily, the Thorny Dragon’s coloration is perfect for blending in and feasting on ants, its main source of nutrition.

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Photo Courtesy: statravel.co.uk

 

 

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^ The face says it all ^

Photo courtesy: australiangeographic.com.au

Too many birds, not enough Herps!!!

We can’t let the birders have all the fun, so I’m going to start posting my favorite reptiles & amphibians!  (I’m clearly in good company on the subject, however!) These amazing creatures are often unjustly vilified, but if you take a closer look you will realize just how beautiful and unique they are.

So I will start for now with Crotalus cerastes, the desert sidewinder (SW US/NW Mexico) — This small pit viper is specially adapted to live in the desert, most notably in its locomotive behavior of “sidewinding” which leaves a trademark imprint in sand.  Enjoy!

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Life as a House(boat)

Our house... boats

Our house… boats

This past week the new intern (EJ) and I got the chance to try out Raxa Collective’s collection of overnight houseboats (River Escapes for those interested) on the serene backwaters of Kerala.  With an influx of water hailing from the Ghats, these backwaters are the lifeblood of a significant portion of Keralan rice farmers; generations upon generations of these farmers have mastered their craft in a terrifically unique environment , and thus, a magnificently odd community unlike anything you would ever see state-side has emerged upon the banks of these backwaters.

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First Impressions of India

A hazy Kochi view

A hazy Kochi view

Thirty hours of rigorous travel and claustrophobic flights could not prepare me for an equally strenuous culture adjustment; however, that is the appeal of being a Western foreigner today — the luxury of being able to experience contrastingly different ways of life should not be squandered, rather embraced positively — here is a chance to engage in a learning experience unparalleled by classrooms in a university.

It is always amusing to me that even before arriving in a particular foreign destination, airlines attempt to mediate “culture adjustment” by serving airplane-food versions of that culture’s culinary specialty; I actually regret not taking a picture of said “food,” but I am sure it is not hard to imagine the quality.

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