Marvelous Marvin’s Magical Mysteries


At Chan Chich Lodge, in the northwest of Belize, something brings loyal guest back year after year, sometimes multiple times a year. There are many guests who have been coming to Chan Chich year after year for decades; there are more than a handful of guests who have had more than 200 total night stays at the Lodge, one couple approaching 300 nights and at least one couple approaching 400 nights. Having grown up in this business and knowing no other business, I do not have metrics to compare this level of loyalty to any other kind of business. Continue reading

Panthera onca

video taken by author on August 5th

Chan Chich is known for being pretty much the best place in Belize to spot a jaguar (scientific name, Panthera onca) in the wild, given the Lodge’s huge amount of protected land (30,000 acres) adjacent to hundreds of thousands of acres similarly preserved, or under government conservation that together form the international Jaguar Corridor Initiative.

The word Panthera comes from the ancient Greek pánthēr (πάνθηρ), which essentially means “predator of everything,” and is a scientific genus comprised of the five big cat species in the world: snow leopards, tigers, lions, jaguars, and leopards. The latter four of these are the only cats that can roar, given morphological differences in their bones and throat.

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Avant Guard

The guards at The Broad Museum in Los Angeles aren't just here to protect the art — they're also expected to engage and educate. They're called visitor services associates, and they've gone through hours and hours of training to become ambassadors for contemporary art. Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging/The Broad Art Foundation

The guards at The Broad Museum in Los Angeles aren’t just here to protect the art — they’re also expected to engage and educate. They’re called visitor services associates, and they’ve gone through hours and hours of training to become ambassadors for contemporary art.
Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging/The Broad Art Foundation

I can easily spend hours wandering museum galleries – viewing Art, artifacts and people – it’s all fascinating. More likely than not every other room I’ll pass an ever present museum guards, usually efficient, sometimes friendly. Always in uniform. The directors of The Broad Museum in L.A. are viewing this important role in a new light. Dressed eclectically in black with red lanyard IDs, the VSAs (Visitor Service Associates) are well-trained crosses between guard and guide. Their knowledge and friendly delivery creates a concierge museum experience, which seems especially appropriate for a private collection museum.

Guard Sabrina Gizzo might easily be mistaken for a docent. She’s talking with some visitors about Thomas Struth’s huge color photograph of a crowd at a museum in Florence Italy. In the photo, tourists are dressed in summer clothes — shorts, T-shirts, caps, sneakers. Struth photographs the crowd facing us, looking up at something we can’t see. As Los Angeles visitors to The Broad study Struth’s photograph — a museum crowd looking at another museum crowd — one Broad visitor notices that a man in the photograph is wearing sunglasses clipped to the front of his shirt. Gizzo suggests that her guest take a very close look at the sunglasses.

Why? Turns out, if you look closely, a famous statue can be seen in the reflection of the man’s glasses: Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.

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Stories from the Field: Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Kerala

Photo credits: Sudhir Shivaram

Photo credits: Sudhir Shivaram

Back in the early days of my photography work I traveled to Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary, and hired Eldhose, one of the finest bird guides in Kerala, as my guide. The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary (also commonly known as the Thattekad Sanctuary) is located in the Kothamangalam Taluk of Ernakulam district on the northern bank of the Periyar river. The sanctuary was created in 1983 based on a recommendation made by Dr. Salim Ali many years previously. Ali described Thattekad in the 1930’s as the richest bird habitat in peninsular India, comparable only with the eastern Himalayas. Since then much of the forest has been converted to cultivation of teak and mahogany plantation but what survives gives a glimpse of the phenomenal bird diversity of the once widespread lowland forests of Kerala.

When I arrived Eldhose was waiting for me at the park entrance and helped me check into a home stay which is inside the sanctuary. I dumped my luggage and immediately was ready with my gear to head to the park. Our main target for the morning was to get the Ceylon (or Srilankan) frogmouth. The weather wasn’t on my side and it was drizzling. I always carry a huge plastic cover to protect my camera and lens, so with the little showers accompanying us, we set out in to the forest. Continue reading

Periyar Trekking – Border Hike

semi evergreen forest

semi evergreen forest

Recent guests from Austria staying at Cardamom County shared photos of their Border Hike experience with us.  The Periyar Tiger Reserve extends over 925 sq kilometers and this particular trek covers a minimum of 18km of the peripheral zone. It’s difficult not to get lost and even more difficult to spot animals in the rich flora of the reserve, hence the importance of the professionally trained forest guides. Continue reading

Understanding Animal Behaviour

Elephant in mock charge at Bandipur Tiger Reserve; photo credit: Sudhir Shivaram

If you want to be a good wildlife photographer, you need to be a good naturalist first. Understanding your subject’s behaviour and knowing the natural history is even more important than good equipment to make good images.

Elephants commonly make a mock charge when they have calves in their group. During a photographic safari in India’s national parks the drivers and guides are knowledgable about this behaviour and know how to react. When a jeep enters the vicinity with elephants they understand that a mock charge is likely.

After the mock charge the elephant relaxes and moves within the family group naturally. This is the opportunity for good behaviour shots. Continue reading

We Had Never Seen It, And Almost Never Would Have

The lizard’s superschnoz on display. Photograph by Alejandro Arteaga,

The lizard’s superschnoz on display. Photograph by Alejandro Arteaga,

News from Ecuador in recent weeks was mostly a bummer, environmentally speaking. The government there knew it was sitting on a gusher; specifically an extremely sensitive, biodiversity hotspot is sitting on that gusher; and they tried their best to offer the world an opportunity to help them avoid drilling.  Did they do everything conceivable before deciding to drill?  There is lots of opinion on that; no matter who is right, the outcome is not a good one. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  This week, however, there is news out of Ecuador that brings a smile to the face:

It’s no lie—scientists have spotted a lizard with a nose like Pinocchio in an Ecuadorian cloud forest. What’s more, the long-nosed reptile was thought extinct, having been seen only a few times in the past 15 years. Continue reading

Hello From Ghana

Mole, Ghana

I have been in Ghana for five days, and this image above tells most of the story of the week that I have time to share in this post.  Since 1980 when I first met someone from this country, I have been looking forward to this visit.  A young man named Kwaku, his first time traveling outside Ghana, had just arrived in a southern Illinois August heatwave and was in the same 10-day soccer training camp as me.  During the previous two years I had captained an undefeated high school soccer team, had sat in a stadium watching Pele play his last professional game, and respectfully thought I knew something about the sport. Continue reading

Field Guides?

Click the image at left to go to the source.

We have a strong connection on this site to the world of birds, birding, birders and the guides who intersect on each of those.  Salim took the lead in helping us decide to put more attention on birds.  We were convinced it was a good idea with the following Vijaykumar established among serious birders visiting this site.

Our efforts picked up steam when Martin joined in the fun and Seth started reporting from Ecuador; after Ben saw his thousandth bird while in Kerala we were hooked.

Now that we are, we seem to notice more and more interesting resources related to the world of birding.  Interpretive guiding has been important to several of us for our entire adult careers and this article tells a great story about the books that help one subset of all that field guiding.