This portion of the web doesn't cover current events. The four characters (N.E.W.S.) represents the compass points: North, East, West and South. Here you will find information about various world-wide destinations. This page is updated with facts and images on a number of destinations. Previous themes and topics have been moved to the ARCHIVE section of the web.
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” - James Michener
Visit this web page next month when we'll offer up new locations and adventures in travel. And be sure to visit the Archives page for a look at past NEWS features.
Getting Close to the Wild
We humans connect to life, and that includes plants as well as animals. Nearly everyone has some houseplant or pet that they care for, often with the same closeness they would feel for a family member. However, there are a few of us who delight in the idea of getting close to creatures that normally are found only in the wild, and we are limited to approaching these animals only in zoos and at the circus. Sometimes it is enough to simply be close to these creatures. But to touch them and feel their skin, their breathing, their life is a whole other experience.
Swiming with sharks can be a rush. There are several areas where you can get into the water and share spce with these denizens of the deep. Since the movie 'Jaws', there has been an unjustified fear of sharks. For some reason, they have been made to look like monsters. In truth, they are doing what they are suited for; they are simply being sharks. There is no good or evil in the animal kingdom. Where can you best view sharks? It depends on the type of shark you want to view. For the first-timer, it is suggested to spend time up close to sharks that are relatively harmless.
In Belize you can spend your time with nurse sharks, where your guide may even be lucky enough to capture one by hand and allow you to feel the sandpaper-like sharkskin. If you are up to something a little more hazardous, there are the reef sharks which can be found throughout the world. Tahiti is a good location for close encounters of this variety. Also, the Bahamas has shark adventures which bring these carnivours within arms reach. Looking for something bigger and more aggressive? Try sharing the water with a Great White. These are best viewed from the safety of a shark-cage, and adventures of this nature are possible throughout the world, including Australia, South Africa, Mexico, and off the Californian coast. Something bigger? Try spending time with a Whale shark. This, the largest shark, is also the most docile.
Whale watching is another past-time that has become a popular water excursion. Every year the tourist follow the migratory path of whales in the hopes they will get a close encounter with these gentle giants and - possibly - one of those great pictures of the whale leaping out of the sea. Again, depending on the type of whale you are looking to capture an encounter with will determine the best place to go for viewing these great beasts. Hawaii and Alaska are seasonal home to the Humpback whale, while the Orca - the Killer Whale - is best seen in the waters of the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, whales can easily be viewed in the waters of Mexico and at the Galapagos Islands.
Dolphins and porpoise, while related to whales, are much easier to get close to. If you ever go to a location where you can swim with these peaceful mammals, you should certainly try doing so; the experience is well worth the expense. By getting close to these creatures you can see that behind their eyes and perpetual smile there is something definately going on in their mind. To see them in the wild, several hundred surrounding your boat and riding its bow-wave like a surfer rides a wave, you can only marvel at their power and grace.
Other aquatic animals you can have a close encounter with include stingrays, manta rays, sea turtles, and sea lions. Stingray encounters are often included with the shark encounter in places like Belize or with the dolphine encounter in Barbados. Sea turtles, because of their slow pace, can easily be seen in the wild. Hawaii is a prime sea turtle location, however they should not be approached or handled. Hawaii (the big island) is also a prime location to swim with the manta rays. These giants, often spanning fifteen to twenty feet from wing-tip to wing-tip, often intimidate the swimmer with their immense, suitcase sized mouth that strains the plankton from the water. Although there are some locations that offer the visitor the opportunity to swim with sea lions, most encounters take place in the wilds.
For the landlubber there is more to be seen than the local petting zoo. Many zoos offer close encounters with a variety of the animals they exhibit. Some offer the patron the opportunity to feed birds in their wild aviary exhibit. A few offer the guests the opportunity to feed the larger animals, such as their giraffes or elephants. There are even a few locations where you might be able to have a close encounter with the big cats of the world. Usually these encounters are limited to handling some cubs, but occasionally you may be treated to hands-on experience with the larger animals.
The Mount Kenya Safari Club lodge has an area where they care for a number of animals that have been saved from poacher snares or taken from zoos that didn't have the facility to properly care for them.
If You Go:
Remember, wild animals are different than the domesticated ones; they are not pets. And even pets have occasionally been known to turn on their masters. Most wild animals will always have a calling to remain wild and it takes several generations of care from humans to make them truly domesticated. Any wild animal is capable of doing the unexpected. If they do so, it is not out of hate (unless you taunt them); they are only being what they are.
Best advice: listen to the person who is their handler / the guide / responsible for the animal. When in doubt, don't touch or approach the animal, let it come to you. (This is the rule in the Galapagos Islands, where you can get unbelievably close to the wildlife). And finally, appreciate that you have had the opportunity to encounter wildlife in this manner.