A fun and innovative winery near Stellenbosch, South Africa uses a 1,000-strong duck brigade to help eradicate vineyard pests.
In South Africa’s Cape Winelands, winemakers at the Vergenoegd Wine Estate have all their ducks in a row — literally.
More than 1,000 Indian runner ducks can be found on the estate. These feathered friends have been an integral part of the winery’s pest management program for decades, as they gobble up snails, slugs, and bugs from the vineyard.
Today, daily parades featuring the animals attract visitors — young and old — to the wine farm’s scenic grounds near Stellenbosch.
Continue reading “Waddling Winemakers on Parade in Stellenbosch, South Africa”
Magnificent Lake Skadar is the largest lake in Southern Europe. It is also home to a dazzling array of wildlife.
Having emerged from the long mountain tunnel that separates Lake Skadar National Park from Montenegro’s coastline, the landscape was decidedly different. Gone were glimpses of the expansive Adriatic. In its place was Lake Skadar, Southern Europe’s largest lake.
Continue reading “Montenegro’s Lake Skadar National Park: A Day Trip and Boat Ride”
Volunteers in the coastal city of Split, Croatia are dedicated to saving the country’s remaining donkey population.
In a pine-shaded park overlooking the sea in Split, Croatia, a fuzzy donkey emerges among a cluster of joggers, dog-walkers, and families.
The passersby stop and smile, delighted to encounter such a creature in Croatia’s second-largest city. Some people snap photos of the grey donkey with their phones. A father and his young son ask the animal’s handler if they can stroke the animal’s muzzle. Eventually, the donkey wanders off, searching for the ideal patch of greenery to nibble upon. She seems content when she finds a grazing place. It has commanding views of the sparkling Adriatic Sea and neighboring islands.
With a short attention span, the donkey trots off again, stopping next to an abandoned phone booth. Seemingly unrelated at first, the juxtaposition of the two is symbolic in that both animal and booth were once considered essential in daily life. Today, in most parts of the world, they’ve both been rendered obsolete by technology.
Not long ago, donkeys were commonplace in the Mediterranean — beasts of burden that sometimes carried weight greater than their own. They toted water and food and helped to mill grain. But today, because of new forms of transport, the animals’ numbers have shrunk dramatically. By some accounts they are approaching extinction in their native environments.
Continue reading “A Sanctuary for the Lovable and Threatened Donkeys of Split, Croatia”
One of Thailand’s most popular ancient sites, Sukhothai boasts atmospheric temple ruins and UNESCO World Heritage status.
The thermometer flirted with 40°C (104°F) as we wandered from one marvelous temple to another in Thailand’s Sukhothai Historical Park. The scent of frangipani blooms danced in the air, and powdery dirt coated my skin from my knees to my toes.
All was quiet. It was a refreshing change from the bustling markets and hectic streetscapes of the city.
I tried to imagine what these grounds would have looked like 700 years earlier, when the Sukothai Kingdom was at its apex and this was the capital of the Thai Empire. Back then, Sukhothai had around 80,000 residents.
Continue reading “Finding Tranquility in Thailand: Exploring Sukhothai Historical Park”
One of South Africa’s largest national parks, Addo was established in the 1930s to protect about 10 elephants. Today, it’s home to more than 600.
As golden-hour rays of sunshine cast shadows upon South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park, we remained cautiously optimistic that we’d spot wildlife. Our open-air safari vehicle rolled through the stunning landscape, characterized by sage-colored foliage and terracotta-hued soil. Water droplets sparkled on the vegetation, the result of an earlier rainfall that had quenched Addo’s parched terrain.
Continue reading “A Sunset Safari in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park”
Every winter, officials in the German state of Bavaria organize feedings for wild deer — much to the delight of the animals and the spectators.
Sitting on the wooden benches of a rustic shelter, our group waited patiently. We shivered quietly and watched for signs of life in the frosted forest before us. It was twilight, and we had come to watch a feeding of wild deer in the Graswang Valley in the German state of Bavaria. These feeding sessions, called Wildtierfütterung in German, are a popular local tradition, and just one example of Germany’s penchant for respecting the environment
Continue reading “Into the Forest: Watching a Wild Deer Feeding in the German Alps”
What to see and do in the captivating Mediterranean city of Valletta, Malta.
Malta’s capital, Valletta, is a grande dame undergoing rapid change. With more than 300 monuments crammed into the city’s small peninsular borders, Valletta has one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world. This means that there are lots of things to do in Valletta, whether you’re an architecture aficionado, military-history buff or passionate wanderer eager to see a city reawakening from a long slumber.
Shawn and I called Valletta home for one year. We lived on Strada Stretta, which was once one of the city’s most infamous streets. It’s a narrow lane that used to form part of Valletta’s red-light district—a magnet for sailors.
When we first learned we’d be moving to Malta for Shawn’s studies, we thought we might develop island fever by spending so much time in a tiny island nation. Surprisingly though, there was so much to experience in and out of Valletta that our weekend calendar was consistently filled with activities. We left at the end of 2016.
A decade before actually moving to Valletta, I also played tourist in the capital city, making it my home base for a long-weekend visit. Back in 2006, Valletta was eerily quiet. Half of the city’s buildings were boarded up and abandoned. Accommodation in Valletta was so scarce that I literally had to sleep in a spacious maid’s closet for one night, until a proper room became available. Coincidentally, ten years later, my future in-laws would choose to stay at a boutique hotel located just across the street from the same guesthouse in which I stayed as a solo female traveler in 2006. It’s funny how life comes full circle like that.
Continue reading “A Guide to Exploring Valletta: Malta’s Tiny, But Mighty, Capital City”
Mingling with Malta’s famous diving dog — a Jack Russell Terrier named Titti.
It was a sweltering September afternoon on the sunny island of Malta when we headed to St. Peter’s Pool. With its dramatic limestone cliffs and access to the Mediterranean, St. Peter’s isn’t a pool in the conventional sense. And at this point, it should ceremoniously be renamed ‘Titti’s Pool’ in honor of its celebrated diver: a Jack Russell Terrier dog who has captured the attention of animal lovers worldwide.
Upon reaching a point overlooking the picturesque swimming venue, I had already spotted Titti – a stocky, black, white and brown ball of energy. St. Peter’s Pool is photogenic in its own right, but the swarm of swimmers sporting mobile phones and cameras instead tried to capture Titti’s every move. This proved to be tricky because of the dog’s sprinting maneuvers and high jumps alongside her master’s ankles.
Anticipating her owner’s hand signal, Titti waited at the jagged cliff’s edge, an impatient aura about her. With her master’s motion now executed, her stubby little legs launched her into the azure water below. Titti’s makeshift paparazzi documented the split-second maneuver, and applause and yelps of delight followed as Titti’s head emerged from the foamy water. In her mouth, she carried a prized plastic water bottle which she’d just fetched out of the sea.
Continue reading “Malta’s Cliff-Diving Dog Captures Hearts Around the World”