Wednesday, December 25, 2019

2019 Favorite Photos

For us, 2019 was all about Africa.  After years of putting off a trip to this great continent because "it's too expensive" or "it's too far" we decided to stop making excuses and just book it.  We are glad we did.

In February, we took a trip to Kenya that was outstanding.  Seeing elephants, giraffes, lions, and more on TV doesn't even come close to the feeling of seeing them in the wild.  We were really impressed with everything about Kenya and this trip has to be one of the best we have ever taken.

In October, we returned to Africa.  This time to the island of Madagascar which had been top of our trip list for a long time.  This trip yielded mixed feelings of both wonder and disappointment.  We are glad we went but we have no plans to return.

Because these two trips took so much of our time, we really didn't go anywhere else.  Consequently, all our favorite photos for the year are from Africa and are in pretty much in chronological order.

The cat I wanted to see the most in Africa was the cheetah.  We were lucky enough to see quite a few but I would have welcomed more time with these great cats.  This one was resting in the shade and I love that you can see the silhouette of our vehicle in its eyes:

Cheetah Closeup

Towards the end of our Kenya trip we stayed at Porini Lion camp which has a well known leopard called Fig.  We were hoping to see Fig and her cub at some point during our stay.  Our wishes came true during our first afternoon game drive.  Fig and her cub appeared walking out of some bushes and our expert driver put us into a great position.  As they approached a fallen tree, I hoped one of them would climb on it for pictures possibly.  As it so happens, Fig jumped up first and her cub followed and I was able to get one of our favorite shots from the trip:

Fig and Cub Posing

We saw many lion cubs during our Kenya trip so it was hard to pick among many favorite shots.  But, one morning stands out as we watched the cubs play above us on some rocks.  At one point, one of the cubs laid down on the edge of the rocks and stared at us.  It didn't take long for the smallest cub to come up and photo bomb its elder sibling and this turned into another of our favorite moments:

Cubs Chilling

Our last favorite from Kenya is another leopard shot.  We were watching Fig and her cub in a tree hoping that Fig would come down to hunt.  Eventually she did but we lost sight of her so we drove over to the area of the tree to see if she was still around.  Instead, we found her cub still up in the tree half sleeping and half lounging. She was as interested in us as we were in her:

Cub Stare

Madagascar is a wondrous land filled with extremely rare and endangered wildlife including lemurs and chameleons.  We didn't have to wait long to find one of these rare creatures when we encountered this nocturnal ankarana sportive lemur on our first full day.  While these lemurs usually sleep during the day we found quite a few hanging around their tree holes watching the world go by which on this day included us:

Speaking of chameleons, we saw a lot on our trip (17 species actually).  They ranged dramatically in size from thumbnail to arms length and all of them were fantastic.  This panther chameleon stands out because it had such a great range of color but also looked so prehistoric:

Panther Chameleon

Another fantastic group of lizards that we saw on this trip were the different leaf-tailed geckos.  All were masters of camouflage and just about impossible to find.  It took the sharp eyes of our local guide to find this one which was still hard to see from a couple feet away.  Just amazing...

A side view helps

One of the most iconic lemurs in Madagascar is also the one of the largest and loudest.  The indri is simply amazing to see and hear in person.  We were fortunately enough to see a couple different troops and to hear them calling from right above us.  While that memory is etched in our brains I won't forget the encounter we had with another one of them that stared right at me:

Indri Closeup

2019 continued the tradition of wildlife mocking me as often as possible.  I have more photos of animals pooping, peeing, and sticking their tongues out than I can count.  Someday, I might even create a whole book of photos dedicated to those very subjects.  In that book, I would include this photo of a rescued diademed lemur who was not amused that we interrupted its meditation session:

When  you interrupt a lemur meditating

The smallest primate in the world is often debated.  Some say it's the pygmy marmoset (which we saw in Ecuador), while others say it is the tarsier (which eluded us TWICE in Borneo), while still others will say it is one of the mouse lemur species found in Madagascar.  We saw 5 species of mouse lemur and they were all tiny and simply adorable.  But, this mouse lemur joins the favorite list not just because it was tiny and cute but also because it was seen on the Masoala peninsula where it has been determined to be a distinct species that has yet to be fully described by science.  I vote for Microcebus adorablis:

Masoala Mouse Lemur (Undescribed Species)

The final favorite of 2019 is a forest crab which is probably the first crustacean to make one of my favorites list (I am too lazy to actually check).  What was unusual about this crab is that when we approached it didn't scurry off into the forest like all the others that we had seen.  On closer inspection, we figured out why when we saw that it was slowly pulling up and eating a worm:

Crab Grabbing Lunch

That wraps up another great travel year for us and we hope 2020 brings more exciting adventures.

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