Tag Archives: wildlife

Comino: when beauty and comfort go separate ways (but only 15 min apart)

Between the main inhabited islands of the Maltese archipelago lies a not-at-all hidden gem, the island of Comino. It has only three permanent residents and serves as a bird sanctuary. It is also known as a habitat for various reptiles. As such, it is not overdeveloped like the island of Malta, and tenting, heavily restricted on Malta, is popular here. Despite these advantages, it′s not the land that attracts hordes of tourists to the island. Like a cumin seed from which its name is said to be derived, it adds delightful flavor to the archipelago experience.

Tourists looking at the rocks through their smartphone screens

I finally went there after visiting Malta on vacation and having moved to live here this year. I was told that May is the best time to go, and it′s best to skip the high season, but I missed that chance this year. I can see why people were giving me this piece of advice. The Blue Lagoon, the most famous place on Comino, with sea so magically blue that it could serve as an endless artistic inspiration, was littered with noisy party boats, pedestrian paths full of vendors selling stuff, so and reminded me of Sharm el-Sheikh a bit. Continue reading

Hiking in Wied Babu and a new mission

I was among, apparently, around 170 people who signed up for a free tour by Nature Trust Malta to explore Babu valley (Wied Babu). When people sign up to an event on Facebook, one must divide the number by three and extract a square root to know the realistic number of attendees, but hiking tours in Malta are different. When people click they will attend, they actually show up and bring their friends. This is the scale of the ‘invasion’ in Wied Babu.

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Lake Vištytis: natural wonders and border tourism

Vištyčio ežerasI discovered Vištytis in March while carrying out a project on borders. Everything was covered with snow and the little houses on the campsite by the lake seemed lonely and as though they were spending winter in hibernation. But I was interested in everything: the mysterious landscape, conversations with locals who speak both neighbour countries’ languages, and the legends about the devil that carried the stone – we had to study this in primary school. I thought that not only the beauty of the surroundings and its special location on the border, but also the charming coat of arms with a unicorn would be useful for Vištytis’ tourism marketing (more on heraldry here – a cartoon style coat of arms from 1757-1792). Therefore, when the weather got warmer, I invited my friend, a keen traveller, to explore this beautiful site in more depth.

Vištytis is a special place, because the state and administrative dependency have changed since the times of Teutonic Order and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, but the status of the borderland has remained the same.

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Birds of Ayutthaya

I love birds – as a child, I used to spend hours and hours studying bird encyclopedias and trying to recognize them as I see them. Birds used to be my favorite subjects for drawing, especially orioles, nightingales and pigeons. So a two-day stay in Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand, made me really regret I did not have a proper camera to take photos of all the interesting birds there. There is a huge park right in the center of the city, and birds there seem to really feel free to go about their business regardless of tourists. For identifying the species, I used Peter Ericsson′s very informative database of birds in Thailand.

Let′s start with water birds, of whom little egret is probably the most gracious. Continue reading

Cambridge revisited

Daffodils

Daffodils – click on the images to enlarge them

“… When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils”

This is Cambridge – wrapped in greenery and blossoms, full of wildlife and very village-like, although it has been urban and academic since the Middle Ages. This time I stayed at the edge of the town, close to Churchill College.

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Remembering a trip to the Dead Sea a year ago (updated!)

What to do on Valentine′s day not to make it become cheesy? I found a great solution this year – I went to a local feminist gathering. But it′s also a good chance to remember that last year at this time I was somewhere far away, exploring one of the most special places on Earth – the Dead Sea. Update: in 2015, I went there again and took better photos.

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North America trip day 11: urban landscapes and wildlife in Vancouver

I made a short list of objects that I wanted to see in Vancouver, but when I got there I decided to simply go with the flow. It was easy to meet new people, and I figured the social landscape is just as interesting as the urban. I went to the Sea Wall the first day (my geographer friend explained about various innovative housing ideas from the 70s), then Stanley park and the aquarium on the second. Then a heatwave came.
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North America trip day 3: Grumpy sea lion and farmers’ market

San Francisco is hyper urban, but the main tourist attractions are bisons and sea lions.

The family I was staying with told me a story that pier 39, where sea lions rest, used to be a private pier for boats. Sea lions started assembling there after the great earthquake, and the people who were using the pier were driven away to make space for the endangered creatures of those already decided to assemble there. Now it’s a major tourist spot, particularly for families. Around pier 39, there are many touristic restaurants and various attractions. Continue reading