Around this time 10 years ago my life was a shambled mess.
I was 35 years old, and coming out of an emotional divorce after a 12-year marriage. I had an amazing 3-year-old daughter I only saw about 30% of the time. I was in a torturous, on-again/off-again, long-distance relationship with a Canadian woman whose custody agreement ensured she’d lose her kids if she left Toronto, while I’d lose mine if I left Atlanta. My freelance writing career was in such a pitiful state, I barely qualified for a mortgage. And, what was worse, I saw no light at the end of the tunnel to suggest these things might eventually improve.
So I did what any depressed, despondent, divorced single dad might do in similar circumstances: I charged gas, food and hotel rooms to my already overburdened credit card so that I could take my toddler to the beach. Specifically, to my favorite beach in the world, in Sanibel Island, Florida.
Do a Google Image Search for photos of Norway’s Urnes Stave Church and you’ll find hundreds of results. But if you scan through them, you’ll notice that 99.9% of these are exterior shots, and the few interior shots that do show up are actually from one of Norway’s 27 other stave churches.
There’s a reason for this: Fortidsminneforeningen, the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments (which owns 8 stave churches, 4 stone churches, and 28 other historically significant properties in the country), strictly forbids photographs from being taken inside Urnes.
Knowing that we were journalists visiting Norway on assignment, our guide Marit Boen allowed us to take photos during our private tour. But we had to get special permission from Fortidsminneforenignen in order to publish them here on Green Global Travel, which they recognized as being similarly devoted to cultural preservation. So we’re delighted to offer our readers an incredibly rare glimpse inside this 900-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you’ve never been on a nighttime safari drive, it’s truly a spooky spectacle to behold. The darkness lends an added air of mystery to an experience already filled with awe and wonder. And, with your tracker’s flashlight usually the only source of illumination, it can be a little scary knowing that wild things wander unseen all around you.
My memories of our game drives through South Africa’s Kruger National Park are extraordinarily vivid. I remember the racing pulse of excitement the first night, when our Londolozi Game Reserve driver struggled to find pathways through the thick underbrush as we followed a female Leopard stalking her prey just after sunset. The thunderous noises of a massive Hippopotamus crashing through a thicket and running across the road behind us, faster than you’d ever imagine a creature so large could run. The incredible sight of 13 Lions stretching lazily in the road back to our camp, looking for all the world like sleepy, overgrown house cats. And the heart-pounding intensity as we watched a pack of cackling Hyenas chasing a herd of Gazelles, which leapt and bound gracefully across the road.
But one of my favorite nighttime wildlife sightings has to be this cute little trio of Baby Cheetahs, who we found hidden amongst the grass of the open savannah late at night, nursing contentedly on their mother. Cheetahs are my favorite of South Africa’s big cats– I admire their distinctive markings, their speed, their gracefulness– but until this night they were the only species (including the rare African Wild Dog) that we hadn’t seen. To stumble upon them in the dark, late at night, and see an entire family? It felt as if we hit the jackpot.
You can read elsewhere on GGT the story of how South Africa inspired our passion for ecotourism. But, for me, this photo captures one of those indelible little moments that makes Kruger National Park such a special place. In these adorable little faces, I saw the future of sustainable travel. –text & photo by Bret Love
If you enjoyed our photo of Baby Cheetahs in South Africa, you might also like:
(The following is a guest post from Brock Delinski of Our Favorite Adventure, who is also a gear consultant and coaches people preparing for adventures and long distance hikes. You can sign up for his free newsletter here. If you’re a blogger interested in guest posting, please email Editor-In-Chief Bret Love at GreenGlobalTravel@gmail.com.)
Hiking the John Muir Trail is many things to many people, but just about everyone who has done it will agree that it is among the finest hikes in the USA. For nature lovers, the JMT has it all, from soaring mountain passes to quaint valleys that give you that last-person-on-Earth sort of feeling. Hiking the JMT is one of those experiences that ultimately lingers with you long after you’ve hung up your hiking boots.
SPECIES: North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)
CURRENT RANGE: Along the east coast of North America, from Canada down to Georgia and Florida
CURRENT THREATS: Ship strikes, entanglement in commercial fishing lines
CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered
WHERE CAN YOU SEE THEM: With just 400-450 left, chances of spotting them are slim, but your best bet is off the Georgia/Florida coast in winter.