Roseate Spoonbills at South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center

Roseate Spoonbills at the

South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center


South Padre Island is hardly the sort of place we typically prefer to travel. Situated on the Gulf Coast of Texas less than 10 miles from the Mexico border, SPI is a tourist-driven resort town best known for raucous Spring Break celebrations and crowded summer vacations.


The fact that we were sent there on a freelance assignment DURING Spring Break did not help matters any: College students partying loudly until 2 AM and drunkenly knocking on our hotel room door at all hours of the morning is not our idea of a good time. Especially when we had to be up at 8AM to explore the  eco-friendly side of South Padre Island.


We’ve always prided ourselves on “finding green” options even in the most unlikely places, and this trip was no exception. From kayaking the Laguna Madre and taking a dolphin-watching cruise to rescuing injured sea turtles with Sea Turtle Inc, getting back to nature on SPI proved surprisingly easy. But our day at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center was easily among our favorite experiences there. 


The Center is one of nine established by the World Birding Center, which was created by Texas Parks & Wildlife and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services to showcase the Rio Grande Valley as a world-class birdwatching destination. As a barrier island, South Padre Island’s coastal wetlands are a crucial first landfall for birds, providing a safe haven for migratory species making their way north from Central and South America.


The SPI Birding and Nature Center is situated on a slender stretch of land dividing the Laguna Madre from the Gulf of Mexico. But its 50 acres provide an impressive array of habitats and biodiversity (including alligators, turtles, fish and more). Dune meadows, salt marsh and intertidal flats are dotted with thick grasses, native shrubs and trees that provide safe nesting grounds, as well as plentiful food sources.


We saw statuesque Great Blue Herons and various Ducks wading in the shallow pond right off the deck. Red Wing Blackbirds and a Ringed Kingfisher sat atop the railing, with the former chattering noisily as the latter hunted for a quick bite to eat. Huge flocks of White Ibis and Brown Pelicans soared directly overhead, crossing from the bay side to the gulf, and a lone osprey hovered in search of fish.


Sitting quietly in one of their five bird blinds provided opportunities to photograph a wide range of wildlife up close. Blind #3, overlooking lovely Laguna Madre Bay, brought views of Cormorants, Skimmers, Brown Boobies and Little Blue Herons grabbing their morning meal.


But my favorite sighting of the day was a flock of 8-10 Roseate Spoonbills we found resting nearby. These beautiful birds are easily identified by their pink color and spoon-shaped bills that allow them to sift through mud for crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs and newts. And though we’ve seen them many times in Costa Rica and Sanibel Island, Florida, we’ve never gotten so close as we did in SPI.


We enjoyed our morning visit to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center so much that we returned that night, and were treated to a spectacular sunset reflected in the center’s still waters. It felt like a world away from the chaos and cacophony of Spring Break, serving as a reminder that EVERY destination offers off-the-beaten-path adventures… if you know where to find them. –Bret Love; photo by Mary Gabbett


If you enjoyed our post on Roseate Spoonbills at SPI Birding & Nature Center, you might also like:

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Using Journalism Skills to create expert content, our TBEX costa Brava Presentation

Photo by Laurence Norah

Using Journalism Skills & Expert Content

to Build Your Brand


In conjunction with leading our Branding for Bloggers workshop at TBEX Costa Brava, Mary and I were asked to speak about the importance of journalism skills and research in establishing yourself as an expert.


It’s a topic we’re extremely passionate about, not only because it’s the driving force behind Green Global Travel and Green Travel Media, but also because it’s how I’ve supported my family for the last 20 years. Even now, Mary and I freelance for outlets like Yahoo Travel and dozens of airline, hotel and lifestyle magazines, which provides good income and great benefits for our sites.


We were paired with Natalie Holmes of Context Travel, which offers small-group, in-depth walking tours in 30 destinations across the world. Like us, Natalie has an extensive background in the travel industry and journalism, and she’s responsible for product development, marketing and storytelling at Context.


Together, the three of us co-wrote this 45-minute session, which was billed by TBEX as “Think Like An Expert: Using Research to Stand Out From The Crowd.” We’ve edited the presentation slightly, to read more like a story told in one voice…

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Maria Island Tasmanian Devil Photo by JJ Harrison via Creative Commons

Photo by JJ Harrison via Creative Commons

Tasmanian Devil Conservation on

Maria Island, Australia


Located off the east coast of Tasmania, Maria Island is an Australian National Park which can only be reached by ferry or plane.


This secluded wilderness features historic ruins, sweeping bays, isolated beaches and rugged mountains, but no shops or cars. So it’s perfect for anyone seeking an escape from civilization and an opportunity to reconnect with nature. It’s also a wildlife sanctuary filled with a diverse range of native Australian species.


Maria Island National Park, Australia

Coastline at Maria Island National Park


But Maria Island is best known for offering visitors a chance to see the endangered Tasmanian Devils that call the remote island home. Introduced to the island in 2012 and 2013, Tasmanian Devils are easy to find here. They’re often seen interacting with tourists, frequenting camp sites and cabins in search of hiking boots and other material to complete their dens.


With its now-thriving population of Tasmanian Devils, Maria Island is a haven for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and photographers alike.

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The Mysterious Cats of Ephesus, Turkey


I have a love/hate relationship with cats. I love them for their independent spirits, their mischievously playful nature, and the rumbling motor sounds they make in moments of bliss.


Unfortunately I’m also crazy allergic to them, getting itchy, watery eyes and sneezing uncontrollably when they climb and rub on me (which they inevitably do). That part, I hate.


But the mysterious Cats of Ephesus–  the Greek city built in the 10th century BC, which was among the seven churches of Asia mentioned in the Book of Revelation– ultimately proved to be a quirky attraction that made this ancient archaeological site all the more interesting.


There are literally hundreds of cats roaming Ephesus. You’ll see them sitting like statues at the base of columns lining the ancient streets, dozing atop intricately carved marble sculptures and seemingly guarding the impressive Library of Celsus.


One peeked out playfully, as if he might swat us just for fun, as we strolled through public baths built by Emperor Constantine I. Another sat atop an ancient row of toilets, looking like some sort of feline bathroom attendant waiting to offer us a paper towel and a mint on our way out.


Nobody really knows for sure how the Cats of Ephesus got here, or how they’re fed. But they all appear well cared-for, and locals seem to have a laissez-faire attitude about their presence.


It’s a well-known fact that Cleopatra once brought cats as a gift to Caesar Augustus in Rome.  Some local legends suggest that the cats who populate Ephesus today may be the descendants of felines the Egyptian queen introduced during her visits to the city.


But these ruins remained largely buried by the sands of time until 1895, when German archaeologist Otto Benndorf began the first significant excavation of the site. Benndorf later founded the Austrian Archaeological Institute, which still plays a leading role in the excavation of Ephesus today (around 85% of the massive city is still waiting to be uncovered). Our tour guide suggested that archeologists brought the cats to help keep the rodent population in check.


For me, this photo of an orange tabby sitting amongst intricately designed mosaic tile work dating back to the Byzantine era perfectly encapsulates the mysterious beauty of Ephesus. Looking at his regal pose, it’s easy to understand why cats were held sacred by the ancient Egyptians (whose goddess Bastet was depicted in cat form), and domesticated by the Romans (who are credited with introducing the domestic cat to Europe).


Regardless of how they got there or how they manage to survive, the Cats of Ephesus add a sense of mystery and magic to this archaeological site, serving as a living embodiment of its ancient history. –Bret Love; photo by Mary Gabbett


If you enjoyed our post on the Cats of Ephesus, you might also like: 

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Town Hall in King’s Square, St George Bermuda

St George Bermuda

The Oldest Town in the New World


Bermuda is a group of tiny islands located about 580 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.


The nation is renowned for its picturesque pink sand beaches; its brilliant blue waters; and its temperate climate, with winter days averaging around 68º and temperatures rarely spiking above 86º in the dog days of mid-August.


Considerably less well known is the fact that it’s also home to the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in the western hemisphere.

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Co-Founded by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, Green Global Travel is an ecotourism, nature / wildlife conservation & cultural preservation magazine. More about us.

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Destinations We’ve Covered:

Egypt- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Madagascar- Ring-tailed Lemurs at Anja Reserve
Morocco- A Journey into the Atlas Mountains
South Africa- Londolozi Game Reserve Safari
South Africa- Kruger National Park
South Africa- South Africa- Zulu Memories
Tanzania- Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

How To Get To Antarctica w/out Doing the Drake
The Haunting Beauty of Icebergs
Penguins of Antarctica
Taking the Polar Plunge
Top 5 Eco Attractions in Antarctica
Whales of Antarctica
Borneo- Sabah Ecotourism Attractions
India- Ranthambhore National Park
India- Tibetan Culture In Ladakh
Laos- The Pastoral Paradise of Muang Ngoi
Malaysia- Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Malaysia- Orangutan Conservation at Sepilok
Nepal- Hiking The Annapurna Circuit
Taiwan- Top 5 Eco Activities in Taipei
Thailand- Top 5 National Parks
Australia- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Australia-Kangaroo Island
Australia-Maria Island
New Zealand- Kapiti Island
New Zealand- Tongariro National Park
New Zealand- Top 5 Ecotourism Attractions
Tahiti- First Impressions
Tahiti- Photo Gallery
Tahiti- Moorea 4x4 Safari Tour
Tahiti- Moorea, Tiki Village Theater
Tahiti- Pearl Diving in Bora Bora
Tahiti- Ruahatu Marine Sanctuary, Bora Bora
Tahiti- Swimming With Sharks in Bora Bora
Tonga- Eua Island Eco Activities


Churchill- Into the Wild of Manitoba
Churchill- Polar Bear Fight
Churchill- Polar Bear Photo Gallery
Churchill- Tundra Wildlife

America’s Best Volcanoes
AL- Fishing Mobile Bay
AL- Mobile Carnival Museum
AK- Denali National Park
CA- Hiking The John Muir Trail
FL- Sanibel Island Eco Activities
FL- Crystal River, Swimming with Manatees
FL- Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
GA- Barnsley Gardens
GA- Top 5 Autumn Activities Around Atlanta
GA- Best Christmas Light Displays
GA- Top 20 Atlanta Christmas Events
GA- Jekyll Island Eco Activities
GA- Weekend in North GA Mountains
GA- Top 5 Eco Attractions in North GA
HI- Hawaii’s Big Island
HI- Hawaiian Mythology
HI - Top 5 Kauai Nature Attractions
LA- Lafayette Cajun Food Tour
LA- Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday
LA- Voodoo Museum
MT- Hiking Glacier National Park
NC- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
NC- Asheville's Green Restaurants Scene
NC- Asheville's Top Ecotourism Attractions
NC- Greensboro Travel Guide
NC- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
NC- Outer Banks Wild Horses
NM- Top 5 Eco Attractions
NY- Going Green in NYC
TX- Sea Turtle Rescue, South Padre Island
WV- Outdoor Adventures
Yellowstone- Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone- Lamar Valley
Yellowstone- Grand Canyon & Hayden Valley
Yellowstone- Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone- Lower Geyser Basin

Cancun- Cancun Underwater Museum
Cancun- Mayan Museum of Archaeology
Cancun- Swimming with Whale Sharks
Riviera Maya- Monkeys, Pyramids & Pottery
Riviera Maya- Rio Secreto
Riviera Maya- Tulum & Coba