Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Stone Forest

There's a good article in this month's National Geographic Magazine about the Tsingy of Bemaraha in Western Madagascar.

Tsingy of Bemaraha, Madagascar
'A city of limestone towers' 

It reminds me of our trip there in May 2008; I still have a scar on my arm as a souvenir ! To read the article see Living on a Razor's Edge - Madagascar's labryinth of stone. Here are some more National Geographic photos of Madagascar; like the one above they were all taken by photographer Stephen Alvarez:

'Vertical pupils identify a seseke, or leaf-tailed gecko, as a
nocturnal creature. Its camouflage works so well that the lizard
doesn’t hide during the day. It simply flattens itself against
tree trunks while waiting for darkness and insects to eat.'

'Spiny, drought-tolerant Pachypodium plants
also thrive in the tsingy’s top reaches.'

'Unexplored passages shelter some of the island’s—and the
world’s— strangest species, from the ghostly Decken’s
sifaka, a lemur, to a host of reptiles, insects, and plants.'

'Troops of Decken’s sifakas, found only in west Madagascar, cruise
the tops of the tsingy searching for food and evading predators.
Like other lemurs, they probably live in small family groups.'

'Fearless acrobat, a Decken’s sifaka leaps a chasm a 100 feet deep'

If you enjoyed this post you might also like:

  • Ile Sainte Marie - in 2004 we spent a week on this island off the north-east coast of Madagascar.

Suggested reading:

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Bali bliss

Bali figures as one of many peoples' dream holiday destinations, and we were no exception.

However as scuba-divers we chose to stay away from the more touristy areas (mainly in the South) and were near a a small town called Tulamben on the east coast, renowned for its diving. 

view from our accommodation

While Bali has many good dive sites, Tulamben in particular is renowned for the WWII wreck of the USAT Liberty which lies just off the coast. The wreck lies not very deep (>30 m) and is more than 100 metres long.

map of Bali showing some of its dive sites (from

ribbon eel and cornetfish

raccoon butterflyfish (chaetodon lunula)

Although most of our dives were off Tulamben we also went on a three-dive trip to Nusa Penida, off Bali's south-east coast, where we lucky enough to see an ocean sunfish, aka mola-mola, as well as some manta rays.

sunfish (photo from Wikipedia)
off Nusa Penida

We also took two days off from diving - one to explore the centre of the island in a car, and another day to explore east coast north and south of Tulamben on a scooter.

We had also planned to climb Mount Agung (3142m) but unfortunately the day we had picked (our last full day on Bali) there was a local religious festival which prevented us from climbing it.

view of Gunung Agung at sunset from our accommodation

Mount/Gunung Agung

On our trip to the island's centre we visited the Tirta Gangga (literally Water of the Ganges) water garden which is a beautiful complex of fountains and pools.

outside the water garden

Tirta Gangga water garden

Tirta Gangga water garden

Tirta Gangga water garden

We also went to Besakih ("Mother") temple, which is one of the largest and holiest temples in Balinese Hinduism. It's at almost 1000m altitude on the flanks of Mount Agung.

From where we had lunch afterwards we had a great view over Mount Batur (1717m) which is still an active volcano.

Mount Batur aka Kintamani

Bali is a very religious island, and we saw several festivals or people carrying offerings to their local temple.

en route for the temple

Sesajen (Balinese daily offerings)

Our trip up and down the east coast was interesting too

bridge guardian
We headed north:

luxury hotel north of Tulamben...

... where we stopped for lunch

and south, towards Amed:

near Amed

coast near Amed
where salt is produced.

cut-out trunks are used as troughs for salt evaporation

Our next trip, a few months later, was to Saipan, one of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Suggested reading for Bali:

Try Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. The Indonesia part takes place in Bali.

Finally, here's a short film by Bali resident Brian Dent about the "Big Cats" of East Bali. It won second place in the Ultra Short category of the Underwater Festival 2011.