We have no idea what we did on Sunday nights before the Beeb’s Blue Planet II, or, indeed what we’ll do with them after the seventh and final episode has aired. What we DO know is that for the foreseeable, there is only one place to be come 8pm: exploring the oceans by sofa.
We admit, we’re transfixed as are, according to figures, over 14 million of us, making it the most watched TV programme of 2017. We’ve envied surfing dolphins, wept as a walrus mother desperately tries to find an ice-pad to rest for her cub, wondered if the fish with the transparent head was actually even real and been simultaneously wowed and saddened by the wonders of the coral reef and the damage humans, plastics and climate change have wreaked.
If you, like us, have been inspired by this unrivalled natural history programme, then allow us to tempt you to experience some of the wonders of the Blue Planet for yourselves. Here, we’ve collated our favourite water and wildlife encounters in the Stubborn Mule portfolio. (David Attenborough not included).
Turtles in Costa Rica
Home to several species of turtles including Leatherbacks, Hawksbills, Olive Ridley, Green and Loggerheads, Costa Rica should be applauded for its conservation efforts in protecting this 110 million-year old species not only from natural predation, but, sadly, poaching and sea-fishing, too. Whilst you can see turtles all over the island, in our opinion, Tortuguero National Park (specifically a 14 mile stretch of sand) is best suited to watching the mothers come out of the sea and lay their eggs, during our summer, June – September. This awesome sight is carefully controlled by the local co-operative, so that the turtles are not disturbed. Both our Active Costa Rica and Costa Rica Highlights trips include Tortuguero National Park.
Penguins in South Africa
We’ll warn you now, they smell, but that’s also an indication of just how close your encounters are with the penguins as they hop along the beach. Whilst almost comically clumsy on land, these creatures transform into agile and highly skilled swimmers under water, something you’ll also see when snorkelling. They smell less underwater, too. Best place to see them? We love Boulders Beach, Cape Town. Penguins also roam free over Nelson Mandela’s former place of captivity, Robben Island. See them on our Classic Cape and Garden Route tour.
Swim with sea lions in the Galapagos
“Unbridled joy”, is the term used by Helene when she and her son swam with sea lions when visiting the Galapagos recently, a description that applied to both themselves and the sea lions. They were so inquisitive and playful, bumping into them whilst snorkelling (they’re equally playful on land, too, apparently) she said it was an experience they would never forget. Have a look at our Galapagos and Ecuador trips to see what other marine wildlife you’ll encounter whilst there. There’s an abundance!
Diving with Manta Rays in Belize
The Barrier Reef in Belize, the world’s second largest after Australia’s, is 185 miles of unspoiled, jaw-dropping beauty and home to an abundance of wildlife including sharks, whale sharks, rays and, arguably the most awe-inspiring, Manta Rays, the largest type of ray (‘Manta’ is ‘cloak’ in Spanish) who despite their size, seem unfazed by human presence. Amongst the coral, you can find them at ‘cleaning stations’, where they allow cleaner Wrasse fish to rid them of small parasites and clean their gills. Less than a mile off-shore is Ambergris Caye, where you can snorkel and dive in these warm, crystal clear waters where as far as wildlife and coral goes, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Want to know more? Check out our Belize Adventure Highlights trip.
Whale spotting in Sri Lanka
Along with Hermanus in South Africa, Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world to spot whales. During our summer, most families stay in Nilaveli, just north of Trincomalee, where there is snorkelling off the coast and the option to take boat trips for dolphin and whale watching. The whales can arrive at any time between May and September, so we recommend our two week Summer Sri Lanka tour if you want to be in with a chance of spotting them.
Snorkelling amongst the coral in Bali
As we’ve discovered, coral reefs are under threat due to global warming and dubious, unregulated fishing methods. The Great Barrier reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia has suffered the most, but in other parts of the world, damage is not as extensive. In the warm waters which surround Bali, you can just walk out from the beach and find coral quite undisturbed, snorkel as a family and play who can spot the most weird and wonderful fish. Our favourite spot is Menjangan island on the north coast, with lovely calm waters and part of our Highlights of Bali trip.