Sunday, December 14, 2014

Singapore Gardens by the Bay

After I got through the final Hong Kong photos I thought I could finally get back to all the (thousands) of photos from our Kanchenjunga trek. But I had forgotten the batch of photos from the Singapore Gardens by the Bay. I had seen pictures of the "supertrees" before our trip and it was on our list of places to visit, but I hadn't realized how big a development it was, with two huge glass dome conservatories and beautiful gardens in addition to the "trees". It's not exactly a "natural" area, but it was still wonderful. I took a lot of photos here, and although I tried to prune them fairly ruthlessly I still ended up uploading quite a few to Flickr.

There are two huge domed conservatories. I thought I'd like the Cloud Forest better, but I think I actually preferred the Flower Dome (except for the big Christmas display, bah humbug!) The cloud forest had more a more impressive "mountain", waterfall, and elevated walkways, but the flower dome seemed to have a bigger variety of flowers and plants. I tend to think of "greenhouses" as hotter than outside, but both of these were actually air conditioned to maintain a cooler climate.

supertrees and flower dome

Gardens by the Bay - Cloud Forest

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flower

flowers

backlit fern

I managed to find a few lizards outside in the gardens. This one is making a territorial display.

lizard with territorial throat display

See all 74 photos in this set as a slideshow or overview

See also Shelley's Singapore post and photos

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Return to Hong Kong

We had a couple of days in Hong Kong on our way home, mostly to break up the long journey. We took the tram and enjoyed the walk around Victoria Peak again. The cool rainy weather was quite a change from the heat six weeks earlier.

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We'd been to the zoo and botanical gardens last time, but we hadn't made it to the nearby Hong Kong Park. It's definitely worth a visit, with a huge walk in aviary, nice ponds and gardens, and even a decent restaurant

Yellow-faced Mynah

turtles

We also went a bit further afield (on the metro) to the Nan Lian Chinese Garden, which turned out to be well worth the visit. Of course, any place with lots of bougainvillea is ok with me :-)

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They also had a nice restaurant (vegetarian!) which was tucked away behind a waterfall.

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The garden is managed by the Chi Lin Nunnery next door.

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See all 28 photos in this set as a slideshow or overview

See also Shelley's last post on Hong Kong

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Sunrise

We had some great sunsets in Raja Ampat, but we also get some great sunrises and sunsets here at home. This was from my home office window so the foreground is a bit cluttered, but it was still beautiful. These days sunrise is a bit too late to catch on my walk to work, but I see it on the days I work at home.

sunrise

More of my sunrise shots if you're in the mood

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Raja Wrapup

Some miscellaneous photos from Raja Ampat that I hadn't shared yet.

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Beach Kingfisher

sunset

sunset

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Shelley

See all 34 photos in this set as a slideshow or overview

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Raja Ampat Diving

I finally got through all my underwater photos from diving. I took over 1800 photos, out of which I picked about 100 to share. I should cut it down more, but ran out of time. That's too many to expect anyone to look at, so feel free to skim. A lot of these shots aren't that great photographically, but hopefully the fascinating subjects make up for that a little.

The diving was great, the best coral and the most fish I've ever seen. Raja Ampat definitely lived up to its reputation. The visibility wasn't always great, but the abundance of life more than made up for that.

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The mantas were definitely one highlight.

manta rays

We didn't see many sea turtles, but the one that cruised around us was a delight to watch.

Hawksbill sea turtle

There were lots of nudibranchs, which are basically slugs, but much more colorful and varied than their terrestrial counterparts.

nudibranch

The anemonefish (Nemo's) are so colorful and also fun to watch as they play peekaboo.

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We saw a number of wobbegone carpet sharks which were intriguing.

wobbegone shark

Diving around the mangroves was also great.

under the mangroves

I haven't gotten into shooting video while diving - still photography is challenging enough! But movement is a big part of the underwater scene and that really requires video. Here is one tiny clip that I shot.



Thanks to Raja 4 Divers and all their staff for a great diving trip.

See also Shelley's diving post

See all 104 photos as a slideshow or overview

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Raja Reflections

With our bungalow right on the water, and facing the sunset, I couldn't resist a bunch more reflection photos. The color palette was a bit more limited here, blues from the sky and pinks and golds from the sunset. Still, some beautiful colors and patterns. Here's a few samples:

reflections

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See all 12 photos as a slideshow or overview

Compare to the previous batch of reflections photos

Monday, December 01, 2014

Raja Stories

Snakes

One day we arrived at the dining hall to find everyone looking up at the roof. It turned out there was a snake up there. It took me forever to see it. People kept trying to explain where it was. Eventually I spotted it. You couldn’t see the whole snake so it was hard to know how long it was, but judging by what we could see it was a good size - maybe 6 feet long. Soon after I managed to spot it it slowly moved out of sight. It looked like it went up on the roof so I ran outside, but it must have gone inside the roof since there was no sign of it.

The next day we returned to our bungalow after supper. Shelley went into the open air bathroom and a few minutes later she was calling loudly for me. A snake had dropped to the floor right beside her. (Luckily it didn’t fall on her.) I got there in time to see it slither away. It was quite small, maybe two feet long and slender. Shelley asked indignantly why it fell down like that. I told her she probably scared it :-)

The other snake incident was when we were diving. At the end of one dive two of the guides were together and from a distance I saw them both “jump" and then turn and swim furiously. I thought they must have be chasing something interesting so I swam towards them to see what it was. I came around the corner and almost ran into a sea snake. It turned out that it had swum up right between them and scared them. Apparently the locals have a phobia about snakes. We kidded them about it afterwards and had a good laugh.

Butterflies

In the mornings we would go out for two dives. Between the dives, during the required surface time, we would land on a beach and get served cappuccino (instant). At one of the beaches we were greeted by a cloud of blue spotted brown butterflies, fluttering all around, landing in the trees and on driftwood on the beach. It almost seemed like the dry land version of the colourful schools of fish we had been seeing under water.

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Monitor Lizards

On another beach lunch break I got out of the boat and spotted a monitor lizard in the bushes. I called for Shelley to come see before it disappeared. I needn’t have worried. A few minutes later it was back, coming quite close. The reason was soon revealed as the staff threw food to it. Soon another one appeared and at one point there were four in sight and more in the bushes. They were about three feet long, although much of that was their long tail. I said “big monitor lizards” to Arif (our dive guide) and he replied, “no, small monitor lizards”. The locals called them “komodos”. They are related, but actual komodo dragons aren’t found here. We had boiled eggs for lunch and several were thrown to the monitors. It was a bit of a struggle for them to swallow the eggs whole, you could see the lump going down their throats. I swear one of them was noticeably fatter by the time we left! One of the staff was sitting quietly looking out to sea and one of the monitors snuck up behind him silently. We pointed behind him and he turned to look, jumping a little when he found himself eye to eye with the lizard!

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Parting Gifts

Coming out of our bungalow one day I found a small juvenile monitor lizard on our wall but it disappeared before I could get my camera. I spotted it several more times in the same area but something always scared it away before I could take photographs. As we left the bungalow for the last time, out of habit, I looked for it in it’s usual spot and there it was. Maybe it knew this was my last chance because it sat there cooperatively while I took off my pack, dug out my camera, and took several shots of it.

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We often heard a variety of bird calls around the island but almost never spotted any actual birds. One of the ones I really wanted to see was a Papua hornbill. On the boat trip back to Sorong when we were passing through the narrow “Passage” one flew out from the trees right in front of us and then landed on a branch. We were moving too fast to get much of a picture but at least I saw one!

Also in the passage, I was sitting on top of the boat roof looking around when I spotted a shape just under the surface of the water. As it went by I could see it was a large (four feet long?) sea turtle swimming along. Again, there was no time for photographs, but I was glad to have one last sighting of one of my favourite sea creatures.