Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Eaten Alive By Little Fish in Hong Kong

September 6th, 2010 at 2:22 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Yes. It’s true. We (our feet, actually) were eaten alive by hundreds of voracious little fish.

Fortunately the effects were temporary.

Fish nibbling on my foot, presumably removing only dead skin

Fish nibbling on my foot, presumably removing only dead skin

One of our last days in Hong Kong in July was spent taking a trip up to Victoria Peak – the highest point of Hong Kong island.

The Peak Galleria Shopping Centre, atop Victoria Peak on Hong Kong island

The Peak Galleria Shopping Centre, atop Victoria Peak on Hong Kong island

Located at the top of the Peak is the Peak Galleria Shopping Centre (pictured above), where we found ourselves confronted and intrigued by the sign below.

Advertisement we saw in the mall for the Wonderfish Spa

Advertisement we saw in the mall for the Wonderfish Spa

We made our way to the advertised Wonderfish! Spa tucked away on an upper floor of the Peak Galleria mall, and committed to the 20-minute treatment (which cost about US$20 per person).

We put our belongings in a basket which was stashed away in cubby holes in full sight, then had our feet washed, and then were seated on the edge of large square tiled “tub”, filled with about 18 inches of water and hundreds of small (2-3 inches long) fish. We were directed to slowly put our feet in the water.

As soon as our feet touched water, the small fish swarmed all over them, creating an odd tickling/scratching sensation that at first was a bit discomforting, but soon became quite entertaining – both from a sensation of touch as well as visually.

Here’s the video of our experience:

I had a small waterproof camera with me, which helped in capturing some of the above clips, in case you wonder.

The fish are related to carp, and legend has it that a farmer in Turkey discovered the foot fetish properties of these fish by accident some thousand(s) of years ago.

They are apparently strongly attracted to dead skin, and that’s what they focus on as they munch their way over your feet, although I can’t help but wonder what happens after they have consumed all the dead skin there is to be had.

We found 20 minutes to be just about long enough. Our feet felt refreshed and tingly after the treatment. And we had a good time with the whole experience.

However, I found that my feet, ankles, and lower calf, where the fish had dined, were still extra sensitive to excessive heat for several days afterwards. Linda did not have a similar issue.

It was a really entertaining and fascinating experience, but not one that either Linda or I have any need to experience again anytime soon. Once was probably sufficient.

The Wonderfish! Spa web site has ample details on the process.

 

Another Richter With a Camera

March 25th, 2010 at 12:35 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

One of the pleasures we enjoy during our varied trips is photography – both the act and the art of taking interesting pictures, and then later the reminiscing that occurs as we review and apply our imagery in various ways after our trips.

It appears that the youngest member of The Traveling Richters is now also looking at photography more seriously. While we have tried to engage him with both point and shoot cameras as well as video cameras, his enthusiasm for them waned quickly. He said that the point and shoots were too small and boring, and he didn’t want to deal with editing video after he shot it.

However, when I lent him one of my DSLRs on the very last day of our voyage into the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic, he became captivated with using the camera, and kept at it for a couple of hours, working the angles, the subjects, and lighting.

Bas working the angles while taking photos of moss on a post

Bas working the angles while taking photos of moss on a post

We were on New Island, in the West Falkland Islands area, visiting a rookery featuring Rockhopper penguins, King cormorants, black-browed albatross, as well as caracaras and turkey vultures.

Bas with camera in hand at New Island

Bas with camera in hand at New Island

I helped him sort through his images later in the evening so we could submit three shots to use as part of the cruise slide show. Below are those three final images – all of which are very nice shots.

A rockhopper penguin in the rookery at New Island

A rockhopper penguin in the rookery at New Island

Some of the splendid scenery on New Island in the West Falklands

Some of the splendid scenery on New Island in the West Falklands

A striated caracara sits atop a wreck at New Island

A striated caracara sits atop a wreck at New Island

Bas now says that New Island was the best part of his entire trip, mainly because he had a real camera in hand. I have promised to let him use one of my DSLRs at home so he can practice with it some more. It will be curious to see if his interest remains stronger with the better equipment.

 

Super-Large Panorama of King Penguin Colony

March 14th, 2010 at 4:52 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Now that I’m back in the world of real Internet connections I can upload another panorama I created during our recent trip to the Antarctic region.

While at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia, we witnessed a King penguin colony numbering in the many hundreds of thousands of penguins. I already uploaded one panorama from that day, but have an even larger (and more astounding) one to share today. If you look at the image closely, you can even see skuas flying above the colony looking for easy prey.

Click on the image below to get to the full panorama. Warning – it is 42,043 pixels wide, and nearly 20 megabytes in size. No guarantees that your browser will allow you to view an image that large, but give it a try.

A close-up panorama of the King penguin colony at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia

A close-up panorama of the King penguin colony at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia

Once (and if) the larger panorama image appears in your browser, you may want to right-click on the image and save it locally to your hard disk and use a better image viewer to look at it in detail. You can also use the “Download the Original Size” link to accomplish this.

 

The Black Penguin

March 11th, 2010 at 5:48 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

It figures that something remarkable was seen on our trip, but I completely missed it. Fortunately my daughter Krystyana did see it – and she also managed to take several photos of this unusual critter. I’m speaking of the Black Penguin, a flightless bird with unusual coloring that appears to have taken the world by storm.

Black King penguin next to normal King penguin

Black King penguin next to normal King penguin

Fellow traveler and National Geographic Traveler contributing editor Andrew Evans posted a photo of the melanistic penguin on his blog, which led to another post in the Intelligent Travel blog, and from there it seems to have spiraled into a major news story.

So, to help prove that Andrew’s photo was not an anomaly, below are a few more photos of the Black Penguin.

Black Penguin in the foreground with a regular King penguin in the background

Black Penguin in the foreground with a regular King penguin in the background

The Black Penguin

The Black Penguin

Larger versions of the above images, along with additional photos can be found on Krystyana’s Flickr pages.

 

Slide Show From The Antarctic Expedition

March 9th, 2010 at 2:01 am (AST) by Jake Richter

We had several photo pros on board the National Geographic Explorer, including Lindblad staff photographers Michael Nolan and Eric Guth and National Geographic photographers Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson. This photo “team” was always readily available to provide guests with tips and critiques, as well as technical assistance.

Some of the ways they used to help improve the quality of the photos taken by guests was to lead seminars on photography and photographic techniques, as well as have open critiques of submitted photos. There’s no question that general photo quality improved as a whole over the three weeks we were traveling the seas.

The culmination of the photographic experience was a computer-based slide show put together by Mike Nolan, including most of the submissions from the first two critiques, plus a final set of photos, all contributed by a large number of guests and staff alike. There are many amazing photos from our trip included in the slide show, including wildlife, landscapes, abstract works, and even ones of various people you might or might not recognize.

While the slide show was distributed to folks on memory cards on board the ship the last day at sea, I offered to Mike that I could also post it here on our site for on-line access by our fellow guests and their friends and family, and that offer was gladly accepted.

The link below leads to a .MOV file containing the slide show, which can be played back via QuickTime, iTunes, or any of a number of other video players. You can download Apple’s QuickTime here in case you need it.

The .MOV file is just over 50MB in size, and takes about 32 minutes to play through (there are a lot of photos there). There is no sound in the file, so don’t be alarmed if you hear nothing when you start the slide show. I would suggest playing some Jazz or Classical music in the room you view the slide show in to add a nice aural ambiance.

To play the .MOV file, click on the link below, and then save the .MOV file in a local directory on your system. Once it is fully downloaded, and assuming you have QuickTime or another compatible player installed, you can double click on the file to play it. You may also have to click on the “play” button in your video player to start the slide show.

NatGeoExplorerSlideshow.mov

Enjoy the show! And special thanks from all of the guests (including us) to the National Geographic Explorer Photo Team for all their advice, comments, and support!

 

No Magellanic Woodpeckers, And Also No Plane

March 5th, 2010 at 2:40 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

We just returned from Lago Escondido on the other side of the Andes mountain range here in Tierra del Fuego. Beautiful scenery along the way, and a spectacular roasted lamb for lunch, but no Magellanic woodpeckers to be found.

Roasted lamb in the Tierra del Fuego style - yum!

Roasted lamb in the Tierra del Fuego style - yum!

Returning back to the ship we found that in addition to there being no woodpeckers in sight, our charter flight to Miami was also in hiding.

Word is that the plane finally cleared all the Argentinian bureaucratic paperwork (there was a missing signature on a form, and that’s been the case for the last day), and should have finally departed Lima, Peru a few minutes ago, bound for Ushuaia.

This means we’ll be enjoying another night in the best hotel in Ushuaia, our ship, the National Geographic Explorer. It’s looking likely that we might actually leave tomorrow, but everything depends on when the charter flight actually lands in Ushuaia tonight (hopefully).