Introducing Thresher Sharks!  Imagine seeing a shark with a long tail that can be as long as the total body length. Thresher Sharks can only be consistently spotted in a few places in the world, so when was in the Philippines I had to see them up close.

What’s a Thresher Shark? In this post I’ll cover why thresher sharks have such long tails, what thresher sharks eat, how big thresher sharks typically are, and where to find thresher sharks, in addition to showing some videos of threshers in motion.  I’ll also detail my specific experience SCUBA diving to see thresher sharks  at the bottom of this page as well.

Thresher sharks are mostly known for the size of their tail (“upper caudal fin lobe”), which is typically equal to the length of the rest of their body!  Check out this below photo:

Thresher Sharks have huge tails

Thresher Sharks have tails equal to the rest of the size of their body!

Why do Thresher Sharks have large tails?  Thresher sharks are active predators – they use their huge tails not only to swim, but also to swat and stun much smaller prey fish. Whack!   When hunting schooling fish, thresher sharks are known to “slap” the water, herding and stunning prey.

What’s the only thing more exciting than seeing animals in the wild?  Baby animals in the wild! Check out these photos of baby monkeys – baby long-tailed macaques:

Baby Monkeys! Photo of a baby long-tailed macaque in Borneo's Bako National Park, Sarawak region of Malaysia, Asia

I saw these Long-tailed Macaques in Bako National Park, in Malaysian Borneo. This below photo reminds me of the photos of monkeys in Bali.

Family of long-tailed macaques, including baby monkeys in Borneo, Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia, Asia

Photo of a baby long-tailed macaque hanging on to the mother long-tailed macaque in Borneo | Bako National Park, Sarawak region of Malaysia, Asia

notice the little hands and feet grabbing on

 

Photo of an infant monkey - a baby long-tailed macaque held by the parent long-tailed macaque in Borneo | Bako National Park, Sarawak region of Malaysia, Asia

Best baby wildlife photography??  This trip has already produced opportunities to see baby elephants in Borneo, baby monkeys (macaques) in Indonesia, and baby apes (baby orangutans). Which set of baby wildlife photos did you like best?

I also saw other types of animals up close - tarsiersmacaquesproboscis monkeyssharkspythons, camels, and more!

Elephants are incredible. So primitive, so old, and the baby elephants are so cute! We were on a river safari in Borneo when we saw a whole family of Asian Elephants (aka Asiatic Elephants or Elephas maximus).  After seeing them in the wild, I was really curious and learned some interesting elephant facts. My photography is below, also with  Asian Elephant facts that I found interesting are below:

  • Elephants are the largest land animals living today. They’re massive!
  • If you thought human pregnancy was challenging – check this out. Elephant pregnancies last 22 months, baby elephants can weight 260 pounds at birth.
  • At full size, male Asian Elephants can weigh up to 12,000 pounds (5400 kg)! Females weigh up to 9000 pounds.
  • Elephants typically live for 60 years in the wild (80 years in captivity).
  • Asian Elephants can be up to 10 feet tall at the shoulder. They’re much smaller than African Elephants in mass, but are taller.
  • They have up to 20 pairs of ribs and 34 caudal vertebrae (bones that make up their tails).
  • Asian Elephants have 100,000 muscles in their trunk!

    Asian Elephants have 100,000 muscles in their trunk!

Balut — Would you eat Duck Fetus?  They eat Balut in the Philippines, and Balut might be the only food I refused my entire trip through Asia.

When I’m traveling, I always want to sample the local food, and I’ll try almost everything. I’ve tried guinea pigs (cuy!) in Peru, grasshoppers and scorpions in Thailand, and just about every organ or body party of a cow, duck, or chicken that you can think of in mainland China (including duck intestine, pig brain). Where do I draw the line?  Balut – duck fetus. Duck fetus is not for me. I just couldn’t bring myself to try eating Balut, which is a Fetal Duck Egg.

What is Balut?   Balut is fertilized duck embryo – the embryo is allowed to grow and mature for about 17 days until it is quite clearly a baby duck. That’s right. A baby duck, with all its baby duck parts stuffed into a shell with the yolk and egg white, now crisscrossed with blood vessels and feather-like growths. Yes, sometimes Balut is even has the beginnings of feathers. At this point Balut is soft-boiled and eaten whole.

Balut - Duck Fetus - Visit50.com

Balut: ready to eat a duck fetus?

While I’ve never gone snorkeling with so few fish in Malapascua, Philippines, the water was clear and we had a great group and our first ever encounter with a Sea Snake! I’ll post about the Sea Snake soon, but in the meantime, here are some fun pics from our snorkeling experience below.

With hardly any fish and great visibility, we mostly just played. Our international group of friends were from Italy, Sweden, England, Holland, and the U.S.

Philippines Snorkeling near Malapascua

 I’m often asked, is there good snorkeling in Malapascua?  If you’re looking for clear water, it’s wonderful. If you’re looking for lots of fish, I don’t recommend. With that said, I had an amazing time!

Sea Snake while Philippines Snorkeling near Malapascua - Visit50.com

So I later learned that it’s really not advisable to be anywhere near a sea snake…

Photo of me while Snorkeling in the Philippines near Malapascua - Visit50.com

that’s me!

Gangster! Gabbi has a bloody knife while snorkeling?!? Should I be concerned?

Snorkeling in the Philippines near the Island of Malapascua

Antihas and Coral in the Philippines near Malapascua - Visit50.com

Fish food innovation - Philippines Snorkeling in Malapascua - Visit50.com

Iain created a contraption to portion out bread to fish. He stuffed pieces of break in a plastic water bottle and opened it ever so slightly when he wanted some to float out

Philippines snorkeling - Giuseppe playing at the bottom of the sea

Giuseppe playing at the bottom of the sea and showing off the abs

Imagine being surrounded by Grey Reef Sharks while SCUBA diving – it’s all captured in this awesome 5-minute diving video of Grey Reef Sharks in Nassau, Bahamas, at the Ray of Hope shipwreck. I love the ominous music too. Check out the video of SCUBA diving with these “Apex Predators” below:

Grey Reef Sharks, Nassau, Bahamas

Photos and videos of the Grey Reef Sharks were shot by Sarosh Jacob while SCUBA diving with a Panasonic Lumix ZS7 camera.

I just posted the story of my first time entering shark infested waters – surrounded by sharks in Borneo!

Malaysian Borneo – The monkey I saw most often on my trip through Asia was the macaque. Long-tailed macaques are not shy (although sometimes aggressive; be careful!) and that made for some wonderful closeup photos like this one (below) from Bako National Park, an island in Malaysian Borneo.

Macaque monkey in Bako in Borneo - some readers suggested this pic as a cover photo for the next Lonely Planet

Cover photo for the next Lonely Planet Malaysian Borneo?

Another travel photographer said this wildlife shot of a long-tailed macaque (the monkey in the above photo) should be the next cover of Lonely Planet Borneo (Travel Guide). Perhaps! I’m really flattered by the compliment, but I need to thank the photogenic monkeys that were so kind to pose for me.

Getting this photo:  Shots like this are challenging, because this monkey didn’t pose for me, and macro shots aren’t compatible with motion and you can’t predict eye contact from wildlife. You need to be in the right focus to have the monkey crisp with the background blurred so it pops. In contrast, I love the composition of the lower photo, but I had to use my zoom so the depth of field is much more flat.

Macaque monkey in Malaysian Borneo on Bako Island

Surprised, or hungry?

Pronunciation - yes, the correct pronunciation for this monkey is actually Muh-kok. [Giggle giggle]

I was fascinated by Borneo’s Proboscis Monkeys, not just because of the rare chance to observe and photograph an endangered species in the wild (only found in Borneo), but also because the seem so human-like.  Imagine a monkey with a distinctive huge nose (a male proboscis monkey’s nose can reach up to 7 inches in length!) and a pot belly, that often walks upright (rare for mammals) and sits a little like humans sit.  Their name, Nasalis larvatus, literally translates to “long nose,” and you can see why (below):

Proboscis monkeys, the most distinctive looking primates on the planet | Bako National Park in Borneo | Malaysia

Proboscis monkeys, the most distinctive looking primates on the planet

Sometimes Proboscis Monkeys seem so human-like!  This proboscis monkey was frantically eating as if he hadn’t eaten for days! Take a look in this video clip from my time in Malaysian Borneo:

Bako National Park also has bearded pigs, which greeted us upon entering the island. So when we heard a typical pig sound later in the day, we were surprised to hear these honking sounds coming from proboscis monkeys.

Proboscis monkeys live on a special diet of leaves, flowers and seeds of vegetation found only in rivers, mangroves, and peat swamps

Proboscis Monkey in Bako National Park, in Borneo, Sarawak, Malaysia

female probiscis monkey in Borneo. Females have much smaller noses

Photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze captured Hong Kong’s soaring heights in his Vertical Horizon project, which is now an 80-page book of photos from his 2012. The 26-year-old French photographer captures the city’s architecture and vertical angles – all looking up. So cool!

Photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze captures Hong Kong’s soaring heights

Photo from Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze Hong Kong photography project

Photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze captures the vertical angles through a wide-angle Sigma lens with a 10 mm focal length. Unlike a fisheye lenses, he says a sigma lens avoids distorting the urban landscape’s straight lines.

Hong Kong - photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze's Vertical Horizon on Visit50

This photo reminds me of the Guggenheim museum in NYC, but it's actually French photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze's photo from Hong Kong in his Vertical Horizon project

This shot reminds me of the Guggenheim museum in NYC, but it’s actually in Hong Kong

Photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze's Vertical Horizon in Hong Kong on Visit50

French photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze shot these in 2011 and 2012 

Hong Kong Vertical Horizon - Visit50

Check out the full 80-page book at the link below -
Vertical Horizon (English and Chinese Edition)


To see more posts on Hong Kong, including some of the best Hong Kong architecture.

Hạ Long Bay was visually one of the highlights of my Vietnam trip. Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring  1500-2000 islands and islets in various shapes and sizes, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Hạ Long Bay (also written as Halong Bay or Ha Long Bay) is located in the Gulf of Tonkin, in Quáng Ninh province, in northeastern Vietnam.

Annika profile - Halong Bay, Vietnam

Annika profile – Halong Bay, Vietnam

Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam

We went kayaking while surrounded by breathtaking views in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay 1024x768 - Visit50

 

Halong Bay, Vietnam panorama

Ha Long Bay's limestone islands - Visit50.com

Lonely PlanetHalong translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’. Legend has it that the islands of Halong Bay were created by a great dragon that lived in the mountains. As it charged towards the coast, its flailing tail gouged out valleys and crevasses. When it finally plunged into the sea, the area filled with water, leaving only the pinnacles visible. 

Jumping off the boat in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Jumping off the boat in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam – so much fun! (more of these to come)

Vietnam - Halong Bay - view from the boatSeveral of the islands in Halong Bay are hollow, with enormous caves, other support floating villages of fishermen, who ply the shallow waters for 200 species of fish.

sunset in Halong Bay, Vietnam

sunset in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Feb 262011
 
honey comb - how much fresher can you get?

The honey was super fresh – right on the honeycomb at the Dead Sea in Jordan – delicious!

Feb 202011
 

Wonder no longer!  I’ve been asked about it dozens of times already, so this is the story of how Jordan and Bahrain, two countries in the Middle East, made it into my southeast Asia itinerary. I might have the strangest itinerary and route of anyone I’ve met in my travels.

While I was enjoying Bali and Java, Indonesia, Fan was working on a business trip in Tel Aviv, Israel, and suggested we meet up. They’re not even remotely close, but just for fun I did a quick search, and was to surprised to find an incredible deal! For $181 USD rountrip I could fly from KL (Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia) to AMM (Amman, the capital of Jordan), with a layover in Bahrain via Gulf Air.  That’s about the same price as the short trip to the next country in the area that I was about to book before seeing this. It must have been an error in the system, or perhaps a generous promotion, but either way, after checking that Gulf Air was a reputable airline, I pounced!  Changing dates or revising the plan so I could route through Israel or Egypt would have made it cost prohibitive, but at this rate I could certainly swing it.  An hour later it was almost twice the price. Later that night the price had nearly quadrupled.

Feb 192011
 
Dead Sea Mud Jordan

Does Dead Sea mud really work?  Is it as amazing as the crazy lady portrayed it?   Does it really have magical powers?  Regardless, it’s fun to be covered from head to toe in Dead Sea mud!

The Jordan tourism site says the Dead Sea has been an attraction since ancient times, and even Cleopatra used to visit.

Feb 182011
 
Covered in Dead Sea Mud in Jordan

Dead Sea mud is rich with minerals that many believe to have therapeutic and even medicinal benefits. A woman at my hotel was obsessed with it, saying it’s a miracle skincare solution. I wish I could convey her overwhelming enthusiasm for…mud. “It’s amazing. Uh-May-Zing!”  Her Medusa hair swayed with each animated sentence. She went on to explain that it’s the raw materials for multiple Jordanian Dead Sea cosmetic product lines bottled and sold all around the world. If you believe the hype (and the crazy German lady!), it’s not just great for cleansing and stimulating the skin (apparently it worked wonders for her teenage daughter’s acne), but can also be used to improve blood circulation, relieve muscle and emotional tension, offer immortality, and ease rheumatic pain.  I’m not 100% sure I heard one of those accurately but she mentioned quite a few benefits in her interesting yet painfully slow never-ending list.  It reminded me of the scene(s) in Forrest Gump when Bubba’s listing the varieties of shrimp meals. “Shrimp Gumbo, Shrimp-n-Peas…”  [If you just got a sudden urge to see that Gump scene (I did!), here's the 0:43 clip from YouTube below] httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhfK98f5S00

Feb 172011
 

It’s called the “Dead Sea” because the salt content isn’t exactly welcoming for underwater life – it’s one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water (33% saltine). Due to the hypersalination of the water, you can float!

Dead Sea - Jordan side - Look closely and you'll see I'm reading a Japanese newspaper!

In this photos from the Dead Sea on the Jordan side, I have both hands and feet out of the water as I float. I found a newspaper for the photo but it was just a prop. Look closely and you’ll see I’m reading a Japanese newspaper!