Photo Essay: The Southern Coast of Labrador

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is politically one region, but in reality is two distinct places. 95% of the visitors to the province only visit the island of Newfoundland. Most people never bother to take the 15km trek across the Strait of Belle Isle to visit the other half of the province. Earlier in 2013 I had the pleasure of visiting the southern coast of Labrador, which is perhaps the most accessible part of Labrador. The purpose of my trip was to visit Canada’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station, but I discovered much more.

Continue reading “Photo Essay: The Southern Coast of Labrador”

Gary’s Global Hangout #1 – Elisa Detrez

As 2013 comes to a close, I’m introducing a new feature: Gary’s Global Hangout. I will be using Google+ Hangouts to talk with interesting people from all around the world. The format will be an extremely informal interview style lasting around 30-60 minutes.

My first guest is Elisa Detrez, who won the recent Best Job in the World contest with Queensland Tourism. She’s been working as a park ranger in Queensland, Australia since last August, visiting and working in various parts of the state. We talk about her experience winning the Best Job in the World and about visiting Queensland.

If you want to be sure to catch all the episodes of Gary’s Global Hangout when they are released, just follow me on Google+ or on YouTube.

Australian Fossil Mammal Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Site #263 - Australian Fossil Mammal Sites
Australian Fossil Mammal Sites: My 263rd UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Australian Fossil Mammal Sites:

Australia is regarded as the most biologically distinctive continent in the world, an outcome of its almost total isolation for 35 million years following separation from Antarctica. Only two of its seven orders of singularly distinctive marsupial mammals have ever been recorded elsewhere. Two of the world’s most important fossil sites, Riversleigh and Naracoorte, located in the north and south of Australia respectively, provide a superb fossil record of the evolution of this exceptional mammal fauna. This serial property provides outstanding, and in many cases unique, examples of mammal assemblages during the last 30 million years.

The older fossils occur at Riversleigh, which boasts an outstanding collection from the Oligocene to Miocene, some 10-30 million years ago. The more recent story then moves to Naracoorte, where one of the richest deposits of vertebrate fossils from the glacial periods of the mid-Pleistocene to the current day (from 530,000 years ago to the present) is conserved. This globally significant fossil record provides a picture of the key stages of evolution of Australia’s mammals, illustrating their response to climate change and to human impacts.

Australian Fossil Mammal Sites

This site is a serial site divided between Naracoorte Caves National Park in South Australia and the Riversleigh fossil site in Queensland. I visited the Naracoorte site, which is the more accessible of the two. It is located roughly between Adelaide and Melbourne in rural South Australia.

I have been to several paleontology/archeology sites during my travels and they usually share one thing in common: there isn’t much to see. The sites are significant because of what they found in the ground, but those things have long since been dug up and placed in museums. Some sites like the Sangiran Early Man site in Indonesia were very disappointing. Others, like the Messel Pit Fossil Site in Germany, at least provide a decent visitor center where you can learn about the discoveries which took place at the location.

Naracoorte, one-half of the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites, is the only fossil site I have ever visited where you can still clearly see in situ fossils in the ground! The Naracoorte caves basically served as a giant pit trap for animals for hundreds of thousands of years. Over that time animal bones piled up in such numbers that researchers haven’t found it necessary to dig up everything.

The visitor center in Naracoorte is also very good with recreations of the animals they found in the caves. If you ever wanted to know what a giant, meat-eating koala looked like, then you need to pay a visit.

Overview

Australian Fossil Mammal Sites

The Australian Fossil Mammal Sites is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Australia. This paleontological and geological formation is located on two different locations: one is in Naracoorte in South Australia and the other is in Riversleigh in Queensland. This site was inscribed by UNESCO in 1994.

The Australian Fossil Mammal Sites in Naracoorte and Riversleigh are two of the most important fossil sites from Australia, both of which are world renowned. The natural value of these sites lie on their ability to showcase the key stages of isolated evolution in some of Australia’s unique fauna species.

About the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites

In order to learn more about the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites, it is important to take a closer look into each of these sites. You can learn more about the two components sites below.

Naracoorte Caves National Park

Australian Fossil Mammal Sites

This is the first component to the UNESCO site Australian Fossil Mammal Sites in Australia. It is located within the Limestone Coast tourism region in South Australia’s south-east portion. It was officially recognized as part of a UNESCO site in 1994 due to the extensive record of fossils on the site. The entire park covers 6 square kilometers of remnant vegetation; meanwhile, there are 26 caves that are contained within 3 square kilometers portion of the World Heritage Site.

Aside from being known as part of the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites, this park is also a visitor destination. There are sites for caravan and camping grounds. In fact, there are accommodations nearby for those wanting to stay and explore for a few days. There is an extensive range of visitor activities to enjoy as well, such as show cave tours, adventure caving, and more. The park’s visitor center, the Wonambi Fossil Centre, is where you will find showcases of bones and fossils that have been recovered from the caves. These bones were of extinct animals.

Australian Fossil Mammal Sites in Riversleigh

This is the second component of the UNESCO site Australian Fossil Mammal Sites. It is located in North West Queensland. This site was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site because of the extensive collection of fossils from ancient mammals, reptiles and birds. According to archaeologists, these fossils can be traced back to the Miocene and Oligocene period.

Most of the fossils on this site were gathered from the limestone along the lime-rich freshwater pools. There were also some fossils that were collected on caves. There are about 35 fossils of bat species that were found from the site. This is the richest collection of ancient bat species anywhere in the world. Other fossils of extinct animals found on this part of the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites include the Tasmanian Tiger and Thylacinus cynocephalus.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Nov 14, 2017 @ 4:29 am

Glacier National Park, Montana

North American National Park #6 - Glacier National Park, Montana
North American National Park #6 – Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park sits in northern Montana along the US/Canadian border. Across the border in Alberta is Waterton National Park, which is its sister park. Together they make up the Waterton/Glacier International Peace Park UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Glacier, as the name would suggest, best known for its glaciers, many of which are no longer visible in the summer months. It is also the home to Lake McDonald and the Lake McDonald lodge, one of the great lodges in the US National Park system.

One of the primary means of visiting the park is to drive the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road which connects the eastern and western entrances of the park. While the views from the road are incredible, there were many stretches which didn’t allow you to pull over to take photos (especially when there is traffic in the park).

The closest airport to the park is Glacier Park International Airport near Kalispell, Montana near the western entrance to the park. As with most parks, it is probably best to visit as part of a longer road trip. Any trip to the park should include a visit to the adjacent Waterton National Park in Alberta as well.

Where to Go

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park in Montana is an expansive park with a huge area to cover. Therefore, proper planning is crucial if you want to make the most of your visit and see as much as possible. These are a few things you need to add to your itinerary:

Lake McDonald Valley – This is located on the west side of Glacier National Park. It serves as the hub for many fun activities such as horseback riding, hiking, and scenic boat tours. It also contains Lake McDonald, which is the largest lake in the park. It is home to a diverse array of plants and animals species.

Logan Pass – This portion of the park is where you will find the Clements Mountain and Reynolds Mountain. These mountains tower over a field of wildflowers that bloom during the summer. This is also the highest elevation in the park that you can drive your car to. It is popular with tourists because this is where you will find two of the most popular trails in the park: Highline Trail and Hidden Lake Trail.

St. Mary Valley – This valley serves as the eastern gateway to the Glacier National Park. This is where the mountains, prairies, and forests converge to provide a rich habitat for plants and animals. There are also open meadows that provide opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Glacier National Park

North Fork – If you want to get away from the crowd, this is where you need to go. You can bring your vehicle here but you must be prepared to traverse unpaved roads. This is ideal for self-reliant tourists as there are not many facilities in this area.

In addition to visiting the aforementioned attractions, you may also explore the following activities in Glacier National Park:

  • Hiking
  • Backcountry Camping
  • Ranger-led Programs
  • Guided Tours
  • Camping
  • Biking
  • Photography
  • Fishing
  • Scenic Boat Tours
  • Horseback Riding
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • River Camping

View the complete list of US and Canadian National Parks I have visited.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

North American National Park #5 - Grand Teton, Wyoming
North American National Park #5 – Grand Teton, Wyoming

Located due south of Yellowstone National Park and connected by the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, Grand Teton National Park offers some of the most picturesque mountain views in the United States.

Named after the largest peak in the Teton Range, the park is home to elk and moose as well as Jackson Lake and the Snake River.

Grand Teton can be easily accessed via Yellowstone National Park or nearby Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A combined visit to Grand Teton and Yellowstone is highly recommended as both parks are in close proximity and offer complimentary features which cannot be found in the other.

Things to Do

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is a haven for outdoor activities. There are plenty of activities to do here such as the following:

  • Wildlife viewing: For the best wildlife viewing experience, you can consider any of these spots: Blacktail Pond, Cascade Canyon, Snake River, Oxbow Bend, Mormon Row, and Timbered Island.
  • Scenic Drives: You can explore on car the views of the Snake River and the Teton Range.
  • Horseback Riding: There are plenty of trails that will enable you to ride on a horseback while exploring.
  • Boating: There are many lakes and rivers within the Grand Teton National Park so you can spend your day on the water.
  • Bird Watching: This park is home to a variety of bird species; therefore, bird watching is a popular activity.
  • Backcountry Camping: If you want to do backcountry camping, it is recommended that you secure permits in advance.
  • Biking: There are numerous trails available for bikes to explore. They are not allowed on dedicated hiking trails, though.

Tips for Visiting Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is open 24 hours a day, all year round. However, there might be seasonal road closures depending on time of year and the climate conditions at a particular day. It is therefore recommended that you contact the park directly for information on possible road closures before you visit.

If you are seeking information on what to do and other recreational opportunities within the park, you can visit any of the visitor centers at the area. The following visitor centers are available to cater to your needs:


View the complete list of US and Canadian National Parks I have visited.

My 2013 Travels in Airport Codes

This year I landed on the world’s shortest commercial runway on the island of Saba
During 2013 I’ve kept track of every flight I’ve taken, including connections and layovers. As all my flights for the rest of the month are already booked, I am able to publish a complete list of every flight of 2013.

Believe it or not, I didn’t qualify for elite status on any airline this year! Many of my flighst in the summer were on LIAT which doesn’t have a frequent flyer program. My flights to Africa on South African Airlines were only given 1/2 credit by United. I will end up 13 miles short of elite status on United. My next Star Alliance flight is on January 1, 2014 out of Sydney!

My other flights were scattered amongst other airlines. This is one of the reasons I am giving up on chasing elite status. The benefits just aren’t worth it anymore.

Where you see a | symbol, I transferred between airports by ground or water.

Total flights: 84
Unique Airports: 72
Shortest Flight: 12 minutes (St. Martin to Saba)
Longest Flight: 15 hours, 50 minutes (Vancouver to Sydney)
Lost Bags: 3 (Virgin Gorda to St. Martin, Boston to Dublin, Vancouver to Sydney)
Continue reading “My 2013 Travels in Airport Codes”

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is not only the first national park in the United States but the first national park in the world. Created in 1872, Yellowstone has held its position as the greatest of the parks in North America. It was also one of the first 12 sites to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

What makes Yellowstone so special is a combination of the geothermal activity which accounts for the hot springs and geysers, the landscape which creates such spectacles as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and a large amount of megafauna which inhabit the park.

Its uniqueness was recognized when it was one of the first 12 sites to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

Yellowstone is one of the most difficult to get to parks in the continental United States as there are no major cities in close proximity. The closest airport is in West Yellowstone, MT but flights to Jackson Hole, Bozeman and Boise can also get you to the park with some driving. The best option is to have your own car as the park is very large. Plan to spend at least 3 days to see the park properly.

Yellowstone is one of the few places which I would never refuse a return visit. I hope to make a future visit in the winter to photograph the park covered in ice and snow.

Overview

Yellowstone National Park

The Yellowstone National Park is the first, oldest and largest national park in the United States. It spans three states namely Wyoming (Park and Teton County), Montana (Gallatin and Park County) and Idaho’s Fremont County. It was inscribed as a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. As of 2016, an average of 4.2 million tourists visits this park each year.

Aside from being recognized as the first national park in the US, it is also considered as the world’s first national park. The park is noted for its unique geothermal features, subalpine forest, various ecosystems and the rich wildlife.

History of the Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

For more than 11,000 years, Native Americans live on the same site that the Yellowstone National Park is located in. However, little is known about the history and the way of life of the Native Americans on the site since it was only explored in the late 1860s. Prior to that, only the mountain men were able to visit the site. In 1872, the national park was established and for the next 30 years (until 1916), the US Army was tasked to oversee the property covered by the Yellowstone National Park.

The natural features of the Yellowstone National Park are known for its rich diversity. The park measures at 2.2 million acres and is comprised of canyons, lakes, rivers and mountain ranges. The Yellowstone Lake in the park is one of the largest lakes in the continent that is located at a high elevation. Meanwhile, the lake surrounds the Yellowstone Caldera, which is the continent’s largest supervolcano.

The geothermal features of the Yellowstone National Park are its most distinctive feature. In fact, half of the world’s geothermal features are found within this park. The presence of the supervolcano within the park fuels the formation of the lava flows and rocks. The Old Faithful Geyser is a cone geyser and one of the most photographed of the geothermal features within the park. This name was assigned to this geyser in 1870 during the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition. This was the first geyser in the park to have been assigned a name. There have been more than 1 million eruptions recorded for the Old Faithful Geyser.

Even though the park is divided among three states (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho), 96% of the park belongs to the state of Wyoming. The rest of this is divided by Montana (3%) and Idaho (1%).

What to See or Do

Yellowstone National Park

Due to the massive size of the Yellowstone National Park, there are plenty of things to see and do within the park. The park is home to many wildlife species including threatened or endangered species. Wildlife watching is, therefore, a common activity among visitors to the park. However, the bison herd is the oldest and largest public herd of its kind in the United States.

On top of wildlife watching, there are several other recreational opportunities in Yellowstone National Park:

  • hiking
  • camping
  • fishing
  • boating
  • sightseeing

There are also guided tours available for tourists who want to learn more about the park’s history while they explore.

Know Before You Go

Yellowstone National Park

Before you visit the Yellowstone National Park, here are a few things you need to know:

  • Be patient. If you visit anywhere from June to August, you can expect a huge volume of tourists. Since the park is expansive, it can take longer to drive from one point to another with the volume of people.
  • Approaching animals to take pictures is not recommended.
  • If you want to avoid the crowd, you can visit during non-peak season such as from April to May or September to October.
  • If you plan on staying at a lodge or campground, book months ahead. They could easily fill up especially during peak times.
  • There are speed limits set at certain parts of the park. Use pullouts if you want to take pictures or watch the wildlife without blocking the main road.
  • There are bears throughout the park, not just in the backcountry. Therefore, all visitors are advised to be vigilant.
  • Stay on boardwalks at all times. There have been more people injured by the hot springs than animals or wildlife.
  • Due to the remoteness of the site, you might experience loss of cell signals or bandwidth.

View the complete list of North American National Parks I have visited.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Feb 6, 2018 @ 8:50 pm

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

North American National Park #3 - Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
North American National Park #3 – Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt is one of my favorite national parks and perhaps the most underrated national park in the entire US National Parks system. I visited the park as part of my 2009 North American road trip.

Located in the Western North Dakota Badlands, Theodore Roosevelt was named after the US President who spent time in North Dakota and owned a ranch on what is today the park.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The reason I found Theodore Roosevelt such a great park is the abundance and proximity of the wildlife. From my car, I was able to easily see bison, wild horses, mule deer, and prairie dogs. Even in Yellowstone, I wasn’t able to see so much, so close. Also, because the park is primarily grasslands, nothing is hidden in trees.

The park is located along Interstate 94 and is divided into northern and southern sections on either side of the road. It takes a while to drive to the park from wherever you are coming from, but it is well worth the effort. Someday I’d like to visit the park in the winter to photograph the bison, horses, and deer in the snow.

Things to Do

A visit to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park wouldn’t be complete without partaking in many fun tourist and recreational activities. First and foremost, there are three main units that make up the park and you can explore each one. The South Unit is where you will find the Scenic Loop Drive. This 36-mile drive will give you a chance to enjoy scenic views and wildlife. There are also opportunities for hiking, camping and other outdoor activities.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The next unit is the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. This is where you will find the so-called “home ranch” in the Badlands. However, the foundation stones are the only remnants of the said building. You can access this part of the park via a 35-miledrive over gravel roads. When driving here, a high clearance vehicle is recommended.

Finally, there is the North Unit. Its visitor center is located at the park entrance. In this part of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, you will find a number of hiking trails and self-guided nature trails. You can get brochures for these trails at the visitor center.


View the complete list of US and Canadian National Parks I have visited.