Ask a Naturalist: What is Your Favorite Place?

August 07, 2013

International Expeditions' small-group tours are perfect for getting to know both the environment and your fellow travelers. Guests always like to quiz their guides and each other abotu favorite travels. Our own naturalist and Expedition Leader Greg Greer weighed in on the question: What is your favorite place?

As a naturalist who has traveled extensively both on my own and with International Expeditions, I am frequently asked where my most favorite place is.  People often ask this as they are looking for a destination for their next vacation.

Well, as a naturalist, this is an unbelievably difficult question to answer and my most common response is “any place that I happen to be at the time.” In many ways, this is very true and I am truly not trying to avoid the question. All international destinations have their own unique appeal.  It may be its awesome topography of volcanoes, forests, mountains, deserts etc., or it could be some form a endemic wildlife or great magnitudes of wildlife in vast herds in open areas. It may be a combination of many things such as travels into the neotropics where the diversity of life is absolutely overwhelming. I can easily be engulfed in interest in some of the smallest forms of life. Little thrips and pseudo-scorpions in the leaf litter are wonderfully entertaining. And ants…well, there is great excitement in watching army ants on the move or watching the less gruesome leaf-cutters, common throughout the neo-tropics. Of course one can work their way up to finding tarantulas, most often at night but in areas like the Amazon, they are often found during the day, especially in the tangles of strangler figs. All of these little creatures, as well as many large creatures are frequently observed in places like Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, and especially on our Peruvian Amazon cruises and new Nicaragua tours

Then there are the islands where endemism is at its greatest. The islands most notorious for this are the Galapagos Islands. My goodness, I have hosted many Galapagos Islands cruises, and each has been extremely different. The giant tortoises, marine iguanas, land iguanas and lava lizards are found nowhere else on the planet. The sea lions and birds have lost much of their fear of humans and thus close encounters often occur. Then there are the Komodo Islands in the Lesser Sunda Island chain. A place that time forgot and where the world’s most massive lizards, the Komodo dragons still reign as the supreme predator. On the ridge lines are lone-tar pines and within the forests are dracos (flying lizards) and the very vocal tokay geckos.  Snorkeling here is some of the world’s best. 

Then how about Africa -- a continent with too many destinations to mention. But nowhere else can massive herds of large hoofed animals be observed in such diverse form during an Africa safari. A place where elephants, giraffe, rhino and antelope from the size of a very small dog (dik dik) to the huge giant eland and about 60 other species in between can be observed in a day’s time. Then, there are the primates. Uganda has a tremendous abundance of primates and it is here and Rwanda where guest can trek for mountain gorillas. Sitting alongside of a mountain gorilla as it forages on leaves, its stare as it looks into your eyes is very human like and these sorts of experiences have always brought tears to my eyes. I believe that sitting amongst gorillas in their mountain retreat is one of the most cherished things I have ever experienced. This being said, the thrill of watching a humpback breach at close quarters, diving with great white sharks off Southern Africa, having a leopard seal attack the stern of a zodiac, or being challenged by a mother grizzly with cubs. These are all life long memories of many world adventures.

From Iceland and Greenland to the Antarctica unique wildlife and geologic treasures abound.  I have bathed in natural hot tubs in Iceland as well as in Antarctica. While taking a dip in Antarctica, I had a one on one encounter with a brown skua as it came within a foot of my face. If the bird could have spoken, we would have exchanged many stories; instead the bird showed trust and told me stories with its posture and eye contact. 

So, what is my most favorite destination! For years it has been the same answer: whereever I happen to be at any given time.  I cherish areas from the Tundra of Northern Alaska to Tierra del Fuego and the Antarctica. From Mongolia to Southern Australia and from Timbuctu to Capetown……the world is a wonderful place with all sorts of incredible wildlife and cultures to observe. WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO NEXT?