IE Blog

November 06, 2013

Tiger Sightings in India!

Guests on this week's India tour have not only had the privilege of experiencing Diwali but have seen SEVEN tigers! While at Kanha National Park, IE's small group observed a mother with four sub-adult cubs for more than 30 minutes. The next day (November 5), the evening safari was capped off by watching two tigers on the prowl! Diwali, the festival of lights, was celebrated earlier this week by India's Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. The word Diwali comes from the Sanskrit deepavali, which means a row of lights.

October 31, 2013

Beware of Vampire Bats?

Each night they emerge from caves, tree hollows and abandoned buildings to fill the skies of Mexico and Central and South America, drinking half of their body weight in blood. But are vampire bats really that scary?

Like the legendary monster for which they were named, vampire bats do survive on the blood of cows, pigs, horses and birds, and though rare, they do occasionally bite humans. But unlike Bram Stoker’s famed villain, vampire bats don’t actually suck blood from their victims. Instead, using specialized teeth, they make a small cut and lap up blood with their tongues. Other adaptations which facilitate this unusual feeding habit include the ability to walk, run and jump. Vampire bats even have a thumb! And all of these adaptations are critical to the survival of the bats, which can only go two nights without feeding.

There are actually three different types of vampire bats: Desmodus rotundus — the most common variety, Diaemus youngi and Diphylla ecaudata.


Thank you to Amazon cruise guest Elissa Leibowitz Poma of WWF for allowing us to publish her article.

Tulio Ahuanari Sima remembers the size of the paiche his fisherman grandfather used to bring home after a day on the river: The tasty and dense Amazonian fish could grow to 11 feet and was so heavy that two or three men were needed to carry just one. A single fish fed several families.

As he grew up, Ahuanari said he started observing smaller and smaller fish—sometimes by several feet. “I was worried,” Ahuanari said. “I wanted to know what was causing this.”

The desire to protect a fish so important to his community—a species once drastically overfished in the Amazon Basin—inspired the 30 year old to get involved in conservation. Today, he is the head of Ranger Station No. 2 in the largest protected area in Peru. The small, shy man commands a team of three and oversees volunteers from villages and towns in and around the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, which WWF supported when it was founded in 1982. (Travelers on WWF’s Amazon Voyage have the pleasure of visiting the ranger station during the expedition.)

Ahuanari studied tourism and natural history. Three years after landing a much-coveted job at the reserve, he was promoted to station leader.

“It was an important opportunity to work here and learn about the reserve,” he said during a brief meeting at the station headquarters—an unusual Japanese-style edifice built by 1970s researchers who traveled along the Pacaya River to examine the very topic that inspired Ahuanari’s career.

Ahuanari and his team live in the building for weeks at a time, monitoring howler monkey populations by day and caimans at night, among other wildlife censuses. They collect yellow-spotted water turtle eggs and relocate them to the beaches near the station, so they can be protected as they hatch.

And Ahuanari patrols the Pacaya River and its tributaries for poachers. At 5 million acres, it’s a lot of territory for just four men to cover, so the military assists. Residents of the 208 communities in and around the reserve do, too; in exchange they’re allowed to fish in sustainable quantities. This will ensure flourishing populations of fish for the sake of the rivers and, perhaps one day, for Ahuanari’s grandchildren, too.

According to researchers at Princeton University, marmosets will engage one another for up to 30 minutes in cooperative vocalizations -- similar to the polite conversations that humans engage in on a daily basis.

In an interview with, Asif Ghazanfar of Princeton says that researchers were "surprised by how reliably the marmoset monkeys exchanged their vocalizations in a cooperative manner, particularly since in most cases they were doing so with individuals that they were not pair-bonded with. This makes what we found much more similar to human conversations and very different from the coordinated calling of animals such as birds, frogs, or crickets, which is linked to mating or territorial defense."

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As International Expeditions searches for new nature travel experiences, Bill Robison, IE Director of Program Development, has the “difficult” task of scouting a county for the best naturalist guides, hotels and to uncover extraordinary opportunities for our guests. Here we get Bill’s impressions and photos as he researches IE’s new Indonesia cruise and Bali tour options.

Day 6
“In Bali after a great night's sleep and dinner in Medan. The food here is amazing and I like to eat...a lot! Bali is such a magnificent place — rich culture, amazing beaches., and some of the friendliest people in the country. No wonder Bob and Bing followed the Road to...

“Traffic here is legendary but they completing new highways from Denpasar (airport) to Nusa Dua and Sanur Beach as well as the new underpass. That will make a HUGE difference! The new international terminal is also on its way to completion...that was badly needed. “

Day 11
“Just arrived in Pemuteran, Bali. I spent last night in Sanur Beach after an amazing four nights cruising through some of the most unique and interesting culture and snorkeling ever. Sangaeng Island was magnificent snorkeling...crystal clear waters and a great reef filled with life. That is just one tiny island in the Komodo Island National Park, where reefs like that are very common. A great experience!

“I drove from Sanur Beach to Bali Barat today...worth every tiny minute. Matahari Beach Resort is like staying on palace grounds...or a temple from days long past. The birdlife just here at the resort is great, and they have some wonderful dances and other dinner performances planned. The standard room is like a suite in any hotel — they even have a stone dragon shower on the outside deck. Tomorrow I visit Reef Seen Turtle Project and have a 4x4 drive through the national park. Reports are that the birding is excellent and there are quite a few mammals to spot as well.”


The spiny-tailed iguana is a large iguanid but it is not the same as the green iguana that many people are most familiar with. In Costa Rica, both green iguana and spiny-tailed iguana are common, but the spiny-tailed is certainly more abundant - and much more conspicuous - on the Pacific coast.

The spiny-tailed iguana is a large and robust lizard, with big males reaching over three feet in length and attaining a massive girth. They are heat loving lizards and even on the hottest days may be seen basking on inclined trees, rock piles and on fence posts bordering pastures. This species is called spiny-tailed because the tail is ringed with short spines which the lizard will use as a weapon when threatened and not given an avenue of escape. Even though spiny-tails can climb quite effectively, large individuals seem to have a preference for staying closer to the ground. In some areas, such as Manuel Antonio National Park, these lizards walk along the trails, on the beaches and they seem to enjoy basking on the slightly curved trunks of palm trees just above the high tide line. It is not unusual to see spiny-tails and white-faced capuchin monkeys on the same palm tree or even on the same picnic table as well.

Young spiny-tails eat a wide variety of invertebrates as well as smaller lizards. While staying at one of the lodges during a Costa Rica tour, I witnessed a young spiny-tailed iguana catch an ameiva lizard and gobble it down. As the lizards reach maturity, their diet becomes much more vegetarian and leaves, flowers and fruits make up much of the diet of these very large lizards. Occasionally unusually large male iguanas are observed, and in Santa Rosa and I once observed a male that was conservatively four feet in length. He was a breathtaking animal and I watched this monster for about an hour before heading to greener pastures.

Naturalist Greg Greer is a favorite among IE travelers, and has gained a reputation for his friendliness and good humor, along with his incomparable knowledge of natural history, photos and articles have been widely published in books and magazines, including Georgia Outdoor News, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Alabama Outdoor News, Riversedge and Southern Wildlife.

As International Expeditions searches for the next great nature travel adventure, Bill Robison, IE Director of Program Development, often has the “difficult” task of scouting a county for the best naturalist guides, hotels and to uncover extraordinary experiences for our guests. Here we get Bill’s impressions and photos as he researches IE’s new Indonesia cruise and Bali tour options.

Day 1
“Just a few more hours and I'm off to a land of astounding biodiversity and almost as many different cultures as there are islands — Indonesia! For the next two weeks I'll be seeing wild orangutans in Sumatra, sailing the waters from Bali to Komodo, and exploring the lesser-visited and wildlife-rich Bali Barat. I have a world-class expert on the local flora and fauna (including the human cultures) meeting me in Jakarta to lay out plans for offering in-depth natural history and exotic culture programs into this magnificent country.”

Day 3
“Finally in Jakarta. I had an amazing dinner at Tugu Dapur Babah with our Javanese friends, and tomorrow I'm off to Sumatra to see wild orangutans. I was amazed to hear at dinner that Indonesia is planning many new ports for ships and airport upgrades all over the country — great news for those who want to explore one of the world's most diverse places. I also go the inside information on a few exclusive wildlife experiences and new lodging near existing parks with great nature. So many new places are coming on the's going to be hard to choose from so many wonders!”

Day 5

“Back from the wilds of northern Sumatra! Very remote region...and it was worth it. During my Sumatra tour I observed lots of Thomas Leaf monkeys, some long-tailed macaques and the big headliner — orangutans! This little lady and her baby came down to check us out while a little older baby stuck closer to out of arm's reach. I'm no photographer, but I hope you like this photo. I also found some smaller wildlife… I had a few geckos in my room at the ecolodge! These geckos may have ‘barked’ a little, but none of them spoke with an English accent or tried to sell me car insurance. I travel to Bali tomorrow...”


matamata-turtle-amazonThe matamata is truly one of the world’s most unique and bizarre turtles. One look at this species and it's pretty obvious that this turtle is something very different, especially when compared to the North American species that many of us are familiar with. 

The matamata attains a large size with big females being up to 16 inches in carapace (shell) length. The turtle is amazingly cryptic and difficult to find. Once found by the naturalist on your Amazon cruise, you'll have to strain your eyes to try and discern the turtle from the detritus (leaf litter) where these turtles typically spend much of their time. Their carapace is well-camouflaged, with three distinctive ridges running lengthwise down the shell. The neck is extremely long yet when with-drawn, it pulls into the shell in a side-ways fashion to allow the long neck and head to be partially protected. The head has a very unique shape -- almost triangular with a long, pointed snout. These turtles typically lay quietly on the bottom in water just deep enough that their long necks and pointed snout reach the surface to breathe without swimming to the surface. 

Another astonishing feature is the matamata’s method of feeding. The turtle has a huge mouth, and as an unsuspecting fish swims by, the turtle rapidly lunges forward and opens its mouth to vacuum in copious amounts of water as well as the completely unsuspecting fish. The water is then expelled leaving only the fish in the mouth to be swallowed. To watch a matamata turtle in an aquarium is like watching something alien; the lunge and mouth suction is so rapid it is difficult to detect with the naked eye.

Matamata turtles are often kept in Amazon River villages, where the local riberenos try to sell them to tourists. Baby matamatas are quite adorable and their plastron (belly) is pink and their carapace is a very light tan in color. As with all wildlife, please do not participate in paying to take pictures of captive animals, and certainly do not buy them as they cannot legally be brought back into the United States. Paying to have your picture taken with any animal just encourages this unfortunate behavior by the local people.

Naturalist Greg Greer is a favorite among IE travelers, and has gained a reputation for his friendliness and good humor, along with his incomparable knowledge of natural history, photos and articles have been widely published in books and magazines, including Georgia Outdoor News, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Alabama Outdoor News, Riversedge and Southern Wildlife.


For thousands of years - dating back to the Egyptians - people have found uses for vinegar. The active component that makes vinegar so useful is acetic acid, a byproduct of a bacteria called acetobacter. Most common viengars contain around 5% acetic acid, and of these, white vinegar is both incredibly inexpensive and versatile for greener cleaning, treating scrapes and bruises, and even a weed killer. We've compiled some of our favorite tips for using vinegar around your house. 

  • Freeze white vinegar in an ice cube tray and add a few cubes to the bottom of your dishwasher just prior to a cycle. This is an ecofriendly cleaning alternative to heavy chemical cleaners!
  • Want to speed the healing process? Vinegar can be applied to scrapes and burnes to help alleviate pain, or try it on a cotton ball. When applied to bruises for an hour it is said to speed healing. 
  • Use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water in your show to remove soap scum, or spray undiluted on tile to remove mold and mildew. 
  • Spray vinegar around doors, windows and any other area where you find ants to repel these pests. 
  • Vinegar can also be sprayed on carpets to prevent staining and odors from pet accidents. 
  • Combine vinegar and baking soda to create your own scouring cleaner and deodorize your garbage disposal.
  • Onion and garlic can cling to your hands, but washing them with vinegar removes the offending odors. 
  • Take advantage of this natural de-greaser by cleaning with vinegar and then rinsing with cold water. 
  • Vinegar in your rinse cycle can help remove the "moldy" smell from towels and work-out clothing, whiten whites, reduce static cling, and remove yellow sweat stains. 
  • Vinegar can even soften cuticles and strengthen nails.

What other green cleaning or ecofriendly beauty tips do you have employing the power of vinegar? Leave us a note in the comment section. 


At International Expeditions, we welcome the feedback of our guests and eagerly read post-trip evaluations to see how we can improve. We were honored to receive this note from wildlife expert Ron Magill of Zoo Miami after he returned from lecturing aboard our Amazon River cruise.

“I don’t know where to begin to thank you for the amazing experience you afforded me by allowing me the privilege of participating in the Amazon cruise on the brand new La Estrella Amazonica! From a deadly bushmaster to highly endangered giant river otters and a plethora of wildlife in between, this trip was unforgettable.

La Estrella Amazonica is indeed the new crown jewel of the Amazon! Everything about her was fantastic and far exceeded my expectations. I was especially blown away with the private bathrooms and the walk-in shower. As a 6’6” individual, I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it was to actually be able to stand up and shower
without having to become a contortionist, and to actually have the shower head above my head and not aimed at my naval! You cannot overrate the importance of a good shower on these types of expeditions when high heat and humidity can take its toll. Then, the private balcony provided such wonderful views of the river and surrounding areas was nothing short of awesome!

“The new lecture room was PERFECT!!! I thoroughly enjoyed giving my presentations there and the setup with the large flat screen monitor and Apple TV system could not have worked any better.

“Add to it the fitness room, gorgeous dining room, a stunning bar with comfortable seating providing surrounding open-air views and you have all the luxuries of a major cruise ship with the exclusive intimacy of a private yacht. It was obvious that a great deal of planning went into this vessel and it has certainly paid off.

As much as can be said about the new ship, it is still second to what really makes International Expeditions stand out above the rest of the operators in the Amazon – the unbelievable dedicated staff members who, by the end of the adventure, become almost like family members. Enough cannot be said about Dennis, Johnny, Segundo, Cliver and the overwhelmingly attentive crew, The food was beyond delicious (I gained six pounds!) and every time I was out of my room for any length of time, it was made up again – sometimes 3-4 times a day.

“I honestly don’t know what I did to deserve such wonderful treatment, but I want you to know that I appreciate it more than you could ever know. As a little boy growing up in a small apartment in New York City, I could only dream of experiencing such things as this Amazon adventure. I could never than you enough for helping make those dreams come true.

“Most Sincerely, 


"Ron Magill”

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