Natural History News

November 08, 2011

Stargazing on the Amazon River

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South America is different from its northern counterpart in many ways, but this will be especially apparent to stargazers or amateur astrologists searching the night skies. Nights on IE’s Amazon River tours offer plenty of time to admire the stars of the Southern Hemisphere. Some of the constellations seen in these areas are seasonal but others are circumpolar, so they can always be spotted.

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Researchers from Case Western Reserve University recently found the oldest fossils on the South American continent along the banks of the Ucayali River, an offshoot of the Amazon River.

The fossils, which are at least 41 million years old, are the teeth of mouse and rat-sized animals that experts say are most closely related to African rodents. They are from the suborder Caviomorpha, which means they are related to living species such as guinea pigs, chinchillas and New World porcupines.

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India has a wealth to offer international tourists, from nature travel in the rich Western Ghats to the urban explorations afforded by the modern metropolis of Mumbai. Plus, the vibrant Indian culture draws travelers from across the globe. Modern explorers looking for a unique glimpse of the both the native culture and amazing wildlife can join International Expeditions’ India Tiger Safari, which includes a stop in Khajuraho. This small town is famed for its temples featuring exquisite — and often erotic — depictions of the Hindu and Jain pantheons of gods.

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Brazilian scientists reported finding a new river in the Amazon basin that they estimate is the same length but nearly 100 times as wide, The Guardian reports. Lead researchers Valiya Hamza and Elizabeth Tavares Pimentel of Brazil's National Observatory presented their findings at the International Congress of the Society Brasiliera Geophysical in Rio de Janeiro.

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Adventurers will find a wealth of exciting and mysterious artifacts on the path to the Incan city of Machu Picchu, and many of those are found in the great Urubamba Valley. Also known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Urubamba Valley is a stronghold of Inca culture that offers those who travel to Machu Picchu a glimpse of what life for these ancient peoples must have been like.

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Although many people visit the region for a Kenya and Tanzania safari, the lakes of Kenya have gotten more attention in the news lately. Lake Elementaita, Lake Bogoria and Lake Nakuru were named UNESCO World Heritage Sites in June.

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The island of Elephanta offers the epitome of Hindu cave culture and nature travel. Even its name refers to the rock art practiced by people as far back as the 6th century. When Portugese navigators landed on the island, they found a massive stone elephant commonly called Gharapuri, which is an alternate name for the island, according to UNESCO.

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The Sambas stream toad, also known as the Bornean rainbow toad, as spent years on the Conservation International list of “Most Wanted Lost Frogs,” and many feared this colorful species was extinct. In fact, it had been so long since scientists had spotted these spindly legged creatures — 1924 was the last known sighting — that only illustrations of the toads existed. That was until June 13, 2011, when scientists spotted three Bornean rainbow toads on a night search in the remote Sarawak region.

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Satellite images and flights over the western Amazon River recently revealed a previously unknown indigenous group existing there, National Geographic reports.

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When one's nature travel plans lead them to Tanzania, a safari is almost certainly on their mind. Some travelers also devote time during their Kenya and Tanzania safari taking in landmarks that dot the nation. For vacationers who want to marvel at both the local wildlife and natural wonders of Tanzania, a stop at Olduvai Gorge is a must.

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