Skip to main content

Short-beaked common dolphins: Cook Strait to Cape Pallister, New Zealand.

A short-beaked common dolphin,Delphinus delphis, off Cape Palliser, New Zealand.

Short-beaked common dolphins

A short-beaked common dolphin,Delphinus delphis, off Cape Palliser, New Zealand.

A short-beaked common dolphin,Delphinus delphis, off Cape Palliser, New Zealand.

Sometimes you have a particular shot in your mind’s eye long before it ever happens. This particular image, taken two days ago, of a common dolphin leaping clear as 50kt winds whipped sea spume off the wave tops, falls squarely in to that category for me. I had created a mental image of this shot several years ago, but it took time, patience and luck for it to become a reality.  The image I wanted required multiple factors to all fall in to place simultaneously.  The proximity of the dolphins, the low angle angle and quality of the light, the wind to be sufficiently high to create the breaking wave crests I wanted, and then a very large dollop of luck. This time I was very lucky. One dolphin approached us at exactly the right angle, and for a few seconds he was close enough for me to track him beneath the surface and gauge when he was about to breach.  So when he did my camera was already poised and focussed …. or then again maybe I just got a lucky shot.

A short-beaked Common Dolphin leaps clear in rough seas, off Cape Palliser, New Zealand.

A short-beaked Common Dolphin leaps clear in rough seas, off Cape Palliser, New Zealand.

Common Dolphin breaching

Common Dolphin breaching

 

The shots shown here were taken off Cape Palliser, as we emerged from Cook Strait, a narrow and notoriously stormy channel between the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

Fierce winds colliding with the steep-sided hills of Cape Palliser force sea spray over 50  metres into the air.

Fierce winds colliding with the steep-sided hills of Cape Palliser force sea spray over 50 metres into the air.

Off Cape Palliser, emerging from Cook Strait, New Zealand.

A royal albatross (Diomedea sp.) glides effortlessly as fierce winds spume off the wave tops. Cook Strait, New Zealand.

A royal albatross (Diomedea sp.) glides effortlessly as fierce winds spume off the wave tops. Between Cook Strait and Cape Palliser, New Zealand.

Cook Strait, with high wild and strong currents funnelling through the narrow gap that divides the two halves of New Zealand, has a deserved reputation as a treacherous area for sailors.  But the wild, virtually uninhabited coastline between Cook Strait and Cape Pallister, where at night not a single light will be visible, has a harsh beauty that is compelling.

Vanuatu: straddling the centuries

Men perform a traditional dance at a forest village, Malekula Island, Vanuatu. © Colin Munro Photography

Looking down on the neon signs and snaking traffic, from my condo, 13 floors up in the heart of Bangkok, some of the places in Southeast Asia I have visited recently seem not only geographically distant but separated in time also.  This is, of course merely an illusion, but a powerful one.  Dugout canoes, tribal dances and weaving pandas leaves to make hut roofs does not fit easily into a world where people commute by skytrain, discuss cryptocurrencies and every second video display promotes the latest smartphone model as the perfect ‘selfie’ solution.  Probably the greatest change that has occurred in communication with the developed world over the past three decades is the growth of the internet, which for many of us now drives our work and leisure activities and much of our interaction with other people.  In much of Melanesia, internet access is still slow, expensive and in many areas unavailable.  There are numerous factors behind this; probably the most significant is the lack of large population centres, making the laying of cables and associated infrastructure uneconomic for telecommunication companies.  However; almost everyone has a mobile ‘phone; by and large, landline networks have been bypassed for similar reasons to limiting internet.  In some areas things are changing rapidly, in others little changes.  Like elsewhere in the World there is a shift to urban living.  This means that some cities are growing rapidly, equally on small remote islands populations decline.  Simply put, there are few job opportunities there.  As a teenager your dream is to study or work in in Fiji, or New Zealand, or Australia.  Of those that are successful few will return.

Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides) is a sprawling chain of islands, 82 in total, lying in the South Pacific a little over 1700 kilometres East of Australia.  The archipelago is volcanic in origin; the islands forming a line, roughly north -south, The islands are exposed tips of three converging seabed ridges rising up from the surrounding seabed, several thousand metres deep. The most famous volcano in the region is Mount Yasur on Tanna, but there are in fact nine active volcanos in the chain (two are submarine volcanos).  At the time of my visit to Vanuatu (September 2017) increased volcanic activity on Ambae could be seen from our ship as we passed at night.  This lead, shortly after, to a full scale evacuation of all 8,000 inhabitants of the island.  Over a thousand kilometres separates the northernmost islands (Torres Islands) from the uninhabited islands of Mathew and Hunter, the southernmost tip of the chain.  Fairly rapid development is occurring in and around Port Vila, the capital.  Luxury apartments and hotels are springing up through foreign investment (mostly Chinese) aided no doubt by Vanuatu’s reputation as a tax haven (it has zero corporate tax).  I spent a little time discussing this with a Chinese developer and some Ni-Vanuatu (the term for inhabitants of Vanuatu).  The developer was agreed that zero tax was a bad thing, limiting Vanuatu’s ability to develop services and infrastructure but, perhaps understandably, was prepared to exploit it.

Men perform a traditional dance at a forest village, Malekula Island, Vanuatu. © Colin Munro Photography

Men perform a traditional dance at a forest village, Malekula Island, Vanuatu

Malekula Island is the second largest island in the Vanuatu chain.  With a population of only 23,00 (2009) there are said to be nearly 30 local languages spoken on the island.  In Vanuatu as a whole, over one hundred languages are spoken (138 according to a 2015 study by Francios et al)  however an English-based creole, Bislama, is the common language uniting villages and islands. The interior of Malekula is mountainous and heavily forested, with a scattering of villages.  Of the various cultural divisions on the island, the main (and best known) are the Small Nambas and Big Nambas.  Nambas are penis sheaths made from fibre and banana or pandanus leaves, and these two groups are differentiated by the shape and size of their penis sheaths (seriously!).  Given they’re all fairly big, muscular guys I wouldn’t risk making jokes about it.  Dancing is a big part of the culture (or kastom as it’s known) in Vanuatu, and especially in the more remote villages.  each village has its dancing ground. Custom dances are performed for such events as the grading of men and the circumcision of boys.  This is very much a grade-based hierarchical society.  It has been reported than the Nimangki societies of southern Malekula have 17 distinct grades (Reisenfield, 1950).

Village dancers perform at a sing-sing, Malekula Island, Vanuatu., South Pacific. Copyright Colin Munro.

Village dancers perform at a sing-sing, Malekula Island, Vanuatu.

It would be wrong to assume that these are villages untouched by western culture.  Nowadays traditional nambas are worn only during dance ceremonies.  Villagers are as likely to be seen in jeans and t shirts when going about their daily business.  Many of the local languages are also considered under threat (on Malekula and throughout Vanuatu).  Interestingly, this does not appear to be from the spears of English (or French) but from Bislama, the creole that developed out of English colonisation. This, presumably, is due to increased communication between villages. As tourism grows, and the internet becomes more accessible, things will undoubtedly start to change more quickly.  Vanuatus reputation as a tax haven also fuel this.  But for now it remains a strange mix of the old and the new.  It is a country where most people still live in forest villages, have no formal ‘job’ but live off the land, where there is no income tax, yet it is one of the very few countries in the World where one can buy citizenship using bitcoin.

A girl dances during a traditional dance at a forest village, Malekula Island, Vanuatu.. © Colin Munro Photography

A girl dances during a traditional dance at a forest village, Malekula Island, Vanuatu.

 

A girl dancer looks shyly at the camera. forest village sing-sing, Malekula island, Vanuatu. Copyright Colin Munro

A girl dancer looks shyly at the camera. forest village sing-sing, Malekula island, Vanuatu.

 

A drummer beats out a rhythm on hollow wooden statues, keeping the dancers in time. Malekula, Vanuatu. © Colin Munro Photography

A drummer, painted with charcoal, beats out a rhythm on hollow wooden statues. Malekula, Vanuatu.

 

A mother and baby watch a sing-sing performance at a forest village, Malekula Island, Vanuatu. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

A mother and baby watch a sing-sing performance at a forest village, Malekula Island, Vanuatu

 

A small boy watches ceremonial dancers perform at a Kastom (Custom) dance in a forest village, malekula, Vanuatu. © Colin Munro Photography

A small boy watches the ceremonial dancers perform.

 

Young children watch curiously as they sit on a dugout outrigger canoe, Tanna, Vanuatu. © Colin Munro Photography

Young children watch curiously as they sit on a dugout outrigger canoe, Tanna, Vanuatu.

 

Ash plains, fallout from previous eruptions, surround Mount Yasur volcano, Tanna, Vanuatu. © Colin Munro Photography

Ash plains, fallout from previous eruptions, surround Mount Yasur volcano, Tanna, Vanuatu

 

Molten lava explodes out of the vent within Mount Yasur volcano, Tanna, Vanuatu. © Colin Munro Photography

Molten lava explodes out of the vent within Mount Yasur volcano, Tanna, Vanuatu

References:

The megalith culture of Melanesia. Alphonse Reisenfield. E.J.Brill, 1950.

 

My photographs can be seen, and licensed, through the following websites.

www.colinmunrophotography.com

www.colinmunroimages.com

www.500px.com/colin85

 

The Kimberley

Saltwater crocodile basking on rocks, Hunter River, Kimberley

Thung Wua Laen Beach, Chumphon, Thailand, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Scotland and St. Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands and various other places.

It felt strange to be writing this account in the sweltering humidity of Thailand’s rainy season after the ferocious, dessicating heat of the Kimberley. Equally, it felt odd in the cool, fresh breeze off Papa Westray in the Orkney islands. This blog was written in no one location, rather it was added to in over a dozen places; from Thailand to the Shetland Islands down to the British Channel Islands via the Outer Hebrides and the Isles of Scilly, Devon and finally completed in Barcelona. Mostly it was done in the evening, at sea, after we had everyone back onboard, briefings completed, daily reports sent and plans for the following day in place. So it was written in very short bursts – ten minutes one night, fifteen the next. As a consequence, completion has taken rather longer than initially intended. This piecemeal approach also resulted in what was written one night rarely flowing easily into the next day’s segment. I eventually became rather frustrated with hits and so decided to cut most of the text. The Kimberley has a unique, harsh beauty and so I have largely allowed the images to speak for themselves.

The Kimberley covers over 163,000 square miles of Northwestern Australia. It is hot, rugged and sparsely populated.  A vast area of sandstone plateau dissected by river gorges.  To many it is known as Australia’s last great wilderness. Over three times the size of England, yet with a resident population of between 35-50,000 (many leave during the wet season). To put that in context that’s a quarter to a third of the population of the Isle of Wight. It is not an area of the World teaming with wildlife, the climate and land are too severe to support life in great number.  Spinifex carpets the land, with occasional boabs ((Adansonia gregorii) and pandanus where water courses run.  The mammals that make their home in the Kimberley are mostly difficult to see, largely being nocturnal (such as northern quolls) or crepuscular (e.g. rock wallabies). But wildlife there is, especially close to water, where eagles, egrets, herons, brahminy kites, water monitors and, of course, saltwater crocodiles are found.

Saltwater crocodile, Hunter River, Kimberley

Saltwater crocodile, Hunter River, Kimberley

 

Saltwater crocodile basking on rocks, Hunter River, Kimberley

Saltwater crocodile basking on rocks, Hunter River, Kimberley

A saltwater crocodile basks on a rock, its jaws gaping, at the end of a small creek along the Hunter River.  Although this pose may look aggressive, the primary purpose is to cool the crocodile’s brain.  Whilst the croc lies in the sun its body warms.  The optimum body temperature for crocodillians is between 30 and 33 degrees centigrade.  As with most animals, the brain is sensitive to overheating.  Evaporation from the lining of the mouth cools the crocodile’s head whilst the more massive body warms.

A saltwater crocodile cruises slowly along the surface, Hunter River, Western Australia.

A saltwater crocodile cruises slowly along the surface, Hunter River, Western Australia.

At high water, as the above of exposed mudflat and rock diminishes, crocs are more likely to be seen cruising slowly on the surface.

massive rock buttresses line the Hunter River gorge.

massive rock buttresses line the Hunter River gorge.

The Horizontal Falls, seen from the air.

The Horizontal Falls, seen from the air 

The Horizontal Falls have been described as “One of the greatest wonders of the natural world” by Sir David Attenborough no less. A man who has seen a fair few natural wonders in his time.  Viewing the falls, even on neap tides, it’s hard to disagree with Sir David.  On a spring tide the tidal range in the Kimberley can be up to 10 metres.  This tidal ebb and flow is forced through two narrow gaps in the McLarty mountain ranges.  This can result in a drop of several metres at each falls, as water rushes through with tremendous force.

The King George Falls, King George River, Western Australia

The King George Falls, King George River, Western Australia

At around 40 metres in height,the King George Falls are the highest in Western Australia.  There are in fact two waterfalls, side by side on the King george River, separated by a giant rock buttress.

CalSky170721adeleIsland01CR

Brown boobies in flight.

A beach stone curlew, Careening Bay

A beach stone curlew, Careening Bay

Beach stone curlews, also known as thick-knees, are large, heavily built waders that feed on crabs and other marine invertebrates.  They prefer isolated beaches for nesting, such as Careening Bay, where this one was photographed.

Mertens’ water monitor (Varanus martensi) is a fairly large monitor, up to a metre in length, found throughout much of Northern Australia.  It feeds mostly on frogs, fish, crabs, small mammals, birds eggs and insects, pretty much anything they can catch.  They are rarely found far from water.  I photographed this one on a low ledge near the base of The King George Falls.   We glimpsed it gliding along as we nosed a Zodiac  up to the waterfall.  Like many other Australian carnivores, Mertens’ water monitors appear to have suffered a decline in numbers in areas to which cane toads have spread.  Toxicity tests indicate that water monitors are highly susceptible to cane toad toxins (Smith and Phillips, 2006).

A Merton's water monitor, Varanus merteni,

A Merton’s water monitor, Varanus merteni,

Each year in early July, humpback whales arrive off the Kimberley coast having migrated from their Antarctic feeding grounds to calve here.  Recent estimates suggest that between  28,000 and 34,000 humpbacks will visit the Kimberley coast between June and September annually. This is believed to be close to their pre-whaling levels; hunting for humpbacks ceased in this region in 1963.

A humpback whale cruises along the surface.  Adele Island, Northwest Australia.

A humpback whale cruises along the surface. Adele Island, Northwest Australia.

CalSky170721adeleIsland06CR

The humpbacks of the Kimberley

References

Smith, J.G., and Phillips, B.L. (2006).
Toxic tucker: the potential impact of cane toads on Australian reptiles. Pacific Conservation Biology 12, 40-49.

Rees Dart Valley Track Mount Aspiring National Park

The views above Rees Saddle are well worth the hike to get there.. Rees Dart Track, Mount Aspiring National Park, Southern Alps, new Zealand. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

The Rees and Dart Valley tracks run through some of the most spectacular scenery in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, and indeed, the Southern Hemisphere.

Rees Dart Valley, Mount Aspiring National Park, Southern Alps, New Zealand, copyright Colin Munro Photography

Rees Dart Valley, Mount Aspiring National Park

In late January this year I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the Mount Aspiring National Park in the south-west of New Zealand’s South Island.  After sampling the crazy, hedonistic atmosphere of Queenstown for a couple of days I was more than ready to leave and head on to wild landscapes, leaving wild party-town behind.  I had planned to fit in a multi-day hike but did not want to be walking with a crowd.  The Rees Dart Track was recommended to me by a couple of friends: It was reasonably strenuous, far less busy than the Great Walks routes, fitted in with my available time constraints and – rather importantly, did not require booking weeks or months in advance as many of the more popular walks did.  It was also only a couple of hours drive from my then base of Queenstown and (and this is what clinched it for me) apparently spectacularly scenic.  Regarding the last point, I was certainly not disappointed, it is an incredibly beautiful, awe-inspiring area.

Before leaving Queenstown, I checked in at the Department of Conservation’s office to pick up a map, tickets for the huts and some advice on the condition of the track.  I learned that the normal circular route up the Rees valley then back down the Dart Valley was not possible at that time.  The Dart Valley part of the track had been blocked by avalanches the previous winter, making the route to Chinaman’s Car Park (the standard end point) impassable.  Blasting to clear it was happening but was not yet complete.

Completing the 46 kilometre drive north to Glenorchy took me far longer than the expected hour.  It was hard not to stop every few miles in order to get out and photograph yet another stunning view over Lake Wakatipu and the Thompson, Livingstone, Ailsa and Humboldt mountain ranges beyond.  Arriving at Mrs Wooley’s General Store, I drove in to Mrs Woolly’s Campsite directly behind, pitched my tent and settled in for the evening.  Mrs Woolly’s store is exactly what one might expect from a store located in rural New Zealand belonging to someone called ‘Mrs Woolly’; constructed from rough wooden planks and packed full of wholesome goodies.  Two teenage girls served behind the counter (Mrs Woolly’s daughters I convinced myself). I imaged Mrs Woolly as a kindly-faced elderly lady with wire-rimmed glasses and a white pinafore over a long black dress; a kind-of antipodean ‘grandma Walton’.  I tried hard not to think that ‘Mrs Woolly’ might be the creation of some bright young advertising executive in Queenstown or Auckland.

My planned early morning start didn’t happen.  For various reasons I found myself completing the drive back to Queenstown and returning to Glenorchy mid-afternoon.  By the time I finally set off for the Rees Valley and the start of the track it was well after 2pm. I drove my little hire car as far as the track would allow; to the track starting point at Muddy Creek Car Park.  There I grabbed a quick bite of bread and cheese from the food supplies I had, locked the remains of the bread loaf securely in the cars boot (a bad decision as I would later find out) shouldered my pack and set off walking around 4pm, much later than I had originally hoped.  The forecast was not great. A weather warning was in place with strong winds and heavy rain forecast, but – on the bright side – it wasn’t raining…  yet.

The walk along the Rees River valley from Muddy Creek Car Park to past Lennox Falls. Rees Dart Track, Mount Aspiring National Park. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

The walk along the Rees River valley from Muddy Creek Car Park to past Lennox Falls.

By six in the evening I was stomping through the waterlogged meadows that bordered the braided, meandering river as it flowed along the wide glacier-carved valley, walking directly in to the wind-driven rain.  Every so often the track would head up in to the steep sided valley walls.  Here the path was far drier but slower as one clambered over or under fallen trees.  As the rainfall became heavier the steep muddy track became ever more slippery.  To my surprise, as I negotiated my way along the narrow track, I suddenly came upon a tiny one-man tent erected in the shelter of the shallowest of depressions in the rock face that bordered the upslope side of the track.  I was impressed at the ingenuity in pitching a tent on mud-covered rock in what was no more than a 3 or 4 foot deep undercut in the cliff.  This was the first (and only sign of others) on the track I encountered that evening.  I was to meet very colourful character who occupied the tent the next day, but for now I tramped on.  Eventually I abandoned it in favour of a direct route through the meadows, fast becoming a calf deep bog.  There are poles marking the preferred route across the valley floor but, as the wind increased, they became trickier to spot in the driving rain.  I leaned in to the gale-force wind, my jacket hood pulled low and the collar high so only my eyes and nose were exposed to the needle like rain drops, and plodded through what now resembled paddy fields more than grass meadows.  I reckoned I was carrying a few extra pounds with the mud that filled my boots and encased my legs to mid-thigh after numerous plunges in to troughs hidden beneath the water’s surface.  I thought about the warm sunshine and gentle, cooling breeze that had lulled me in to a false optimism at the start of my hike only a few hours earlier. The same question went around in my head: where the hell I was going to pitch my tent that night.  It was 20km from the car park to Shelter Rock Hut, 7km from the park boundary which I had still to reach, but continuing to walk after dark seemed like a pretty dumb idea.

A couple of suspension bridge (swing bridge in NZ) must be crossed before the track enters Mount Aspiring National Park . Rees Dart Track, New Zealand. copyright Colin Munro Photography

A suspension bridge (swing bridge in NZ) must be crossed before the track enters Mount Aspiring National Park

 

No sense wasting material building these bridges any wider than necessary must be the thinking I guess.

No sense wasting material building the bridge any wider than necessary must be the thinking I guess.

 

Sandflies, attracted no doubt by the CO2 from my breathe and the smell of octenol compounds in my sweat, congregate across the mesh ventilation patches of my tent as the sun rises.

Sandflies, attracted no doubt by the CO2 from my breathe and the smell of octenol compounds in my sweat, congregate across the mesh ventilation patches of my tent as the sun rises.

When I finally reached the park boundary the sky was already darkening.  The track climbed out of the valley floor up in to the trees.  The park boundary sign estimated a further 3-4 hours walking to Shelter Rock Hut, that would be 3-4 hours in very dark conditions, under the trees with heavy cloud cover, along a slippery, muddy footpath with possible steep drops at the edge of the track.  Maybe not tonight I though.  The alternative was to pitch my tent for the night.  I found a raised clearing in the trees; slightly drier than the surround land but with a soft carpet of sphagnum moss.  I watched the surrounding trees sway and creak in the wind but decided that chancing a tree fall on me while I slept was a risk worth taking given the alternative option of pitching on open, boggy ground where, if my tent didn’t blow away, I’d probably find myself lying in several inches of water.   Despite my tent almost blowing flat at times, and the ominous creaking of nearby trees, I fell asleep quickly and slept until the early hours.  I awake around 3a.m. to a persistent scratching noise.  Something was trying to get in to my tent. I thought about the empty tin from the cold chilli con carne I had eaten before crawling in to my sleeping bag, now tucked under the awning of the tent.  Okay, so something was feasting on the scraps in the tin – but no, the noise was inside the tent.  I was a little more awake now.  In fact, the scratching was on the outside of my sleeping back, and I could feel small footsteps on my shoulder.  Fumbling for my torch I discovered a mouse had somehow got into my tent (quite how remains a mystery, the tent was zipped fast and no holes were later discovered).  Extracting a very athletic and clearly terrified mouse from a small tent crammed with soggy clothes is no easy feat. After several minutes of trying to corner an animal that that appeared capable of leaping many times its own body length and changed direction far faster than I was capable of, it finally discovered the (now unzipped) tent door and leap to freedom.

A highly athletic mouse in mid-leap in my tent around 3a.m.  It proved just as hard to photograph as it was to catch.

A highly athletic mouse in mid-leap in my tent around 3a.m. It proved just as hard to photograph as it was to catch.

 

Cooking porridge amidst clouds of sandflies as my boots and trousers dry. Rees Dart Track, New Zealand. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

Cooking porridge amidst clouds of sandflies as my boots and trousers dry. Actually ‘dry’ is a euphemism; more correctly I should say ‘become less saturated’.

The remaining hours of darkness passed uneventfully. By dawn the wind had died away to nothing and the rain ceased.  I lay in my sleeping bag watching sandflies form frenzied mobs on the other side of the mesh vents of my tent. Female sandflies (more properly west coast blackflies, Austrosimulium ungulatum) are attracted by the CO2 from exhaled breath; this would accumulate within my tent through the night.  They are also believed to be attracted to chemicals such as 1-octen-3-ol that also occurs in exhaled breath and in sweat.  Again this was something that abounded within my small tent and the soggy clothing within after by exertions of the previous evening.  All the flies congregating outside my tent were females.  I knew this because only the females are attracted in this manner.  The reason for their frantic pawing at the mesh vents, in a manner reminding me of the zombies in a George A. Romero movie, was their need to drink blood (my blood, specifically, at this moment in time).  If a female cannot obtain a blood meal she lays only a few eggs, but if she is successful then she may lay several batches of two to three hundred eggs.   Personally, I’m not too keen on helping produce more sandflies, and I had already been driven to distraction by the intense itching that is the after-effect of their dining on me.  So I lay in my sleeping bag, safe from their bloodthirsty attentions, for a little longer.  In many other parts of the World black fly species are the vectors for some pretty nasty diseases (e.g. river blindness through transmission of the nematode worm Onchocerca volvulus).  I wasn’t aware of any similar concerns in New Zealand, but even so I had no desire to be bitten more than absolutely necessary.

Sandflies try to reach me through the knee of my trousers as I cook breakfast. Fortunately the breadknife-like mouthparts cannot penetrate the material.

Sandflies try to reach me through the knee of my trousers as I cook breakfast. Fortunately the breadknife-like mouthparts cannot penetrate the material.

 

An inquisitive South Island robin, Petroica australis, inspects my tent, Rees Dart Track, Mount Aspiring National Park. Copyright Colin Munro Photography. www.colinmunrophotography.com

An inquisitive South Island robin, Petroica australis, inspects my tent. Until recently considered a sub-species of the New Zealand robin, recent (2006) studies of mitochondrial DNA have lead to the the North and South island populations now being regarded as distinct species.

Once up there was no incentive to hang around.  After a quick breakfast of porridge and coffee I packed up my tent, pushed my feet in to still sopping wet boots, shouldered my rucksack and headed on up the track.   The first part of the track within the park is a very pleasant hike through beech forest with a dense undergrowth of ferns. Sphagnum moss blanketed much of the forest floor whilst lichens hung from and encased the tree trunks and branches.  Occasional streams cascaded down the steep walls and, more often than not, I couldn’t resist the urge to dig out my camera and set up a few shots.  Thus it’s fair to say my progress was slow, but my intention was to make it no further than Shelter Rock Hut that day, so I had all day to cover 7 kilometres.  After an hour or so the forest came to an abrupt end, the track continuing through open meadows of tussock grass interspersed with Spaniard plants (Aciphylla species) or speargrass as they are sometimes known due to their stiff, erect, spear-like leaves which are sharp as razors and definitely to be avoided.  As the morning progressed, the sky cleared, and the walk became very pleasant.  Shortly before arriving at Shelter Rock Hut I met the first other people on the track.  Jesse and Alecia, a couple from Colorado, caught up with me as I took my time and stopped to take photographs (Jesse has his own blog on travel and living cheaply, noodlesandfish.com).  We walked the last couple of kilometres together.  As we arrived at the hut we were greeted by the wardens, with boiling water for a hot drink and a coal burning stove throwing out a radiant heat that filled the room. We settled in for the day with our fellow trampers: Craig, an Auckland geneticist and artist, his teenage son and his son’s friend, and our two wardens. We were joined later by the occupant of the tent I passed last night.  A fascinating guy who spent most of the year living out of his car, and the summer months tramping the tracks of Otago and Fiordland.  As it transpired, the following day was one of persistent rain and wind, so the day was spent drinking coffee, stoking to stove and swapping yarns.

I had intended to write and publish this as a complete article, as ever, time became squeezed with other projects and so I decided to publish this first part before too much time elapsed. In the words of those old ’60s TV cliffhangers ... to be continued.

A mountain stream cascades down the densely wooded valley slopes. Rees Dart Track, Mount Aspiring National Park. copyright Colin Munro Photography

A mountain stream cascades down the densely wooded valley slopes. Rees Dart Track, Mount Aspiring National Park

 

Below the tree line the slopes are covered in dense forest, mostly beech. Tree branches are often smothered in  a variety of lichens, testifying the moist climate that prevails here. Rees Dart Track, Mount Aspiring National Park. copyright Colin Munro Photography

Below the tree line the slopes are covered in dense forest, mostly beech. Tree branches are often smothered in a variety of lichens, testifying to the moist climate that prevails here.

 

Walking from Muddy Creek car Park to Shelter Rock Hut once the wooded valleys are left behind. Colin Munro

The slow slog up to Shelter Rock Hut. As in much of the Southern Alps, the tree line ends quite sharply, to be replaced by tussock grassland.

 

The views above Rees Saddle are well worth the hike to get there.. Rees Dart Track, Mount Aspiring National Park, Southern Alps, new Zealand. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

The views above Rees Saddle are well worth the hike to get there.

 

The welcome sight of Shelter Rock Hut as the rain clouds begin to gather.

The welcome sight of Shelter Rock Hut as the rain clouds begin to gather.

 

Jesse and Alecia, companions along part of the track, at one of the many stream crossings.

Jesse and Alecia, companions along part of the track, at one of the many stream crossings.

 

Snowy Creek plunges down the side of Mount Cumminham, north of Rees Saddle, en route to Dart Hut, Rees Dart Track. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

Snowy Creek plunges down the side of Mount Cumminham, north of Rees Saddle, en route to Dart Hut.

 

Trecking along Rees Dart Track, Mount Aspiring National Park. Colin Munro Photography

When the sun does shine in the mountains it is such a glorious place to be. Especially when you take your pack off!

 

Mounts Clarke and Cunningham loom over the Rees River, near Shelter Rock Hut, Rees Dart Track. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

Mount Clarke and Mount Cunningham loom over the Rees River, near Shelter Rock Hut.

 

The carnivorous plant Alpine sundew Drosera arcturi) is common in boggy areas.  It is found throughout the alpine and sub-alpine zones. Rees Dart Track,. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

The carnivorous plant Alpine sundew Drosera arcturi) is common in boggy areas. It is found throughout the alpine and sub-alpine zones.

 

On the higher slopes, heading towards Cascade Saddle; low, ground-overing shrubs producing red berries were common. I haven't managed to identify them (possibly Pentachondra?) so if anyone knows what they are?

On the higher slopes, heading towards Cascade Saddle; low, ground-overing shrubs producing red berries were common. I haven’t managed to identify them (possibly Pentachondra?) so if anyone knows what they are?

 

Snowy Creek cascades down near Rees Saddle. Rees Dart Track. Copyright Colin Munro Photography

Snowy Creek cascades down near Rees Saddle.

© Colin Munro 2017

If you liked reading this, or any of my other blogs, please feel free to ‘like’ via the Facebook button, or to leave a comment below.

Christmas in Abu Qir – a wander through Egypt’s backstreets

Street performers entertain children in Abu Qir's backstreets. Colin Munro Photography
Street performers entertain children in Abu Qir's backstreets

Street performers entertain children in Abu Qir\’s backstreets

Christmas in Abu Qir
A little over ten years ago I spent Christmas in the small Egyptian seaport of Abu Qir. This was not a planned stopover, even in summer Abu Qir is not on any tourist route. Abu Qir is a freight and naval port situated at the end of a spindly headland jutting out into the Eastern Basin of the Mediterranean. Nitrogenous fertiliser production is the main industry in Abu Qir. Within the harbour it is stored in vast warehouses awaiting shipping. Fertiliser dust lines the trucks and blows into all crevices along the quays. After any time spent there it fills the tread in your boots; when the wind blow a light dusting coats most surfaces. Winter rains easily penetrate the warehouses and wash across the roads. On contact with water the fertiliser, presumably ammonium nitrate, decomposes to release ammonia fumes powerful enough to make you catch your breath and set your eyes streaming. This may be one factor in the lack of tourists or tourism infrastructure. Grain is a major import here. All day long one can watch trucks pull up beneath a large hopper. A fountain of grain cascades into the truck from on high whilst the hapless driver, or driver’s mate, stands beneath it and levels out the accumulating pile with a broom. This has to be one of the worst jobs in the world. With only a rag tied around his nose and mouth he is mostly obscured within a blizzard of wheat dust and chafe. Standing a hundred metres or so away the dust filled my nose and I couldn’t help but wonder how much of his lungs remain functional.

A dusty boulevard leads away from the port, becomes a tarmac road and soon after hooks up with the Trans-African Highway, the artery running across the top of Africa. Some twenty odd kilometres to the West, in its International Highway coastal detour, it skirts Alexandria, then joins the Trans-African Highway proper (TAH1 to be precise) heading endlessly West to finally hit the buffers at Dakar, over 8000 kilometres distant. To the East the route is much shorter. The Highway threads its way along the narrow strips of land that separate the Mediterranean proper from the coastal lagoons of the Nile Delta to Port Said on the Eastern bank. The intrepid can continue a further 240 kilometres along the edge of the Sinai Peninsula, before being stopped at the barricade at the Rafah border crossing into the West Bank. This is currently closed by Egypt, apparently under pressure from Israel.

Abu Qir is a small spike off this grand conduit linking most of the great cities of North Africa. The area is growing in significance with the current development of the Abu Qir gas field but the small town remains mostly unaffected. The main boulevard is wide and rather elegant, if pot-holed. In late December the sun still blazed, but every now and then the town was hit by sudden downpours that created great lakes over a foot deep, spanning road and pavement. Despite the inconvenience of having to carefully pick your way through these waterways the street was still bustling with people. Once the rain subsided sheets of polythene would be whipped back to reveal wooden stalls creaking under the weight of vast piles of aubergines, oranges, bananas, broad beans, tomatoes, courgettes, carrots, peppers and potatoes. Most of Egypt’s agricultural land is located in the fertile and well irrigated Delta region, and Abu Qir’s market stalls are testament to the productivity of the region. Though the Delta is not without problems, since the construction of the Aswan dams upstream the fertility has declined as fewer nutrients flow into the lower reaches of the Nile; pumping ground water to supply the growing urban population has lead to salt water intrusion rendering some land unusable for crop growing whilst urban sprawl is rapidly reducing the land available for cultivation. Perhaps the greatest threat to the region is global warming. Much of the delta is less than two metres above sea level. Current predictions suggest the area would suffer a double whammy: extensive loss of cultivated and developed land through sea level rise and increasing groundwater salinity, exacerbated by reduced freshwater inputs due to increased evaporation. Yet as I waded across a stretch of rainwater-flooded road, reduced freshwater inputs seemed a rather distant concern, but perhaps gave an indication of what future conditions may look like as the Mediterranean starts to encroach.

I had arrived in Abu Qir to work based on a local boat. Being a naval port they were rather touchy about cameras. Any found were confiscated, and wandering around the port with a camera would undoubtedly invite the attention of the military police. Although I have no interest in naval secrets I suspect that would cut little ice. Getting my camera aboard the boat was relatively straightforward. I simply gave it to my local taxi driver, who kept it beneath his jacket while we were searched. A wise move I thought as I hauled out my bags and watched the sentries carefully going through their contents at the roadside.

Stormy weather meant we spent a lot of time sitting in port, and so I was able venture out into the local town. However, getting my camera out with me was slightly trickier. As I was simply walking in to the local town I had to walk past the guards without the assistance of a trusted local. I did, however, have baggy trousers and a set of juggling balls. With juggling balls stuffed in my trouser pockets and digital SLR and zoom lens tucked in the front of my underpants I sauntered, as casually as possible given my attire, slowly towards the port gate. I walked slowly, partly because a faster pace required me to waddle, suggesting I had an incontinence problem, and partly because any sudden movement was likely to send my camera crashing to the ground down my trouser leg. With a big grin and a ‘kaif halak?’ I passed the guards my passport and jacket, which I had draped over my arm to conceal my odd appearance. This immediately drew attention to the bulges in my trousers and a request to empty my pockets. I withdrew the juggling balls being careful not to dislodge anything else which, naturally, led to requests for a demonstration. A twenty second flourish, a few handshakes and I was allowed on my way without further inspection.

The main boulevard, Abo Qeer, has a relaxed and rather timeless feel. There are of course trucks rolling to and from the port, and aged taxis that will take you to Alexandria much faster than any sane person would wish to travel on that road. But there is almost as much non-motorised transport. A popular means of transport by locals is horse-drawn cabs. These are marvellously inventive crosses between Victorian ‘Clarence’ carriages, gypsy caravans and buggies with jacked-up suspension. They are frequently drawn by horses so skinny they appear all but two-dimensional. Horses, mules or donkeys pulling carts loaded with cauliflowers, car axles or boisterous kids clip-clop past almost as frequently as internal combustion powered vehicles. They may exist, but I found no supermarkets, no Ronald MacDonald, no KFC, no chain stores, no glitzy glass and strip-lighting shop fronts. Indeed mains lighting was strictly limited; most shops lit only by kerosene lanterns and shopkeepers smiles. Scattered amongst the fruit and vegetable stalls were the obligatory chai and coffee houses, where groups of men stared seriously at backgammon boards or puffed on shisha pipes filled with fruit and molasses soaked tobacco and watched the World go by. If one ventures away from the main road the look of the town changes abruptly. Turn west and you enter a maze of narrow alleyways between tall tenements. Flocks of small chocolate-fleeced sheep wander about, often venturing into the open-fronted butchers’ shops where freshly skinned carcasses of their brethren hang from great meat hooks. As I wandered these alleyways I came across a street performer. Forty or fifty young children sat in doorways or hung from first floor windows, watching wide-eyed from between lines of washing. The act consisted of a showman, his younger assistant, a small dog and a spiked, steel triple hoop rigged on a stand in the centre of the alley. It was far too interesting an event to miss, but taking pictures in such situations is never easy. You do not want to offend anyone; nor do you want to detract from the main event. From experience I knew that pulling out a large camera was likely to have most of the children turn there attention away from the performers and focus on the westerner with the camera. A scrum of children shouting ‘take my picture’, leaving the show with no audience, was most definitely not what I wanted. I sat down in a doorway some distance back and waited for the initial curiosity to subside. I then casually took out my camera from under my jacket and sat it on my lap without looking at it. With minimal props the showman knew just how to work an audience; pacing slowly and deliberately back and fore he prepped the dog, which it seemed would be the star performer. All the while his sidekick beat out a roll on a small side drum. After a few minutes I was able to catch the showman’s eye. I lightly tapped the top of my camera and looked at him enquiringly. He gave a slight nod then turned his attention back to his canine protégé. Dressed in dapper brown trousers and waistcoat, with a rather dashing red scarf around its waist, the little white dog bounced into the centre of the street. Upon a slight hand gesture from the showman it rose onto its hind legs and tottered around to the beat of the drum. The drum beat increased in vigour and the audience clapped in time as the tiny dancer jigged to the beat in a slightly unbalanced manner, not altogether unlike a slightly tipsy girl dancing in way-too-high stilettos. To a round of applause the showman swept his star performer into his arms and carried him to the side where he carefully wrapped him in a damp blanket to cool off.

Returning to centre stage the build up for the finale commenced. Two flaming torches were produced with a theatrical flourish and used to light three similar-looking torch heads within the metal hoops. As I gazed at the flaming hoops I realized they were actually bicycle wheel rims bolted on to the tubular stand for a fan or similar. The inward pointing spikes were six-inch nails punched through the spoke holes. For a moment I though the diminutive pooch might be expected to leap through the fiery ring, hence the dampening blanket, but as the ring was raised to at least three times his height I dismissed that idea. Surely that would be a feat beyond even a dancing dog? The showman paced back and fore in front of the hoops, the drum roll intensified, the dog watched from beneath his blanket. I was impressed, not only was the showman going to leap through a flaming spiked hoop it appeared his shoulders would only just fit through, such was his confidence he had not even bothered to remove the bulky denim jacket or heavy boots he was wearing. With his young audience worked up into a frenzy of anticipation, he stood fifteen paces back from the ring and gave a nod. At this his young accomplice un-slung his drum, walked smartly to the centre of the street broke into a run and performed a perfect dive through the ring of fire. The crowd burst into spontaneous cheering, the performers bowed graciously and a collecting box was passed around. I dug a handful of piastres from my pocket as the box reached me, took a few pictures when asked to and showed the results in the cameras’ LCD screen to a chorus of giggles and screams. After congratulating the performers and thanking them for their indulgence I decided it was time to wander on.

Not quite Phileas Fogg

The katuali or flat-tail sea snake (Laticauda schistorhynchus) is a type of sea snake, or more precisely a krait, found only around Nuie Island in the South Pacific. There is some debate as to whether it is a seperate species or a sub-species of the black-banded sea krait (Laticauda semifasciata) also known as the Chinese sea snake. Colin Munro Photography www.colinmunroimages.com

I have been very lucky recently.  In the past 12 months alone my work has taken me to around 23 countries. Whilst not quite in the slipstream of Phileas Fogg it has nonetheless been something of a wild roller-coaster ride.  This has enabled me to greatly increase the range of my stock images, from orang utans to komodo dragons and Pitcairn Island to St Kilda.  The down side (I know, I know…. I’m not complaining) is that time to sort, edit, key-word and upload this exponentially growing back catalogue has been in short supply.

American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) lying on a muddy river bank, Tempisque River, Costa Rica. www.colinmunroimages.com

American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) lying on a muddy river bank, Tempisque River, Costa Rica.

Often this has been limited to brief spells in cafes or airport departure lounges with sluggish WiFi.  However, the up side of a recent accident and a few weeks enforced recuperation in one country has been  time to sit down and tackle the rather daunting task of sorting through almost a terabyte or raw images.

The katuali or flat-tail sea snake (Laticauda schistorhynchus) is a type of sea snake, or more precisely a krait, found only around Nuie Island in the South Pacific.  There is some debate as to whether it is a seperate species or a sub-species of the black-banded sea krait (Laticauda semifasciata) also known as the Chinese sea snake. Colin Munro Photography www.colinmunroimages.com

The katuali or flat-tail sea snake (Laticauda schistorhynchus) is a type of sea snake, or more precisely a krait, found only around Nuie Island in the South Pacific.

I am now doggedly sifting through these and uploading to my stoc images website www.colinmunroimages.com.  This is a seachable site, where named galleries can be browsed (e.g. Norway, Cape Verde islands, Fish, Seabirds) or images can be searched by keyword, geographical area and other parameters.  The opening page links to a small number of showcase galleries which I will rotate as I update galleries.

Grey-headed kingfisher(Halcyon leucocephala) Cape Verde Islands, West Africa. Colin Munro Photography www.colinmunroimages.com

Grey-headed kingfisher(Halcyon leucocephala) Cape Verde Islands, West Africa

So if you haven’t checked out www.colinmunroimages.com yet why not give it a few minutes during your next coffee break.  If you have, then come back again next week and hopefully there will be updates since last time.  Either way, if you have any comments or requests then please get in touch colin@colinmunrophotography.com.

[avatar user=”colinmu” size=”thumbnail” align=”right”]

Fishing canoe (pirouge) being landed at sunset, Senegal

Fishing canoe (pirouge) being landed at sunset, Senegal
Pirogue fishermen at sunset, Senegal, West Africa Image. MBI000914

Pirogue fishermen at sunset, Senegal, West Africa Image. MBI000914

 

Fishing canoe (pirouge) being landed at sunset, Senegal. Image MBI000914. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image or purchase a fine art print.

A wooden fishing canoe returns from a day at sea, and men haul the boat and engine up the sandy beach as the sun sets.  M’bour, Senegal.

Fishing boat at sunset, Eastern Mediterranean, off Egypt

Fishing boat at sunset, Eastern Mediterranean, off Egypt
Egyptian fishing boat at sunset, Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Image MBI000912. Colin Munro Photography

Egyptian fishing boat at sunset, Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Image MBI000912.

Fishing boat at sunset, Eastern Mediterranean, off Egypt. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image or purchase a fine art print.
I spend a couple of weeks working off in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, a few miles off the Nile delta, a while back.  It was mid-winter, and we spent much of the time dodging gales.  Although we were in a fairly substantial boat, waves piled up high in the shallow waters off the delta, so work was completed in brief sorties, then running back to port with four or five metres waves chasing us.  When the sea was calm however, it was absolutely beautiful, with the most stunning sunsets.  Calm weather also brought out large numbers of fishing trawlers.  At one time I counted twelve trawlers all within sight of us; it seems highly unlikely that such fishing is sustainable and indeed I saw precious little catch when nets were hauled.  As the sun set all nest were hauled and the boats headed back to port leaving us with the sea to ourselves until the sun rose again.  I watched this boat inch past the dipping sun, with an almost blood red sky as a backdrop.  There has been vistually no editing to this image – the sky really did look like that.  Sometimes you have to really work to get great pics, and sometime you just need to be there.

The fishermen of M’bour

M'bour, Senegal. Fishermen haul a small fishing pirogue (wooden canoe) up on to the beach at sunset.  Image MBI000739

M’bour, Senegal. Fishermen haul a small fishing pirogue (wooden canoe) up on to the beach at sunset.

In November 2008 I spent two weeks living in M’bour, a dusty transit stop and fishing port halfway between Dakar and the Gambia. I spent this time getting to know the fishermen, going to sea with them, learning how they worked, the risks they took travelling up to 20 miles offshore in leaky open canoes without so much as a compass to guide them. I learned how they spent days at sea in tiny canoes, sleeping in the bottom of them, risking storms or being swept out to sea. As there canoes have no lights they also run the risk of being mown down by trawlers at night. Many do lose their lives each year, but economic pressures are causing a growing number of young men to turn to fishing. This brings its own problems; the fishery is almost completely unregulated but anecdotal reports suggest this is having a significant impact on stocks of some species.  Robust data is hard to come by, given the unregulated nature of this fishery, but the Senegalese Directorate of Marine Fisheries estimated that in 2004 a little over 6000 such canoes were operating along the coast of Senegal.  The main species caught are small sardinella (Sardinella aurita and S. maderenis) and horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus). In 2008 the fishery off M’bour and nearby Joal Fadiouth was considered over-exploited (source FAO,Fisheries Circular No. 1033, 2008).

Fishing canoe,  or pirogue, being lanched off beach on wooden rollers, M'bour,  Senegal.  Image MBI000628

Our fishing canoe, or pirogue, being lanched off beach on wooden rollers, M’bour, Senegal.

 Now fully laden, our ancient outboard is securely fastened with bailing twine. Note the well balanced ice box perched toward the stern of the canoe.

M'bour, Senegal. Two Senegalese fishermen head out to sea in a small pirogue (traditional wooden canoe).  Image MBI000909.

M’bour, Senegal. Two Senegalese fishermen head out to sea in a small pirogue (traditional wooden canoe).

I spent a day at sea on one of these tiny boats. Simply making it through the surf was quite an acheivement; the boat had no ballast and was so top heavy, due to ourselves and the large box of ice we were carrying, that we appeared in imminet danger of capsizing. Fortunately we shipped quite a lot of water quite quickly during a rather shaky lauching. This few inches of seawater inside our boat at least gave us some stability by providing some ballast, albeit not a recommended way of doing so. Powered by an ancient 15hp outboard engine attached by bailing twine and duck tape, we headed out to sea for about three hours, by which time I estimated we were about fifteen miles offshore. For the first 30 minutes or so we saw a few other boats, but they quickly dispensed in differing directions and we were along. We had set off in a grey haze that quickly enveloped the land and turned the sun in to a nothing more than a lighter glow in the haze. Both sea and sky were otherwise quite featureless.  I watched with growing alarm as the sky changed; growing dark and heavy, and a stiffening breeze spring up.  Maybe two hours out we came upon a similar canoe, drifting aimlessly as their similarly ancient outboard engine had died.  To its crew’s consternation our boat skipper offered not to towed them to back to port but to a point where they ‘had a better chance of being spotted’ by a home-bound canoe.  So for half and hour or so we towed them further out to sea (or at least it seemed that direction to me) before leaving them to anchor on what appeared an equally featureless spot of grey sea as the one where we picked them up.  We never saw them again; I rather hope this indicated that they had indeed been towed ashore.

Our unhappy fishermen drop anchor and start their wait for a passing vessel after we tow them to a ‘better’ location.

At one point Pape, the boat’s owner, asked me which direction I thought M’bour lay.  With no visual clues to guide me I based my guess on the heading I thought we had set off on.  Apparently I was almost 180 degrees out.  I asked Pape how he could tell, with no compass or electronic aids; the wind direction he informed me.  So, I enquired cautiously, does it always blow from the same direction this time of year?  No, he cheerfully informed me, sometimes we get lost.  I rather wished I hadn’t asked.

Eventually we arrived at the fishing grounds.  What exactly identified them as ‘the fishing grounds’ I have no idea.  Hooks were baited with little, frozen prawns from our icebox and handlines set.  A small stove was fired up in the middle of the canoe and sugary tea the colour and consistency of stockholm tar brewed.  A cup was passed around from which we all took small sips; more than would most likely have resulted in irreversible damage to my intestines.  This was supplemented by joints also passed around.  Tea, reefers and small amounts of rice and peanut porridge (gosi) were pretty much all the crew had to survive on apart from whatever they caught.   Around two hours passed, in which time we had caught maybe a dozen fish, mostly sardinella, horse mackerel and a few bigeye grunt (Brachydeuterus auritus).  Barely enough to feed us at sea, let alone provide a wage for all three fishermen.  Around four in the afternoon, by which time the chop on the sea had risen significantly and little whitecaps had started to appear, we finally decided to head back inshore.  Much to my relief, Pape’s sense of direction proved accurate.

The sun was setting when we finally reached M’bour, and there have been few occasions when I’ve been quite so pleased to step on to dry land.  Pape and his crew would probably go to sea again tomorrow, maybe staying out for one or two nights this time.  I thought that night of the meagre catch we returned with after a day at sea, of the broken down canoe we had come across and of the stories Pape had told me of getting caught in a storm and drifting helplessly for three days before sighting land.  Overfishing is a massive problem on the West coast of Africa.  Much of this problem is actually due to poorly regulated fishing by large trawlers from outside Senegal: Russian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and European boats.  It has been estimated that a large trawler will, on one good day, catch as much as fifty pirogues will in a year.  Vessels are licensed by the Senegalese Government who argue that if they don’t sell licenses then neighbouring countries will; stocks may still suffer and Senegal will lose vauable revenue (Grégoire Allix, le Monde/Worldcrunch, 2011). What is a matter of concern about the long term effects of overfishing for us in the West can be a question of survival for some on the coast of Senegal.

M'bour, Senegal. Fifteen miles offshore a Senegalese fishermen hand lines for fish over a sand bank. Image MBI000908.

One of our crew handlines, delicately holding the line waiting patiently for a bite.

Fish salting pans, M'bour, Senegal. Image MBI000609.

Fish salting pans, M’bour, Senegal.

View more of my images of  Senegal and from other regions of the  World here at my Colin Munro Images website.

Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands, South Pacific

Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands, South Pacific

Coconut palms trees and white sand beach and blue sky, Tapuaetai island (one foot island), Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands. Image MBI000566.

Coconut palms trees and white sand beach and blue sky, Tapuaetai island (one foot island), Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands. Image MBI000566.

.Coconut palms trees and white sand beach and blue sky, Tapuaetai island (one foot island), Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands. Image MBI000566. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image or purchase a fine art print.
Aitutaki, Cook Islands, South Pacific.
Position 18° 51? 0? S, 159° 47? 24? W (WGS84).
I wrote recently that bright sunshine and blue skies did not feature in my photography. Okay, i lied! I doesn’t feature that often, but when it comes to South Pacific islands what else can one do? Aitutaki, Cook Islands, must be one of the most idyllic places on earth; sunshine, pristine white beaches, warm clear waters teeming with life, coconut palms and wonderful friendly people. I, like most people who visit I suspect, felt my time there was all too short. I’ve limited this post to a a couple of beach views and pictures of coconut palms (there wil be more). Aitutaki is a coral atoll, the second largest of the Cook Islands (after Roratonga) and also the second most visited. The atoll comprises 22 islands in total; the largest, central island is Arutanga. The remaining islands lie on top of the traingular fringing coral reef that encloses the lagoon. Tapuaetai island (one foot island,) where these images were taken, is located near the southern tip of the fringing reef. it is a small island of sand and coconut palms, less than a kilometre across.
Recently germinated coconut palms trees ( Cocos nucifera) on a white sand beach, Tapuaetai island (one foot island), Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands, South Pacific. Image MBI000904.

Recently germinated coconut palms trees ( Cocos nucifera) on a white sand beach, Tapuaetai island (one foot island), Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands, South Pacific. Image MBI000904.

.Recently germinated coconut palms trees ( Cocos nucifera) on a white sand beach, Tapuaetai island (one foot island), Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands, South Pacific. Image MBI000904. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image or purchase a fine art print.
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae (palm family). It is found around the tropics. The cocnut seed is buoyant and may be distributed widely by ocean currents. Coconut palms flourish in sandy soils and are tolerant of high salt levels. They grow fastes where mean annual temperates are around 80 degree F (27 degrees C).
Coral platform, Tapuaetai island (one foot island), Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands, South Pacific. Image MBI000905.

Coral platform, Tapuaetai island (one foot island), Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands, South Pacific. Image MBI000905.

. Coral platform, Tapuaetai island (one foot island), Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands, South Pacific. Image MBI000905. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image or purchase a fine art print.
Coconut palms trees and white sand beach and blue sky, Tapuaetai island (one foot island), Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands. Image MBI000906.

Coconut palms trees and white sand beach and blue sky, Tapuaetai island (one foot island), Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands. Image MBI000906.

Coconut palms trees and white sand beach and blue sky, Tapuaetai island (one foot island), Aitutaki atoll, Cook Islands. Image MBI000906. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image or purchase a fine art print.

Recently germinated coconut ( Cocos nucifera) on a white sand beach. Image MBI000907.

Recently germinated coconut ( Cocos nucifera) on a white sand beach. Image MBI000907.

Recently germinated coconut ( Cocos nucifera) on a white sand beach. Image MBI000907. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image or purchase a fine art print.