Pangaea is on its way to Greenland!

So far we've experienced calm seas and beautiful weather. Whales and seals have been spotted jumping around the boat and everything on Pangaea is running perfectly. Today we sail around a fiord at Isafjördur, on the northeast coast of Iceland, surrounded by the stunning scenery of green hills, snowy peaks and hot springs.

Peru Project – Day 9

Young Explorers Blog – Day 9

The first golden sunrays made our 6am wake-up a pleasure. After a quick breakfast, we went to watch hummingbirds bath under the waterfall of a nearby lake. Our guide Antero introduced us to the park rangers and summarized the origins of the Chaparri Reserve, which was started and run by the photographer Heinz Plenge. We then took a walk around the reserve, passing through many different types of plants. Antero also explained how they managed to photograph the first spectacled bears with the collaboration of the Frankfurt Zoological Society. Halfway through the day we stopped at a “snake exhibition” where they show people different kinds of snake species. Snakes aren’t kept for long there, the park rangers have a “catch & release” system to help people get in touch with snakes and change the wrong concept of snakes being a dangerous animal.

We were impressed by the intelligence and skills of spectacled bears. They climbed trees to reach fruits and managed to walk really fast through the rocks in the dry forest. Andrea collected some samples for a future research in the University.

As soon as we went down the hill, we had snack and started working right away. Our task was to build a fence around Chaparri’s plant garden. The first step was to carry cane from a hill to the garden. Then we had to cut it in 1.5 meters pieces to fix them all in the fence. Joel, one of the park rangers, taught us this building technique, so we were able to finish the task around 6 in the afternoon.

After five sweaty days, we all deserved a cold refreshing shower. Also Alberto was waiting for us with some pasta for dinner. Before sleeping, our guides showed us a movie about Chaparri and Heinz Plenge’s history. To end this productive day, we laid down on the top of our cars to watch the most beautiful night sky.

Peru Project – Day 8

Young Explorers Blog – Day 8

Our day started with a beach cleanup. We packed up all our things and left to clean Punta Luna beach in honor to Fernando Paraud †. Trying our best to avoid the enormous amount of jellyfish on the shore, we started to walk along the beach. Punta Luna is in the middle of nowhere, thus we were amazed by the massive quantity of plastic bottles, toothbrushes, lamps, shoes, fishing nets, ropes and cans we found. The rest of the team brought the cars to carry the 980 liters of trash we collected in just a few kms of this isolated beach.

We then got ready to continue our journey. Alberto Lavarello (Andreas father) taught us about Peru’s geography and ancient cultures and we headed to Chiclayo passing through many different Sechura desert’s landscapes. On our way we were lucky to see a juvenile condor crossing the road. Four hours later we were parking at the “Tumbas Reales de Sipan” museum where we learned more about the Mochica culture.

After a quick stop for gas refill and we left Chiclayo in direction to Chaparri Reserve.

Peru Project – Day 7

Young Explorers Blog – Day 7

After a night squeezed on the shelter’s floor, we awoke at 5 am to quickly pack and search for condors, in a V-shaped dry valley along the Illescas peninsula. Despite our 3-hour walk through the mountains, we only spotted a few condors in the far distance. Nevertheless, navigating our way to the next camp in the largest Peruvian desert under a scorching sun was an unforgettable experience. After a quick snack, we arrived at the sea lion “party spot,” a desolate, windy beach, where sea lions rest in packs. On our way to our next campsite, our expedition almost came to an end as our vehicle nearly tipped on its side as we came down a sand dune. However, the trip was well worth the journey; it allowed us to reach a beautiful and completely isolated beach. To our surprise, we found a nice wooden house overlooking this amazing area, which used to belong to a businessman and surfer, Fernando Paraud † (1969-2012). We settled in for the night and although there wasn’t enough water for us to shower, we all could sleep in proper (but full of sand) beds.

Peru Project – Day 6

Young Explorers Blog – Day 6

Since we didn’t see any whales yesterday, we felt luck was on our side when we woke up to the magnificent sound of humpbacks jumping amongst the calmness of the Pacific. After a nice conversation with passionate conservationist and researcher, Sebastian Silva, we boarded his boat and learned how to photo identify whales from their caudal fins. Our prayers were definitely heard as sea lions, dolphins, and green turtles also graced us with their presence.

On the way back, we took a road through the Peruvian dessert, and passed by the first eolic energy park in the country. We reached Rosemary’s pet shelter “Asociación Humanitaria San Francisco de Asís” in Colan, where various pet species are saved on a daily basis, using a very small income, thanks to the work of international and local volunteers. 

Peru Project – Day 5

Young Explorers Blog – Day 5

Today´s first activity was whale watching. We headed to the “Órganos” dock to board a boat where we spent the whole morning trying to find some whales. We could see sea lions, a group of dolphins and various bird´s species. To our surprise not a single whale appeared in the ocean. After sailing the whole morning, we had a nice barbecue together while preparing for the next activity: swimming with green wild turtles!

These gorgeous reptiles were found at “El Ñuro” dock, fortunately they were both, curious and friendly so we could look at them closely. These turtles are one of the five species you can find in the Peruvian coasts.

The day ended with a refreshing walk by the sea shore from “El Ñuro” to “Cabo blanco”, where the rest of the team was waiting for us. We took advantage of the marvelous landscape, which included the sunset and a full bright moon in the sky, to make a joyful photo-shoot.

Peru Project – Day 4

Young Explorers Blog – Day 4 

The third day of our amazing trip started off with finding a baby bat in Dima’s flip flop. We quickly put down the tents and packed everything on the cars to continue our journey. We wanted to make a quick stop in Cancas town to see “fragatas” birds that normally reproduce in the mangroves, but at the moment they were in town living with local people. While the photographers were busy at their job, we met a joyful group of local kids who seemed very interested to know about the reason for our visit. This gave us the chance to spread the Pangaea message. In returning to our route, we had the chance to meet the Albatros media team, an enthusiastic group of whale conservationists. Back at the hotel, everyone went for a swim in the refreshing Pacific Ocean, which left us ready for bed.

Young Explorers on the go again

Peruvian Young Explorer Andrea Lavarello is wanting to show the world through the Young Explorers the natural wonders of Peru and the importance of conservation.

Starting in the midle of July a group of 10 youths will travel the northern corridor birding route stopping at schools, nature reserves, NGO's and indigenous communities amongst others.

Andrea is supported by many local groups and Pangaea.

Read the full article here

YEPS save the rhinos

Roughly every 11hours in South Africa, a rhino is poached for their horn. In 2012, 668 rhinos were illegally killed and in 2013 alone, the figure is already on 232. At this rate it is predicted that approximately 900 will be poached by the end of the year. Rhino poaching in South Africa has been declared a war. Just recently a news article reported that a political party has gone on to say that as a country South Africa should declare rhino poaching “a national disaster.” On Tuesday April 16th, Mike, Rick, Lani and myself, met up with Mark Boucher, SAB representatives and other guests to get involved in efforts to save our precious rhinos.

Retired South African cricketer, Mark Boucher joined forces with South African Brewery (SAB) to create the Non-Profit Company (NPC) called “Our Rhinos In Safe Hands.” The NPC aims to raise enough funds to register every South African rhino on a DNA database. Collecting the DNA will assist law enforcements in tracking down poachers and syndicates and allow cases against the criminals to be successfully conclusive. It would be our privilege to join and assist the process of collecting three rhinos DNA on a selected reserve outside Cape Town over the next day.

As the sun slid below the rolling hills we stood in awe of a herd of elephant moving in the valley below us. It was magnificent to be out in such a unique environment and as we watched three Cape white lions traverse a mountain in the distance we discussed the urgency to really get involved and do something about the fact that one of Africa's Big 5 animals faces a serious threat.

Before dinner we were briefed by the game rangers and vet concerning the process of safely darting and collecting DNA samples of an animal that weighs close to 2tons! Our jobs were allocated. These included recording readings, covering the rhinos eyes, inserting the thermometer, drilling the horn to insert the microchip, collecting the ear clippings, pulling a hair follicle from the tail, monitor breathing and collecting blood. We watched the stars dance across the African sky before heading to bed filled with excitement for the day ahead.

It was an early start the next day and as the sun rose we stood over looking three rhino enjoy their breakfast – what a beautiful sight. Sunrise also signalled that the excitement for the day would begin. Murray Stokoe, the vet, identified the first rhino from the chopper and darted it with 0.4ml of the anesthetizing drug, M99. Not long after it had been darted the rhino began to stumble and eventually collapsed. Murray was there right away to make sure the rhino was fine and to inject a second drug to stabilize its breathing.

Once we got the “okay” we rushed towards the fallen rhino and began working. The process was efficient and professional. The rhinos safety was always prioritised and each step was calmly explained by the game rangers as we worked. Everyone completed their task with precision and care and as we shuffled around this huge creature it was sad to see how vulnerable they were. Majestic strength and unstoppable power are what I think of when I think of a rhino, yet with just one dart of a concentrated liquid it lay there motionless and undignified. This just shockingly proved what an unfair advantage we as humans have over animals.

After snapping a few pictures we made our way back to the safety of the vehicles and the “wake-up drug” was injected. Within minutes the rhino lifted to its feet and was off as if nothing had happened. As I watched this enormous, gallant animal move away and disappear into the colours of the bush, the idea that anyone could possibly hurt them or the thought that my children may never see a rhino broke my heart.
Rhino horn is made up a protein called keratin, the same substance that our nails are made of. Although not scientifically proven, it is believed that rhino horn contains medical value and is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine for the treatment of varying illnesses. In 2009 a ludicrous statement was made by the president of Vietnam claiming that rhino horn cures cancer and demand for rhino horn escalated. Trading rhino horn became illegal in South Africa in 1970 however the impeccably organised poaching syndicates have continued to sell rhino horn on the black market.

By midday we had completed our three rhinos and enjoyed a beautiful sighting of two lionesses – what an incredible morning, what an incredible experience! Physically getting our hands dirty and taking responsibility for these animals has undoubtedly given us a personal connection to the cause and intensified our urge to do something to protect them. We will continue to raise awareness about rhino poaching in South Africa and we will do what we can to raise funds for the cause. This is a war that we will not lose.

Mike is in a constant state of travel and adventure , so keep up to date on all his expeditions !