Thornybush Game Reserve Executive talks about “Suburbanites on Safari”

Here is what Nic Griffin, Chief Executive of The Thornybush Game Lodge Collection, had to say after reviewing Alex Shaland’s new book “Suburbanites on Safari”

“Alex’s book is a fascinating intro to Safari choice criteria, its also easy light reading and simplistic in its aim to assist those that may travel often, but not au fait with Safari lingo. It adequately gives a heads up on what needs to be considered in an almost entertaining way.” –Nic Griffin, Chief Executive, The Thornybush Luxury Game Lodge Collection.

Click on the image below to see what this book is all about:

Short Description from the back cover:

Four friends, all big-city dwellers, embark on their first African safari. An internationally published travel writer and her husband, an award-winning travel photographer, are joined by their life-long friends on a journey to South Africa and Zimbabwe. Previously, their exploration of over 60 countries took them to big cities and historical monuments around the globe. But this trip is different.

Traveling around Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls, they crisscross the bush and meet African wildlife in its natural habitat. Which predators, grass eaters, branch nibblers, and birds of prey did they find? What did the animals do in the presence of people? How did it feel to be only a few feet away from a pride of lions devouring their kill, a herd of suspicious elephants, an intimidating Cape buffalo, or an unpredictable rhinoceros?

In an easy to read, conversational style, the author, Alex Shaland, delivers a fair mix of wildlife photography, animal and bird factual data, and practical information. Shaland shares his experiences as a first-time safari explorer and sprinkles the narrative with a good dose of humor and personal stories.

If a trip to Africa is in your plans, this entertaining and informative book, jam-packed with photos of animals and birds, will help you make the first step on the way to your dream. If you are interested in wildlife, nature, and animal protection, the story will enrich your knowledge of the animal kingdom. At the very least, it is just fun to read.

Review of Suburbanites on Safari by Marcia Polevoi

giraffe against a blue sky and book name

After reading my recently released book, Suburbanites on Safari: Chasing Lions and Giraffes in South Africa and Zimbabwe, Marcia Polevoi wrote a wonderful and insightful review that follows.

“I have always wanted to go to Africa to see all the wildlife. However, we are of an age that now prevents us from going on a Safari. But reading Alex’s book took me right there and I met lions, and elephants and big cats and more. I felt like I was right there riding in the jeep and seeing the animals up close. Each chapter was about a particular animal and Alex gave detailed and informative information about each one. He also writes in an very humorous way and had me chuckling all through the book. Anyone thinking about going on Safari should read this book, and even, like me, you cannot get there, this gives you a real feeling for being there. –Marcia Plevoi, Beachwood, Ohio.

Click on the book image below to learn more about “Suburbanites on Safari”

Barbara Miller’s Review of Suburbanites on Safari

Book: “Suburbanites on Safari” by Alex Shaland,

Publisher: GTA Books

“Are you ready for a wildlife adventure in southern Africa? Not sure where to start? What a wonderful travel guide “Suburbanites on Safari” is! Indispensable. Incredible photography and written in an engaging manner. Even if you’re not going on safari and want to look through a window (safely from your armchair) into the amazing animal world of lions, giraffes etc, this book will have you riveted. Ever wonder why the king of the jungle will let you get up close and personal in a car without attacking you? Or will they pounce at half a chance? Read this book and find out.”

Barbara Miller, author of  5 books: “William Cooper, Gentle Warrior: Standing Up for Australian Aborigines and Persecuted Jews,” “The European Quest to Find Terra Australis Incognita: Quiros, Torres and Janszoon,” “White Woman Black Heart: Journey Home to Old Mapoon, a Memoir,” “ The Dying Days of Segregation in Australia: Case Study Yarrabah,” and “If I Survive: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 100-year-old Lena Goldstein’s Miracle Story.”

Click the book image below to find out more about Alex Shaland’s book “Suburbanites on Safari”

Medical Requirements for Travelers to Brazil, Continued

If you missed Part one of this post click here Part One

When you make an appointment at your medical system’s Travel Clinic before your trip to Brazil, they always ask you when and what country are you going.

Before you come, they prepare the packet for you with all the info and they look for guidelines of what is required. The doctor looks for recommendations issued by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention:  

Check This Out (Click this link to see for yourself)

It is highly advisable to go, if possible, to a facility that uses the same system where your doctors are and where your records stored. Then, the system, such as for example EPIC, will show the information that you might not remember. Travel Clinics “live” within Infectious Diseases Departments. So, if you do not see travel clinic listed as a separate entity, call Infectious Diseases.

However, you are right: it is good to be prepared. They might not know that you are not up-to-date on Tetanus for example but you do need it.

First priority

  1. Tetanus
  2. Yellow fever
  3. Hepatitis A
  4. Prescriptions for Malarone (if you are going to the jungle area) and for a broad action antibiotic.

Suggested Reading

Celebrating a Milestone Anniversary inside the Enchanted Fig Tree of Australia

Fig Tree Restaurant
Enchanted Fig Tree Restaurant: One of the most unusual and one of the very best restaurants we ever dined in.

Alex and I have traveled to nearly 70 countries. We celebrated our birthdays and anniversaries in places like a street corner café on Easter Island, tiny seafood restaurant in Cochi, Kerala,  a second century BC villa –turned Renaissance palace-turned art studio in Rome; opera singers’ favorite tavern in Palermo near the famed Teatro Massimo, just to name a few. But we had the most unique experience this year on March 5th, when our new friend Steve Lane, Kangaroo Island’s Sea Dragon Lodge owner and our exceptional guide, took us to the remote Snellings Beach on the north coast. As a present on our milestone wedding anniversary, Steve invited us for a luncheon inside a… tree.

The brain-child of two extraordinary chefs Rachel Hannaford and Sasha Sachs, this pop-up restaurant is called (how else?) “The Enchanted Fig Tree” and is indeed located inside a 150-year-old fig tree on the Hannaford family’s property. Between the mighty tree roots and under its enormous canopy, there are five distinctive large spaces, called “rooms” by the owners. The lucky ones to get reservations, about 30-to- 40 people, sit in these “rooms” by elegantly set tables adorned with white table clothes and candles. Each table is placed in a nook of a sort that looks and feels like a private party room among the leaves and boughs of that tree. Thanks to our friend, on March 5th we were the ones “chosen by the tree” in a room for three people. Outside the tree, the enchanted world inside is not visible: all is covered by a great canopy. We felt we entered the Shakespearean Arden forest.

Our meal was a tasting menu based on the best of island produce. It happened to be nothing short of a marvelous symphony composed of taste sensations, textures, shapes, and colors.  The appetizers –   Carpaccio of local fish with homemade totopos and liver parfait with agrodolce and paper thin sourdough wafers, also homemade – were out of this world. As an entrée, understood in Australia as a first course or a starter, I chose Mexican-inspired pozole made of white chicken broth with lime, avocado, chili and corn, which was excellent. Alex had wild mushroom galette:  Sasha Sachs’s secret recipe puff pastry with local mushrooms on a watercress salad with parsnip puree. It seemed to evaporate from his plate, even before I wanted to ask for a taste. Instead of the main dish, we were treated to a real banquet, a Greek themed variations of taste. Local lamb with sofrito dolma was followed by a fresh grilled local fish with marjoram and vegetables. All was accompanied by Sasha’s wonderful taramasalata and quinoa salad with Kangaroo Island’s sheep cheese, pureed with roasted fennel. The knock-out crescendo of this concerto was a divine desert: raw sugar meringue with figs from the tree inside of which we were eating!

After the meal, we met the owners, Rachel and Sasha, to express our feelings of owe and admiration. When I told them that they are amazing food artists, these talented chefs, two extraordinarily women, seemed surprised. They just do what they love to do: creating an unforgettable experience and thus enriching lives of everyone they host in their magic forest.

Useful links:

  1. The Enchanted Fig Tree Restaurant:
  2. The story behind the enchanted tree:
  3. Pre-requisite: stay in the Sea Dragon Lodge!
Fig Tree restaurant entrance
Entering this fairy-tale place is like getting inside the Shakespearean magic forest
Steve Lane, Irene Shaland, and Alex Shaland at Fig Tree Restaurant
Thanks to Steve, we had one of the most memorable celebrations!
Irene and Alex Shaland at Fig Tree Restaurant, Kangaroo Island, Australia
Irene and Alex Shaland celebrate their anniversary inside the 150-year-old fig tree
Author Irene Shaland and fig tree restaurant owners
Irene with two extraordinary chefs, restaurant owners, Rachel Hannaford and Sasha Sachs
Home-made appetizers served inside the Fig Tree
Appetizers from the Fig Tree: Carpaccio of local fish with homemade totopos and liver parfait and with agrodolce and paper thin sourdough wafers
Appetizer taramasalata
Sasha Sachs’s taramasalata pureed with roasted fennel
Divine dessert of raw sugar meringue with figs
The knock-out crescendo of this food concerto: a divine dessert made of the raw sugar meringue with figs from the tree inside of which we were eating!
Fig Tree Restaurant owner Sasha Sachs serves salad
Sasha Sachs is serving her quinoa salad with Kangaroo Island’s sheep cheese

Chasing the Elusive Northern Lights in Iceland

northern lights in iceland
Northern lights, Iceland

by Alex Shaland

All visitors to Iceland fall into two distinctive categories: those who saw the northern lights and those who did not. When Irene set her trip target on Iceland, she was determined to place herself, our daughter, and I squarely in the first category. The problem was that unlike the predictable crowds at JFK on the way to Iceland, the famous northern lights of Iceland are highly unpredictable. However, the best time to see them is from November through December.  So mid-November looked pretty good. Oh, and  it also happens to be one of the coldest months of the year.

In addition to the time of the year, there are several other components essential for seeing the northern lights. First, the surroundings have to be as dark as possible, meaning you have to be far away from Reykjavik, or other areas where humans light the skies with their electric bulbs. Next, the weather has to be just right: clear skies and a cold night are the best combination. Your viewing location is also important: on the same night, one lucky group of tourists might be rewarded for freezing in the open for hours with a fantastic light show, but another unlucky bunch just a two-hour drive away will be turning into icicles for nothing.

Speaking of luck, it increases substantially if you stay in Iceland for at least a week and have all or most nights available to chase the northern lights. As it happens, northern lights have a nasty habit of showing up for a day or two and taking a few days off to rest. The good news is that once you book a Northern Lights excursion through one of the bus companies, they will keep taking you on the northern lights chase until you see the lights, or decide to quit and go home.  But even then, the tickets are good for two years – come back to Iceland and hop on board to continue your quest.

This generosity of the Gray Line Iceland tour company turned out to be our lucky number. After driving from one observation point to another for hours, we returned to our Hotel Borg after 2 AM with only three nighttime photos in my camera: the moon, a boat, and a lighthouse. However, after we boarded the Gray Line Iceland tour bus the following night, Nature reworded our persistence with one of the most spectacular phenomena.

Yeah, yeah, we all saw those highly Photoshopped multi-colored northern light images. What we saw however, were mostly whitish patterns that appeared, disappeared, and morphed into new shapes on the background of the black sky. Digital camera sensors painted those fantastic patterns green.  Out of the three necessary night photography components (a good tripod, a remote shutter release, and knowing what you are doing), I possessed only the first one – the tripod. The shutter release cable I bought a couple of days before the trip did not fit my camera, even though it was “designed” for my model by those creative engineers. My non-existent night photography skills acquired on the brightly lit squares of European capitals at night were as useless as the cable that I tried to exchange the night before the trip. Another factor that did not help was our location: we observed the northern lights over the ocean, and the water vapors made the air less clear. So when you look at the photos, just keep in mind that the northern lights are indeed spectacular!

photo of the moon
First night – the moon was spectacular.
boat at night
Boat on the beach at night – first night.
lit sky
First night – not the view we expected.
northern lights in Iceland
Second night – finally, after an hour of waiting, the northern lights started forming in the sky.
northern lights in iceland
The lights appeared to the right of us.
northern lights
Further to the right – a new pattern over the houses.
Aurora Borealis
They started slowly changing shape.
Aurora Borealis or northern lights
The lights on the left, over the ocean, became brighter.
Iceland northern light
Meanwhile, the pattern over the houses morphed into a horseshoe shape.
vertical pattern of northern lights in Iceland
On the left, the lights formed a column shooting straight up.
horseshoe shape of northern lights
The horseshoe over the houses started straightening up.
Beautiful norhtern lights
And here is the grand finale!

This recemmended book includes chapters on Iceland history, features, Insights, photo features, places, travel tips, transportation , accommodations, and activities.

Oslo Fjord Cruise

Join us on a short Oslo Fjords cruise starting at the Oslo City Hall, leisurely floating by the Akershus Fortress and Castle, and enjoying the best view of the marvel of modern Norwegian architecture, the Opera House. Watch Navy ships, submarines, cruise liners, commercial vessels, and pleasure boats of all kinds and sizes moored along the shores. After leaving Oslo city limits, admire pastel colors of Norwegian fjords, neat summer cottages with matching bathhouses, sailboats, motor boats, and rowboats of all sizes and style. All aboard!