Author Archives: Paul Buxton

Wildebeest migration in the Western Serengeti

Western Serengeti: Gnu Day Rising

Safari lodges try to portray themselves as oases of calm amid all the intense activity of a safari. However, it is a little difficult to chill when the room service book contains information on the following:

  • What to do when baboons approach you.
  • What to do in the event of a scorpion sting.
  • How to call up your armed guard to escort you to the restaurant.
  • Information on the mating rituals of scorpions.
  • How to catch tsetse flies and identify them using your binoculars.
  • What to do if a snake enters the room. (You will be relieved to know that the hotel will switch rooms for you if they cannot find the snake).

No mention of lions, leopards, or cheetahs. Maybe the hotel has made its point after mentioning the snakes. Its a jungle out there. Well, a grassland. Thank you Mbalageti Serengeti Lodge for making the stay seem scarier than going for a pee out in the park!

The lodges, of course, have plenty of the deadliest animals on the planet. People. In all their miserable glory. Bitching about the food, the service, the rooms, color of the sunset. I sometimes wonder why some people bother leaving their houses. … Read more

Serengeti sunrise

Eastern Serengeti: Pay Your Respects To The Vultures

Pay your respects to the vultures
For they are your future
-Coil, Amethyst Deceivers

Everyone in the Serengeti wants to see a kill. This is somewhat ironic given that most meat-eating humans prefer not to know how their food lived and died before being served up in hygienic packaging. But “Did you see a kill?” was a constant refrain on the trip from our fellow in-humans.

In these vast plains of teeming wildlife, the odds seemed pretty good. There are plenty of meat eating cats and dogs. Plenty of herbivores provide the meat. However, the Serengeti is surprisingly clean of carcasses. It’s rare to see a rotting corpse, or a pile of cleaned off bones, never mind a kill close up. The reason for the apparent cleanliness? Vultures! Watch the vultures and you see our future. A rabble of squawking beasts polishing off the leftovers of the apex killers. Follow the vultures and find the dead. … Read more

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater: Lost Land of the Horned Beasts

The animals always grab the headlines when it comes to blogs about Tanzania. But let’s hear it for the astonishing landscape too! The jewel in the crown of Tanzania’s topography is the vast crater known as Ngorongoro. The 100 square mile crater formed when the volcano erupted and collapsed in on itself. The crater floor is at 5900 feet above sea level, surrounded by high walls that help protect the dense wildlife population. The palpable sense of otherworldliness or ‘out of time-ness’ was tangible. … Read more

Elephants in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

On Safari in Tanzania: Tarangire

‘The horror! The horror!’

Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision, –he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath–
‘The horror! The horror!’

(Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness)

Yep, that was me as we walked through the door of the Ilboru Lodge in Arusha, Tanzania and all my fears (and snobbery) about package tours smacked me on the nose. Before us was an assorted bunch of sun-blasted, blobby tourists lying on sun loungers sipping cocktails, or worse, donning grass skirts and giddily wobbling to warbling local riddims. Local fellas were doing cheesy acrobatic routines while asking for tips. One minute in and I was feeling queasy. I put it down to the thirty hours of flying and sloped off to the room post-haste.

A Year Earlier

“So, I want to take you kids on the holiday of a lifetime. I will pick up the tab.”

So began the conversations with Laura’s mother that eventually landed us along with her sister Kelsey in Tanzania in June 2018. Mama unexpectedly came into … Read more

Arborek Island Pulau Arborek, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Arborek: As Far as it Gets from Bali

I doubt there is a more relaxed tropical island in the world than Arborek, a tiny pancake-flat beauty fringed with palms and surrounded by stunning azure blue waters. Metaphorically and physically speaking, this is as far away from Bali as you can get in Indonesia. No cars, no motorbikes, no tacky drunk Australians, no five star resorts, and no erupting volcanoes. My family in the UK were slightly panicked since Gunung Agung on Bali erupted while we were in Indonesia. We were more than 1000 miles away and blissfully unaware of flying lava and freaking out family!

Arborek is less visited than the Raja Ampat islands closer to Waisai. Many tourists give it a miss because of the relative expense of the boat ride from Gam, Waigeo, or Kri. At most they take a day trip. We think most tourists are making a big mistake! This island is an absolute must-see.… Read more

Raja Ampat - Dive Resort or Homestay?

Raja Ampat – Dive Resort or Homestay?

You have three travel options to choose from when thinking about a trip to Raja Ampat in Papua, Indonesia. The high-end choices are typically liveaboards or deluxe dive resorts. The mid-range would put you in a very comfortable dive resort. The cheapest option is one of the hundred-plus rustic homestays dotted all over the archipelago. We opted for 6 days in the fantastic mid-range Biodiversity Eco Dive Resort and 8 days in 3 different homestays across the archipelago.

If you dive or want to learn to dive, plus you want more certainty over your trip, and you can afford it, then there is no better experience than checking into one of the dive resorts. There will be a high degree of comfort and excellent food. The diving trips will be run by trustworthy and dependable operators. Pre-trip communication, whilst not exactly fast, will be easy and your trip is likely to go as planned.

If you have plenty of time and are short on cash, then stay in homestays. If you wish to dive you can drop into Biodiversity and see if they can take you (albeit at a high price). Otherwise, you can chance it with one of the … Read more

Sunset at Tapto Lakes

Back in the North Cascades: Whatcom Pass and Copper Ridge Backpack

Come Home, Get Back on the Trail

I am always traveling. That is what restless, intelligent, and curious people do. When I tell people ‘I have spent the last year and a half traveling’ I feel a little disingenuous. Why? Because, when I am at home I am always looking for a new adventure. I always want to hit the road when I am not working. In essence, I feel like we are always traveling.

We are eternally thankful that when we left London we decided to live in Washington State. It really is one of the most gorgeous places on Earth and curiously under-traveled. This is a shame. There is so much to do here. So, we will be your gateway. We will continue blogging about our travels at home and, hopefully, persuade a few more to check out this magnificent corner of the world.

First up, our lovely 5-day backpack to Whatcom Pass, Tapto Lakes, and Copper Ridge in the North Cascades National Park in late August. I won’t bore you with the tiny details. There are plenty of excellent trail guides to the region. But, I will try my damnedest to inspire you to go!

Our Story:

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Bahia Tomini in the Togean Islands

The Last Stop: Malenge and Bolilanga

The Last Post

This is the last post recording our travels on our 2015 – 2016 Asian odyssey. I can be thankful that I can type these last lines staring out of our Seattle apartment on a clear sunny day with views of the magnificent Mount Rainier. But, with the maelstrom of a miserable election campaign washing over us I pine for those quieter and simpler times.

But, hey, winter’s coming and you are looking for a beautiful tropical place to sit back, get some rays, and unwind. Well, I have two wonderful places for you to contemplate. Jeez, even looking at these photos is chilling my ass the f#*@k out!

May I introduce the fantastic and mostly unspoiled islands of Malenge and Bolilanga in the Sulawesi region of Indonesia. If you are looking for stunning coral, astonishing marine life, soft white sand, tasty but simple food, and zero connectivity then this is the place for you. The islands are a pain in the ass to get to (for now). But, that’s why they are unspoiled.… Read more

Snorkeling in the Togean Islands

Looking Into the Abyss: Getting Over a Fear of Water

A contrarian’s guide to snorkeling and diving when you are scared of the deep

Just over a year ago, I refused to jump into the deep end of my local swimming pool despite the presence of three lifeguards. Just six months ago, I was deeply apprehensive about swimming over a coral drop off despite wearing a life vest. So, how did I fall in love with the ocean and end up scuba diving in the notorious currents of Komodo?

I am here to tell you that if I can learn to swim, snorkel and dive, then anyone can. Like many things in life, motivation and persistence are required. Oh, and it helps to be on a tropical beach with crystal-clear water and a fabulous coral reef.

Read on to find out how I went from being scared of deep water to plunging into the depths, and why you can and should too.

Why didn’t I learn to swim?

I have plenty of reasons (read: excuses) why I steadfastly avoided learning to swim. My school didn’t have a swimming pool or dedicated swimming program. When my dad took my brother and sister swimming on Saturdays, I played soccer. At college, swimming … Read more

Boat at the jetty at Poya Lisa resort

Poya Lisa: Cats, Coral and Birdwatching in the Togean Islands

Poya Lisa is a must-stay destination in the Togeans. The resort is on a tiny island in a small bay off Batudaka island in the southwest part of the archipelago. As is the case throughout the Togean Islands, the term “resort” doesn’t denote a five-star luxury experience. Rather, it’s a set of basic beach bungalows in a magnificent setting. Like all the resorts in the region, accommodation is full board, dining is at communal tables, the hosts arrange great snorkeling trips, and there is a pleasant stretch of soft white sand. Divers can arrange submersible activities with Bomba Divers just across the water.

To get there from Una Una, we took the thrice weekly public boat to Wakai, then transferred to the convenient express boat, the Hercules, which runs a daily shuttle Ampana-Wakai-Ampana. The captain will make the short detour to Poya Lisa on request.

Snorkeling at Sunset

Clear Togean seas.
Sunset snorkel trip.

We dived straight into the action soon after we arrived. The house reef is nothing special but the resort runs free late afternoon boat trips out to nearby reefs. We jumped into an outrigger, grabbed a life vest for Buxton, and headed out to Stefan Reef. The reef was … Read more