In Wicklow: Falconry Experience with Falconry Ireland

So I love birds, they are fascinating and beautiful and the more knowledge I can gain about them, the better. I asked for a falconry experience for christmas. Falconry Ireland is where I decided to go. You can often find some great deals on GrouponPhoebeGill150716294How to get there: The easiest way to get there is putting the coordinates 52.801529,-6.255436 into a sat nav. The building is down an unmarked dirt road, off a number of unnamed roads. So definitely use the coordinates as it will get you there directly. 
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I went on the falconry experience for one but you are not alone, there is a large group of you. Whats included is a briefing on the hawks and the day, then a hawk walk, a falcon show and finishes with a showcase of the other birds that live on the property. PhoebeGill150716126First up the Hawk Walk. This is where we walked up to a field and went into a patch of trees and saw the hawks fly. We all got a glove and our guide, Jim, put a small amount of meat onto the glove and Vinny the hawk flew to us. I liked Vinny a lot. He also liked my Langy bag! Also it started to lash rain when we were out there which is why Vinny looks wet. PhoebeGill150716059

Next up the Falcon Show, this is where the guide and owner, Darragh Brennan, showcased the beautiful Lanner Falcon. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side and we only got to see one dive but you could tell that they are incredible hunters! We then got to hold a lanner falcon and they are just stunning up close.PhoebeGill150716161

Lastly was the showcase of the other birds that live on the land. There are lots of owls, it was great to hear information of where they come from, how they hunt, their species quirks and differences. It was really fascinating.
PhoebeGill150716214Hedwig!! There was also a kite that flew around the property, it’s amazing seeing these birds swoop and catch food in the air. How some of them close their eyes when they eat, how inquisitive some species are. It’s great to get so up close with these birds. PhoebeGill150716275I think they had four species of Owls on the property. Eurasian Eagle Owl, Snowy Owl, Burrowing Owl and Barn Owl. All beautiful creatures. PhoebeGill150716184 You can tell the people who work here love and are dedicated to their birds. They are open on Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:15 and are not open to the public because the birds are flown everyday for exercise and natural prey feeding.

Take Note:

  1. The Hawks do not peck or preen but they may land on your head, so maybe bring a hat. It also makes for great photos!
  2. Look like you are interested and Jim will put meat on your glove. People were giving me daggers because I stepped forward, to have Vinny fly to me, many times.
  3. If you get too close to the birds aviaries, they hiss at you, that is their safe space so keep that in mind when you stick a camera through the mesh, they may also bite.
  4. Bring waterproof shoes if it has been raining. The tour is 2 hours and you are walking through a field.
  5. Park your car to the left of the house by the field, don’t park to the right by the wall, a huge tractor came through with hay and couldn’t get pass.

I definitely recommend this experience, you learn a lot, they are incredible birds and it’s wonderful to see them in the open and flying. I really think is a great present to give someone interested in birds of prey. Remember to check out Groupon and get vouchers for you and a friend! Have you had a falconry experience?

Happy Travels!

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In Reykjavik: Puffin Watching with Special Tours

Before I left for Iceland I wanted to do a tour of some kind that wasn’t too long but also was a great experience. Now I have written before how I love boats! So I instantly wanted to see what kind of boat tours I could do. There are loads of tour companies that offer similar tours and experiences so it can be tough to choose just one. I decided to go Puffin Watching with Special Tours.  PhoebeGill150814225I have wanted to see puffins for years and years! They are such lovely birds. The boat docks at Reykjavik Old Harbour which is where you will find the Special Tours booth where you check in. The tour takes about an hour and costs 5700kr (€48). Take Note: This tour runs from the 1st of May to the 20th of August.PhoebeGill150814116The species that are on the island are Atlantic Puffin. Puffins come to land for the breeding season. During the summer months Iceland has around 60% of the population of puffins on it’s coasts.  PhoebeGill150814424Puffins are very fast, they beat their wings up to 400 times a minute. Capturing these speedy birds is quite a challenge. Along with the waves getting pictures of these birds is pretty hard to do.   PhoebeGill150814462These waters can get a little choppy so definitely take a look at the weather and the sea the day of your tour. Our trip was really good on the way out but it started to rain and because we were going against the current the waves crash over the boat so you will get soaked.

Tips: 

  1. Bring waterproof clothing. It can get very wet, I wore jeans and they were drenched.
  2. Don’t eat right before you go. It can get choppy, although the boat ride isn’t long its never nice to feel sick on a boat. Also look at the horizon if you are feeling sick.
  3. Bring a long lens. I used an 80-400 mm lens and I feel like I was still too far away. Puffins fly away from the boat very quickly so it can be tricky with a standard lens.

I definitely recommend this tour. It’s amazing watching these birds, learning about their behaviour and habits. So if you have a spare hour and €34 euro I definitely suggest you go puffin watching!

Happy Travels!

In Ireland: Dublin Horse Show 2015

The RDS building is best know for concerts, convention days, exams and talks but there is another feature to this location which I love. There is a load of stables at the back of the building. These stables house magnificent creatures during five days of equestrian madness. I have been going to the Dublin Horse Show since I was about 4 years of age. We as a family have never been ones for horse riding or any equestrian sport but there is something about this day out that is just so much fun! PhoebeGill150807024

There are large paddocks which show horses and riders in junior competitions and just the general showing of how magnificent the breeding of Irish horses really is. There is also a band stand where live music is played all day as well as lots of food trucks and stalls that sell every bit of equestrian gear you can think of.
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One of the things that my family love is the RDS Craft and Student Art Awards Exhibition. My house has currently 10 pieces of art from going to this show every year. There are some amazing pieces and is definitely worth a look around. I always love the wood work, some of the pieces are just so wonderfully made it is incredible! PhoebeGill150807077The Nations Cup has always been our day, always on a Friday. In my opinion it is the best value for money as tickets for the main arena and general entrance is not cheap. It is 8 teams of four riders who jump 14 jumps. There are two rounds and whoever knocks down the least amount of fences, wins. The excitement of this is amazing.PhoebeGill150807078Generally everyone is behind every team but mostly for Ireland obviously. It is a shame when any fence goes down but we do love it when Ireland doesn’t knock any. This year was quite exciting because Ireland needed to do well in order to make it to the top 8 in the final in Barcelona so we needed to win! PhoebeGill150807091The course seemed quite challenging this year with last years winners, USA, finishing on 32 faults! That is quite the difference from last year! The faults for most teams were quite high.PhoebeGill150807101There were even a good few refusals on the water jump, maybe it was the lighting but it was all very exciting! There is something amazing happens when Ireland gets a clear round. The stands go mental! There is nothing like the noise we can make when Ireland clears a round and, even better, when we win! Which we did! PhoebeGill150807061The presenting of the cup is fantastic and I recommend you stay around for it. The first three teams come out and circle the ring. We all cheer and clap and all is well. One of my most favourite things is the pipe band that plays. They are fantastic. I love the drums and the noise. I love the last lap where they get back on their horses and gallop with the cup. It’s amazing!
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Tips:

  1. Get a score sheet. It is a lot of fun tracking the progress.
  2. Bring a good jacket, it can go on till about 7pm so it can get cold.
  3. Bring a picnic and your own beverages, queues are long!
  4. DO NOT smoke in the stands.
  5. Turn off your phone! I know this is a shock but the riders can probably hear a phone going off. It’s an arena.
  6. Don’t talk for the entirety of the jumps, in the breaks that fine but as the riders are jumping, shut it and be respectful of others around you.
  7. Don’t put your feet on the backs of people seats…is this not obvious to you?
  8. Don’t be crap. There are a lot of people who are, don’t be one of them. PhoebeGill150807128

I had all of these things happen around me this year. To Mary, Ann Marie and Michelle behind me, you were all awful people. I know their names because they didn’t stop talking for the entire three hours of the event. You had zero respect for others and were just generally horrible. Hope you fall down a hole.

I love this day! I think it is fantastic and well worth it! You can get just general admission tickets but bring a camping chair and a rain poncho. It is a really great day out and I 100% recommend it! Have you been to the horse show? Is there anything like this where you are?

Happy Travels!

In The News: Cecil The Lion

I have held my tongue for a few days because I wanted to be far more educated in this matter than I was previously. I don’t feel any more educated but I didn’t want to come across as a lot of people in Walter Palmers Yelp page!  This discussion has been in my home for a few weeks now and it is something I want to talk about.

Cecil

Cecil was a lion that lived in Hwange National Park, in Zimbabwe. The park is the biggest game reserve in Zimbabwe, it’s about half the size of Belgium. He was 13 years old and was a national treasure. He had been collard and tracked by Oxford University since 1999. I recommend you read this, to know more. He had distinctive black fur in his mane, people would travel to try and spot the famous Cecil. It was also noted that he had a very good temperament.

EDIT: Also just to note that Oxford says Cecil’s brother, Jericho is alive. Just incase you were wondering.

So what happened?

A dentist from the US, Walter Palmer, decided to use Theo Bronkhorst, who owns a hunting company in Zimbabwe, to shoot a lion with a bow and arrow. Palmer paid $50,000 dollars to do so. Palmer and Bronkhorst track Cecil and by using bait, they drew out Cecil onto land outside Hwange National Park.

So Palmer shoots Cecil with an arrow. Cecil runs off and Palmer, Bronkhorst and their team track the wounded animal for 40 hours and then shoot him. Except all of this was illegal. Neither Bronkhorst nor Palmer had authorisation for this kill. The park didn’t have an animal to kill at that time. Palmer said that he didn’t know that it was illegal or that Cecil was famous and loved. To me, luring a collard animal out of the park and killing on a different persons land is highly suspicious. Currently Bronkhorst and the land owner have been up in court but are now out on bail.

Trophy hunting is good for conservation.

Now this I have had trouble finding extensive information on. I know that parks need to cull animals because there isn’t enough space. Humans have done this, we have controlled the wild animals of the world and we need them to stay controlled in their area, I get it. Keeping the population strong by human intervention has never been something I really condone but I understand. For instance I know that Co. Wicklow is overrun with deer and there are legal hunting periods to control the population. I understand it but I would never participate, I love those deer.

I have heard that the meet goes back to the community but I don’t know if that is true. This is probably false, it’s probably left for scavengers. It is said that because of trophy hunters, a number of privately owned parks, that breed animals for hunting, started so that wild animals could survive. I have been on some hunting websites but I haven’t seen any information on how it benefits society.

Africa is a complicated continent, there is a whole load of history that we don’t remember in these situations. It is not an easy thing at all. Any information for or against I am interested in so link it below! 

My thoughts on trophy hunting.

I have to note that I find trophy hunters really horrible humans.  I don’t understand it and I probably will never understand why they do it but I do not support it in any kind of fashion. I do understand hunting to eat and to feed a family but I don’t understand why you feel the need to pose with it and hang it on your wall. I find it grotesque. I find craving to kill a living thing with a bow or a gun for a prize or gratification a very inhumane thing. National Geographic has some articles on this topic.

Unfortunately this beautiful lion Cecil had to die for upheaval to ensue. Trophy hunters have been vilified on twitter and other social media sites a lot in the past year. With the documentary Blood Lions out last week, about canned hunting, the conversation is in full light and it is a very interesting topic.

I don’t understand why Palmer or any other hunter couldn’t use that $50,000 dollars to actually help conservation by putting it directly into the cause rather than this truly odd practice. My thoughts on the matter has not changed. I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s acceptable. Don’t use hunting companies, for tours or experiences. Choose national parks, choose regulation, choose the most humane option in all of this.

Topics like this, the treatment of animals, the ethics of keeping an animal in todays world is incredibly complex. A level of transparency and information is lacking. I feel like people keep talking but they aren’t really saying anything. I feel like I haven’t learnt anything.

In Life: #AnimalRightsInTourism

So I saw this hashtag on Twitter and I am glad I clicked on it, on my recent trip to Croatia I encountered two cases of terrible animal captivity and it is still affecting me since I have come home. This twitter movement was stirred up because of a new documentary Blood Lions, all about shooting lions for money in South Africa, it goes into the breeding of lions and the people who enjoy killing an animal. This prospect to me is very interesting and am very intrigued to see it!

Being conscious of how we interact with animals is something I am very passionate about. Especially when we travel. It sometimes feels like when we are abroad we forget about the ethical rights and focus on a cool experience. Holding a monkey or a bird on a string in the street, petting wild animals, elephant rides or swimming with dolphins. They are all things I struggle with. I don’t intend to shame anyone who has had or wants to do these experiences. I want to make that very clear. Having this conversation is not a threat but a sharing of an idea that you can agree or disagree with.

My own personal stance is I would rather save up all of my money, every cent, to go back to Kruger National Park and experience wild animals in that way. I don’t want to go to a sanctuary and pet them, I even had the chance to go to a sanctuary and didn’t feel comfortable with it. I want to drive for hours and experience something so utterly amazing, an animal in the wild. Similarly with whale watching, I would also have the same stance with whales, dolphins and sharks. Seeing these creatures with all of that space and freedom is what I would prefer to experience.

Animals in Captivity

Now some zoos are good and I will support their dedication to protecting and educating the public about the creatures of the world. Some are terrible and unfortunately you may not know which is which until you enter the gates. I still struggle with zoos sometimes because yes there isn’t enough space for these animals but outside of these spaces, they are being poached or pushed out of their habitats with no where to go. Nothing is simple in the world we have created. Nothing. I am still trying to figure out how I can live in the world with minimal impact.

I understand the reality that experiencing an animal up close is what people want, they are incredible believe me there is nothing more I want to do than snuggle a red panda or feed a slow loris some mango and hold it’s tiny hand but there is always something that stops me and that is what goes on after all the people go home. When members of the public own these animals, when they are on the streets at night time or on a beach what happens when they go home.

My point is that supporting breeding programs and educating yourself or younger generations is incredibly important. I want to start being more engaged with the information I take in. I don’t want to be a spectator and I have had this feeling for a while now and this hashtag has inspired me a bit.

I am going to try something starting this Sunday and I hope that this is going to be received well. I have been feeling like I need to talk about this for a while so I hope it is welcomed.

So my Beans, will you look up #AnimalRightsInTourism ? Do you like knowing about different animals in the world and what best way to see them or help them?

Happy Travels!

In Croatia: Visiting Dalmatia in June

My trip along the Dalmatian coast was nice but it is the first place I have been in a long time where I felt very much like just another tourist. Croatia is a very popular spot in the summer months which means there are lots of people wanting you to eat in their restaurants, take a boat trip, sell you some nicknacks that you don’t want or need and there is going to be someone in your pictures all of the time! If you aren’t into this type of travel you have been warned but now lets get to the important stuff.

Croatia is beautiful, it’s got the beautiful sea, gorgeous countryside and perfect old towns that are steeped with history! I highly highly recommend you go to this beautiful part of the world, this country during the off peak season with a rented car would be perfect!

So lets break down each place I visited and the things I did!

Zadar

Although I didn’t spend a lot of time here, this tiny town is the perfect integration into Croatia’s beauty and relaxed vibe. Walking around old town is so easy and picturesque. A must do in Zadar is watch the sunset while sitting at the Sea Organ. It is so relaxing to hear the current. Read all about my 16 hours in Zadar here.

Need a place to stay in Zadar? I stayed in the most perfect apartment with AirBnb! It’s location is fantastic and it has everything you will need I highly highly recommend you stay in Apartment Sea Organ.PhoebeGill150614060-2

Plitvice Lakes National Park

A beautiful place to visit, it’s waters are a magical aquamarine colour with the most beautiful waterfalls and pools. There are so many to see in this small area, I definitely recommend that you take two days to do this park. It’s doable in a day but to have comfort and to take advantage of the area two days is best! Although I only spend one day in the park I have lots of handy tips in my post all about Plitvice Lakes National Park 

Need a place to stay in Plitvice? I stayed at the Hotel Plitvice located right beside the park at entrance 2 (so get off the bus at entrance two, it is right opposite the bus stop) This hotel is a really affordable, relatively comfortable stay, I don’t think the aircon was switched on at this point in the year so it got very hot but other than that it is a great place to stay! There is breakfast included and the food served downstairs is very tasty!PhoebeGill150615079-3

Split

Split is a really nice place to stop on the coast, it is in between Zadar and Dubrovnik and there are lots of fun things to do. I stayed in this area for three nights, two and a half days. Split is a really nice area, it has a great marina area with lots of bars so when it gets too hot you can sit and relax. There are really great shops and lots of restaurants of different prices and there are great cultural stuff to see and do. The old town is absolutely beautiful. Here are my top 8 things to do in Split. I also loved going to Marjan Hill, it’s a great place to get some exercise!

Need a place to stay in Split? I stayed in Studio Palma with Airbnb. I recommend this for a couple, although it sleeps three, any more than two and it feels like the walls are closing in. It is a very small space but it is very comfortable and has everything you need except a bottle opener!!PhoebeGill150616110-4

Dubrovnik

I really liked Dubrovnik, it’s a beautiful city. There are a few things to do, I recommend you go to Rector’s Palace and with your ticket that costs 100 kuna (€13) you can then gain entrance into 8 other museums around the city. Walking around the harbour is also a really nice thing to do there are benches for you relax and there are even places for you to take a dip in the water outside the walls. The number one thing you have to do is walk the city walls it is a great way to spend your time! Also something I definitely recommend is to take the cable car and watch the sunset above Dubrovnik.

Need a place to stay in Dubrovnik? I cannot recommend Apartment Paradise with AirBnb enough it is absolutely perfect! It is in the centre of old town, it is close to a supermarket, it is close to all the main attractions and museums. There is lots of space, although Croatian houses are narrow and tall this space feels airy and open. There is also a rooftop terrace and it is just perfect!PhoebeGill150620188-5

Also I definitely recommend you get into the sea, you can swim in lots of different spots along the Dalmatian coast here are some of the spots I tried.

What I Ate

So I really didn’t venture much with my eating. There is lots of fish on menus all across the coast but I don’t eat seafood for lots of different reasons. I ate pizza a lot. It’s the cheapest thing on every menu and I had some steak on my birthday which wasn’t good. So basically stick with pizza. Ice cream is everywhere! There are lots of flavours and it’s really tasty. Choose pistachio becuase it’s the best!

Take Note

  1. If you go from Zadar to Dubrovnik, it goes from ridiculously cheap to quite expensive so keep that in mind when you are budgeting your trip.
  2. It also gets busier and busier as you go down the coast, so it is nice to start with Zadar to relax and settle in.
  3. Buses are a great mode of transport but have to say Croatia Bus company was the worst journey I have had in a very very long time. I don’t know why we went through a different country but we did!
  4. Croatia adds it’s own soundtrack on attractions. You will be walking around an amazing historical place and there will be a stall or cafe blasting some crappy song. It was quiet common and a little annoying but you can get away from it pretty quickly.
  5. Their animal laws are horrible. I have already mentioned Splits zoo in my Marjan Hill post but I also went to an aquarium and it was just awful to see a critically endangered loggerhead turtle in a paddling pool where people had thrown their coins into. It was despicable. By law it is legal but it is disgusting, do not go to the aquarium in Dubrovnik!
  6. If you want to get €31 off your Airbnb stay click here 

So that sums up everything I did in my week in Croatia. I really enjoyed my time there but I am not done. I really want to go back in the quieter months of the year with a car. I really hope you enjoyed this post. Tell me have you been to Croatia? Is there somewhere you recommend? 

Happy Travels!