The Sound (of) Seals

The Sound (of) Seals
A post by Lady Felicity

The Isle of Man has beautiful countryside, picturesque beaches and plenty of historic castles and railways – but Greg can talk about some of those at a later date! Today I’m writing about wildlife… again.

On the Isle of Man’s most southern point, close to the Calf of Man Island, is a small section of water and a rocky islet which is populated year round by seals, and our trip to the Isle of Man took place in October 2019, which coincided with grey seal mating season (September- December).

The grey seal is the more common of the two species of seal found in Manx waters (they also get small numbers of common seals), and as around half of the global population of grey seals are found around the British coast, it should have been no surprise that we saw plenty in a place which is famous for them.

Grey seals’ hands and feet are formed into webbed flippers. They use their strong rear flippers to propel themselves through the water, while using their tail to steer. They have powerful shoulders which enable them to haul themselves onto steep and slippery rocks, which we witnessed during our visit (and which you can watch out for towards the end of our video, ‘The Isle of Man – Railways, Castles and Seals‘).

Their adorable faces look almost comical or cartoonish with their big, dark eyes which while good for seeing in dark, murky water, it is in fact their very discreet but highly sensitive ears which are most important to the seals for catching their dinner.

Their scientific name, Halichoerus grypus  adds to their comical effect as it derives from the Greek for ‘hook-nosed sea pig’. It doesn’t exactly paint a flattering picture for what I consider to be an adorable creature.

The Sound has a fantastic view, not just of the seals but also looking out over the Calf of Man island, and its cafe with its famous wall of panoramic viewing windows, serving warm, tasty, vegetarian-friendly food options… it was too good a place for us to only visit it once. I would have happily visited every day to watch the seals. As it was I think we visited on at least three of our five available days on the Isle of Man.

The Isle of Man is not just a hot spot for seals – during warmer months you can also see basking sharks, whales and dolphins in the surrounding waters. There are also plenty of coastal birds and one of my favourites, the puffin, can be found on the Calf of Man during the right season.

Apparently in the north of the Isle of Man they even have wild wallabies though you have to be very lucky to spot them!

For anyone that likes beautiful, coastal, rugged, countryside views and adorable wildlife (plus tasty food of course), The Sound and its cafe will not disappoint.

Thank you for reading, and safe travels.

Felicity

P.S.
You can watch all of our travel adventures (and ‘Like’, ‘Subscribe’ and ‘Comment’ on YouTube at www.youtube.com/gregandfelicityadventures.

You can also find out about everything else that we do at www.gregandfelicityadventures.com.

The Underground Cities of Cappadocia

When I first heard of the underground cave cities in Turkey, I was fascinated by the idea that there was a whole city built by ancient people and designed to house thousands under the ground in times of war. When I then discovered that there is not just one of these, but thirty-six different underground cities across the region (though there are links between some of them), I wanted to get over to Turkey to see them at some point.

It was as Felicity and I were trying to decide on our next adventure, following our Honeymoon adventure in Mexico (you can watch the documentary, ‘Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty’ which we filmed on that trip HERE), that Felicity mentioned that she had wanted to take a hot air balloon over the ‘Fairy Chimneys’ of Cappadocia. We had a quick look, and were pleased to find that in a country of over three-hundred thousand square miles, the two things we had first on our list were within thirty miles of each other – and from there our latest travel adventure documentary, ‘Turkey – Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities’ was born (you can watch it HERE).

Of all of the underground cities the two which compete for the claim of ‘largest’ are Derinkuyu, which is the deepest, and Kaymakli, which is the widest. We decided we wanted to visit both of these, and a third, smaller city named Özkonak.

We had a very different experience visiting each of the three, and it is an order which I would definitely recommend – and a way of visiting similar styles of historical places generally.

Before visiting the first city, we, by which I mean Felicity, of course, had done some research. This gave us a basic idea of the types of things which we could expect to find in the underground cities on our arrival, and it meant that as we descended into Derinkuyu Underground City we were explorers. For the first part we had the tunnels to ourselves, and we were trying to piece together what different holes and areas might have been used for. Even when we started to bump into tour groups coming through, we managed to avoid them enough as we worked together to come up with theories. Some of these were correct – we managed to correctly identify hitching points and eating troughs in the ‘stalls’ – but with others we were wrong. For example, what looked to me to be a big mill-wheel for grinding grain turned out to be a large stone door (although we did find they had smaller mill-wheels, so I wasn’t too far off). We got to have our adventure, and really explore a place which was entirely new to us.

When we arrived at the second of the cities on our list, Kaymakli, we took up the offer of a guided tour from one of the official guides at the site. From here we could learn a little more about the history of the cities, and in particular he could show us how to ‘read’ the cities, and show us what we had got right and wrong with our own interpretations of what we saw. This was a crucial second step to having a fully rounded experience in the underground cities – we had wanted to explore ourselves, but now to reflect on what we had seen in the first city using the information we had received from the guide (who built both on years of archaeological work, and a youth spent sneaking into the tunnels to explore himself) deepened the experience.

By the time we got to our third city, therefore, we were ready to explore on our own once again, but this time armed with a lot more practical knowledge about what we were looking at.

This idea of taking a three step approach to a new experience – investigating on your own, then gaining knowledge from an expert, then applying that knowledge, is (in my opinion at least) a great way to experience a lot of new things.

I would certainly recommend it as a way to visit the underground cities of Cappadocia. If you suffer from claustrophobia, approach with caution, and try to avoid times when crowds will be busiest, but if you can handle being in the cave systems, it is well worth it!

Thanks for reading, and safe travels!
Greg

P.S.

You can watch all of our travel adventures (and ‘Like’, ‘Subscribe’ and ‘Comment’ on YouTube at www.youtube.com/gregandfelicityadventures.
You can also find out about everything else that we do at www.gregandfelicityadventures.com.

The Whales of Magdalena Bay

 
 
The Whales of Magdalena Bay
A post by Lady Felicity

I’ve always loved animals of all shapes and sizes, I find the majority of them both beautiful and fascinating.

I’ve also always been somewhat obsessed with the sea.

It makes a sort of sense therefore that some of my favourite creatures live within the oceans. I could talk all day about sharks, but that’s more an appreciation of their evolutionary perfection. When I talk about cetaceans however, it hits a strong emotional note within me. Everything about them intrigues me.

Like most things living in the sea, there is an air of mystery around whales that draws a person like me in. The more I learn of them, the more my level of intrigue and appreciation grows. It is for this reason that visiting the grey whales of Magdalena Bay in Mexico had been on my ‘bucket list’ for well over ten years.

The grey whales of Magdalena Bay were once known as ‘Devil Fish’, due to the fact that when they were hunted there in large numbers, they didn’t go without a fight. The grey whales grow to about 40-50 feet, and while the famous blue whale tops that with its whopping 80-90 feet, the grey whale is still in the top ten biggest animals on Earth. So it is more than capable of putting up a good fight if it is hunted.

The species can also live for up to seventy years, so some are old enough to remember the whaling. Now that the whales in Magdalena Bay are no longer being hunted, they have stopped fighting humans and instead curiously approach the boats that once hunted them. They have grown so accustomed to the tourist filled boats that on occasion they even surface beside them for a cuddle.

Another aspect that some members of the cetacean family have which fascinates me are spindle neurons (this is where Greg often jokingly rolls his eyes as he knows I can go on for far too long when on this topic).

 Put very simply, spindle neurons are a type of brain cell found in highly intelligent species. Humans, great apes, elephants and some cetaceans have them. They are linked to intelligence, communication, emotions, empathy, memory and that thing which gives us a sense of self. I personally believe they play a part in giving humanity our better qualities.

Research has shown that those species of whales which have these cells have up to three times the amount of any other creature on the planet. So much so that orca actually have a section of brain linked to emotion that other creatures just don’t have. I also believe it is thanks to these cells that whales such as humpbacks display a high level of altruism, not just towards their own kind but any creature they perceive to be in need of help.

That’s where I will stop on that particular topic for now, this being a travel blog rather than a marine enthusiast blog. But hopefully this will help explain why Mexico was such a big thing on my ‘bucket list’.

Magdalena Bay Whales are a family run company. They own a small B&B on the mainland as well as a campsite on Magdalena Bay Island. They have a small team of captains and small fleet of boats allowing them to take whale seekers out on the water to get close to the grey whales – or rather, to allow the whales to get close to us.

Greg and I opted to camp for a few nights on the island as it gets you closer to the regulated whale watching areas.

This amused Greg greatly, as I had never actually been camping. While the camp and our yurt were well maintained (the camp comprised of two yurts and maybe ten tents, an open restaurant/ palapa with fresh supplies brought over from the mainland and two toilets sharing one sink). Our ‘private bathroom’ consisted of an emergency ‘middle-of-the-night-wee’ chemical toilet and ten-litres of water each per day in a solar bag to shower with, hung at chest level. A bit of a surprise to a novice camper like me!

All I can say is that the hospitality of everyone that worked for the company made up for the lack of bathroom facilities, as did watching dolphins play in the bay as we sat beside our yurt on a quiet island, with humming birds feeding from the plants beside us. One day I want to return there and do it all again!

Each day started with a freshly made breakfast and then our captain took us out for six hours of whale watching. It was fantastic.  We watched as many a whale dived, giving that classic view of their fluke. Some whales swam along beside and beneath our boat, so majestic for such a large animal. We even had the chance to watch a large group of whales ‘spy hopping’ (they rise vertically from the water, sometimes rotating as they do so, to get a good look above water. I like to think that they enjoyed watching us even half as much as I enjoyed watching them), but the unexpected appearance of a lone humpback (the wrong time of year for them to ordinarily be in the area) that happened to breach in their unique way, at exactly the moment that Greg and I were looking in the right place at the right time… that was pretty breathtaking. It was our last morning on the water and such an incredible treat.

The whole experience was unforgettable and I highly recommend it for anyone that admires whales.

Thank you for reading, and safe travels.

Felicity

P.S. We strongly recommend Captain Marco and his team at Magdalena Bay Whale Camp. Find out about them by clicking here, and do mention you heard about him from us if you book!

P.P.S.

You can watch all of our travel adventures (and ‘Like’, ‘Subscribe’ and ‘Comment’ on YouTube at www.youtube.com/gregandfelicityadventures.

You can also find out about everything else that we do at www.gregandfelicityadventures.com.

Teotihuacan – Gateway To The Ancients

On our arrival in Mexico in early 2019, we landed in Mexico City after nightfall. After a slightly hair-raising drive out of the city in the dark, having to compete with unknown roads, a very different driving style, and wild dogs randomly appearing on the roads as we drove about thirty miles northeast, we found ourselves in a hotel a few hundred yards from the ruins of Teotihuacan – although in the dark we didn’t see them that night.

The following morning we set off for the site, and having paid our entrance fee we made two very good choices – an early arrival, and entering to park behind the Pyramid of the Sun rather than around at the main entrance to the site. This meant initially avoiding all of the stalls selling souvenirs, and meant that the famous Pyramid of the Sun was the first sight we saw on arrival, and also the first building we arrived at, allowing us to climb it before it got too busy later in the day.

The Pyramid of the Sun was built around 200CE, a couple of centuries before Teotihuacan reached its peak, and several centuries before the whole city was abandoned between about 600CE and 750CE. Why, exactly, the city was abandoned is still a matter for debate – as many public buildings were burned around the year 600, some claim it was an uprising against the rulers from within the city, while others theorise that an outside invasion began the downfall. Either way, people seem to have slowly drifted away from the city to leave it empty by 750.

As you climb up the Pyramid of the Sun, you feel the effort that must have gone into building that single temple, let along the entire city. The structure itself stands at two hundred and sixteen feet, roughly half the height of the Great Pyramid at Giza, but you are starting your climb at an altitude of a little over seven thousand feet. Having landed only the night before, and having travelled from just above sea level in our home on the Isle of Wight, we found our hearts racing by the time we reached the top – something to bear in mind if you make a visit to the site.

To find out more about our visit to the historic sites of Mexico,

After the Pyramid of the Sun, we climbed its sister temple, the Pyramid of the Moon. For me, this was a better view than from the top of the taller pyramid. The Pyramid of the Moon is a little over half the height of the Pyramid of the Sun, but stands at the end of the Street of the Dead, and so from the top you look down across the whole site in a single view. It was here that I found myself musing not about the end, but rather about the origins of the city. 

 

When the Aztecs first rediscovered the city in the fifteenth century they named it Teotihuacan, meaning ‘the place where the gods were born’. Looking out across the site it is easy to understand why the Aztecs would have thought that. Trying to imagine the people of 300BCE starting a city here, and all of these structures being built by people by the fifth century really took some effort. Especially as we know so little about the people that built it, including who they were.

 

It was once thought that the Toltec people had built the city, but as they only came to prominence in around 900CE, nearly two hundred years after Teotihuacan’s decline, this theory is now generally considered to be incorrect. Other people look to the Totonac tribe, or even unnamed people who had fled to the area after a natural disaster and built the city up from humble beginnings.

 

Whoever built it, and for whatever reason it was abandoned, the site today stands as one of the best historical sites of its type that I have ever visited, and I would strongly advise that if you are heading to Mexico at any point in the future, this is definitely a site that you should be planning to visit! 

Thanks for reading, and safe travels! 

Greg 

P.S. 

You can watch all of our travel adventures (and ‘Like’, ‘Subscribe’ and ‘Comment’ on YouTube at www.youtube.com/gregandfelicityadventures.

 

You can also find out about everything else that we do at www.gregandfelicityadventures.com.

Welcome To The Adventure!

Greetings everyone, and welcome!

My name is Greg – magician, juggler, entertainer and travel documentary maker – and this is my blog! The main focus of this blog will be travel, history and magic, but do expect other topics to crop up as we go along.

Along with my wife (who for reasons of our work at Steampunk events and a series of Steampunk inspired audio-books I tend to refer to as Lady Felicity), we began this year launching a new adventure in our lives – the creation of travel adventure documentaries taking us around the world to share the sights, history, and wildlife in as  many countries as possible!

It all began this January, when we set off to Mexico on our honeymoon. We decided on this as our destination because it combined Lady Felicity’s love of marine wildlife, and her dream to travel to Magdalena Bay in the Baja California of Mexico, where at the right time of year you can take a boat out to see grey whales in the wild, with my desire to see ancient ruins in the jungles, and basically to be Indiana Jones (without the tomb-raiding aspects of his stories!).

From swimming with the whale sharks in La Paz (pictured below) to exploring ruins such as El Tajin (pictured above) we travelled all over in an attempt to see as much wildlife and history as we could fit in to a month.

About halfway through the month it occurred to me just how amazing the footage we were filming was, and just what a great experience it would be to share with the world, and with my background in video making and entertainment, we decided that we could create a travel documentary.

So our adventures began! In this blog I will be delving a little deeper into the history and stories behind some of the places which we have visited on our travels, a chance to provide more information than we could in our videos.

In the meantime, you can Watch The Mexico Travel Documentary Here and watch the videos of our latest travels on the Greg and Felicity Adventures Website!

If you’d like to help us out, then please leave a comment either on this blog or on our videos on YouTube – and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/gregandfelicityadventures.

Thanks for reading our blog, safe travels!

Greg