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I am blown away by South Africa. Completely, stunningly gorgeous. We arrived on Saturday morning after a long overnight flight and were picked up at the airport by Tim’s friend Ken who lives outside Capetown on the southern peninsula. He and his wife Romy took us on a tour that afternoon and literally within minutes of starting out, we pulled up to a beach with a mother and calf Southern Right Whales, lying about 100 feet off the beach! They were basking at the surface and at one point the calf was playing on it’s mother’s head. After watching the whales for awhile we continued on our drive and encountered some baboons, just walking along the road, as well as sitting and grooming each other, eating leaves, etc. They are used to living in close proximity to people and were completely unfased by cars stopping to look at them.

We continued on to Boulder’s Beach to see the Blackfooted Penguin colony there. The setting is beautiful and as many of you know, penguins are near and dear to my heart, so I was ecstatic to see my 7th species in the wild. We also saw Eyptian Geese, Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants and Cape Fur Seals on rocks offshore.

After our tour, we had lunch and then Ken suggested we hike up to a dam to go for a swim. After a short drive in the car we walked along a dirt road through the fynbos, the local name for the unique floral kingdom that is here in southern S. Africa. This is where proteas come from and we several beautiful yellow and red species, as well as many other amazing flowering plants (mostly shrub size). The dam has created a small lake at the top of a hill and there are beautiful rock formations there (pic below). The water was really cold so I could manage getting in to about my knees!

Fynbos and mountain view as we hiked back from the dam.

On Sunday I walked all around the waterfront in Capetown, went to the Aquarium (really great creative exhibits) and got up close to some Cape fur seals resting in the harbor. You’ll note that the big male in the center has a packing strap caught around his neck. Unfortunately there was no way I could remove it. And now the conference begins, so it’s back to work for awhile! But great to be here and see friends and colleagues as well as the amazing scenery and wildlife!

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