On Location: Komodo Island

March 14, 2013

Written by Rich Pagen

With the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance, we wandered a muddy trail through dense vegetation with palm trees towering overhead.  Anticipation hung in the still air as we were hiking within the range of the Komodo dragon, the largest lizard in the world. We paused briefly to watch a group of yellow-crested cockatoos fly noisily overhead, their white plumage strongly contrasting with the dark green foliage beneath them.
We then rounded a bend before arriving at a small clearing in the forest. As we walked closer, it became clear that the three large brown logs lying in the clearing were in fact not logs at all. Three Komodo dragons, each more than 9 feet long and weighing several hundred pounds, were sprawled across the muddy ground. One sensed our presence and stood up, flicking its tongue in and out, tasting the air to determine what we were. We watched in awe for several minutes before moving on in silence, leaving this particular clearing to the dragons.

On Location: How Many Fish Can You Find? Indonesia Edition

March 13, 2013

Written by Rich Pagen

Under glorious sunshine, we headed out to explore the reef fringing tiny Dondola Island. The white sand flats between the reef and the island glowed a most inviting and brilliant blue color, and the outside of the reef dropped off as a steep wall encrusted with massive brown pipe sponges. Some of us observed the reef from the glass-bottom boat, others with a mask and snorkel, and some with SCUBA tanks. But whatever the method, the goal was the same: to conduct the first ever Zegrahm Expeditions' Rapid Assessment Fish Count.
The details were simple. Since this part of Indonesia is at the heart of the Coral Triangle and has some of highest fish biodiversity anywhere in the world, we decided to see how many species WE could count on this one reef in one hour. Snorkelers called out unfamiliar fish to the Expedition Staff who were in the water, who then called out the species name to another staff member in a Zodiac, who was writing everything down. Meanwhile, the SCUBA divers were photographing away on their dive, and glass-bottom boaters were busily flipping pages in fish identification books.
This all culminated in a gathering back onboard after lunch where we all compared notes and came up with a grand total. Among all of us, each contributing in his or her own way, we amassed an incredible total of 226 species of fish during that one hour period, a feat that few others have ever accomplished. Although much of the credit for this goes to the combined hard work and observation skills of all of us on this trip, it is crystal-clear that we are traveling through one of the richest and most diverse marine ecosystems on the planet!


A Taste of Vietnam

February 14, 2013

Just back from our Vietnam and Cambodia expedition, office staff member, Sara Mulnix, thoroughly enjoyed her time out in the field. One of her favorite highlights from the trip was the cooking experience--here is her report:

We had several options today, among them spending a full day in Hoi An or enjoying the morning in My Son. But the real winners of the group were the ones who chose a cooking class in Hoi An; it was spectacular! We started out visiting a local market with our guide who showed us how to choose a good mango for desert today, versus a good mango for lunch tomorrow. We were able to sample some of the incredible local fruit, including green oranges – only green on the outside and perfectly sweet on the inside – dragonfruit and rambutans. Then we went to the herb stand where we smelled a variety of fresh herbs, and learned the difference between French and Vietnamese garlic. (Vietnamese is better.) We were soon off to the cooking school, taught by the lovely Lulu. We made our own spring rolls, savory rice pancakes, and even a marinade for chicken. Though she didn’t trust us to cook the chicken over charcoal ourselves, we each ate our lunch made with a vast variety of local ingredients, topped off with a mango and mint salad. The best food in Vietnam so far. Here is the recipe for the spring rolls.

Rice Paper Rolls
Serves 4 as a starter
8 sheets of rice paper
3 cups mixed herbs including basil, mint, butter lettuce, cilantro, and bean sprouts
8 ounces rice vermicelli noodles, cooked
16 slices of pork, cooked
12 prawns, cooked and sliced
in half
12 flat garlic chives, cut into 2-inch lengths
Quickly dip sheet of rice paper in hot water and lay on a flat surface. Place a handful of mixed herbs at the edge of the paper closest to you, then rice noodles, then 2 slices of pork, and 3 slices of prawns, pink side down. Roll over from the edge until you reach the prawns, fold in the sides, place the garlic chives on the right hand side then roll up. Serve with sweet and sour sauce.
Sweet and Sour Sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp white sugar
1 1⁄2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp water
1 tsp garlic and red chilli, pounded
Put lime juice and sugar in a bowl, stir to dissolve. Add fish sauce, water, and garlic and chilli mix. 


From Brunei to Bali: Tales from Real-Life Explorers

December 4, 2012

In the spring of 2013, travel to a world of fascinating cultures, luscious landscapes, and an amazing diversity of tropical flora, fauna, and marine life. A place where orangutans and jellyfish provide fodder for stories that will amaze your friends and family for years to come.

In 2006, Rodica W. joined her first Zegrahm voyage, Brunei to Bali, and learned the true meaning of the phrase, 'Expedition Stop.'

“On the sixth day of the voyage, just as we were settling in for an afternoon at leisure, Mike Messick announced an unplanned Expedition Stop. We stepped ashore on uninhabited Kakaban Island, a tropical paradise fringed by golden sand beaches and backed by gargantuan-leafed plants, palms, and vines. We followed our fearless leader into the magnificent forest and within minutes a lake appeared at the edge of a platform where Mike, with a huge grin and the sweep of an arm, directed us to “just jump in.” Heeding the “because it’s there” voice of our inner adventurer, we did. After millions of years of total isolation, the resident jellyfish of this landlocked lake have evolved into a species both stingless and sightless, needing only the photosynthesizing energy of the sun to sustain them. As we swam out, an incredible scene unfolded before our eyes. At first we encountered hundreds, then thousands of pulsating jellyfish, pink-tinted bubbles ranging in size from thumbnail to fist. We were like atoms in that universe, suspended in an eternal moment of cosmic delight.”

On the same expedition, Andrew A. felt a genuine connection when visiting the orangutans.

“After an early morning docking in Sandakan, we arrived at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. Standing behind a rope barrier, our group was able to spend nearly an hour observing and photographing three young orangutans climbing and learning how to snack on fruit in their forest hospital. While viewing these juveniles, some of us were able to make eye contact with these young orangutans who were just learning to forage for themselves in front of an audience. As quietly as possible, we admired them and snapped photographic memories that will last a lifetime. Our visit took place over six years ago in a remote and specialized rehabilitation center on a corner of the third largest island in the world; it might as well have been yesterday.”

For more information on this enchanting expedition, visit www.zegrahm.com/brunei-bali.

Great Trip!

November 28, 2012

We had a great trip. It was an eye opening view into the culture of an area most Americans know nothing about. Fascinating culture and thriving economy. It is up to us to understand the culture. Great trip.

Trip: Sands of Time
First Name: Deborah
Last Name: Hull
City: Daufuskie Island
State: SC