for their milestone birthdays, sean and his 2 best friends wanted to do something different, something fun and outdoorsy. something that would be memorable. and that thing turned out to be horseback riding in the valley.
we called up glen valley stables in langley and booked ourselves a 90 minute trail ride. we met our guide, joanne, at the entrance to the campbell valley park, where horses were welcome.
my horse was named freckles and would be the leader of the pack – always having to be the one behind the guide’s horse. sean got texas, which was just purr-fect for him, and followed behind me. blackwell and dustin’s horses brought up the rear.
the ride was so much fun, like when sean and i went horseback riding in pemberton. except this time, we weren’t riding with a group. it was just us four and our guide.
the horses were well-trained and joanne was super friendly and easy-going. we got to do some trotting, parked the horses in a meadow so they could graze on some grass, and walked amongst some old growth rainforest.
happy birthday to my fella, blackwell and dustin. nothing like spending your special day with your besties and with animals.
for sean’s birthday present, i surprised him with a behind-the-scenes tour at the greater vancouver zoo. the experience offered an up close encounter with either a hippo, lion, tiger, jaguar, baboon, black bear, red panda or variety of reptiles in a fun and safe environment. course, this did not mean being able to touch the animal or being in the same enclosure, as the zoo is a no contact facility. but as it’s a private tour, we would be in areas where the public is not generally allowed.
for $175 for 2 people, we would spend 45 minutes to an hour learning about our chosen animal and an opportunity to feed them a snack or treat. and the zoo team would take pictures of our encounter, so we didn’t have to and we could just focus on the experience at hand.
as sean is a huge cat lover, he chose a visit with OJ the jaguar.
we arrived at the zoo bright and early to meet with menita and her team. while we walked over to the facility, menita gave us some background information on OJ the jaguar, OJ for “our jaguar.” he’s 18 years old, born and raised in captivity. we had chosen a really great animal encounter, as he’s a very social cat and likes being around humans.
we were brought into the animalasium (their education centre), so that we could create an enrichment item for OJ, in this case, a cantaloupe stuffed with straw, jerky and cinnamon. the cantoloupe shape and the straw was to encourage OJ to paw and hunt for his treats. we headed over to OJ’s space to meet him. the team beckoned him into his secured indoor enclosure (where he sleeps when it was cold outside), so that we could go into his pen and lay down his treat. once we left the area, the indoor enclosure door was opened so that OJ can go back outside, into his pen.
no doubt he could smell us in his pen. but as much as he may have been curious about us, he seemed pretty happy with finding his yummy treat. he tore into it, a plume of cinnamon smoke being released into the air, while rolling around on the grass, as if it was catnip.
although he was a senior jaguar, he acted like a kitty cat. OJ was social and came up to us and rubbed himself on the fence. then he sat right against the fence, while we knelt down on the other side. we were so close, we could see all his teeth when he yawned. OJ is a really sweet animal and we were really glad we chose an encounter with a jaguar, instead of sean’s alternate choice, the giraffe.
here are some #DYK facts about jaguars aka panthera onca:
the jaguar is the largest member of the cat family found in the americas
all jaguars are spotted with rosettes, which are large open spots which ring smaller spots
the coat may be tawny yellow colour with very visible spots or may be melanistic (the black colouration) with the spots barely visible
as excellent swimmers, jaguars are generally found in areas near bodies of water, with dense coverage and plenty of prey species
built for power, not speed – large jaw, lean body with muscular limbs
hunt by pouncing on unsuspecting prey from a concealed location with a direct bite to the neck or skull
males on average are 10-20% larger than females
jaguars are solitary animals, as well as, territorial, except during mating season when they will seek out a female in estrus
most active during dust and dawn, and will choose to lay in deep shade during the heat or high up in trees
jaguars communicate through vocalization – often described as “grunts”
some conservation facts:
jaguar numbers in the wild are continually declining due to loss of habit, poaching for fur and persecution as a predator
they are found mostly in central and south americas, in the forest and wetlands. their lifespan in the wild is 12 years, compared to 22 years in captivity
humans are primary predator of jaguars, often poaching illegally
jaguars are a keystone species and their population directly affect population of other animals that share the same ecosystem
conversation efforts thus far has been focused on increasing legislation to protect from illegal poaching
the jaguar is classified as near threatened by IUCN (international union for conversation of nature)
after bidding OJ goodbye, we walked around the zoo to see all our favourite animal friends: arctic fox, capybaras, lemurs, african lion + lionesses, squirrel monkeys and the newest addition, the red panda!
press play for the slideshow or click here for my flickr.
an anniversary and accomplishment i’m immensely proud of. 10 years of not eating any meat. it was one of the best things i did for myself during my time in new york.
when i tell people, i have to be clear. i am not a vegetarian, nor am i not a vegan. i eat eggs, dairy, fish and seafood. technically, that would make me a lacto-ovo-pescetarian.
the way one chooses to eat is a personal choice. i have friends and family members who are meat eaters. i am not out to convert or shun anyone. i also have friends who’ve changed their diets, either of their own accord or observing how i’ve lived my life this past decade. if i have inspired anyone to think about where their food comes from and how to be a little kinder to the earth, then that just makes me happy.
besides the health aspect of switching to a pescetarian diet, i think the reasons for my choice is pretty obvious:
animals inside out. at first, i wasn’t sure if it could handle it. i thought that i might just walk out after a few steps, a few minutes. i even asked the staff member if anyone’s ever walked out or felt ill by what they saw. and not that it alleviated my concerns, she simply said “yes, lots.”
i’ve been to gunther von hagen’s body worlds exhibit in new york, as well as, in vancouver. although it’s disconcerting to see plastinated humans, i was able to stomach it. for the most part. but animals…. i love animals. i had to give a disclaimer to sean and for him to prepare for me to walk out at any moment.
but i stayed. and i went through the whole exhibit. although it was a bit sad, i felt the exhibit was respectful and educational, bordering on captivating and disturbing.
being sensitive of viewers, i’m not going to post pictures right on my blog. i don’t like being visually assaulted when i’m not expecting it, as i’m sure others don’t either. nothing chaps me more than content that might be disturbing popping up in all its glory, without so much as a warning on my twitter feed.
if i had to choose, which london museum would be my ultimate favourite? the british museum or the V+A? that’s a toughie. i enjoy them both but for different reasons. not sure if i would be able to answer. it might just depend on the mood i was in when asked.
on the one hand, the V+A is the world’s largest museum on arts and design. but on the other hand, the british museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture. but any time i’m in london, i make it my mission to visit both of them. bonus point: V+A has a cafeteria that serves cream tea!
when i first went to london in 2007 and visited the V+A’s cast courts, i was beyond wowed by the collection of europe’s famous and celebrated post-classical sculptures set in plaster cast. situated in two galleries, one could feast your eyes on michaelangelo’s david, trajan’s column, the gates of paradise at florence cathedral, the pisa cathedral pulpit, the 12C portico de la gloria from the cathedral at santiago de compostela in spain and the cast of jacopo della quercia’s great arch from the basilica of san petronio.
but then over the years, whenever i’ve re-visited the cast courts, all i could think about was that they’re just replicas. a fake fendi. and although i still think it’s impressive, it sort of lost its lustre on me. i guess i want to see the real thing.
twelve days into my trip had me feeling a little homesick for charlie. it didn’t help that sean would email me photos or tell me that charlie wanders from room to room, meowing and looking for me everyday.
which led me to the shoreditch area to get my feline fix at london cat village. the cat cafe on rivington had just recently opened and had a dozen or so kitties to enjoy. the cool thing? they have movie night wednesday where you can camp out on bean bags, enjoy some drinks and popcorn while watching movies with the cats. this week’s movie is avatar, which means i’ll be back for that. it’s the last night before i fly back to vancouver, which makes it the purr-fect thing way to close out my trip.