Feathery Postcards: a trip to Avifauna

When our trip to Nice was cut short, we decided to plan some other activities in what was left of our vacation. As a child, I had visited the bird-zoo Avifauna a couple of times and I wanted to visit once more. What better time than during our vacation?

Avifauna is a bird-zoo with big cages and enclosures you can walk around in. The birds have lots and lots of space and can fly around inside their enclosures. The park is in Alphen-aan-de-rijn in The Netherlands, some 40 minutes from Amsterdam.

There was a birdshow where loads of birds would fly around in the open air. When it was time for them to come out, the zookeepers opened their cages and the birds could choose if they wanted to fly around or not. It was lovely to see.

The zookeepers had a hard time getting one particular bird out of a tree, (which was almost as fun to watch as the show). But all of the birds stayed close and eventually they went back into their homes.

There isn’t that much to say about the park, except for that it’s lovely if you like birds. It’s a great way to see and learn a little more of them. This blogpost will be more of a postcard showcase with the pictures I took.

Besides loads of bird species, such as penguins, parrots, storks and ostriches, there were a couple of other animals we found in the park. One of them my favourite: a red panda! Aren’t these adorable? There were also lemurs that were in this enclosure you could walk around in, and some of them got really close.

One of my favourite parts is the Lori Landing, which is another enclosure visitors can walk around in. Inside there are many, many lorikeets flying around. If you want, you can buy a cup of nectar at the entrace, as it’s the favourite food of the lorikeets. They’re not shy at all when they come at you to get some nectar!

It was super adorable and we couldn’t stop taking pictures. The birds are so gentle, though they will bite if they feel the need to defend themselves – or if your cup of nectar is empty…

This really is one of the zoos in the Netherlands that I like best. If you like birds, this is definitely one you should visit!

Taking the Alpaca’s for a walk

Beleefboerderij Heijerhof, Netherlands, girl takes alpaca for a walk in the forest

Getting stir-crazy yet again, I was looking for something to do. Something besides sitting in my own house. With restaurants, museums, stores and practically everything else still closed, there wasn’t a lot we could do. So we checked out Social Deal, which is a website that has deals on different kinds of entertainment. It’s also a great place to start looking if you want to do something a little different. There I found Beleefboerderij Heijerhoeve that offered ostrich-feeding, taking a walk with donkeys and a walk with alpaca’s.

As I’ve fed donkeys earlier on a trip to Germany and ostriches are scary, and alpacas are cute, the choice was easily made. We booked the tickets, and waited for the right moment to go: when the weather would be nice. It took a while, but finally, last weekend, we met with the alpacas!

Beleefboerderij Heijerhof, Netherlands, girl tries to move two stubborn alpacas

When we arrived, we were assigned two alpaca’s, and they gave us some instructions and what to look out for (alpaca spit, for instance!) and the route we should walk. One of us should walk in front of them, holding the gear, and the other one behind them, to further them along, off the property and into the woods. They weren’t allowed to eat the grass on the farm itself, but it was really difficult keeping them from doing it! They were really stubborn!

On the left you see Joep and the right picture is Hein. Hein was the one walking with me when we got to the forest. We couldn’t keep them too close to each other, otherwise they would feel the need to establish which alpaca was the dominant one. By spitting… We had been told that alpacas do spit (I though it were only llamas who did this) and that it would be green, smelly and sticky and that we should look out for it. Luckily, they only spat at each other and we didn’t get caught in the crossfire. It did smell really bad, though!

Beleefboerderij Heijerhof, Netherlands, girl poses with alpaca in the forest

It was fun! Definitely something I hadn’t done before. The alpacas were really cute, Hein kept making adorable sounds like he wanted to tell his life’s story. He also got really curious when we ran into another group of people that were walking with their own alpacas. Especially female ones… Sometimes he didn’t want to walk, other times he was hopping.

Beleefboerderij Heijerhof, Netherlands, brown Alpaca in a puddle, stubborn, won't move, stuck in mud

At one point we ran into another group who had some alpacas that were even more stubborn than ours! This female one was feeling hot and wanted to cool off in this puddle of mud! This gave me lots of Neverending Story vibes, but luckily, Joep came to the rescue, pushing her out of the water and we could all go further.

Of course, when doing any kind of animal activity while traveling, make sure the animals are not harmed in any way, especially if the owners make a profit out of such activities. We checked out the farm beforehand and it all looked legit. Most animal encounters you can do in the Netherlands, are okay, as there are a lot of rules the business has to follow.

If you want to book an animal activity, always do your research and trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. See how the animals are doing, do they look happy and healthy and if you’re dealing with wild animals, is the activity within the line of normal behavior for them? If you wanna know more, read this guestpost a friend of mine wrote.

Beleefboerderij Heijerhof, Netherlands, girl takes two alpacas for a walk in the forest

Deer in Amsterdam

Hey guys! How are you doing? I hope you all had a great easter! I didn’t do that much, besides visiting my sister and start spring-cleaning. Last week, I was once again tired of lockdown and bored out of my mind, so we looked for some fun things to do. A friend recommended a visit to the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen, which I’ll roughly translate to Amsterdam Dunes. I seriously never even knew there were dunes so close to Amsterdam, let alone a nature reserve filled with deer! But there were, so the choice to visit was easily made. We bought our tickets (that only cost a few euro’s) online and next morning, we drove to Amsterdam!

There are multiple entrances but we drove to the Vogelenzangseduinweg (birdsong-dune-road) because that was what our friend recommended. To give you a rough idea, we drove through a couple of Dutch cities such as Heemstede and Haarlem, that are also well worth a visit. The dunes are actually part of Amsterdam, and by car it will only take you half an hour/40 minutes to get from city center to the parking lot. So if you’re visiting Amsterdam and you are getting tired of the bustling cities and being run over by bicycles, grab a car, bike or train and visit these dunes!

The dunes are the first thing you see upon entering. And though it is just heaps of sand with the sea nowhere in sight, it’s still pretty cool. Running over the hills, rolling off of them, it can be a lot of fun.

The name is a little bit misleading, however, since there is so much more than just dunes. Behind the dunes is an enormous nature reserve, about 34 square kilometers and it’s filled with wildlife. We had seen loads of pictures of deer and foxes so naturally we were hoping to see them.

And we did! They’re actually hard to miss, because there truly are a lot of them. We first saw a couple in the distance, but they were behind a fence. Then, when walking further, a group of maybe 15 deer stood on our side of the fence, and we just stood there and looked at them, until something scared them and they came running. They ran over the path we were walking on, ducked to be able to go underneath the gates and then they were in the no-humans-allowed zone. We could still see them, but the fence was there for their protection. So we left them in peace, hoping we would find some more deer to properly photograph.

Besides deer, there were also numerous birds to be heard. It was wonderful to hear them all singing, especially when the rest of the forest was quiet.

We didn’t have to wait long to see more deer. Whenever we saw them in the distance, we sneaked and walked slowly, camera in hand, to try and take good pictures of them. Sometimes we got close, but they always noticed us (or other visitors who were completely ignorant and talked loudly in the forest, scaring the deer, and causing them to run farther and farther away) and got away quickly. It was a lot of fun and we did manage to get some amazing pictures and a couple of videos.

There are so many deer living in the woods that it’s not all that good for the forest and the grass. They eat everything and there were parts of the forest that looked like a wasteland, because the deer had eaten every bit of grass they could find. Because of this, the township of Amsterdam has decided to regulate the number of deer. It makes me sad. Of course, I can see that there are too many deer in these areas and that it’s bad for the growth and the environment, but the fact is that if we humans didn’t need so many new roads, houses, bigger cities and factories, that the deer would have bigger areas to live in and then there wouldn’t be so many problems.

It was interesting to see these wastes. I’ve heard the stories about deer eating everything and ‘having to be regulated’ but never actually saw the damage.

We stayed in the forest for quite a bit so eventually it was time to have lunch. And what better place to have lunch than in a tree? There were so many trees with branches that were just asking to be climbed, and we happily obliged. We saw no exotic animals while we ate, though we did see a group of joggers that did some exercises close to us. Pretty sure they hadn’t seen us, but it was a funny sight for us.

After that, we thought it was time to go home. We wanted to give the deer some rest, because we had followed them for quite some time, so we decided to go another way back to our car, still fingers crossed that we would see a fox. We didn’t, unfortunately, but I just see that as a reason to come back one day.

We had such a lovely day. The sun was shining and seeing the deer in their own environment was really special. The forest and the dunes were also really beautiful and we had an amazing time. I certainly will come back here again.

Guestpost: The do’s and don’ts of Wildlife Tourism

You probably have seen pictures of travellers taking selfies with tigers, swimming with dolphins or other animal related activities that seem super cool, but are actually awful extortions and abuse of the animals that are involved. We all know what kind of activities are too cruel (like bears ‘dancing’ or people standing on top of killer whales in Seaworld), but there are also a lot of activities that appear to be decent when they actually aren’t.

There are multiple organizations out there that portray themselves as animal sanctuaries, but that are actually in it for the money. For a lot of travelers, myself included, it is difficult to separate the real good-doing sanctuaries from the fake ones that actually abuse animals and make profit from it.

I was talking about this with my friend Adarshjit Das on Instagram. He is a researcher in Animal Behavior and Ecology in India, and he gave me some great insights on what to look for if you want to know what kind of organization you’ve encountered. I invited him today on Wanderlust Wonderland to talk about his work as a researcher and to give us a little bit more insight on how you can tell if an animal activity is a do or a don’t.

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The story of the dog that lost its sock

It was January, 2019. About minus 25 degrees and the sun hadn’t completely risen yet. We were in the most northern part of Sweden: Lapland. A land of snow and ice, when the sun doesn’t rise in winter and doesn’t set in summer. My parents, friends and family had declared me crazy when I told them we were going there. Always complaining about the cold, staying inside and drinking hot cocoa while my sister was outside building snowmen, they couldn’t believe I wanted to go where it would be minus 25 degrees. I am not sure I believed it either.

That cold snowy morning, I sat down in a dogsled, not yet sure of what I was in for. Bundled in 5 layers of clothing, heat patches in my shoes and mittens, blankets on top of me, I sat in a sled that would be pulled by five amazing dogs: Bagheera, Tweety, Light, Ivy and Viper. Three dogsleds were in front of us, only one behind us. While I sat down, Boyfriend stood behind me, steering. Though there wasn’t much of that, because the dogs would run at their own speed, following the ones that ran before them. His main job was to stand on the brakes whenever the dogs would go too fast and to signal to the other sleds. My only job was to enjoy the ride and not freeze to death.

For unknown reason, Tweety was wearing little red socks. Maybe his feet would get to cold, maybe he was injured, I don’t know. But as he ran past the snowy trees, over valleys, over hills, he suddenly lost one of them. We were not sure why he was wearing them, but figured it must have been important. So we signaled to the people behind us that we would stop. Boyfriend jumped on the breaks while I tried to scramble out of the sled (which is harder than it sounds, as everything, including the sled and my shoes, were frozen) to get the sock. Just as I got out, though, boyfriend saw that it was just behind him, if only he reached for it. So he did, but then, accidentaly, stepped off the brakes. Immediately the dogs felt that whatever was holding them back was lifted, so they made a run for it. He mumbled Oh shit, before running after it. I stood frozen for a few seconds, not sure what to do. The people in the sled behind us weren’t sure what was happening, but they saw the dogs taking off without us, and then us running after it. It must have been a hilarious sight!

Anyhoo, by this time, the sleds that were in front of us had noticed that they missed a few sleds, so they had stopped as well. Our dogs literally ran into the people in front of us, knocking them over in a tangled mess of dogs, sled equipment and one unfortunate tourist. Luckily, nobody was harmed, though we felt really silly running after the dogs, especially since they were about 61028134 times faster than we were. When we finally caught up with our dogs again, our guide looked at us, shook his head and asked where we had left the sock. Only then we realized, in all the confusion, we had still left it behind in the snow…

Highlights of London and Squirrels

Our first trip together was a blast. We went to London for two days. On our first day we had explored the city a bit and saw a play in Shakespeare’s theatre. On our second day we decided to visit all of London’s highlights and while doing that, we came across a delighful little squirrel…

We started our day with breakfast at Costa. We could have gone for a full English breakfast, but on this trip we where on a budget and this simple breakfast was pretty good as well.

After breakfast we set out for London’s highlights. First stop: Tower Bridge, and on our way we came across Southwark Cathedral, which was also really pretty.

I love how this city uses color. The red busses, red mailboxen and of course the red phone booths are iconic. I didn’t know there was blue in the Tower Bridge, but here it is. It makes it really pretty, don’t you think?

We decided to have a little picnic for lunch so we gathered some sandwiches, scones, donuts and cookies at a supermarket and lunched on the church steps.

After lunch we jumped on one of the lovely red busses and to explore another part of the city and it’s main highlights.

Our bus stopped right next to the Big Ben so we walked in that area for a bit. We saw Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and the House of Parliament. We could check off a lot of highlights of our list. It was really cool to see them as we’ve seen them in films and movies so much. But we didn’t want to be that kind of tourists, who only see the highlights and then jump on a bus to the next one. That’s not what traveling is about, if you ask me. So when we wanted to go see Buckinham Palace, we decided to walk instead of taking a bus or subway. And I’m so happy we did, because…

SQUIRRELS! Can you believe I never had seen squirrels before I went on this trip?
So we were walking towards Buckingham Palace when we came across St. James Park. We hadn’t planned to go there but we decided it would be fun to go in, since we were there after all. And there were squirrels everywhere! We fed them some bread and they just kept on coming, it was  so lovely!

I loved these little things. They were a bit cheeky, even running up and down my legs to get the bread, but omg they were so cute! So an hour and 120 pictures of squirrels later, (I really love the word squirrel by the way, in Dutch they are called ‘Eekhoorns’ but that just does not sound as cute as squirrel, don’t you think?) we left the park and went on our way again.

When we got to Buckingham Palace it was getting dark again. The palace was grand and beautiful. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the changing of the guards, and the ones we did see where dressed in grey instead of red. Not sure why that was, maybe a winter outfit? Anyway, that’s something we will need to go back for, one day…

We decided to have dinner at East Street, an Asian restaurant boyfriend went to the first time he went to London. I knew he’d love to go there again, so we did. I have to say, the food I got wasn’t very good so I don’t think I’ll be going there again.

By then, our trip was over and we had to go back to Victoria Station for our ride home. It was a short trip, but such a lovely one and I can’t wait to go back to the squirrels this city one day ♥

Leeds & the Kitty Cafe

After two amazing days in York, it was time for another city. On our third day, we got up early to take the train from York to Leeds, a small city where we spent a brief time in on our very first day. It was a short day in which we visited the kitty cafe and the Art Gallery.

Boyfriend was invited to present his master thesis at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, which was the reason we visited England in the first place. He wanted to spend the day at the congress, visiting other lectures, while I spent the day discovering Leeds with his mum, who was also there to see his presentation at the end of the day.

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An unexpected castle, deer and donkeys

For our trip to Germany, we’d only planned our first day to Köln and Schloss Drachenburg. The remaining two days, we just wanted to relax and explore the area a bit. For our second day, we decided to go to a wildpark and visit one of the many castles the Eifel has to offer.

We set out for Hochwildpark Rheinland, a park in the middle of the forest, about twenty minutes from our hotel. I was driving and we were talking and we missed the exit. It was lucky we did, because when we took the next one, we accidentally came across this magnificent castle.

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