Six Animals With Bad Reputations

Man-eating sharks, venomous giant lizards and snakes that can swallow a human whole; these don’t sound like the type of animals you want to be on the same continent with, let alone getting within a few metres of. However, in 2015, I’ve made it my mission to meet some of the most ‘deadly’ creatures on our planet to see whether they deserve their scary reputations.

When it comes to wildlife, man has a habit of exaggerating stories to make them sound more impressive but this can be an unfortunate practice when it comes to other animals at the top of the food chain. Yes, every year people are killed by wild animals but you’re far more likely to die in an accident in your own home than at the jaws of a carnivore. Most of the time, if you listen to your guides, act responsibly and abide by a few rules, ‘dangerous’ wildlife watching can be a fun and thrilling experience.

Below I have listed 6 animals that I’ve encountered this year. Would you be brave enough to visit them?

Green Anacondas
Photo by Daniel De Granville

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The largest snake in the world has been depicted as a monster for decades in films and literature. However, I shared the water with a female anaconda that was over 4 metres in length earlier this year, and would highly recommend the experience to anyone who is fascinated by reptiles.

Bonito in Brazil is the best place in the world to dive with these mammoth serpents because of the crystal clear water. Anacondas very rarely attack adult humans as they have to swallow their prey whole and the diameter of the average person is an intimidating size. If you then include your extra diameter with SCUBA tanks on your back, it’s obvious why nobody has ever been attacked by an anaconda while diving with them.

August is the best month to dive with anacondas and my guide was Daniel De Graville.

Komodo Dragons
Photo by Dylan Haskin

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These are the largest living lizards on earth and at 10-feet long, these giant reptiles, with their loose leathery skin and mouths dripping with toxic, bacteria-filled salvia, are an intimidating sight. I visited the islands of Komodo and Rinca (where the dragons can be found) in May this year and gained a healthy respect for these animals.

Attacks on humans are not unheard of. However, as cold-blooded animals, the dragons are more active at certain times of the day. A good time to visit is first thing in the morning when the dragons are warming their scales in the early sun. They’ll be out in the open at this time and fairly still for photographs. If you stay a safe distance and listen to your guide, you’ll be awe-struck by these mythical looking monsters.

I booked my trip to see the dragons with Inspired Escapes.

Grizzly Bears
Photo by William Drumm

2015-10-09-1444381282-163965-Grizzlybear.jpgViewed by some as beasts to avoid at all costs, and by others as cute teddy bears, the truth is probably somewhere in-between. I recently visited British Columbia in Canada to see the Grizzlies and was astounded at how close we could get to them in a drift boat without the bears reacting at all. In September they feast on the spawning and dying salmon to fatten up for their winter hibernation. The individuals that I encountered have been habituated to humans and paid us little attention. It was a great opportunity to watch them play fight and select the fattiest parts of the fish to eat.

I stayed at Tweedsmuir Park Lodge which I found via HelloBC.

Gorillas
Photo by Peter Delaney

2015-10-09-1444381665-8344894-Gorilla.jpgAlthough predominantly herbivores, many people are afraid of gorillas because of their sheer size and strength. However, these enormous apes are actually very reserved towards people. They will only attack if they are surprised or threatened. Most ‘attacks’ are simply bluff charges by a silverback and, if you behave submissively, the gorilla will usually go back to eating leaves straight after.

I visited Bwindi National Park in Uganda to see the wild mountain gorillas, and by abiding by a few rules, I had a completely life-changing experience.

– You mustn’t use flash photography
– You can’t eat near the gorillas
– You must keep a distance of at least 8m
– You mustn’t enter the forest if you’re suffering from an infectious disease

I booked my trip to Uganda with Inspired Escapes.

Orca
Photo by William Drumm

2015-10-09-1444381849-2044587-Orcas.jpgOtherwise known as ‘Killer Whales’, these apex predators have a very diverse diet that includes fish, seals, dolphins, squid, rays, larger whales and even great white sharks! However, there has never yet been an incident of a human being killed by an orca in the wild.

I recently visited British Columbia to see the orca and can now honestly say that they are my new favourite animal. In Canada you can view orca by a boat or kayak but I’ve heard of a place in Norway where you can dive with them. My goal for next year!

I went whale watching with Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort and booked through the Mantis Collection.

Great White Sharks

I’ve been in the water with many different species of shark in the past and have also cage dived with great white sharks in South Africa. However, next week, I’m pushing my limits by travelling to Guadalupe in Mexico to dive with the most feared creatures in the ocean without a cage. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @CatherineCapon to see how I get on!

This article was originally published in The Huffington Post

Only Men Can Be Adventurers

‘But you don’t look like an adventurer’ was the response I received from a potential sponsor when I explained my campaign for 2015. ‘I’ve had to fire women from expeditions before; they are too distracting’. These examples aren’t even nearly the worst of the sexist remarks that I’ve been subjected to this year. So, I’d like to ask the question, ‘Can only men be adventurers?’
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Let me explain from the beginning. I was the kind of kid who came home from school with frogs in my pockets, muddy tights and bruised elbows. Being outside and climbing trees to see birds’ nest was my happy place and following this passion led me to study zoology and ecology at uni. Classroom learning was always frustrating for me as I just wanted to see, smell and feel all that I was being taught in the wild. So, when the opportunity came up to study bats in Honduras for three months, I jumped at the chance. Never had I felt more fulfilled than when I was trekking through that cloud forest in the middle of the night after taking DNA from bats and heading back to my hammock for a few hours of kip before my howler monkey alarm clock would sound.

It was that expedition that truly made me feel like an adventurer. My career after uni took me into sustainability communication and wildlife film-making but, at every opportunity, I’d take myself to explore the remote places of our vast planet to see wildlife and how the local people interact with it. It was these trips that inspired my campaign for this year. I believe that responsible ecotourism is the best tool we have to protect endangered species as it makes those animals and areas worth more alive than dead.
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My mission was this; inspire one million people to go on an ecoadventure and do something positive with their time off work. In fact, getting people engaged with nature again is what David Attenborough believes to be the single best way to solve all of the planet’s biggest environmental problems. To do this, I picked 12 wildlife hotspots to write about and photograph and created a website where holiday-makers could be motivated to book an ecoadventure rather than stay in a five star, all-inclusive resort.
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What I didn’t expect from running this campaign is an obstacle that I’ve come up against over and over again. I’m not a man! In order to reach my target of one million people, I’ve needed to engage sponsors, partners and media. Many meetings have seen me spend at least 50% of the time trying to be taken seriously by showing footage and images of me swimming with sharks, searching for anacondas, rock climbing with marmosets and setting camera traps for tigers. Yes, a woman can do these things, and yes, other women might like to try these adventurers too. I never even thought of myself as a women who was an ecoadventurer but perhaps this is one sector where what sex you are still matters to be considered a role-model.
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A quick test will show how skewed this area really is towards men. If you put ‘TV Adventurer’ into Google images, see how many pages you need to scroll through to find a female. It’s not like female adventurers aren’t out there, I’ve seen the likes of Sarah Outen and Sophie Radcliffe give incredibly moving speeches. But how many of you can put faces to these names? Never one to be knocked back by a problem, I’m trying to find an opportunity in this barrier. And, I’ll keep on campaigning to disprove that ‘Only men can be adventurers’.

This article was originally published in The Huffington Post

Interview with Cat Capon – Eco-Adventurer

Who are you, what do you do and what did you have for breakfast?

I’m Catherine Capon (Cat) and I’m an ecoadventurer, naturalist and writer.

My job involves promoting ecotourism and wildlife watching holidays as a way to make endangered animals worth more alive than dead. Here’s a short video to explain more:

This morning I had cinnamon quinoa for breakfast, which is unusually healthy for me, but I’ve just come back from an eco-adventure in the arctic where I consumed my body weight in food every day to stay warm!

What did you get up to last Tuesday at work?

Last Tuesday I was in Longyearbyen – the most northerly settlement in the world. I’d just returned ​from a wildlife watching boat tour with Basecamp Explorers and had seen a polar bear for the first time! You can see images from this trip on my Instagram page.

Who or what inspired​ you to do the job you do now?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with wildlife. I was the kind of kid who came home from school with frogs in my pockets, muddy tights and bruised elbows. Being outside and climbing trees to see birds’ nest was my happy place and following this passion led me to study zoology and ecology at uni. Classroom learning was always frustrating for me as I just wanted to see, smell and feel all that I was being taught in the wild. So, when the opportunity came up to study bats in Honduras for 3 months, I jumped at the chance. Never had I felt more fulfilled than when I was trekking through that cloud forest in the middle of the night after taking DNA from bats and heading back to my hammock for a few hours of kip before my howler monkey alarm clock would sound.

It was that expedition that truly made me feel like an adventurer. My career after uni took me into sustainability communication and wildlife filmmaking but, at every opportunity, I’d take myself to explore the remote places of our vast planet to see wildlife and how the local people interact with it. It was these trips that inspired my campaign for this year. I believe that responsible ecotourism is the best tool we have to protect endangered species and wilderness areas.

Like so many, my absolute hero is Sir David Attenborough.

What is needed to succeed in your career?

Passion, positivity and persistence!

If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?

As an eternal optimist, I try not to regret anything. I’ve made mistakes and come up against obstacles but, I believe if you’re faced with a challenge, try to see it as a new opportunity so it doesn’t block your path. Doing a job that truly fulfils your passions is far more important in the long run than doing what your parents, partner or bank manager wants you to do.

What is your proudest moment and/or biggest regret?

I’d say my proudest moment was when I took a huge risk. I moved back in with my parents and took a job with a significant pay cut. I felt I had nothing to lose and found a career path that truly excited me.

Also, the day that my website CatherineCapon.com launched, I felt that many years of hard work had finally come to something!

What is your favourite quote?

  1. Make a list of things that make you happy
  2. Make a list of things you do every day
  3. Compare the lists
  4. Adjust accordingly

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This article was originally posted on GlobalNomadic.com

Riddle me this… Catherine Capon

Up close and personal with the British Adventurer, Naturalist and Environmental Activist

 

If you knew then what you know now, would you still do it?
If I knew before embarking on my ecotourism project that I would vomit in front of a boat full of South African men, get multiple leech bites in Malaysia, break my leg, suffer severe dehydration, almost get arrested in Mexico and have a Gorilla urinate on my head, would I still have gone? Absolutely, 100 times over! Lifetime experiences aren’t always plain sailing.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Find a way to be paid for something you are passionate about and you will always be fulfilled in your career.

What’s the weirdest rumour you’ve ever heard about yourself?

That I’m dating Leonardo DiCaprio. Although I’m pretty sure I started that one!

What was your biggest break?
I’d say my biggest break came when I took a huge risk. I moved back in with my parents and took a job with a significant pay cut. I felt I had nothing to lose and found a career path that truly excited me.

Do you consider yourself lucky?
I was lucky enough to be born into a country where I can travel freely and gain a fantastic education; so absolutely yes. On a day to day basis I think If you are a positive person you can see luck around you every day.

What most important in your life?
Free wifi! Just kidding! To learn constantly, to try to be content in every moment and aim to make a positive difference to the planet and people who I come into contact with.

What brands do you admire?
I admire any brands who incorporate improving people’s lives and minimising environmental impact into their brand strategy. Any brand who is only about making profit in this day and age won’t last long with the power of social media letting consumers have their say. I also admire brand in the ‘sharing’ space like AirBnB and ZipCar and those that use waste products to create new items. I’ve been lucky enough to work with the Virgin group and the work that Virgin Unite has undertaken in the past years is hugely admirable.

Do you have a guilty pleasure and if so, what is it?
My guilty pleasure is that I love dressing up and doing my hair and makeup. I spend so much time being sweaty in rainforests or salty in a wetsuit that it’s a real treat to feel preened and girly every now and then.

Describe your personal sense of style.
When travelling I’d say I’m functional with a hint on glam.  At 5’2″ I’m in heels wherever possible!

This article was originally published in Riddle Magazine

Conservation Vacations: Protecting Endangered Animals

‘Ecotourism’ isn’t a particularly sexy term – shabby huts, cold showers and middle-aged couples in sandals is what normally springs to mind. However, I’ve dedicated the whole of 2015 to encouraging more ecotourists (or ecoadventurers, as I’m trying to rebrand us) because wildlife-watching can be a world away from sitting in a hide with binoculars and I believe it’s the best tool we have to protect endangered animals.

My mission for 2015 is to write about and photograph 12 wildlife hotspots in the 12 months of this year. So far I have shared the water with an anaconda, rock climbed with marmosets, snorkelled with manatees and turtles, set camera traps for tigers, swam with whale sharks, cuddled a sea lion, got a little too close to a Komodo dragon, watched a baby gorilla feeding, and stroked a grey whale. p1180717

The aim is to inspire one million holidaymakers to do more with their precious time off work – and I promise that these destinations hold more riches than sunbathing in a 5-star, all-inclusive resort.

In fact, this was the very sentiment that David Attenborough recently suggested to Barak Obama as the single best way to solve all of the planet’s biggest environmental problems. No film, photo, poem or book can recreate the sensation of being with wild animals. We are reminded that we too are just animals and that commonality is what binds us. There is no conservation tool more powerful than a person who has bathed in this feeling.

From a less emotional angle, the hard earned cash that you spend on your wildlife holiday makes these animals worth more alive than dead. Ecotourism can also provide employment for local people and adds a real value to areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Yes, travelling itself has consequences for our planet, but people have and will always travel. My aim is to simply re-imagine the pleasures that you can experience from a trip – less about eating, drinking and sunbathing – and more about exploring, learning and observing. I guarantee that if you try an ecoadventure, you’ll have something more meaningful to say when you’re asked ‘How was your holiday?’

This article was originally published on Virgin.com