The remote island of St Helena

Somewhere in the Middle of the Atlantic Ocean there is one not particularly big, but quite a remarkable volcanic island. Remote and isolated from the rest of the world, St. Helena archipelago is an extraordinary place. Time seems to have stopped there somewhere in the last century, and that brings a sense of calmness and serenity, a rare find in the modern world. The island is inhabited by ‘Saints’. Many of them are descendants from slaves from old slave ships coming from different places; thus people there show a genetic variety unlike any other place I’ve been to. They are wonderful and very kind people. They smile and wave at every passing car.

The Saints smoke one brand of cigarettes, can buy fresh fruit and vegs only on Thursdays and are the least materialistic nation I’ve met. As one lady told me: ‘We do not have everything, but we make the most of what we have. And if someone has too much of home grown vegetables, they just share the excess with their neighbours’.

The island is entirely supported by British tax payers and therefore has got a very strange economy. All the jobs are those of firemen, teachers and social workers etc. The private sector is virtually non existent.

Currently the only way to access the island is from the water, but they are building an airport. And this is pretty unfortunate, because the island will loose its charm once the herds of rich tourist flying on chartered aircrafts will flood the peaceful island. And there will be many of them, because it is a recently discovered location for whale shark migrations and one of the best places to dive with those magnificent animals.

The history lovers will also find it invaluable to visit the house and grave of Napoleon, who was sent to the island as a prisoner and eventually died there. Although interesting fact, the grave is actually empty. The body was shipped to France, as ordered by Bonaparte himself.


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Atlantic crossing

It is happening. We’re finally ready for the Atlantic crossing – let’s begin the journey to the other side of the world!

We’re leaving in less than an hour. There will not be a way of contacting us for a while. The ETA in British Virgin Islands is in about a month. We have enough food for 40 days. That’s about it. Wish us luck!

Good bye South Africa. Good bye land.

You will be hearing from us soon, hopefully : ) And there will be stories to tell.


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Easter on the Table Mountain

Yep, we’re still in Cape Town. It is already Easter time and South Africa should be getting colder. It is not, however. That is why carrying up all the food, two bottles of wine (thanks dad), 4 glasses and lots and lots of water was not so easy. I felt like fainting due to the high temperature and lack of breakfast.  But we’ve made it and had our beautiful meal on the top. 4th time climbing this marvelous wonder of nature. And each and every time, the views are worth every effort. In fact, I was thinking of developing a simple mathematical formula to show how the enjoyment of views on the top of the mountain relates to the effort you put into climbing it.

I came up with something like that:

enjoyment from being at the summit = effort you put in the climb – #of blisters + amount of water/chocolate you have left

There are many other factors of course, but those seem to be of a critical importance. Basically, if you take the cable car up the mountain, you will love it, of course, but you will not enjoy it as much as those who climbed it. And it is because of all the endorphins released to combat pain in your calves, time spent anticipating arrival, focusing on simple pleasures like having enough water or a windproof jacket. Not to mention all those humming birds, butterflies, scorpions and mountain goats you meet on your way.

Basically, you miss a lot if you just pay for a return ticket on the cable car. This mountain is incredible and offers a lot to those who have time to appreciate it.

I am so incredibly proud of my mum, who is almost 60 years old and managed to climb some impressive stuff. It was her first time climbing with a rope and a harness, but she did spend her childhood climbing up trees and rocks.




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Kelp collection – wet, cold and slimy

Only few aquariums in the world have a kelp forest exhibit. And it is because you cannot grow kelp effectively in captivity. In order to maintain living kelp forest, you need to collect the macroalgae on a regular basis. Today I was lucky and could go with the collection team to a nearby bay and collect some sea bamboo. Ecklonia maxima, the sea bamboo, is a species of kelp native to the southern oceans. It is bigger (up to 12m), heavier and way more slimy/slippery than you would imagine. Not the most usual workout ever. We were all wet, cold (includding the cutest puppy in the world, shivering like a leaf). 

On the way, Clair spotted a small Mola mola, sun fish. It is a second time I’ve seen it wild. A truly mythical/magical creature.

I spent the rest of the day wandering in the natural history muzeum, mainly the shark world section and whales and dolphins. Read everything there was to read and walked back to the boat. With tired legs, hot tea and a storm behind the windows, I am now ready to read ‘Love, life and elephants’. 

Sea bamboo kelp forest, as seen from the surface.


An exhibit in the Two Oceans aquarium.


Male red stumpnose fish. They all start as females and then change to males when they grow up. 



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The Royal Cape Yacht Club sailing regattas


So we’re a professional crew now, you can rent us for the cost of a few beers and we will provide hands for pulling the sheets,lots of smiles and photo coverage.

It has been a privilege to participate in the regattas full of such beautiful boats, yet actually sail on the prettiest one. ‘She’ was the most beautiful lady in the water that day. The wind was perfect, and there were penguins in the water.

Jake even performed his ballerina style sailing technique, as seen on the above photo. Definitely helped us place in the middle of the final classification and not at the end, compared to all those fancy new light boats.





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The biggest success of Pangaea


The biggest success of Pangaea Mike Horn program, to me, is the created network of like-minded people.In fact - wherever you go, you meet people who you have so much to talk to about, that you become good friends, instantly.

Below are some photos from a quick escapade to hike the Table Mountain with Rick Kotze. A lovely day, a bunch of rusty chains and breathtaking views while enjoying a very interesting conversation. 









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But why think about this…


“But why think about that when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive to see?”

― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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While others sleep… we walk through muddy sea shores.


Not everyday does one have a chance to swim with endemic seahorses, observe a sleeping octopus and witness a cuttlefish hunting at  night. It would be hard to beat such a day, yet everyday so much happens! each morning brings something unexpected, each day is a new adventure and we continuously learn new things.

You would think that each of those incredible moments has its own price.  To spot colourful nudibranchs you NEED to rent an expensive diving equipment and go with a dive master. To see a hunting cuttlefish at night? You surely need a guided tour, a boat and powerful spotlights. That is what most people think, and why most people pay expensive prices for those things. Yet we managed to avoid that by buying simple masks and snorkels, talking to locals and simply going for it. We had no idea that the biodiversity of Knysna lagoon was so high.

Going to the Thessen island during a low tide was a great idea. When other guests were busy eating expensive punches we wondered off to the quayside to learn about marine life. Just lying down on a jetty and staring into the shallow water we were able to see some amazing estuarine creatures. Mum spotted an octopus that floated next to the wire mesh stabilising the bank. It then faded and blended into the background. A few minutes later it appeared, as if from nowhere and smoothly swam away into the deeper, darker water. We put our masks and snorkels, climbed down the wall and submerged ourselves in the cold and murky water. Although we did not have wetsuits, we were so excited to get into the water and look around with our new masks, that it took us a while to get cold. And among all the other beautiful marine life, we saw what we looked for. The Knysna seahorses. We didn’t want to disturb them, thus decided to not stay for long.

So here you are, local dive school. Managed to not spend a fortune on something that did not require expensive gear rental.

The night excursion – the trio of aspiring scientists, nature lovers and curious observers: mum, jake and me packed head lamps,masks and wet suit shoes and left to seek yet another adventure. We walked through the old knysna railway bridge that used to help people commute between the two parts of the estuary and now serves as a perfect fishing spot. About half way through we walked down into the rocks and searched for signs of life. What an abundance of animals did we find in just 3 meters of shore! Starting from colourful crowned nudibranches, ascidians squirting water (a few of the times straight onto our faces/lamps), dwarf cushion starfish, barnacles, mussels, spiky starfish, numerous little fish and ending on a sleeping octopus, hiding under a rock jus half a meter from the shore. But the true discovery was seeing cuttlefish hunting for little silver fish.  A predator so perfectly camouflaged, so fast and accurate, that would earn everyone’s respect. After a lot of wooows, aaaas and ‘look here’ sounds, our headlamps started to fade out and we decided to come back home and dream about cuttlefish and other exciting sitings of the day.

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“Travel is like…

“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.”

Jimmy Chin


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Internship at theTwo Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa

ImageTwo ragged-tooth female sharks

Meantime in the Aquarium, the kindest, nicest and coolest people are working hard to keep the fish happy and healthy.

I am deeply grateful to them for offering me a chance to observe the behind the scenes of the aquarist job. I get to assist in veterinary studies, shark behaviour research and daily chores ‘on the other side of the glass’.

The aquarium as an institution, the people involved with it and the educational value they created are all incredibly successful. They are rising awareness through various courses such as the Young Biologist course. It is a pleasure to observe youth being so excited about learning. Something we somewhat lost in the evolution of our education system.

The Two Oceans aquarium also has got a bus with little tanks that takes the knowledge to kids in the impoverished areas and allows kids to touch the animals and learn about the importance of oceans.

I could write for ages about how amazing this place is. But let the images speak through themselves.

 ImageNemos, or anemonefish, are undoubtedly what each kid wants to see in the aquarium. 

ImageIt is possible to dive in the kelp and predator tanks in the aquarium

ImageMichelle Kirshenbaum in the culture lab. Michelle makes sure that the rotifers, artemia and nannochloropsis cultures are doing just fine. This is crucial for the aquarium as it is food for many organisms living there.

ImageKnysna seahorses are the most endangered ones among all the seahorses of the world

ImageEach day all the food has two be prepared with the focus on nutritional value and individual dietary requirements of all the animals.

ImageRockhopper penguin Eudyptes chrysocome

ImageYoung Biologist course at the aquarium. One of many educational initiatives there.

ImagePierre De Villeirs feeding fish in the kelp tank.

ImageGen Rochecouste doing a great job volunteering at the Aquarium

ImageMichelle giving a tour to the future Young Biologists

ImageMe waitering for the fish

ImageTube-dwelling anemones, Ceriantharia


ImageThe roof of the aquarium.

ImageThe azaming saint Joseph shark or Cape Elephantfish, Callorhinchus capensis


ImageRagged-tooth female shark.  Carcharias taurus

ImageShort tailed sting ray, Dasyatis brevicaudata

ImageJouvenile loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta

ImageThe classroom for the youngest.

ImageMichelle’s culture lab.

ImageNicholas Nicolle, an ichtiologist, teaching volunteers about individual dietary requirements of the fish.

ImageEntrance to the Two Oceans Aquarium. 

ImageFrogfishes, family Antennariidae, are a type of anglerfish in the order Lophiiformes. 


ImagePilchards that are used to fed the bigger fish in the aquarium. 

Image View from the top of the building.


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