Friday, August 5, 2016

Spotting Spouts on Dana Wharf Whale Watching Adventure

Dana Pride-Dana Wharf Whale Watch
For a day beneath tender blue skies with a teasing sea breeze rippling aquamarine waters head to Dana Point Wharf for a whale watching adventure!!
 It felt wonderful to leave the smoke-smudged skies from recent fires behind and to breathe deeply of unsullied air.  We motored through the harbor past the breakwater to a deep channel where “Red”, a humpback whale, has been feeding for that last couple of weeks.
Whale Salute-Eric Frigger
We watched him dive and flip his tail in salute before heading on to find a splashing pod of common dolphin. These guys are smaller than the bottle-nose dolphin often seen on the California coast that are about four times their size. They travel in great numbers and seemingly fly through the water at an alarming speed. Occasionally they take time to do a flip, or splash to the cheer of the guests leaning over the bow of the boat to get a good view of the action.
Common Dolphin- Dana Wharf Whale Watch

The giant blue whales run in July, but we were not lucky enough to catch sight of one. The Gray whales are seen in numbers in the winter months when they are migrating from the icy waters of Alaska to Magdalena Bay in Baja California where they give birth to their young. Common dolphin sightings are consistent all year round. Sea lions and sea faring birds are often seen on the cruise. Your Captain shares information about the creatures you see as you patrol the shimmering blue water in search of marine life..
Sea Lions-Eric Frigger
There is a galley on board if you need a burger and a libation during your voyage. Back on shore  Proud Mary’s with open patio seating overlooking  the sparkling bay offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.  
Capt. Bringing us back to Dana Pt. Marina

Sailings on the “Pride of Dana”, a luxurious catamaran with viewing decks above and enclosed dining area below, go daily from dock #1 located in the Dana Point Marina. There is plenty of free parking in the marina. During the week the crowds are light even in the heaviest tourist season. What better way to beat the heat of the long, dog days of summer?
Linda cruising on the Dana Pride

For sailing schedule and  reservations go to Dana Wharf Whale Watching

Based in Los Angeles, Adventure-travel writer, Linda Ballou, is the author of Lost Angel Walkabout-
One Traveler's Tales. Find travel articles on her site

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Epic African Journey

I made it to Africa and it was all that I had hoped for and more!!
Journey of Giraffe on the Chobe River

It’s late May in Chobe National Park, Africa’s third largest wildlife preserve, and creatures great and small are fat and sassy. Tall golden grasses are plentiful. They are the favorite of the many herds of massive elephants and a host of antelope along with Cape buffalo, zebra, and more. The sable with its handsome striped face, the kudu with its elegant curled horns, and the seemingly thousands of impala all glow with good health. They look at us in our open-air, tiered safari vehicle with curious eyes as we trundle along sand tracks.
Leopard-Courtesy of Tom Schawb

I got to share highlights of the trip in this video clip on Around the WorldTravel. A wonderful excuse to go to Santa Barbara, my favorite get away. Your comments  are welcomed on this YouTube video

The finale of the trip was a stop at spectacular VictoriaFalls  where I embarked on an Elephant Back Safari spotlighted here in FabSeniorTravel newsletter.  

I traveled to Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This piece" Botswana Highlights" is the first in a series of three giving more d
details onn what I experienced in each country.

Sunday, July 24, 2016



With so many independent book stores biting the dust, it was very exciting to learn about
the Diesel Book Store that is alive and well in Brentwood. The store is buzzing with customers eager to find their next good read. Manager Lynn, keeps displays revolving and shelfs refreshed with the newest best sellers. Super supportive of local authors like myself, she was eager to put all three of my books on display. It is great to see such enthusiam for print books. I have a kindle and it is fine for travel, but I love holding a book in my hand.

Wai-nani sits prominently on the GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS table dedicated to female protagonists and memorbable women in history. Wai-nani, inspired by the life Ka'hahumanu who rose to become the most powerful woman in old Hawai'i deserves a seat at this table.
Lost Angel -Great Summer Read

I am so proud that my travel collection, Lost Angel Walkabout, just got a ringing endorsement from Julie Rosendo, Producer of the Emmy Award Winning PBS show Travel Scope hosted by her husband Joseph Rosendo. Makes my heart sing to get recognition from these top professionals in the travel world.
The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon received recognition in the 2015 Indie Excellence Awards. Horses, Romance and Adventure! " Who could ask for more from a book?" says publisher Jacqui Broderick who lives in Ireland AKA horse heaven.

The Brentwood Country Mart at 225 26th St in Santa Monica is a great place for lunch on the patio where ocean breezes keep it cool all year round.  Many gourmet choices along with baskets of chicken and ribs make this a great place to feed body and soul.

Adventure-travel writer, Linda Ballou, a host of travel articles on her site, along with information about her travel memoir, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales, her historical novel Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i and her latest action-adventure novel The Cowgirl Jumped over the Moon  

 Subscribe to her blog and receive updates on her books, and travel destinations.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Botswana: Poster Child for Wildlife Conservation

Lunch with a bachelor herd of ellies
It’s late May in Chobe National Park, Africa’s third largest wildlife preserve, and creatures great and small are fat and sassy. Tall golden grasses are plentiful. They are the favorite of the many herds of massive elephants and a host of antelope along with Cape buffalo, zebra, and more. The sable with its handsome striped face, the kudu with its elegant curled horns, and the seemingly thousands of impala all glow with good health. They look at us in our open-air, tiered safari vehicle with curious eyes as we trundle along sand tracks.

Giraffes stare with soft, round, chocolate eyes sheltered in three-inch lashes posing nicely, and then turn to splash through the waters of the Chobe River in a gangly display of limbs and towering necks as they gallop away.
A saddle-backed crane with his striking red beak pokes through the reeds along with gray crowned crane and spindly avocet.
Saddle-backed crane-Tom Schwab photo

 The animals show off their young this time of year. Month-old elephants hide beneath mother’s belly while the big-eared offspring of the baboon ride on their mother’s back. The proud father of young impala herds his harem away from us as they kick their heels high in the air practicing getaways from predators. A parade of gray giants cross our path to reach the clear waters of Chobe where they linger in the green grasses. After a night’s hunt, a husky, black-colored male leads a pride of fourteen lions to shade where they will sprawl for the day. 

It is winter and the temperatures are mild with a warming sun shining brightly in cerulean blue skies. Bush willow glows golden and the mopane trees are still dressed in fall colors of yellow and orange. This perfect safari day began with a chill that crept into my luxurious tent home in the wee hours. I awoke to a herd of water buffalo just outside my door tramping through the camp and sounding like an army on the march. The drumming of our escort guide at 5:30 AM signaled time to rise.
Dawn on the Chobe River
It was hard to leave my comfy bed set upon teak wood floors and sheltered under a pitched thatched roof, but it was time to join the rest of the guests for breakfast by a warming fire in the boma.

Like all four of the bush camps on the journey with Overseas Adventure Travel in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, communal meals are enjoyed buffet style in the main lodge.
Main Lodge Baobab Camp
Each lodge has its unique flavor and rests in a different ecosystem to be explored. The Baobab Lodge opens to a valley where animals come to drink at a watering hole. It is a ring side seat for searing African sunsets reflected in the Chobe River.

Meals in the camps are a healthful mix of fresh vegetable salads prepared in creative ways. Fare included fish in a tasty curry sauce with rice, tender beef stew with roasted potatoes, and lemon chicken with fresh fruit and cheeses for dessert. We are offered tea on our drives, cool wash cloths upon our return, and a welcome from the staff who do all they can to ensure we are treated like royalty.

A short flight took us to the Okavango Delta, a 6,000-square mile mosaic of open savannah, flowing rivers, floodplains, and lagoons. The Banoka camp overlooks a champagne colored meadow where all manner of wildlife from elephants to hippos, to the endangered wattle crane busy spearing frogs, to vultures riding high on thermals enjoy their freedom.

Me and Cowboy
Here we fish-tailed through deep sand in our safari vehicle with eyes peeled for game.
Our guides, Cowboy and Wise Guy, stopped the land rover to read the tracks in the road. A big cat had been active in the night. We were off on the hunt! Cowboy charged through thickets and deep gullies, crying “hold on!” when he hit brush that cracked and snapped against the bottom of the jeep as we powered on. Unlike Chobe, a national park where you may not leave the roads, our lodge in the delta rested in the private reserve leased from the Kwai villagers leaving us free to wander. We followed the tracks bouncing like we were riding a bucking bronco for about 45 minutes. Finally our guides circled around a pride of five lions resting after a night of hunting.
Sisters taking a snooze
The stately fawn-colored male with a dark brown mane stared at us with disdain. His mate and their two adolescent daughters remained in quiet repose as we snapped our cameras like paparazzi.

We left the cats to their naps and set out to explore more of nature’s most splendid creatures. We spotted waterbuck with their distinctive toilet seat markings, and red lechwe antelope with sweet brown eyes. A cruise through the flood plain cut through by a meandering river garnered sightings of two lethargic crocodile sunning on the shore and a monitor lizard slipping into the drink. A couple of secretary birds strolled by and an elegant grey crowned crane poked in the grasses. The ubiquitous hornbill birds lifted at our approach.
Hornbill-Tom Schwab photo
As I rode shotgun next to Cowboy, the sun warmed my legs while a cooling breeze carried the scent of sage, and shimmering grasses of the savannah tickled my nose. I felt every bit the bush bunny. My heart swelled with joy as we rolled along on the warren of dirt roads then bounced off-road to take a closer look at a critter or bird of interest.

Independent from Britain since 1966, democratic and prosperous Botswana has a population of some two million people who reside mainly in the northern sections of the country that is not encroached upon by the Kalahari Desert sprawling over 80 percent of the land. Good leadership in this land-locked republic provides universal education and medicine for the people and conservation measures for the last remaining wild herds of elephants, buffalo, zebras and more, along with 400 species of birds. The flag of Botswana has black and white lines in the middle of tender blue—the color of the pollution-free skies. It speaks of the good relations between races.
The zebra with its bold markings is their symbol of unique pride and unity. Botswana stands as a model for other African countries trying to re-establish themselves after declaring independence from colonial powers in the 1960s.

Note: This is a first in a series of articles detailing the Ultimate Safari experience with Overseas Adventure Travel, aka OATS, in the countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. There is simply too much ground to cover in one article. First published in National Association of Baby Boomer Women. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Snapshot of the Ultimate Safari

Ellies in Chobe Nat. Park Botswana
My articles take time, so I am sharing this snapshot of my African adventure to provide instant gratification for curious minds that need to know more about this epic journey through the last of Africa’s truly wild places.
Giraffes in Chobe River
 First stop, Botswana, the poster-child for eco-tourism, home to Chobe National Park where the largest remaining herds of elephants in Africa roam freely; next the Okavango Delta with its meandering water channels and flood plain that supports creatures great and small, including 450 species of birds; then off to Zambia- a less-traveled country with vast tracts of preserved lands where we enjoyed a day on the Kafue River. The climax of the Ultimate Safari is a visit to spectacular Victoria Falls.
Day on the river Zambia
 In Hwange Park in Zimbabwe we lunched at a watering hole watching all the animal players, elephants, hippos, crocs, kudus, pukus, impalas and giraffes, and more turn up for a drink.
We stayed three nights at each at four wonderful wilderness camps where we were treated like royalty. Glamping at its best!!
It is the hallmark of Overseas Adventure Travel to incorporate cultural tours into their trips. We stopped at a couple of local markets, broke bread with a family in a village, danced with ladies who make baskets for a living, and visited a school of 800 children eager to practice their English.
Sundowner in Botswana

The trip involves several flights in small planes and some tricky border crossings. Ask for Abiot Azuze to be your trip leader to ensure a seamless journey filled with wonderful surprises. Go the Oats website to see videos and learn more about this fantastic adventure.
My home on the river in Zambia

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Exploring the Wonders of Africa

Botswana Safari Companion: Photo Safari Companion (Safari Companions)Botswana Safari Companion: Photo Safari Companion by Alain Pons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enjoy all the great shots you won’t get because you don’t have the patience or opportunity to capture the light on the animals of Botswana. Thanks to these experts who do provide directions on how to get those lovely images you don’t have to. They take you to Okavango Delta, heralded as one of most fantastic wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and the Chobe reserve where herds of elephants line up at watering holes. This little book provides a good overview of what to expect in Botswana a country that limits the amount of tourists and tour companies to operate in its borders. It has whet my wanderlust and made me even more eager to explore the wonders of Africa.Lost Angel Walkabout: One Traveler's Tales

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Coming Full Circle with Riding Star Susan Hutchison

As promised here is my interview with riding Super Star Susan Hutchison. She is the rider I had in my mind’s eye while writing the Grand Prix jumping scenes in the The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon. Susie melds with her mounts and flows with their movement giving them the freedom to enjoy what they are doing and to win. I saw her ride Samsung Woodstock the horse who took her to the World Equestrian Games in 1994. She is still going strong and was inducted into the Jumper Hall of Fame in 2015. I am proud to have my conversation with Susie featured in The California Riding Magazine.

ASusie Hutchison. Photo: Wendy Gleason /

It is very gratifying to see my book listed with two other great reads in the book review section of the California Riding Magazine. Writing the story has brought me full circle and back into the horse world in ways I could never have imagined. I wrote the story standing up at my breakfast bar. It took my mind off the extreme sciatica I was experiencing due to an injury to my back that forced me to give up riding. My protagonist has an accident on course that forces her to re-think her life and determine if the riding world is worth the sacrifice and discipline necessary to be a winner.

Review in California Riding Magazine                 
“Linda Ballou captures the energy, excitement and adrenalin rush of the Grand Prix jumping world that has kept me in the game all these years.” Susan Hutchison

Adventure-travel writer, Linda Ballou, shares Great Outdoor days in L.A, as well as a host of travel articles on her site, along with information about her travel memoir, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales, her historical novel Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i and her latest action-adventure novel The Cowgirl Jumped over the Moon  available on Amazon or www.lindaballouauthorcom  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Early years in Kenya

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of ForgetfulnessCocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a wonderful find. Alexandra Fuller captures the seduction of the African sun and burning landscape. The vast spaces that set the mind sailing seduced her parents and made them stay against great adversity. They lived in Kenya when British Colonists spent their days in royal comfort, but those days ended with a revolution and war in the 60’s. Ms. Fuller masterfully weaves the very personal history of her dramatic childhood and the life of her stiff upper lip parents against the backdrop of a tumultuous time. Her parents chose to remain in Africa after their lands were seized and to set up housekeeping in remote Zambia where they found peace under the” Tree of Forgetfullness”. I have ordered the third book in the trilogy of Ms. Fuller’s stunning memoir.

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Leaving Before the Rains ComeLeaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book in anticipation of my up coming trip to Zambia. I read Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, the second in Fuller’s memoir trilogy and was excited to carry on with Alexandra’s life in Africa. She painted an exotic, chaotic portrait of her parents living in Kenya and Zambia in the second book, and I couldn’t wait to get to the next chapter. In this book she acknowledges that her glamorous, amorous parents enjoyed the blissful comradery that comes when both parties are alcoholics. Their boozy parties with dancing on the table seemed less appealing to Fuller after living 16 years in Wyoming with the modern cowboy she married. Her husband was a rafting guide on the Zambezi River when they met. Pretty hunkie if you ask me, but that is not the point. The point seems to be that she and he were not compatible even though they loved each deeply. Fuller is a brilliant writer and an honest to the bone memoirist. There is nothing saccharine or banal in her reflections on her life in Kenya and Zambia while they were going through wars declaring their independence from colonial British dominance. However, I noticed the cover image on this book is of her looking away as though she still has trouble facing the truths in her life. Her mother often told her not to write any of her “awful” books about them. I was sad in the end, not because of her story, but because of Zambia’s story. In the 1990’s it was home to vast herds of elephants, giraffes, antelopes, and rhinos and cheetah. I do hope I will find the remnant of what remains of the wild animals, less than tragic and on the rebound. I hope African’s can contain the poaching that persists in the wildlife preserves in Zambia. As for Ms. Fuller, I am sure her brilliance will shine in many novels to come now that she is free of living with the conflict that comes with marriage to the wrong person.Lost Angel Walkabout: One Traveler's Tales

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Make Earth Day-Every Day

My stated mission is to get to as many beautiful places as I can before they are gone!
 This would include witnessing the wildlife that is quickly moving towards extinction as a result of exploding human populations. With so much negative news on the wildlife in Africa conservation front, I was getting depressed and afraid that I am already too late. But, Nova delivered a very heartening documentary about plans in North American and in Africa to create wildlife corridors that will enable mega fauna to traverse migration routes and to thrive once more.
 It was especially exciting to learn that in the regions I am exploring in May 2016 on my UltimateSafari with Overseas Adventure Travel is are part of the KAZA area. The KAZA TFCA is an initiative of the Governments of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is situated in the Okavango and Zambezi river basins where the borders of the five countries converge.

This video shows how the five countries have come together to solve the problems of shrinking habitat and hideous poaching that crosses international borders.

This model is a powerful message for all the world demonstrating how countries can join hands for the greater good of all.  It gives me hope that it is not too late for human beings to reverse the trends that have been so destructive to the creatures that make up our beautiful world.

On my journey I will looking for signs that this treaty between countries is having a positive impact on animal and human populations. Full report when I return.

Linda Ballou is the author of Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler's Tales. See more of her articles at