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Lonely Planet: A Year of Watching Wildlife (in what passes for easy ways)

Lonely Planet’s new A Year of Watching Wildlife: A Guide to the World’s Best Animal Encounters is one of those books any animal tourist is going to want. Gorgeous glossy photos show you schools of stingrays swimming from underneath, howler monkeys mid-howl, puffins with icicles hanging from their bright beaks.

The conceit of the book is that it’s a calendar. Lonely Planet gives you animals to see in every week of the year and a semi-plausible reason why they picked that week. Lots of the rationales are compelling, reasons like mating or baby season. But the calendar conceit gets a bit worn for all those animals that don’t really have a peak week to watch. We’re reminded how random travel advice can be with the push “You should visit [Andean condors in Peru] in April for good weather and to avoid the tourist season.” True enough, but there are big hunks of the year that applies to. Also, the book tells you to try to see them at Machu Picchu, acknowledging that you’re far more likely to see them at a canyon hundreds of miles away, but that “pales in comparison with the experience of seeing one of these ponderous birds towering over the ancient Inca city.” Or it would if you actually saw one there.

The book is a nice t’s a nice fantasy wish list, compiled as if you’ve only got a year to live, unlimited funds and all you want to do is see animals. The book also rates the level of difficulty for each adventure, but with very little sense of the real world. Nearly everything is rated low or medium. Hyenias in Ethiopia? That’s easy. Same with Gharials in Nepal. How about diving 30 meters to see “the cave of the sleeping sharks” off Mexico? That rates a medium difficulty. Same with camping on a remote Alaska island with walruses. Even polar bears don’t rate a high difficulty. In the entire world and entire year, there’s apparently only one animal that will give you trouble: the Bactrian Camels in China–and then more for the “bureaucratic and logistical challenges.” So, it’s not exactly practical travel advice, but it’s a fun read.

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