Coke & Som Smith Photography & Travelogue

World's Wildest Places VI:  Africa & Madagascar


World’s Wildest Places: Expedition to Madagascar and Southern Africa

Peninsula College

COURSE #N500 C-SF 006

Winter Quarter, 2010

Meeting Wednesdays 3:30-5:30 PM

From Dates: 13 January through February 17, 2010


Instructor’s name: Alexander Coke Smith

Phone number and/or email: 360-565-1571 (


  • Instructor Qualifications: MS degrees with concentrations in Conservation Biology, Evolutionary Biology and Entomology as well as being an avid traveler and professional lecturer, photographer and naturalist. 


Course Catalog Description: Join naturalist, intrepid traveler and professional photographer Coke Smith for a fascinating series of photo essays illustrating the amazing wildlife and amazing cultures of Madagascar and Southern Africa!  Travel with Coke to the wilderness of Madagascar and explore the private lives of such amazing creatures as wild Indri, ring-tailed civets, fosa and dozens of fascinating lemur species.  Coke and family spent three months traveling throughout Madagascar and southern Africa and have an immense collection of images and stories that you will no doubt find absolutely fascinating.  While exploring the wilds of Madagascar and southern Africa, you will also be treated to visits with the remote tribal groups and spectacular natural sites in the various regions they visited.  Coke has been traveling to the region for over 20 years and has guided numerous safaris to southern, eastern and central Africa as well as many other destinations worldwide. Washington State clock hours offered.


  • Course Objectives: To provide students with a greater appreciation phenomenal biodiversity and culture of Madagascar and Southern Africa.  Special attention will also be given to conservation issues of the region.


Course Outline:


Jan 13:  Introductions

Photo Essay One:  People and Places in Madagascar

Madagascar is simply too complex a topic to adequately cover in one evening.  With this in mind, I have opted to present two photo-essays on this amazing island nation.  This evening, we will learn about the fascinating regions we visited and the people who make their homes there. 


Jan 20: The Wildlife of Madagascar                    

Madagascar is the land that time has forgotten.  Madagascar is an island that for much of its history was left to nature and the wild creatures that live there.  However, since the times of Charles Darwin, Madagascar has captivated the imaginations of naturalists and nature enthusiasts world wide.  In this photo essay, we will explore the secret lives of such exotic creatures as the amazing Indri whose calls fill the morning forest galleries.  We will see images of dozens of fascinating lemur species as well as the diverse avian fauna.  This safari will provide the nature enthusiast with a true appreciation of the vast biodiversity that still exists in Madagascar while at the same time painting a vivid picture of the serious and immediate conservation issues facing the island paradise.



Jan 27A Safari in Southern Africa:  Places and People

Most would consider a two month safari to Africa to be a dream trip of a lifetime.    Our naturalist family did just this during the summer of ’09.  During our expedition, we were fortunate enough to experience many amazing places, cultures and wildlife of the region – far too much to present in one short evening.  In this evening’s talk we will explore the inner workings of such an ambitious expedition ranging from the planning to the transportation and the implementation of the planned itinerary.  We will visit many rural villages as well as most of the natural highpoints of the region.  This photo essay will provide the would-be traveler to such a wild place with a wealth of practical information as well as dozens of professional-quality images of the people and spectacular scenery of the region.


Feb 3Part II: A Safari in Southern Africa:  The Mammals of Southern Africa

There is little doubt that the driving force behind most visits to the African continent is the wildlife.  Our expedition was planned to visit some of the most amazing wildlife hotspots in the entirety of Africa.  Professional-quality images will bring to life such species as the great cats to the vast array of antelopes and other ungulates populating the regions visited.  One aspect of our nature expeditions is the exhaustive nature of how we search for wildlife.  We will learn about and see wonderful images of many of the “less-seen” species of the regions.  Such species as the rodents, bats and nocturnal genets and civets will be explored via photo essay.  You will no doubt come away with a very wide appreciation of the mammalian diversity of the region. 


Feb 10Part III: A Safari in Southern Africa:  Birds of Southern Africa

There simply is not enough time in the day to experience all of the wildlife Southern Africa has to offer.  So this evening will be donated to experiencing wonderful images of many of Southern Africa’s bird species.  While the photo-essay will provide merely a glimpse of the well over 1100 species of birds the regions boasts, you will get excellent views of many of the area’s most spectacular birds.



Feb 17: The Gorillas of Rwanda   

This has been one of my most requested talks over the years. I have had the good fortune of traveling to Africa fairly regularly over the past 20 years, and one of my most favorite expeditions is to the “Mountains of the Moon” in central Africa.  This photo-essay takes us to the peaks of the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda and the Congo in search of the enigmatic Mountain Gorillas.  We will view amazing images of these spectacular primates while at the same time learning more of their plight in such a politically unstable region.  And you will get a chance to see me getting neck rub by a wild Gorilla!




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