Ben’s Update from the Japan Winter Safari:
After a delicious traditional breakfast feast, we were on the winding contour path by 08:30, a little surprised that it was extra cold – actually colder than indicated by the weather forecast.
Another lucky day for us with very few human visitors to the hot springs. This meant that we could again maneuver around as we wished. And the macaques! They they everywhere – and because of the cold, the majority were in the pools.
That sounds quite serene – ‘in the pools’ doesn’t begin to describe the jostling, bickering, hooting, calling, aggression, shoving, and hugs going on all around. There were constant disputes over a desirable patch of water, a hierarchical struggle, or just a frolic in the warm pools.
We continued our off-camera flash technique for images. The group divided into pairs and each pair was given a Pocket Wizard. Then, with one of the pair at eye-level with the macaques, and the other manning and pointing the flash exactly where needed, some spectacular images were captured by all.
Everyone enjoyed the exercise so much that we continued for the remainder of the day – only taking a break for lunch at the nearby inn, … well, to thaw out a bit as well. But the exceptional cold did not deter our return to the macaques as soon as our steaming Japanese noodles with a variety of sauces had disappeared.
Some of the monkeys were a little more active and leaped back and forth across streams, as babies watched while clinging to a pole.
Suddenly it was 16:00 and as though they have a clock, the macaques all left together to descend into the valley to overnight in their nesting sites in the trees.
After numerous stops along the contour path for more stunning photographs, we were back at the inn, and within seconds were in our own hot pools – the welcome, relaxing onsen.
We have just finished our traditional 12-course meal. Off to bed.
Tomorrow we plan to refine our newly acquired photographic skills …