Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents by Marty Essen

Ready for some exotic armchair traveling on a quest for reptiles, amphibians, insects and spiders? If your answer is yes, then join Marty Essen and wife Deb on a three-year, seven continent adventure.

Cool Creatures, Hot Planet is the true story of the Essen’s journeys to find “herps”-- and to partially fulfill Marty’s lifelong desire to become a herpetologist. Whether walking in the rain forests of Belize, floating on the Amazon River, or traversing the forest canopy in Borneo, Marty was always on the lookout for the species of snakes, lizards, toads or other reptiles and amphibians he knew lived there. He didn’t always find what he was looking for, but he always found something of interest.

Mary and Deb swam safely in the Amazon with red piranhas, which are unlikely to eat things bigger than themselves. In Zimbabwe, after the thrill of handling a rock python, seeing elephants and crocodiles, Marty and Deb barely escaped being killed by a hippopotamus. Although they had passed many hippos safely, even paddling over a herd of them on the river bottom, one took exception to the canoe the Essens were in. Without warning, they felt a bump and “something huge chomped through the middle of our canoe and thrust us into the air!” Fortunately they were near the shore, for eventually the canoe rolled toward the shore and dropped Marty and Deb into some mud. Then the hippo left!

While Cool Creatures.. can be read as an entertaining travelogue, Essen always includes interesting facts about the places visited, the plants and animals seen, and the people they met. My only complaint? Not enough pictures! Yes, there is a section of almost one hundred color photos in the book, but somehow I still found myself going to the Internet to find a picture of this tree or that snake, or other animal. I was amazed at how much Marty Essen was able to include in just 455 pages-- including a much-appreciated bibliographyIf you love travel, adventure, and "creepy" crawlies," you'll enjoy Cool Creatures Hot Planet.

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