Arts and Entertainment

World's wildest places

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Have you ever had lunch with a hyrax? Or dinner with a fosa?

Naturalist, traveler and professional photographer Coke Smith has and he offers a lecture/photo-essay series illustrating the wildlife and cultures of Madagascar and southern Africa.

Smith will take participants to the wilderness of Madagascar and explores the private lives of such creatures as wild indri, ring-tailed civets, fosa and dozens of lemur species.

Smith, his wife Som, and their son Cokie spent three months traveling throughout Madagascar and southern Africa and have an immense collection of images and stories, including being stalked in the bush by lionesses.

And then there were 4

The Smiths were in a blind watching a rhino when they noticed a lioness circling around behind them. The blind was open so it offered little protection from the lioness. They ran for their car, which Smith says was the wrong thing to do since lions chase prey that runs.

It wasn't until they were back in their car that they saw there were four lionesses watching them.

Smith also describes visits with remote tribal groups such as the Bushmen in the Kalahari and the spectacular natural sites where they live, such as the peaks of the world's largest sand dunes in South Africa. They also visited the tribal lands in the baobab forests of Madagascar.

Smith says one of the most exciting experiences was physical contact with a gorilla. This took place in 1995 when he was with a tour group in Rwanda.

Thrill of a lifetime

The female gorilla casually reached over and gently massaged Smith's neck. Smith calls it one of the most thrilling experiences he has had in his trips to remote parts of the world. The gorilla recognized Smith on his return visits to the preserve.

Smith has what used to be called wanderlust. He says he is a travel junkie. Although he is happy living in Port Angeles, he often must take trips or lead tours to new locations to fuel his need to see and learn about new places and wildlife.

Smith has traveled to Africa for more than 20 years and has guided numerous safaris to southern, eastern and central Africa.

The Peninsula College class meets at Port Angeles High School, 304 E. Park St., Port Angeles, Jan. 13-Feb. 17. Class fee is $59. Washington state clock hours are offered for the course. To register, call 452-9277.

By the way, if you are dining with a fosa, keep a close eye on small children. Fosas are predators that eat lemurs -- and children look like dinner to them.

Reach Dana Casey at

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