Africa! South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe

Off on another adventure, almost a month on the road.  This time, 4 more countries in Africa.  Africa literally captivates the hearts of all who visit.  It’s an incredible place with the most amazing people, stories and history.   I wildly implore you to go.

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Namibia Dunes.  2019 Copyright Angela Wright Photography

We flew Business class on Emirates, Seattle to Dubai, then off and running we went.  I was going to post a very long explanation of our trip but I decided to just share our itinerary from the very company that planned it for us.  Lucky for us they happen to be very close to our home.  So that made it easy and convenient to plan this very special trip.

https://itinerary.ultimateafrica.com/Itinerary/Destinations/1bf43d22-3dbe-4b52-8dd8-98e4639f0f47#destination-9

A few things to note as usual:

Emergency Kits:  Always carry a medical emergency kit with you.  If you get sick or hurt in some countries you won’t easily be able to get medical treatment.  But you should always carry Cipro for your tummy, a Z-Pack, motion sickness meds, anti-fungal, Benadryl, Bite cream, bandaids, Neosporin, Aspirin, Activated Charcoal pills, Aleve and or Ibuprofin, Iodin Swabs (which you should be able to get for free from your doctor or pharmacist) and make sure you have all your prescription medications and supplements with you.   If you are going to be gone a long time and you don’t want to carry every single bottle I recommend this for your everyday medicine and supplements Folding Pill Organizer

Weather:  The weather can vary in parts of Africa, as in parts of the United States.  We found that the early mornings were very chilly.  Especially since we were mostly in open-air vehicles.  They did provide hot water bottles and blankets for us.  But I highly recommend taking a coat, one that can be easily packed, perhaps folded into itself.  A hat, gloves and a scarf.   Its easier to peel clothes off when you get warm, then to not have enough clothing when it’s cold.  Also, pack wool socks and regular socks for the changing weather.  Make sure your shoes are comfortable and for walking over rough terrain and or getting wet if necessary.  Salomon makes the perfect shoes for this kind of trip.  Make sure you pack sunscreen because when the sun comes up and you are in an open-air vehicle you are going to need it.  And really good sunglasses.  Perhaps a hat to keep the heat out also, I always recommend Tilly.

Toiletries: Be sure you have everything you need in your toiletry bag.  I always recommend bags like this, for easy travel and convenience in your rooms and or tents.  If you are gone for two weeks or more make sure you have all the things you need, you will be hard-pressed to get those things in many parts of Africa if you are on safari in remote places.   Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, q-tips, floss, extra contacts, lotion for face and hands, face scrub,  Tampons, pads, hair accessories, brush, comb, safety pins, small sewing kit, toothpicks.  Anything that you use daily that you may not be able to get on this trip.

Wi-fi/Cell service:  It was very rare on our trip that we had any kind of cell service or Wi-fi service.   We were fine with that as we didn’t really need it for anything.   But because of this, I recommend that you treat it like the old days.  Keep copies of your itinerary on paper, with you, make sure you leave a copy back home for friends just in case, and copies of your passport back home, just in case.  Keep a list of all phone numbers written somewhere just in case there is an emergency.  And pack your kindle or books, there will plenty of downtime and for the most part no internet.

Tented camps:  The camps are so lovely, lots of great food, comfortable rooms, and places to sit and relax, read, have a cocktail, etc.  But there is no AC or heat in the tents.  So just be prepared in the evenings and early mornings to be a bit chilly.  Most places will provide blankets and hot water bottles in your beds for you.   But warm socks, warm jammies, are always a good idea to pack.   And in the afternoons it can get very hot in the tents, some have fans but that is about it.   So be prepared to sweat.  It’s an adventure for sure.   And the showers are all solar so sometimes you will be asked to shower in the evenings because that is when you will have hot water.  You don’t want to wake up in the chill of the morning with no heat and no hot water.  That’s not a great way to start the day.

Vaccinations: Always check the  CDC  and  WHO  websites before you travel anywhere to get the latest on vaccination requirements or medications that you need to bring or take with you as you travel.

Also here is my husband’s delightful site with photos and his take on our trip.  https://trips.wrightholdings.com/

I hope you enjoy reading about our trip and seeing our incredible photos of this magical Continent.   If you have a chance to go, do it.  You will never be disappointed with your choice.   If you have any questions or feel I need to add something please reach out to me at any time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Argentina, Chile, Patagonia region and Antarctica 2016

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Well hello friends.  Its the end of another great year.  We met some amazing people, had some grand adventures and saw some amazing sites.  And I still cannot believe that I set foot in Antarctica.   If you have the chance to see it, do it soon.  Especially with the US current administration who does not believe or support climate change, Antarctica could be gone before you know it.  And what a colossal disaster that will be.

We flew American Airlines from Seattle to Buenos Aires.   We had a 15 hour layover there, so we decided to get a hotel room, to freshen up and sleep before we had to get up and catch a 3:00 am flight to the Domestic airport where we caught our next flight.

This adventure would have a lot of hiking, and seeing the country side.   Everyday we hiked new mountains and stayed in great lodges along the way.   We ate amazing food and got to know some people from around the world who were also traveling with us.  We hiked in both Chile and Argentina.   We hiked all over Patagonia and the mountain region Fitz Roy:

That is the region that you see on all your Patagonia clothing, that is the mountain that we hiked and the areas around it.   The weather was cool and sometimes windy, but really beautiful.  We saw icebergs, and animals, and water falls and flowers for miles.  Its was really incredible.

The hiking is tough in some places, lots of hills and tons of rocks.  You really need to be prepared and a pretty experienced hiker to enjoy the hikes and not get too tired.  Its hours of hiking each day.  I did most hikes each day.  There was one that I simply could not finish.  I knew that if I went all the way to the end, I would not have enough energy to make it back to our lodge.

There are many sites that can show you the hikes we did, this one shows pretty much every adventure we took on that trip.  Hiking

*NOTE: You need to have a very good pair of hiking boots, great wool socks that dont rub, a light jacket and a heavy one, both should be able to pack well in your backpack.  Hat, gloves, scarf, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a good bottle for water.   You will also need to pack protein bars, fruit, nuts, protein sticks.   Your hikes are long and hard and some days you get very hot.   You will not want to be stuck on a hike without the proper food and hydration.  I of course always recommend electrolyte tablets for your water.   These are the ones we take, Nuun.

Then we were off to Antarctica.   Most of the people that were on the tour with us were also going on the boat with us, the Polar Pioneer.   This is the same boat we took through the high Arctic and Norway in 2007.   It holds approximately 50 guests.  Its a great boat, with an exceptional Russian crew.  Three meals a day, prepared by chefs, snacks all day, coffee, tea, juices.  There is also a full bar on the boat with every kind of liquor, beer and wine you might like.

The hardest part of the journey is the 40 hours through the Drake Passage 

It is some of the roughest waters on earth.   I never get sea sick but coming back through the Drake on our journey home, even I was sick one afternoon.

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Antarctica 2016

*NOTE: On this trip they provided us with a very nice coat, it was part of the package.  But you will also need scarves, gloves, hat, very good wool socks, waterproof and windproof pants, they need to be warm.  Wool undergarments, and sheep skin lining for your boots (they provide the boots) also I HIGHLY recommend hand and feet warmers.   If you are in the zodiac for a long time with the cold water and wind you will get very cold.   Be prepared.   Be prepared to get in and out of a zodiac, walk in the snow, over slippery rocks, in water, on land, etc.   You will also be walking in a lot of animal poop.

Seeing Antarctica was an incredible experience.   Once in a lifetime thing.  I highly recommend you consider this adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador 2016

My husband loves diving in the Galapagos Islands, this is his third trip.   It is one live-aboard that I do not go on with him because the currents are very strong, so snorkeling, though not impossible, is a real challenge.

So he decided to share part of the trip with me this time and do a week of land based stuff before he headed off to the boat and I came home.

We flew Delta airlines from Seattle to Atlanta and Atlanta to Quito.  Not a bad trip, about 13 hours all in all, with layovers.

We stayed a couple nites in Quito and used one day for walking the city.  We went to the large cathedral at the other end of town, and it was fantastic.  I love old churches, their history, the architecture, etc.  quito

This was almost the very top of the cathedral.  It was a great day and an incredible view. Cathedral

I recommend walking all of the cathedral. The stairs to the top on both sides etc.  You get a great view.  Its totally worth it.

We then went to Isabela Island, Galapagos.  It was wonderful.  We had such a great hotel right on the ocean.  Hotel La Casa Marita

  • The only thing negative I have to say about this particular hotel is that the food service is some of the slowest I have ever experienced.  One evening it took an hour and 1/2 just to get our meal.   I think they only have ONE cook for the entire hotel and maybe two servers.  And though I respect its “island time”, this was even to slow for us.  Two evenings of dinner, took over an hour.  If you want dinner quicker, you should start ordering around 5:00.  Not joking.

So we had a few activities planned here, first was hiking the Volcano Sierra Negra

Here are some good notes and advice before you hike this Volcano.

NOTE:  It is hot!  To actually enjoy your experience there are some things you need to have and know.

Wear a GOOD hat to keep the sun off your face, neck and chest.  (I always recommend the Tilly hats)  Remember you are at the Equator, the sun is brutal.  There are only a few places with shade on this walk, very few.   So make sure you also have a good sun protection shirt, light weight, but covering your chest, arms etc.   Good hiking boots and socks.  Also bring walking sticks!  Remember this is a 10 mile hike there and back. Good trekking, hiking pants and Sunscreen, sunglasses and chap-stick with SPF.  Also you will need to bring your own water on this trek.  I suggest something like this:  Water Bottle .  If you are hiking with someone, like a friend or a spouse, you will really need three of these bottles between the two of you.  Or two bottles a piece.  You will be glad you had them, you will drink all that water on this hike.  ALSO they provide you with a lunch, (as it was) it was bread with cheese in the middle and some fruit.  I suggest you bring your own snacks, peanut butter crackers, protein meat sticks, protein bars.  (you can bring these items into Galapagos, but you cannot bring seeds, fresh fruit, or cooked items) The hike is not difficult as far as terrain is concerned.  The last 30 minutes of the hike, you are actually on Lava rocks, that part can be brutal and by this time you are hot and tired.  

If you like hiking, this is worth it.  You leave early in the morning and are home around 2:00 in the afternoon, so you have plenty of time to freshen up, enjoy the beach and a few cocktails before dinner.

We also did some snorkeling with white tip sharks and rays and tons of other fish.  This snorkel is about an hour long.  The water is COLD!  I recommend you bring your own wet-suit, fins, mask etc.  (if you bring your own a three mill will probably be sufficient) I used a lava core bottom and a shark skin, short sleeve top.  It was perfectly warm for the entire snorkel and the boat ride home with no issues.  (but you can rent your gear from the boat if you choose)

We also did a morning of Kayaking.  We had a private guide and we got to see some really cook stuff!  Rays jumping out of the water, penguins that came right up to our Kayak, sea lions, etc.  It was really fun.  Even if you have never kayaked before, you can totally do this.  We had a great time.  The waters are pretty calm.  This is about an hour long.

Ecuador was a surprising adventure!  It is modern, clean, beautiful beaches, friendly people, inexpensive.  The food was not exceptional but it was still good.  The wines are nice, and nothing is outrageously expensive.

If you are diving here dry suits are usually the norm.  The water is very cold.  But the diving is for experienced divers.  The currents can be very bad.

I highly recommend Ecuador and the Islands, for a quick getaway or even a honeymoon.  The beaches are beautiful, the ocean amazing.

Cheers!

 

 

Na’ia M/V and The Kingdom of Tonga 2015

Well here we are with another adventure under our belts, and man what an adventure it was!!

We took Air New Zealand out of Vancouver, straight flight, 14 hours, into Auckland.

And just a shout out about Air New Zealand.  It was one of the best airlines I have flown.  The business class section had amazing food, drink and cabin crew.   The beds lay totally flat, and they make your beds for you.   Great comfy beds, pillows, etc.   If you have a chance to fly it, do it, I highly recommend it.  Even the economy cabin looked comfortable enough to manage for a long flight.

We then took a short flight also on Air New Zealand to The Kingdom of Tonga.  Tonga is near Fiji.  It has over 170 islands.  It is the only Kingdom in the South Pacific.   We stayed in a hotel there before catching our Dive Boat Nai’a.  The boat picked us up at the hotel at 2:00 pm the next day.    Another site for Nai’a, to help you understand how this adventure works.

This boat was amazing, one of the best of the dozen or so liveaboard’s, sail, yachts, etc. that I have been on.    It had a great crew, the rooms were spacious and really nice.  The showers big enough to move around in, plenty of room for your things in the room.  The beds were pretty comfortable, nice pillows, good lighting, plugs, places to hang your clothes, shelving, drawers, etc.  Even a place for a large suitcase if you need to bring one.

AC in the rooms which works really well.

Three great meals a day, plus plenty of snacks, drinks, coffee, wine, booze (extra price) water, ice, fruit.  (but if you want salty you might have to bring your own chips or crackers, there were not any on the boat.  Mostly just sweets, carbs, etc.)

There is a huge dive deck, with room for 16 divers.   This was not necessarily a dive trip, as we were really there to see the Humpbacks,  but they did have dives every afternoon and the divers said they saw some really great stuff most days.

Humpback Whale, Kingdom of Tonga, 2015

Humpback Whale, Kingdom of Tonga, 2015

The whales come to this spot in Tonga to give birth, it’s a nice protected, quiet area and they are plentiful.  There are only two places in the world you can swim with these whales, and Tonga is one of them.  You cannot dive with them, but you can snorkel with them.  The laws are pretty strict these days, so as to protect the whales and make sure they are always comfortable an in peace.

Here is how it works:  The boat moves everyday to spots they think the whales are, and we usually spot them off the bow of the boat every day.  Then if the whales seem to like staying in that spot, we say, “let’s go swimming” and we put on our wet suits, grab our cameras and snorkel gear, and on the skiffs we go.

The skiff drivers are very skilled at spotting the whales and keeping us in a spot where we can get in the water with them.  Once we spot them, we put on our masks and grab our cameras and slide off the sides of the skiff like a seal, slippery and into the water.  We stay together as a group and slowly swim over the whales or near the whales.  No need to be fast or quick or kick madly, the whales need quiet and slow movements.  They are very large, peaceful animals.

It can be a bit scary and or daunting the first time you are close to them or they come at you.   You have to really be calm and follow the instructions of your leader.

This is one of the most magical things I have ever experienced.  It was very emotional for both my husband and I.   Its very hard to explain.

Take a camera, and or a GoPro or a water camera of some sort.   Just remember that sometimes the water will be very choppy and it will be hard to not only see the whales, but even hard to take a photo of them, even though they are very large creatures.  And the visibility is not always perfect.   Sometimes it will be hard to see anything.

*NOTE : make sure your camera, big or small, is clipped to you, strapped to you in some way.  Perhaps a float and wrist strap.  Getting in and out of the skiff and the choppy ocean can easily take that camera away, and then, bye bye, no more whale shots.

Sometimes there will be that one person in the group that tries to ruin the shots for everyone.  Trying to be the first one out of the boat, swimming ahead, kicking wildly.  It’s not necessary to be “that person”.   Take your time and remember there are plenty of you on this trip, who have all paid the same price to see the whales.  No one person is more important than the other.

And remember these are huge creatures and if they feel threatened, they will let you know.

The water is a bit chilly (around 72 degrees) and the wind on the skiffs can make you pretty cold.  I recommend 5mm wetsuits or 7mm or Lava core or Shark Skin.  (of course if you are an experienced diver you will most likely know what you need in that temperature water)   The wind can get pretty cold especially when you are wet and since you are snorkeling you are on top of the water, which, if its sunny is fine, but not everyday is sunny.

We didn’t have the best weather, the waters were very choppy and the wind was merciless.   There were days where we didn’t get in the water at all because it simply was not safe to get on and off the skiffs or from the boat to the skiffs.

If you are not an experienced snorkeler this might also be difficult at first, especially if the waters are choppy.  You have to just hang at the top and stay with the group.  Don’t try to swim it, don’t try and kick too much, the choppy waters might make you anxious but the leaders are pretty good at keeping the group together and safe.

*NOTE: I highly recommend light snorkel fins instead of your heavy wetsuit/dry suit fins.  It will def. make the experience easier. 

Getting back on the skiff can be tricky.  You have to pull yourself out of the water and launch yourself back into the skiff.  If you have bad shoulders, or are perhaps a bit overweight, or don’t have much athletic ability, this exercise could be difficult for you.

*NOTE: when you pack, whether you have been on a liveaboard of not, here are some recommendations.   Two or three bathing suits, as you will likely get in and out of the water a few times during the day.   Wet suits, 7mm, 5mm, LavaCore, Shark Skin, or something of your liking.  But the water is cold so be sure not to underestimate that.  Lounge wear, skirts, shorts, pants, sarongs, and of course, a sweatshirt or jacket of some kind, as the wind is very cold on deck.  A light rain jacket just in case.  We did have many days of rain.   You are allowed to wear shoes on this boat so flip-flops, or tennis shoes are fine if you want them.   Sunscreen, hat, kindle, and or books, music, etc.   There may be days when you are on the boat all day and never see a whale or never get into the water, so you will not want to be bored. 

 

 

 

Cusco, Lima, Pisco, Salkantay, Machu Picchu, PERU! 2014

Summiting Sulkanay with horses Peru, 2014

Summiting Salkantay with horses, Peru, 2014

Oh my what a trip this was!  We were in the jungle, the dessert, summited 15,200 on the mountain. We rode horses through the Andes mountains, rode dune buggies, went zip lining, and even white water rafting!   It was quite and adventure! Peru is a fascinating place.  Different than I expected.  I will tell you a few things about our journey, give you some advice, and let you ask as many questions as you want. Here we go…… First of all knowing a very large amount of Spanish will be very helpful on your journey to Peru.  Most people speak some English but it can be frustrating in some places, especially restaurants. Signs, drivers, hotels, airports, etc. are all in Spanish.    I suggest you brush up on your Spanish before you arrive.

Peru is very dirty.  You cannot drink the water, or even let the water touch your lips in the shower.  All water consumption must be bottled.  Some high end hotels will have filtered water and ice, but be cautious, always ask before you just start drinking from the tap or order ice in your drink.

Be sure to bring all the emergency medicine you will need on your trip.  (after bite, epipen, Cipro, Benadryl, band-aids, Neosporin, Z-pack, etc.)  There is an abundance of bees and wasps there, so make sure if you are allergic to stings you are prepared.  I was stung by a wasp and not only did it hurt like a MoFo, I was lucky that I was not allergic to the sting but some people are and you must be prepared.  There is not place for emergencies in Peru.

Be careful where you eat.  If you have a guide let the guide recommend some good restaurants, safe restaurants for tourists to eat at. Refrigeration is a problem in Peru so sometimes the meats will not be as cared for as you are used too.  We travel a lot and we are very careful about what we eat and where we eat and we were sick more times on this trip than anywhere else in the world. Do not eat the salad, or the vegetables or fruits that have not been peeled, or cooked.  They wash these things with their filthy water, and just like my advice in Egypt, you will get sick if you are not cautious about that.

You will need to have your yellow fever shot and you will need to take Malaria meds while on this trip.  There are TONS of bugs, we were bit several times.   And these bugs are nasty!  Huge welts, blood, itching, like no bugs I have ever seen.   Make sure all your vaccinations and meds are up to date before you travel here.

*ALTITUDE: This is NO joke!  When you arrive in Cusco you will begin to feel the difference as your breathing slows down and you are having trouble taking a breath.  While we did not get Altitude sickness, we did have a few nites and days where we struggled with the altitude.  We took some medication with us that was prescribed by our doctor, Acetazolamide, it really works!  Also drink the Coca tea.  It is very helpful as well.  I suggest you drink it in the morning and before retiring in the evening, or right after dinner. Your first nite in the high altitude, you should eat a light meal, and have Coca tea, and then take a sleeping pill and go right to bed. Keep yourself hydrated, plenty of water and electrolyte tablets as well.   Do not do any activities your first nite or day.  Your body needs time to acclimate to the altitude.  Relax and think carefully about your breathing.  Some people get very sick, nauseated, light headed etc. You will find even the smallest activities, eating, walking, showering to be difficult at first.  Take your meds, take things slow and eventually your body will acclimate. Be very cautious about your alcohol intake, you will find that even a small drink, or one beer will quickly go to your head in that high altitude.

*COCA TEA It is NOT Cocaine.  It comes from the Coca plant.  It would take you chewing on a thousand Coca leaves to get the Cocaine effect from them.  The tea is very helpful for the altitude.  It has a bland hay taste to it.  Most hotels and restaurants serve it as a local and regular drink.

*TOILETS There are very very few public toilets in all of Peru.  Even if there is one, you will end up paying 1 solace for the privilege of its use.  People literally just pee in the streets, or in the bushes.  The country smells very much like urine and fecies.  Even at monuments and ruin sites like Machu Picchu, there is only ONE public toilet at the beginning of the site entrance.  If you have to use the restroom while you are there, you will either have to go all the way back to the front or you will have to just pee in the bushes that are there on site.  Its all very odd.   Also carry your own TP and hand cleaner.   If you do end up finding a toilet it will not have the necessities like TP. We spent many long hours in cars, and on boats and if you have to pee you either have to pee off the side of a boat or ask them to stop so you can pee in the woods.

*HORSE BACK RIDING We used Mountain Lodges of Peru as our source for this trip.  They were a great company and the lodges were wonderful.  I will post that in the next paragraph: I know many people hike these trails, and some take bikes and some do Horses.  We decided to take the horses through the Andes mountains.  I cannot emphasize enough that horseback riding is NOT, NOT, NOT for beginners.   You must have advanced knowledge of horses and horse back riding before you do this trek.  The trails are STEEP and narrow and muddy and filled with large rocks, boulders, water, debris, etc.  The drop offs are very deep and the horses are not very well behaved. The horses do not like to listen to commands, they only like to follow the front horse or the horse in front of them.  They are not trained very well in commands.  There are NO smooth trails to ride on, you will be on super rocky passes for many hours and many days.   The horses seem to know the trails but because they are not very well behaved it can be scary for some. 

They also are not very well footed so sometimes they will walk very close to the edge without even caring since all they do is watch the horse in front.  AND if the horse in front starts to run, trust me, your horse is now running.   All things you need to be aware of. The saddles are not the kind you might be used to.  They have no “knob” on the front.  They are flat and some are very small.   If you are not steady in your core and on a saddle this might be more than difficult for you. I suggest good hiking/riding boots.  You will also need a good water bottle, I suggest a soft one, it will be banging against you leg for hours, as they suggest you hook it to the saddle, so a soft water bottle is less abrasive on your legs.  You will need a small day pack that can hold extras, like toilet paper, hand wipes, sunscreen, hats, gloves, scarves.  You can put your rain gear and heavy coat and camera gear in the saddle bags.  Their size is sufficient for those items. The company will provide you with a helmet that they strongly suggest you wear.  I also strongly suggest it.  If you were to fall off this horse, you will want your head protected. They will provide you lunch and snacks along the way, but carrying a few snacks of your own is not a bad idea.  Peanuts, cookies, crackers, fruit, are all good ideas.

*LODGES Mountain Lodges of Peru:  Each evening after long days in the saddle we stopped at these lodges for hot tubing, and dinner and sleep.  These lodges are beautiful, well maintained and clean.   I suggest highly that you use the hot tub every night after you hike or ride, it will help soften the muscles and help you relax and sleep. The lodges have big beautiful rooms with full bathrooms and large comfortable beds.   The food in Peru is always good and these lodges were no exception.  Full breakfasts, large lunches, (unless u get a paper lunch on the trek) lovely dinners, with desserts.  They have full bars, (though with the altitude you might not drink too much) In the mornings you get coffee, tea, juices, eggs, bacon, whatever you want. They always have snacks out, like crackers, cookies, fruit.  If its chilly they will have a nice fire going. Most everyone speaks English and the hospitality is really wonderful. You wont be disappointed.

Whistler, Canada

We decided to take a drive to Whistler!  It was the perfect 4 day weekend away where we didn’t have to fly and we could take our time driving the beautiful roads and scenery in our convertible.

It is about a 4-5 hour drive from our home to Whistler, depending on traffic and the Border Crossing.  We have Global Entry to the return trip was a breeze, we didn’t even have to sit in line at the border.   It literally was a 3 minute trip across the border for us and other Nexxus or Global Entry holders.  Wow!  That made it so much easier and nicer for the drive.

We stayed at the Crystal Hotel in the village,   http://www.crystal-lodge.com/hotel.   It was really nice.  We had a large room, with a couch, a small kitchenette with a microwave, coffee maker, sink and plenty of glasses for drinking wine, water, booze etc.  It had a large television, a king bed a large bathroom a safe, most of the usual stuff.  The hotel was clean and well-kept.  The beds were very comfortable.

It is 22.00 a day to park your car in the garage, but its safe there and that seems pretty standard.

Being right in the village is great because you come out of your hotel and there you are in the midst of things.   There are tons of restaurants for breakfast, lunch, dinner.   You can choose to spend little or a lot on any of those things.  There are plenty of Starbucks in the village, so you wont be short on your coffee or tea or scone.  🙂  *And to answer a question from a reader, YES there are several Starbucks in the Village.  Don’t worry you wont be without your Latte!  🙂

There are a few restaurants in the center of the village that seem to be hopping.   It’s nice because you can order a drink or food and just sit and people watch or a show that might be going on in the center.

There are lots of shops for souvenirs, jewelry, clothes, just about anything you need/want.   You can buy booze, food for your room, there is also a couple of pharmacies.   There is plenty to do at Whistler even in the summer.  You can take the peak to peak gondola ride to the top of the mountain and have lunch while looking over the peaks.  Its amazing!

You can hike, there is bike riding, and there is still plenty of skiing and boarding to be had at the top on the glacier.

It can be a bit chilly so I recommend a wrap or light sweater in the evenings.   The wind is a bit cold but for us it was fine because we live in the Pacific NW so we are used to the temps.   I brought one pair of jeans, two pairs of shorts, a couple of cover up shirts for sun coverage while on the open lifts and while walking around or hiking.   I brought GOOD hiking shoes, also a dress pair of shoes, some leggings a couple of nice blouses for dinner.  It’s a pretty casual place but there is always room to dress up in the evenings if you chose.

You can do river rafting, and bear watching and zip lining as well.  We took the 2 hour bear tour.  They pick you up in a land rover and you share that very small car with 6 other people while driving up a mountain trying to see bears in the woods or by the side of the road.   *I do not think its worth the 200.00 for this tour.   We mostly just drove around, played magical chairs in the car and in the end saw only one small bear on our way back to the room.  Honestly we could have taken our own car up around the roads to find the beard ourselves.  I don’t recommend this tour, but that certainly is up to you.

The prices are reasonable for a place like Whistler.   There are a few very expensive restaurants but we chose a more casual weekend.

Go, have fun, see the sights, walk the village and bring your camera.

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

We took a week to visit this amazing Island!!  For me this was my first time, for my husband it was his third.  He was doing more CCR diving and I was snorkeling, hanging by the pool, writing, shopping and meeting some great new friends!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Cayman

We took United (which we hate flying BTW) from Sea-Tac to Dulles and Dulles to Grand Cayman.  Same route coming home.   It was long for us but for others it was only a few hours, like if you are coming from NC.. easy flight!

Grand Cayman June 2013

Grand Cayman June 2013

Grand Cayman is the largest of the Islands.  We stayed at http://www.cobaltcoast.com/  this place is incredible!  It is clean and fun and seems to attract a great crowd.  Its not cheap but nothing in the Caymans is.   But if you have the means and you have the time its def. for you.   They have a great Dive Shop, Dive Tech, http://www.sportdiver.com/worlds-best-diving-resorts/cayman-islands/2012-world%E2%80%99s-best-diving-resorts-cobalt-coast-dive-resort–  which is one of the top dive shops at one of the top Dive Resorts.

The rooms at the resort are large.  They include a living space, with a refrigerator, a table, a couch, a chair and plenty of space to use your laptop.  Plenty of plugs to plug-in your batteries, phone etc.  You have free Wi-Fi, it’s a bit slow but it works.  The Wi-Fi works best in the bar and eating area but not great in your room.   The rooms have large beds, a large bathroom and they even include, soap, shampoo, extra towels and blankets if you need them.  The rooms have AC and fans so they are very cool, which is nice esp. at certain times of year.  There is also a pool right outside the rooms.   You basically walk out your room and there you are at the outdoor dining area.   Breakfast is usually a buffet, with eggs, potatoes, fruits, breads, jams, bacon, sausage, pancakes, French toast, coffee, tea etc.   You can also order off the menu but its all pretty much the same.   Lunch and dinner are menu items and the selection is wonderful.  And everything, is fresh.  I loved the Mahi-Mahi Fish tacos they were a huge hit with me.   They also have fresh soups and specials each day for lunch and dinner.  You will never lack variety and you will not be disappointed.

** The plugs in the Caymans are the same as the states, no need to have an adapter.

The all-inclusive package includes three meals a day, and 5 alcoholic drinks a day.  (the alcohol program is not a rollover, so it’s a use it or lose it kind of drink deal)

The dive shop is located right there at the resort, out your room and there it is.  They support snorkeling, open-circuit, CCR and CCR tri-mix diving.  They offer courses as well as private instructors.  You can also get your Lion Fish hunting license and go out with one of the DM’s and kill the Lion Fish (Lion Fish do not belong in the Caribbean.  They have NO natural predator there and they are eating up the life)  So Lion Fish hunting is highly encouraged.  DONT worry they have recipes for them not so they can be cooked and eaten safely.

I also did Sting Ray city!!  It was so amazing.  Though some people still have a false belief about Sting Rays, they really are amazing and HARMLESS creatures.  They do not kill, they do not hunt, they do not bite, they do not point and aim their barbs at you.  They are incredible creatures.   You can either go out on a small dive boat and dive to the bottom, 10 or 12 feet and sit on the bottom so they swim around you.  Or you can snorkel above them, and they will come up to greet you, or you can take another tour where you stand in the water up to your waist and the Sting Rays just swim around you.   It really is a neat experience.  They are soft and fun and inquisitive!  You should def. do this its worth it.  I think it costs about 30.00 a person.   The dive boat will have tanks and towels and water.  But you need to pack up your own gear to take with you, including snorkels, fins, BC etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stingray_City,_Grand_Cayman

We took one day to go shopping.  We did not go to Georgetown, as if was my first time we went to Camana Bay instead.  Its pretty swanky!  It has lots of expensive shops but the courtyard was neat and they had a lot of great restaurants.  We met our new friends from Colorado and NC there after they spent the day on 7 mile beach, and we had drinks and dinner and there was even dancing!  It was great fun. http://www.camanabay.com/

All in all my experience there not only had deep meaning for me as it was, years ago the first time my now husband bought me my first piece of jewelry, it seemed like a great place to spend our anniversary.

It was hot, so you don’t need much.   A few bathing suits, cover ups, sarongs, sandals, flip-flops, some sun dresses, sunscreen, a hat or head cover esp. if you are going to snorkel for long periods.  You probably don’t need a lot of make-up as you will sweat it off, and it wont really be worth it to fix your hair as you are usually dripping in sweat!  🙂   So headbands, cute head pieces, rubber bands, scrunchies are a must!  Sunglasses don’t forget those!

I loved it and I am excited to go there again.  If you want a fun, sunny, beautifully friendly place to vacation this is the place.

Galapagos, Bikini Atoll & The Big Island of Hawaii… CCR diving

My husband is now a CCR diver and now has the opportunities of a lifetime to go to so many more places diving, to stay down longer, to dive more, see more magnificent things, wrecks, reefs, you name it!!    He will be going on some live a boards soon to get more underwater time with his CCR so he can go back to Bikini Atoll in the spring of 2014 and back to CoCo’s island.

The CCR’s give him the opportunity to swim with sharks and fish without scaring them, to see things he can see with open-circuit diving.  To get photos you can’t imagine.

Here is what he is diving with now.  We are friends with the creator of the Titan and the owner of the shop.  Will write more about his experiences as they come up..

http://expeditiondivegear.com/

Cheers all hope you are well, we are off to the Cayman islands in a few weeks for our Anniversary!  Woot!

Red

Ephesus, Capadocia and Istanbul Turkey 2012

Even though our trip ended on land in Turkey I am going to start with it because it is freshest in my memory.  Turkey is an amazing place filled with such history.  Istanbul is very modern and has a great transportation system.  You can get almost anywhere on the tram.  You can walk most anywhere there too.  Some places I highly recommend are the Spice Market, the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque.  It is worth eating dinner in and around the Grand Bazaar because its busy and happening and if you are lucky you might get into a place where you can see the Blue Mosque lit up at night.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul Turkey

This is the amazing Blue Mosque in Istanbul Turkey

Take the tour of the inside it is worth it.

These tiles on the walls, (below is just a small sample of some of their beauty) are worth 40-50K American Dollars a piece.  There is high security inside the Mosques so these tiles are not stolen.

Tiles inside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul Turkey

These are some of the beautiful tiles inside The Blue Mosque

*NOTE

Turkey is 99% Muslin so be respectful when it comes to your dress, esp. as a woman.  When entering the Mosque you must remove your shoes and your shoulders must be covered.  So wearing a tank top or a short skirt is not advisable.  Always wear something with sleeves and pants or a long skirt.  In some mosques will also be asked to cover your head, so my advice is to always carry a scarf or a wrap with you when traveling to Muslim countries. 

You will be allowed to take photos in most places in turkey but sometimes you will be asked NOT to use your flash.  Please be respectful, don’t act like many tourist who just don’t care what they are asked to do or not do.  Remember this is THEIR country and you are a visitor.

I highly recommend taking a day to walk the Spice Market.  You can buy many candies, teas, spices etc.  The people are very kind and you will find it quite and experience.

The Spice Market Istanbul Turkey

Also take at least a FULL day to walk the Grand Bazaar.  It is covered so you wont get wet if it happens to rain.  It is an amazing place.  You can buy many gifts here or things for you and your home.  You can barter here like in many bazaars.  BUT the good thing about the Turks is that they are friendly, funny and loving!  They will not push you to buy something but they will give you good prices on good items.  They take much pride in their business’s and they will always offer you Turkish tea so that you can sit and get to know them and tell them about your travels and family.

Go to Turkey with an open mind, the people are some of the friendliest I have ever had the honor of meeting and spending time with.  If they offer you tea say “Yes” and sit and enjoy their stories and their history.

You can buy most anything in Istanbul, rugs, personal items, etc.  If you are missing something chances are you can get it here.  You can buy clothes, shoes, anything.  As I said it very much like NY, Hong Kong or Milan.  15 Million people now live in the City of Istanbul so you can imagine how busy it is.   Be prepared for the hustle and bustle of this big city.  There is much to see, bring your camera!!  There are ATM’s everywhere and of course you can use your credit card for most things.  Sometimes they prefer you buy things in cash and you probably will get a better deal if you pay in cash but it’s not necessary.

EPHESUS:

This is an old bible city.  If you are familiar with the scriptures than you will certainly be aware of the importance of this city.  They say that Mary, the mother of Christ was brought here by John and lived and died here after Jesus died.  That John built her a house and you can tour this small and modest home.  They also claim that the Apostle John died here and you can see his “grave”.  You can also see the Wishing Wall, which is very much like the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

Only 15% of Ephesus has been excavated so there is SO much more to see in coming years.

It takes about a day to see all the old city and the cobble stones are big and rocky and its hot and dusty. DONT wear heals and I don’t recommend flip-flops or tank tops.  You will want to wear a hat, clothing that is sun resistant and cool, I suggest travel pants but shorts will be fine as long as you wear sunscreen.  ALWAYS carry water with you.  There is much to see you want to make sure you are comfortable so wear GOOD walking shoes.

CAPADOCIA:

This is also a very old biblical place.  There are not many ruins here but there are homes carved into the stone, the structures are very interesting to see.  It is beautiful and mysterious and worth your time here as well.

WHAT TO WEAR, NOT TO WEAR AND BRING:

  • A scarf or wrap for your head and or shoulders
  • Good walking shoes for the Bazaar and Spice Market and the city in general
  • Sunscreen
  • A light jacket or sweater it can get cold by the water or in the evenings
  • Dress slacks or a dress or skirt and blouse for dinners

Bali, Depensar, Wakatobi, Sulawesi, Ubud Indonesia & The Pelagian Dive Yacht

We left our home and traveled to Vancouver B.C.  We took EVA air from Vancouver to Taipei, business class, a 12.5 hour flight.  We got a hotel room in Canada so that we could store our stuff, get a nice dinner, then shower and change into our travel clothes.  We left our car at the hotel for a small parking fee.  It was a secure parking lot so we were not worried about theft or anything.  Our flight from Vancouver was $2400.00 cheaper than flying out of Sea-Tac and security is SO much easier than at Sea-Tac.   And the drive for us was only a little over 2 hours and it was a nice day, so it all started out very well.

We had a 5 hour layover in Taipei at the airport.  Since we fly business class we get to go to the business class lounge and shower and change and get something to eat and drink.  Then we can rest, read, etc.  We then took a 5 hour flight into Bali, business class.  When we arrived it was HOT!  We had someone from Wakatobi Dive Lodge waiting for us, she helped us get our visa and helped us move quickly through customs.  We then had a car waiting for us to take us to the resort in Depensar.  That was a three-hour drive and not necessarily because of miles but because the traffic in Bali is SO bad now.  Sometimes you can walk to your destination quicker than you can drive.

We met our friends from Whales, Graham and Margaret Roy at the resort.  They had been there a couple of days before us.  We stayed at the Anda Amed Resort.  The resort is decent with very nice size rooms, large beds, large bathrooms, with a shower and a tub,  french doors, mosquito netting on the beds.  There is A/C, a T.V., DVD Player but there is no telephone in the room so if you need something you will have to walk from your room to the front desk.   The water pressure is not very good, the towels are a bit rough, but other than that it was a good place to stay.  We had a room way at the top so we had a great view of the Banda Sea , where we could see the sunset and rise each day if we chose.

There is an infinity pool that looks over the Sea.  You can order food and drinks by the pool if you want.   Margaret and I sat by the pool and read most days while Brad and Graham went diving.

The food menu is decent, lots of selections for each meal.  Fresh fruits, meats, sandwiches, noodles.  They even make fresh fruit juices in the morning with the whole fruit in the blender, they are SO good.  The restaurant is ok substituting or changing things for your dietary needs or wants.  They also have a full bar and they can mix whatever you want, whenever you want.  And the Indonesian local wines are very very good.

Two evenings we decided to eat somewhere else instead of the resort.  There was a little place called Beer & Grill that was not too far from our resort, we took scooters to get there, man that was scary and fun all at the same time!  We met the owner, he had amazing english, and his restaurant was wonderful!  Graham and Brad shared Duck one evening and we all had prawn and avocado Sate both evenings.  It was so fresh and SO Good.  We even shared a bottle of the local Red Indonesian wine that was made right there, grapes grown on the soil from the Volcano.  It was cheap and delicious.  Both nites we had that with dinner.

After a few days in Ahmed we all got a taxi together and went into Bali for one nite in a  Harris Hotel .  This hotel is only a few minutes from the airport instead of the three-hour drive from Ahmed so we thought it best to drive there the nite before, get a good nites rest and then take that three minute drive to catch our flight.

We are now on our way to Wakatobi to stay at the resort and to stay on the Pelagian Dive Yacht.  When we arrived at the airport the porters took our bags, no need to tip them because they work for the resort.  We were escorted to the VIP lounge where we had free snacks, water, coffee, etc. while waiting for our 10:00 am charter fight to the island.  It is a 2.5 hour flight to the Island.  This day it was raining heavily so when we arrived we were greeted by the resort dive masters, helpers, etc. and with umbrellas.  We got on a boat with our luggage and carry-ons that took us another 45 minutes to the resort itself.   Once we arrived at the resort Brad could not believe how much it had changed in all these years.  It was HUGE and beautiful with new Villas, a large restaurant, a huge staff etc.   Ourselves, our friends and a few other guests were now going to be taken to the Yacht where we will stay for 5 nites and then back to the resort for another 5.   We met another couple, Rodger and Becky Stewart from Colorado who joined us on the Yacht.  The Yacht only holds 10 guests, and man was it luxury!

The rooms on the Yacht are HUGE and they have all and more of the comforts of home.  The bathrooms were FULL bathrooms with HUGE showers, they supply soap, shampoo, conditioner and if you have forgotten something you can get that too.  We had a queen size bed and another large bed in the room for a guest or two.   There were two closets, plenty of drawers, lighting, everything you could need.  The only thing negative, was that the bed was very hard so sometimes we had trouble sleeping.   This is the room we had:

The cuisine is to die for!  They have a master chef and everyday you can choose whatever you want for breakfast including fresh fruits, anything!  For lunch and dinner there is a planned menu but you get to choose from three or 4 choices and all the meals are delicious.  The meals are not too fatty or heavy or large either.  So you can enjoy a nice meal and not be overly full.   They have plenty of snacks on the yacht, tea, coffee, sodas, booze, wine etc.  You have to pay for the sodas, 2.00 a piece and you have to pay for your booze and wine.  The wine is about 12.00 a glass and the booze about 14.00 a glass, there are more expensive ones too but we stuck with the stock stuff.  Booze in Indonesia is expensive and at the resort and on the Yacht it was SUPER expensive, so just be prepared for that.  You do get tea, water, iced tea, lemonade, juices, milk and coffee for free.

The snorkeling and diving are phenominal!  Brad says the best in the world.  The reefs are protected and thanks to places like Wakatobi resort, dynamite fishing is becoming less and less so the fish and reefs are growing instead of being depleted.  The visibilty is amazing everyday and there is so much to see, I even saw an Octopus and eels, small fish, big fish, any kind of fish!!  It was fantastic!

As on many dive boats there are always people that you dont get along with. It was not so bad on this trip, but there were times when Brad would leave the room because of bigoted or ridiculous discussions that no one really wanted to have.

The Yacht will provide you with towels for showers and for each and every time that you get out of the water.  There is plenty of fresh water on board so you can use as much as you want for showers.  Fresh water showers on the dive deck too for your returns from the dives.  You can do nitrox if you choose on the yacht, you just have to let them know in advance.  Its costs about 150.00 extra.

**Weather/Clothing:  Its hot and it also has thunderstorms.  So on the boat, shorts, bathing suits, sarong, cover ups are usually sufficient.  It’s a nice yacht and dressing for dinner is not unusual.  So perhaps a couple nice shirts, skirts, linen slacks would be appropriate.

*NOTE: I had heard a rumor that they were going to start allowing Cruise ships into this area. We are very much against that. Many people who choose to do cruises are not fully aware of how their presence to places in such large groups adversely affects the eco delicate eco systems that we are trying so hard to preserve.

Now after 5 days of diving, food and fun on the Yacht its time for our adventures at the Wakatobi Dive Resort.  A boat comes to get all of us to take us there, for those who were staying at the Resort, they took your bags to your room for you and had everything set up.  Some stayed on the small dive boat to do some morning dives, while Margaret and I went to our rooms and got settled and then we all met at the restaurant for lunch.

Our Villa was amazing!  It had a separate room for others to join us if they chose too with its own bathroom etc.  It had an infiniti swimming pool and private access to the beach.  It was pure enjoyment!  There are many different options for staying there, large villas, roomy bungalows, it’s all lovely and you will enjoy every moment you get diving and at the resort.

http://www.wakatobi.com/amenities/resort.html

The resort has changed a lot, there is now a huge restaurant where all meals are served buffet style.  But this is not your ordinary buffet!  All meals are gourmet.  Fresh everything!  There are fruits and fresh fish, meats, breads baked fresh everyday, fresh home-made jams, fresh squeezed juices, tea, coffee etc.  In the evenings there is a full bar, you must pay extra for sodas, and wine, beer and hard liquor.  All other foods and drinks are included in the prices of the resort.

There is now a bar at the end of the jetty that you can sit at and have drinks and watch the sunset.  It was great fun!  We enjoyed our happy hours with our new friends Becky and Rodger and Margaret and Graham.  And it gave us a chance to meet new people and hear lots of stories of where people are from, their dive experiences, travel experiences etc.

There will be one evening when you are asked to come to the restaurant for drinks with the owners and the managers and staff.  This is like a cocktail hour so perhaps wear something nicer, linen slacks, a flowing dress, button up shirt for a man etc.   The cocktails they serve will be free and you can have as many as you would like for this particular evening.

The restaurant is a “no shoe” restaurant and though it’s a casual dive resort bathing suits are not allowed at any time (in the restaurant).  They would prefer you wear a cover up, a dress, shorts, shirts etc.

The diving is prepared each evening and you are assigned to a certain boat, there are 5 dive boats.  You can also snorkel on one of the boats or off the shore there.  Snorkeling will be assigned a dive guide just like a diver.  There is so much to see that it is worth going out on each dive whether you snorkel or dive.

You will have a place to hang your wet suits when the dives are done, there are dunk tanks for your cameras, and dive and snorkeling gear.  You are assigned a bin and you can keep all your things in those overnite, every night.  In the mornings depending on the boat you are assigned the dive masters and crew will take all your things to the boat for you, including your camera gear.  So you will be all prepared for your dive with no hassles.

The staff at this resort is TOP NOTCH!  If you needed something they were on it with no problems, no hassles, no complaints.  They were the best I have ever dealt with.   They were friendly and kind and funny!  The owner of the resort employs about 150 local talent.  Its great to see so many locals have a great place to work, get good meals and be able to proide a good healthy life for their own families.

 I HAVE WAY MORE TO ADD BUT I AM BUSY SO BE PATIENT!! 🙂

http://villasarna.com/