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Adventure Travel

    Adventure Travel  --  Central America

    Learning About Mayan Cultures of Central America

    Location: Central America

    Cultural Travel

    San Andres, El Salvador

    Exploring and learning about ancient cultures is one of the most rewarding things about travel.  Cultivating an understanding of the powerful communities that came before our own, helps us appreciate both historic and modern-day social structures.

    Mayan Cultures of Central America

    Joya de Ceren, El Salvador

    It’s one of the reasons I so often encourage travelers to seek out these experiences and adventures.  Sure, go to the beach, enjoy that Margarita, go snorkeling.  But don’t miss the opportunity when traveling to grasp something about the majesty of the ground you are standing on and the hundreds of generations of people who have walked it, worked it, became part of it in their end.

     

     

    Cradle of Civilization

    Caracol, Belize

    Xunantunich, Belize

    We have spent the last four months in Central America, where several amazing cultures played a significant role, long before the Spanish arrived.  One of the most ancient of these was the Maya people.  Considered one of the six “cradles of civilization” world-wide, the Central American countries of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador were home to this fascinating civilization.  To clarify the term Cradle of Civilization, here is Wikipedia’s explanation;

    “The term cradle of civilization has frequently been applied to a variety of cultures and areas, in particular the Ancient Near Eastern Chalcolithic (Ubaid period) and Fertile Crescent, Ancient India and Ancient China. It has also been applied to ancient Anatolia, the Levant and Iranian plateau, and used to refer to culture predecessors—such as Ancient Greece as the predecessor of Western civilization.”

    Mayan Cultures of Central America

    Altun Ha, Belize

    Our travels have taken us to ancient lands of Egypt, Jordan, India and Bangladesh.  We have also learned fascinating ancient history about Eastern Europe, Northern and Eastern Africa, China, Southeast Asia, and Greece.  And so it was with great interest that I began to understand that right here in Central America another great civilization thrived.

     

    The Maya People

    But before I go on please understand that Maya is a living culture. More than half the population of present day Guatemala are Mayan.  Though the ancient civilization communities are no more, the Mayan people continue their traditions.

    Mayan Cultures of Central America

    Tikal, Guatemala

    The oldest Mayan findings are in Belize, dating back to 2600 BC.  Ruins of great civilizations are strewn all around this

    Tikal Guatemala

    region, some excavated, many not.  Archeologists don’t all agree as to what caused the demise of the massive Maya communities in approximately 900 AD (well before the Spanish arrived).  But warfare between cities, over production of the land and drought are all thought to have contributed.

    Mayan Cultures of Central America

    Tikal, Guatemala

    The Maya people, like many other ancient civilizations, had an advanced calendar, written language and hierarchical social structure.  They were known as great architects (hence so many temples and entire cities still standing), artists, weapon developers and cultivators of the land.  They used the local raw materials in remarkable ways.  In Guatemala the cultivation of the cacao was (and is) important and cacao was used as currency.

    In addition it is known that they believed cacao offered both a cure and a sacrifice, and drinking cacao mixed with blood was a common ritual as was bloodletting.

    Visiting Mayan Ruins

    Mayan Cultures of Central America

    Tikal, Guatemala

    During our time in Central America we visited many interesting ruins; two in El Salvador, four in Belize and the granddaddy of all, Tikal (outside the town of Flores) in Guatemala.  Each offered its own perspective on the rich and powerful Maya tribes.

    Mayan Cultures of Central America

    Tikal, Guatemala

    Today Maya people in these countries can trace their ancestry back to these ancient societies and be very proud.  Many local Maya work hard to preserve the culture, arts and traditions and share them with visitors.  However, the Maya, particularly in the poorest countries like Guatemala, struggle. During the Spanish occupation and more recent political unrest the Maya have been continually pushed out of their lands…many to the mountainous regions no one else wanted.  Today you will find them subsisting in agricultural communities in the hard-scrabble rocky soil, or in the more populated cities such as Antigua selling crafts or food products.

    Mayan Cultures of Central America

    Colorful Mayan women at market

    I was particularly struck by the beauty of the Maya women, the colorful traditional clothing they still maintain today and the sense that family, hard work and religion is their life’s priority.

    During my short time in beautiful Central America I have been intrigued and surprised by the beauty of the people and the geography and especially intrigued by the history of the ancient people. Muy Bien! A fabulous experience when visiting Central America.

     

     

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    Adventure Travel

    Sleeping Around – Our Adventures with Beds, Baths and Beyond

    Location: Around the World

    This week marks three years since we walked away from our house of 15 years in Gig Harbor Washington and began our nomad life.

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    Bunk beds in El Salvador

    Three years.  Holy Cow the time has gone by so fast.  When we began this crazy adventure we didn’t know if it would last six months or six years.  I guess six years is looking pretty likely.

    I’ve said all along this lifestyle is not for everyone.  There are times where it’s not for me.  But in general there are more positives than negatives and it now feels like a normal way to live.  For us anyway.

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    Concrete Tub in Bali

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    Bed & Kitchen all in one in Sri Lanka

    There are definitely challenges, and one of the biggest challenge is sleeping in so many beds. Along with all those beds comes all those bathrooms.  Sometimes if I wake up in the middle of the night and gotta go…I need to take a minute and really think about where I am and what is the path to the potty?

    As of this writing, we have slept in a total of 197 different beds over the three years.  That includes the ten weeks we stayed in a condo after we sold our house (the longest we have stayed anywhere in three years) as well as all the different albuergues, hostels, hotels and pensions we slept in on both of our Camino walks.

    That’s a lot of beds.  The best part?  We have yet to encounter bed bugs anywhere.

    Last week we stayed in, well let’s say, “rustic” accommodations in Guatemala.  Mind you Guatemala is one of the poorest nations in the world and has only been open to tourists for ten years.  But the mattress sagged, the horrible satin sheets refused to stay put and the shower head kept falling off.

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    The worst bed in Hanoi

    However, overall most of the beds we have slept in have been comfortable.  My requirement in a good mattress is harder is better than softer.  I have memories of two horrible mattresses, each so soft I could barely get out of bed in the morning.  The worst one was in Hanoi, the second worst in Ladyville, Belize.

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    Had to go outside to the bath in Santorini

    And, coincidentally (or maybe not), one of the worst bathrooms was also in our Hanoi apartment.  We have learned that bathrooms throughout the world vary widely.  Flushers on toilets are different in nearly every country.  More than half the time you cannot flush toilet paper.  Showers often have no hot water.  Some times toilets are raised up on a platform (we call those the throne), or are in a separate room from the sink and shower.  Showers might be huge and elegant or so tiny you can’t bend over.  Some showers are open and get the entire bathroom wet, so keeping towels and toilet paper outside of the bathroom is required. Oh and bugs, centipedes and geckos sometimes enjoy our showers too. I learned the hard way to turn the light on for middle of the night visits to the loo.

    Often the septic or local sewer is well below what we take for granted in the USA.  In Placencia, Belize our Airbnb was at minus sea level and this made for interesting and usually incomplete flushing.

    In New Zealand we stayed in a cabin with an outhouse.  Also in New Zealand we spent four weeks in a camper with a port-a-potty.  Very tricky at night.

    Of course kitchens and other things vary as well.  It’s all part of the ongoing adventure.

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    Twin beds in Santa Domingo Spain

    So like I’ve said – it’s not for everyone.  You really have to have a sense of adventure and approach each place with low expectations.  That way, you are usually pleasantly surprised.  Only once, has a place been bad enough for us to leave (read it here).

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    Glamping in New Zealand

    We have a month of travel left before we return to the USA for a four-month visit.  During our time in the USA we will settle into a condo we bought (sight unseen) a few months ago.  This condo will become our home when we are in the USA, but we plan to continue to travel for a majority of each year, at least for a few more years and maybe forever.

    Because, well, there are a lot more beds and baths we haven’t seen yet!  Fabulous!

     

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    Adventure Travel  --  Central America  --  Inspire

    “No Problem” Kayak, Camp and Fabulous Women

    Adventure Travel in My Fabulous Fifties

    Location: Belize

    It was convenient, since I was already in Belize.  When I heard about this kayak, camp Belize trip I asked Arne if he thought we might extend our time in Belize so I could go on this trip?  He said sure.  So it was really easy.  With the push of a few buttons I was onboard to kayak with a group of women coming to Belize from the USA.

    I didn’t  give it a lot of thought.  I just thought it might be fun.  But when all was said and done it was much more than just fun.  It was many things unexpected and rich, and more than anything, it was a fabulous adventure with fabulous women.

    No Problem

    Our amazing guide Eric became notorious for saying “no problem” for any question we asked or problem we posed.  He was amazing and made the journey so simple. Eric’s tour company Belizean Style (recoronald@gmail.com), was contracted by Kayak Belize to guide us through the week.  Bainbridge Island, Washington based Journey for a Purpose was the lead organization, who pulled together 12 women to experience this together.  The 12 of us, aged 30-72, came from many different backgrounds, places, professions and experiences.  And yet we fit together like a beautiful puzzle.  It was fate.

    Beautiful

    Sometimes I am hard to impress, given the amount of territory I have covered.  But this place – the cayes off the coast of Belize – is almost indescribable.  Azure blue, turquoise green, golden-yellow, royal purple.  These are the colors of the world-famous reef and seas.  Jungle green, sandy pink, cocoa brown, chalky white.  These are the colors of the tiny private atolls.  So much beauty everywhere you turn.

    Empowering

    I’ve had some amazing moments in my life that have empowered me, when I’ve found myself doing things I might otherwise turn to Arne and expect him to do for me or with me.  Everything from setting up a tent, riding my bike across the state of Washington, walking 487 miles on the Camino to climbing a mountain.  On this kayak journey, I found myself figuring out the logistics of equipment.  Paddling the single kayak without Arne’s help. Finding private time when I needed it.  As much as I adore my husband it’s always a good feeling when I’m left to my own powerful decision making.

    Difficult

    We had some big winds and some tough paddle days.  My back hurt and my arms felt like jelly but I made myself endure.  The high winds and rain also surprised us early one morning and our tents flapped and threatened to sail away.  But it was amazing how everyone worked together.  How Mr. No Problem Eric was there to help.  How we laughed about it after.  We were strong. Invincible. Fierce.

    Inspiring

    As a group we spent time each day in “circle”.  Here we practiced the art of listening, more than telling. Each woman had time to talk about herself, her background, her greatest challenge, her greatest achievement.  While each spoke the others listened intently with acceptance and support.  It’s not something I am usually comfortable with, but the format made me so.  It was open, acknowledging and welcoming.  It was real and refreshing and full.  It was inspirational.

    Peaceful

    The atoll we were camping at is Moho Caye.  It is about 13 miles out on the reef from Placencia. From 10am-3pm day trippers can visit the island.  Some days as many as twenty people might show up, while other days perhaps only five.  But from 3pm to 10am we had the entire island to ourselves.  We all agreed it was spectacular.  It was a cross between Gilligan’s Island and Castaway.  A remarkable opportunity to relish the beauty of a private island to ourselves.  We sung around the campfire and skinny dipped in the ocean.  This was our island and we embraced it and it in return it showered us with lovely memories.

    Hilarious

    There is absolutely nothing in the world so wonderful as belly laughing.  Laugh yourself silly.  Laugh yourself happy.  Laugh yourself healthy.  It’s cleansing and exhausting and wonderful to laugh fully with abandon.  And we did.  We laughed over stories. We laughed over songs.  We laughed over games.  We found so much to bring smile and laughter to our time together, even though we had known each other such a short while.  It was a happy and full experience of genuine spirited female fun.

    Positive

    Our wonderful leaders Spring and Maria from Journey for a Purpose found a variety of positive ways to bring us together as a group from snorkeling with sharks, rays and turtles to kayaking to singing to sharing.  But in addition some of my most favorite moments were when we all did yoga together on the beach, creating an awareness within us as well as pulling the positive energy into our bodies.  We also spent time making beach art and describing our beach art to each other.  One day we walked around our island and brought back something from nature.  We then spent time with Mr. No Problem Eric and learned something about the items we found.  Then together we shared.  It was great fun as the items collected ranged from a gecko to driftwood, from coral to leaves and branches. Our island shared its deep natural history.

    Affirming

    While on our island, one of the women got the news that her father-in-law had passed away.  As much as she felt she should be home with her family, we became her family that day and showered her with love. We helped memorialize a man we didn’t know, but it was so easy because we were all on the same wave-length.  It was very affirming to me, to feel the love and joy being heaped on our friend and her departed kin.  But for me it was also affirming to my life’s mission of living each moment as if it were my last.  Of caring for myself in a way that gives me the strength to care for others.  And above all, being fully present.  A reminder to center myself and just be. This was a gift.

    Journey for a Purpose

    This is my second experience with Journey for a Purpose and I have loved both.  You can find more information about them at the website link above.  A few spots are still available for their Blake Island, Washington trips this summer.

    I recently stumbled upon this quote, and it epitomizes for me how I feel about my kayak camping adventure as well as my daily life;

    “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no man’s land.” – Pema Chodron

    I was thrown from the nest n this adventure and loved it immensely. Thank you for challenging me and loving me and for my new friends who I hope to meet again someday.  To Spring, Maria, Pamela, Susan, Suzanne, Eileen, Kathy, Nadine, Meg, Katie, Kelly, Ian (our cook) and Mr. No Problem Eric, I salute you.  I hope you find what you are looking for and I wish you joy.

    Fabulous!

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    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Add These to Your Bucket List

    Location: Around the World

    We love Paris like everyone else.  But really that’s the problem.  EVERYONE loves Paris (and London and Rome) and so you find lots of crowds and high cost.  In our travels around the world we have really tried to find new places that few tourists go.  Often these destinations end up being our most favorite.  And the more we travel the more we want to encourage everyone to consider stepping out of their travel comfort zone, and exploring the unknown – the favorite destinations no one goes.   Finding your way to the lesser traveled destinations creates less impact on the planet while bringing greater cultural awareness to the traveler.  We ask you to consider these options:

    Bulgaria

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Bulgaria

    Instead of Croatia consider visiting  Bulgaria, one of our favorite countries we have ever been to.  Bulgaria has so much to offer, and yet we did not meet a single American during the entire month we were there.  We did meet lots of Russians, Germans and some Brits.  Bulgaria has a remarkable coastline along the gorgeous Black Sea as well as great mountains for hiking.  The food is amazing, the wine is cheap and the 5000 year history is astounding.  And the people are so amazing, welcoming and proud. They have endured a great deal in their history, and they have a “come what may” attitude that is infectious. Go visit Bulgaria.

    Slovenia

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Slovenia

    Instead of Italy go to fascinating Slovenia. From Trieste, Italy it’s just a hop across the border to Slovenia, the tiny country once part of Yugoslavia.  We have been to Slovenia twice and I suspect we will be there again.  Slovenia has a tiny coastline on the Adriatic, and our favorite town of Piran is a perfect place to visit and get some local flavor.  But don’t stop there, Slovenia has some of the most beautiful mountain towns and lakes.  Much of Slovenia is still agrarian and the people are welcoming and patriotic and friendly.  Oh and the seafood.  So darn delicious. Go visit Slovenia.

    El Salvador

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    El Salvador

    Instead of Mexico go to El Salvador.  We just spent two weeks on the Pacific Coast of tiny El Salvador and we absolutely loved it.  There are some Americans coming here, but mostly 20-year-old surfers. The media has made us believe El Salvador is a dangerous place, and yet it is no more dangerous than Mexico and Americans flock to Mexico.  Come to El Salvador where the water is warm, the people are welcoming, the food is delicious and the history though brutal and bloody – is fascinating.  El Salvador will soon come out the shadow of its violent past, so visit before the secret gets out.  Go visit El Salvador.

    Poland

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Poland

    Instead of Germany go to Poland.  Poland is just beginning to step out of the shadow and become a tourist destination.  And it should.  We fell hard for Poland spending three weeks there last fall.  Poland has some of the most astonishing history anywhere in Europe.  The food is fantastic.  The people are warm and happy to meet you.  The historic villages are well-preserved and beautiful.  And it is cheap and easy to get to.  We loved Krakow as well as all the other places we visited and using the train in Poland was a great way to travel.  You really should visit Poland now.

    Bangladesh

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Bangladesh

    Instead of India go to Bangladesh.  I loved our time in India too, but if you want to push yourself and visit somewhere no tourists go, visit the remarkable, tiny country of Bangladesh.  Our short visit to Bangladesh provided us some of the most rewarding moments we have ever had in our travels. It’s difficult to visit Bangladesh without a guide, and we were lucky to find Deshguri, one of the few tour operators in the country.  Through Deshguri we able to meet so many Bangladeshi people, who greeted us with more kindness than anywhere we have ever been in the world.  We certainly stood out in both crowded Dakar as well as the beautiful villages and countryside, since almost no Western tourists come here.  We learned so much during our time in Bangladesh, and left our heart with its beautiful people. A remarkable experience that everyone should have. Visit Bangladesh soon.

    Sri Lanka

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Sri Lanka

    Instead of Thailand go to Sri Lanka. Thailand is overrun with tourists anymore.  So if you are looking for beautiful beaches, mountains and more, visit Sri Lanka instead.  The young backpacking set has found Sri Lanka, but few American visitors of the Fab Fifties era are traveling here.  Why not?  It is amazing.  We spent three of our most favorite weeks in Sri Lanka, one of the friendliest countries we have ever visited.  The Civil War is over and Sri Lanka is safe and inexpensive.  The food is the da bomb. Hiking and history is around every corner and the beaches are incredible.  We saw elephants and leopards, monkeys and snakes.  Oh my.  It’s Sri Lanka for me.

    Namibia

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Namibia

    Instead of South Africa go to Namibia.  Our ten-day tour in Namibia with Wild Wind Safaris will go down in our travels as one of the most remarkable places.  This country that nobody has heard of is one of the most beautiful in the world.  We had an amazing private guide during our time there, but you can also see the country easily with your own 4×4 vehicle (careful though, there is a high traffic fatality rate in Namibia). Namibia has a gorgeous Atlantic coastline, dry mountainous region that is like a moonscape, and multiple fascinating cultures such as the Himba, Damara and Herero people.  And to top it off Etosha National Park – single-handedly the best wildlife viewing we have ever encountered.  I absolutely fell in love with Namibia.  If you have ever considered a safari in Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa take a moment and research Namibia.  You will be so glad you did.  Go see Namibia now.

    Seychelles

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Seychelles

    Instead of the Maldives go to the Seychelles.  First a word about the Maldives.  We loved our time there, and luckily we found a very inexpensive place to stay.  But in general the Maldives are expensive and there is no alcohol! So consider the Seychelles instead.  A beautiful set of small islands out in the middle of nowhere off of east Africa.  We spent a month on the tiny island of Praslin and loved every minute of it.  Groceries were expensive and the variety was less than desirable, but the rest of the experience was very positive.  The islanders speak French/Creole mix, and the shy people are friendly and religious.  If you are looking for a place to kick back and relax with the warmest turquoise waters in the world, visit Seychelles now.

    Portugal

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Portugal

    Instead of Spain go to Portugal.  I hesitated about adding Portugal to this list because Portugal does have a thriving tourism industry.  But we met very few Americans while we were there.  Perhaps more Americans go to Spain because Spanish is a language more Americans can handle.  But during our time in Portugal we had very little difficulty with the Portuguese language.  We loved Portugal so much we would consider living there.  The food is incredible, the cities are beautiful and the beaches are fantastic.   It’s a remarkable place with such a variety of geography.  Historically Portugal was once a powerful country of explorers and merchants, colonizers and tyrants but today, this quiet and beautiful country is laid back and relaxed and fun.  Visit Portugal.

    What is next for us?

    We are now into a full-fledged planning phase of our next chapter of the Grand Adventure. We will spend May-September in the USA then depart again.  Without really trying, we have noticed

    Hard to answer questions to a travel nomad

    Portugal

    a trend in the countries we are planning to visit next, a trend towards less touristy.  A trend towards staying longer in one place.  A trend towards trying to make less of an impact and remove ourselves from the fray.

    I think this is what we always intended to happen on this journey, but it just took us a while to get there.  But when we look back on our favorite places we have been so far, it’s always the places with the road less traveled.  It’s always the places with few western tourists.  It’s always the places the cruise ships don’t go.  The authentic and relatively untouched destinations.

    One rare Bangladesh

    Bangladesh

    Our favorite destinations no one goes to.  Fabulous.

    Note – we have committed to the following destinations from September to January; China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman, Kenya and Mauritiaus. Not confirmed but in the works for 2020 are;  Zambia, Uganda, Israel, Cyprus, Malta, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia,Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovakia, Belarus, Estonia, Finland and Greenland.

     

     

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    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Memorable Moments of My Fab Fifties Life

    Yesterday we spent the morning on a private snorkel tour from our beach here in Ocotal in Costa Rica.  We had a very enjoyable time on what was a really good value tour ($65 per person), and even though we didn’t see a lot of sea life, we did see a variety.  The water was bit murky but we saw a dozen or more varieties of fish, one eel, one sea snake, a puffer fish, starfish and lots of interesting sea anemones.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Galapagos

    From the boat we also saw hundreds of “flying” devil rays, several dolphins and a turtle.  It was a lot of fun.

    It got me to thinking and comparing different snorkel tours we have taken over the years so I decided to  share about some of our various snorkeling adventures.  I’m not a diver but I really enjoy snorkeling and have enjoyed some

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Costa Rica

    wonderful opportunities in our travels.

    Here is our list of Snorkeling Around the World – Memorable Moments;

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Maldives

    Sand  Island Maldives – My favorite snorkeling day ever was our morning on the tiny (50×75 yards) sand island about an hour boat ride from the island of Huraa in the Maldives.  Known for the spectacular crystal clear blue water, the Maldives are a divers paradise.  Our snorkeling day rewarded us with a vast collection of sea life, but the more amazing part of this day was the stunningly beautiful coral reef.  I’ve never witnessed anything like it before or since.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Australia with Wally

    Great Barrier Reef Australia – Memorable, iconic and expensive, our day on the Great Barrier Reef out of Cairns was fun.  An overcast day made for some murky water and rough seas but we enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime experience with a nice selection of interesting coral and fish including the resident Maori Wrasse named Wally (see photo). Read more about it here.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Galapagos

    Galapagos Ecuador – Everything about the Galapagos Islands is unique and memorable – both on land and in the sea. One of our favorite trips of all time.  The day we snorkled in the Galapagos was the only time I have ever swam with seals who danced a playful ballet around us as we swam. We also encountered baby seals, beautiful turtles and small sharks.  Just one remarkable event in a very remarkable place.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Dhow in Zanzibar

    Zanzibar – possibly my worst sunburn in my life occurred the day I snorkeled with my sister in Zanzibar.  My sister’s first time snorkeling and in our excitement we both forgot to lube up.  The waters off of Zanzibar are incredibly beautiful, but we actually didn’t see that many fish. As memorable as the sunburn was the rickety Dhow boat (traditional Zanzibar wooden fishing boat) that took us off the beach out to the snorkel area.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Galapagos

    Hawaii – I’ve been to Hawaii so many times I’ve lost track and it’s here I’ve enjoyed some of the best snorkeling ever.  We went to Hawaii a lot when our kids were small, and for family snorkeling Hawaii can’t be beat.  Our favorites are;

    Molokini (Maui) – our favorite island is Maui and when in Maui snorkeling at Molokini is a highlight. Depending on the time of day you go, it can be pretty crowded but you will see such a great variety of colorful tropical fish it’s worth it. And if you can, book a tour that also goes to Turtle Island so you can see these magnificent creatures.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Australia

    Captain Cook (Big Island) – We have snorkeled in the Captain Cook bay on the Big Island twice. Once we came on a tour boat and once we did the steep hike down (and eventually back up) to the bay.  The bay doesn’t have much coral but lots and lots of beautiful fish make the bay their home.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Hawaii

    Kona Manta Ray Snorkeling (Big Island)– one of the funnest, most breathtaking and most amazing things I have ever done was the nighttime snorkel in Kona to swim with the amazing and giant (up to 20 feet wingspan) Manta Rays. These gentle giants are graceful and harmless and truly spectacular. Read more about it here.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Thailand

    Black Rock (Maui) – my son Dane and I had a remarkable experience at Black Rock while snorkeling

    just off the beach. We encountered a solo turtle which let us swim and follow him for more than half an hour.  Just me, my son and this beautiful creature.  I’ll never forget it.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Zanzibar

    Koh Phi Phi Thailand – very crowded and somewhat overrated was our snorkel tour adventure to Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. Although the beautiful blue water is warm and fun to swim in, we didn’t see much of a variety of fish and there were so many tour boats there it was ridiculous. We did enjoy the water though and most of all having fun with our adult sons in the gorgeous tropical Thailand waters.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Maldives Sand Island

    There you go, our list of of favorite snorkeling around the world sites.  Some of our most memorable travel days have included snorkelin

    I hope you too will have the chance to visit one or more of these beautiful and amazing snorkeling places.  I have no doubt you will remember it forever.

    Fabulous!

    Manta Ray image from Pixabay

    Note – double click on any photo in this blog for a larger version!

     

     

     

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    Adventure Travel  --  South America Travel

    Let’s Bungle in the Amazon Jungle

    A Brazilian Dream Come True

    Location: Amazon Jungle Brazil

    It’s  a gigantic place. Huge. Impossible to see it all. But the tiny piece of the Amazon Jungle we experienced was a privilege that will stay with us forever.

    Numbers

    First let’s talk numbers in the Amazon Jungle; 5.5 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles); one fifth of the freshwater flowing into the Earth’s oceans comes from the Amazon River; there are more than 40,000 different kinds of trees and plants; 2.5 millions kinds of insects; 3000 freshwater fish; 427 mammals; 378 reptiles; 400 amphibians; and 1300 kinds of birds. It is the greatest biodiversity area on the earth.

    Multiple rivers feed the jungle emptying eventually into the giant Amazon, which can be as wide as 20 miles in some places. The Amazon is the greatest river of South America and the largest drainage system in the world in terms of the volume of its flow and the area of basin. The total length of the river from the headwaters in southern Peru, is at least 4,000 miles (6,400 km), which makes it slightly shorter than the Nile River but still the equivalent of the distance from New York City to Rome (source Britannica.com)

    Amazon Jungle

    So many birds

    The Amazon Jungle Basin can average rainfall of approximately 2300 mm (7.5 feet). In some areas of the northwest portion of the Amazon basin, yearly rainfall can exceed 6000 mm (almost 20′), often flooding the civilizations that make Amazonia their home. In 2012 the highest flood level ever recorded in Manaus reached 29.97 meters (93 feet).

    Mosquitos

    Amazon Jungle

    Golden Hawk

    A word about mosquitos.  We were prepared to take malaria meds the entire time we were in the Amazon Jungle.  We began our meds the day before arrival and immediately I suffered from stomach upset.  When we arrived at Manati Lodge we learned that this particular area of Amazonia on the Rio Negro is generally mosquito free.  Due to the decomposing material from flora (which also gives the river a coffee color thus the name) the Rio Negro is naturally acidic, with ph ranging 2.4 – 4.9,  thus preventing mosquito larvae from developing.  Although some people still may want to take the malaria meds, I chose to stop taking them as soon as I learned this information – and me and my tummy were both grateful.  Each person should make their own decision and consult with their doctor.  I did receive a handful of bug bites – unknown to me from what kind of bugs.  They have healed quickly.

    The People

    Amazon Jungle

    Colorful Chief

    Today at least 400 indigenous tribes live in the jungle, much as they have for millennia.  The Brazilian government works to protect the rights and traditions of these tribes, all while also trying to help them find diverse ways to earn and survive.  Additionally a handful of tribes still live untouched from any interference by the civilized world and they wish to remain so.

    Manati Lodge

    Amazon Jungle

    Manati Lodge

    For our visit to this fascinating place we chose to spend five days at the Manati Lodge, a simple but comfortable and very well run small lodge about two hours from the city of Manaus.

    Amazon Jungle

    Manati Lodge

    Manaus (population 1.8 million) is the major city of the state of Amazonas, and the jumping-off point for most visitors to the Amazon. From here you can begin your journey to multiple lodges and resorts inside the protected area. A variety of styles and price ranges are available for lodging. For us Manati was just what we needed. All inclusive (transport, comfortable room, all meals and all tours) for two people for five days cost $1100. We spent an additional $20 on alcohol (we did not drink very much by choice)  and $75 on gratuity. For what we got, an absolute bargain.

    Manati has 6 rooms that can sleep four each. During our five days, guests on two, three and five-day tours revolved  in and out.  We met a nice variety of world travelers from Brazil, Canada, England, Italy, France, Croatia and the USA.

    Our Guide

    Amazon Jungle

    Isaac, right, shows me how to weave

    Our guide Isaac was wonderfully full of enthusiasm, stories and wisdom about his native region. Some days we had Isaac all to ourselves and other days we shared him with other guests.

    Amazon Jungle

    New Years Eve

    Isaac made sure we saw and did so much. We began with a serene and beautiful tour by boat to enjoy the jungle from the water. There is green, and then there is Amazon jungle green – an indescribable range of hues I never knew existed on the planet. Throw in the remarkable rainbow and it was such a pleasant way to start our adventure.

    A special celebration on our first night for New Year’s Eve was totally unexpected and so wonderful. The staff decorated with palms and flowers we ate and toasted with sangria and champagne and even had midnight fireworks. Not at all what I expected in the middle of the jungle. It was wonderful.

    So much to see

    Amazon Jungle

    Piranha catch

    Over the next four days we had a huge variety of experiences, but also plenty of downtime to relax and read. I had neither WiFi or cell service over the five days which turned out to be a blessing – giving me a news and social media break I didn’t even realize I desperately needed.

    Surprise Encounters

    Amazon Jungle

    Sloth trying to hide

    A visit to a local village provided us our first spotting of a sloth in the wild – a lifelong dream for me.  Going piranha fishing had never been on my lifelong dream list but it turned out to be very entertaining and fun.

    Medicine

    Amazon Jungle

    Jungle hike

    I really enjoyed our three-hour jungle walk, where we were introduced to a fascinating variety of flora, including dozens of plants that are used in medicines we know and use regularly from Vick’s Vapor Rub to Milk of Magnesia. We saw wild acai, Brazil nuts, palms used for roofs, plants the indigenous people used for poison and hunting and other plants used for survival in the Amazon jungle.  And some in our group even ate butterfly larvae.  I declined the offer.

    Animals

    Later that same day, under thankfully sunny skies we swam with the famous Amazon pink dolphins.  The government allows the dolphins to be fed four days a week, this is how the tourists get to see them.  The rest of the time they are left alone so they do not grow overly dependent on humans.  They are not in a pen.  They swim freely and come to the platform when fish is available. They were large and incredibly strong, but also gentle.  They enjoy being petted.  And they smile.

    Amazon Jungle

    Pink dolphin

    I swam with dolphins once before, in Zanzibar.  But this was different.  In Zanzibar we did not touch them.  I enjoyed both experiences for different reasons. The dolphin skin is soft like a baby.  Their eyes are so tiny.  Also known as botos, they are born grey and become pinker with age. As they mature its skin becomes more translucent allowing the blood to show through. When excited, they will flush to a bright pink , like your face might when you get embarrassed or excited.

    After saying farewell to our new dolphin friends we took a beautiful boat ride to another part of the river.  We parked the boat on the river’s edge and watched as dozens of inquisitive little squirrel monkeys cautiously approached and then, when realizing we had bananas, jumped right on board.

    I’ve seen monkeys big and small all over the world, and generally am not a fan.  They can be mean and smelly.  But the Amazon Jungle squirrel monkey was by far the cutest and sweetest I have met.

    Amazon Jungle

    Squirrel mo key

    We ended this amazing day with a sunset swim in the warm Rio Negro before returning to Manati.

    The next morning we woke at 5am to clear skies so we groggily (before coffee!) headed out to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful and worth getting up for.

    Plants

    Amazon Jungle

    Water is life

    Amazon Jungle

    Sunset swim

    After breakfast we visited a local family home where we learned more about plants used for medicine in the jungle.  We also learned all about the staple native food of manioc, a tuber that is the source of tapioca as well as numerous other products.  Manioc is part of the daily diet not only of the indigenous people but nearly everyone in Brazil.

    Snake

    Amazon Jungle

    One big snake

    We ended this day with a visit to another local home.  Here an anaconda that was  accidentally caught in a fishing net is being nursed before being released back into the wild Amazon jungle.  Those who wanted to were allowed to hold the beast.  It was about eight feet long.  Damp.  And strong.  Another once in a lifetime experience.  I think once is enough.

    Indigenous Tribe

    Our final day dawned stormy so our hour-long boat ride to visit an indigenous village was down right painful as we crossed the giant Rio Negro in a healthy wind and serious chop.  But I’m glad we did.

    Amazon Jungle

    The tribe we visited

    The village of the Dessana people accepts visitors as a way to earn money and to share their culture.  Originally found in their ancestral home 600 miles (965km) away in the dense remote jungle of northwestern Brazil, they came to the Tupe region for a better life to fish and farm. Dessana began benefiting from tourist who were curious to see their ancient traditions (source theCultureTrip.com.)

    The Chief explained in detail (through an interpreter) many of their rituals about boys initiation to manhood, marriage, leadership, food, hunting and celebrations.

    Amazon Jungle

    Dancing with the Chief

    The Chief and about twenty-five people from the tribe including men, women and children then  performed for us several ritual dances and songs with handmade instruments.  We then were invited to dance with them.  The Chief took my hand and he was amazingly strong as he led (well, dragged) me alongside him as I tried to follow the intricate steps of the dance.  Arne was also dancing, although I was too busy to see him trying.  Luckily Isaac snapped a few photos.

    Amazon Jungle

    Arne dancing too

    Before leaving we purchased a few handmade items from the tribe and thanked them for sharing.  It was a great way to end our amazing Amazon visit.

    Farewell

    Amazon Jungle

    One of my fav photos

    After lunch we headed back to Manaus and civilization, forever changed by the experience.  Just one more remarkable memory and a spectacular way to begin 2019.

    Fabulous! 

     

    Adventure Travel  --  South America Travel

    Iguacu Falls- Brazil Side

    Worth the Effort to Get There

    Location: Icuacu Falls Brazil

    It was a two-hour flight from Rio.  An hour city bus ride packed in like sardines was followed by more than an hour in ticket lines and shuttle lines to actually reach the falls.

    I began to wonder if it could be worth all this?

    Yes. Yes it was. Totally worth the effort to get there. What adjectives to use? Stunning, awesome, powerful, beautiful. It was all that and more.

    In fact, once off the bus and on our own, the post-Christmas crowds didn’t seem a big issue, except on the one major platform that takes you out closest to the thundering falls.

    A stones throw across the raging river, it was easy to see the Argentinian side was just as crowded. Perhaps even more so. There are those who argue the view is better from Argentina. I can’t say. But the view from the Brazil side was incredible. And definitely worth the effort to get there.

    Ten dollar entrance to the National Park provides your park transport. Additional activities require additional fees including guided hikes, boat tours, kayaks and food.

    In hindsight the thing I would do differently (other than not come Christmas week) is stay in one of the hotels next to or inside the park. More expensive than our in-town Airbnb (which we really liked) but the convenience would be worth it. Especially since our time here was limited.

    A definite “I don’t have a bucketlist” bucket list item. Iguacu Falls Brazil Side. Entirely worth the effort to get there.

    Fabulous!

    Learn more at Iguacu National Park

     

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