Posts tagged: cruise

Australia: Cairns & Outer Great Barrier Reef

By , February 14, 2011 4:00 am
In The GBR For New Years

In The GBR For New Years

“Guess who’s back, back again?” To celebrate New Years, we head out to Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Our friend, Zhi, who we visited while in Sydney, joins us.

There is not much charm to downtown Cairns with a few bars and restaurants. After setting our resolutions for 2011 over dinner, we join the crowd in the Esplanade for fireworks. At the stroke of midnight, we cheer with our Champagne-filled McDonald’s paper cups and end the night with a group hug.

Happy New Year 2011

Happy New Year 2011

Fireworks On The Esplanade

Fireworks On The Esplanade

Early next morning, we board The Encounter for a 2-day/1-night trip to explore the Outer GBR. We are told that the deadly jellyfishes are mating so it is best to wear a wetsuit. Zhi tries diving for the first time and loves it. MuiMui sticks to snorkeling and I decide to do an advanced diving course.

Onboard The Encounter

Onboard The Encounter

Boris Snorkeling In The GBR

Boris Snorkeling In The GBR

Millions Of Small Fishes

Millions Of Small Fishes

Live Coral & Fishes Everywhere

Live Coral & Fishes Everywhere

On the first day, we visit Norman Fingers and Norman Playground. Snorkeling is pretty awesome as we are right above the colorful coral reef. But diving is even better. During my deep dive, I see a family of 7 lionfishes and a sting ray over 3 meters wide.

Underwater Landscape

Underwater Landscape

Feels Like Swimming Through A Colorful Screensaver

Feels Like Swimming Through A Colorful Screensaver

Beautiful Lionfish But Dangerous

Beautiful Lionfish But Dangerous

Clownfish AKA Nemo

Clownfish AKA Nemo

On the second day, while diving at Saxon Turtle Bombie, I observe a baby shark, sea turtles, and barracudas. MuiMui has a blast chasing a turtle and it doesn’t mind as she touches its shell. Zhi accidently touches a poisonous soft coral and as he comes out of the water, it looks like a sea monster attacked his knee.

Live Coral

Live Coral

Giant Sea Anemone

Giant Sea Anemone

Enormous Clam

Enormous Clam

Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle

Zhi's Coral Attack

Zhi's Coral Attack

At nightfall, the divers onboard start getting excited for their next dive while someone outside on the boat screams “Shark!” A few black-tipped sharks are hanging around the boat because the light helps them hunt easier. I start to feel a chill in my body, but it is quickly overpowered by the excitement. We are given flashlights and a short briefing: Large Trevally fishes are going to follow you because your light makes it easy for them to spot small fishes. We know it is fun to see them hunt, but please try not to get more than two fishes killed.

I am the first one to jump in the water and there are about 10 or more sharks less than one meter away from me. The fear gets to me again so I shine the flashlight on me to make sure the sharks don’t mistake me for a turtle or a big tuna fish. When I reach the bottom of the ocean and look back up, I can see all the sharks circling the boat.

While back on the boat and telling the non-divers about my night dive, we suddenly see a flying fish jumping out of the water and then 50 sharks rushing in its direction. If one shark had mistaken me for a fish, it would have been the end for me.

After a total of 6 dives, I am exhausted and join MuiMui for one last snorkel. While trying to get a good picture of a Nemo (Anemone fish), MuiMui points between my legs. A leopard shark swims right by us and it looks mean.

Snorkeling Right Above The Coral

Snorkeling Right Above The Coral

Coral Sea

Coral Sea

Leopard Shark

Leopard Shark

While our boat trip was pretty pricey, it was totally worth it. We learn there is an option where you can work onboard (cleaning, etc) in trade for free diving, lodging, and food. This is a great option for backpackers or anyone on a tight budget but eager to see the GBR.

For our last day, we rent a car to visit Port Douglas. It is a small little beach town, but we can only swim in one area with nets because of the deadly jellyfishes and the salt caimans. During our drive back, we spot a few Wallabies in an open grass field so we pull over to take photos. There are hundreds of them hanging out, eating grass, or boxing each other.

Wallabies

Wallabies

Boxing Each Other

Boxing Each Other

Thanks again Zhi for joining us; we had a memorable start for the New Year. You will now be known for surviving a sea monster attack.

Port Douglas

Port Douglas

Beware Of Deadly Jellyfishes

Beware Of Deadly Jellyfishes

Little Holes On The Beach

Little Holes On The Beach

Coral Arch In The GBR

Coral Arch In The GBR

Orangespine Unicornfish

Orangespine Unicornfish

Coral Rabbitfish

Coral Rabbitfish

Don't Bother Me

Don't Bother Me

Blue Lined Surgeonfish

Blue Lined Surgeonfish

Zebra Fish

Zebra Fish

Interesting Coral

Interesting Coral

Puffer Fish

Puffer Fish

Blue Green Damselfish

Blue Green Damselfish

Yellow Mask Angelfish

Yellow Mask Angelfish

White-Tipped Reef Shark

White-Tipped Reef Shark

Giant Clam

Giant Clam

Down Under With Divemaster

Down Under With Divemaster

Boris Going Down

Boris Going Down

Parrot Fish

Parrot Fish

Wrasse Fish

Wrasse Fish

Nudibranch Sea Slug

Nudibranch Sea Slug

Spotted Sweetlips Fish

Spotted Sweetlips Fish

Prickly Red Sea Cucumber

Prickly Red Sea Cucumber

Our Buddy, Zhi

Our Buddy, Zhi

What We Paid: AUD USD Euro
– Virgin Blue Flight From Brisbane To Cairns 234/pp 234.50 173
– 2 day/1 night onboard the Encounter for a trip out to the Outer GBR 300/snorkeling 410/diving 301 / 411 222 / 304
– Private room with own bath at the Best Western in Cairns [AC, clean, up to 3 ppl per room, pool, 10-15 min walk to Esplanade, book online for better rate and when they say they’re full] 89/room 89 66
– Private double with shared bath at NJoy Hostel in Cairns [fan, basic, pool, 10-15 min walk to Esplanade, free early morning transfer to airport, recommend only if on tight budget or if everything else is sold out] 50/room 50 37
– Underwater camera rental 33/day 33 24.50
– Average Breakfast 7.50/pp 7.50 5.50
– Average Lunch 15/pp 15 11
– Average Dinner 25/pp 25 18.50

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Galapagos Cruise: Day 6-7-8: Fernandina, Rabida and The End

By , December 7, 2010 9:30 pm
Sleeping Female Sea Lions

Sleeping Female Sea Lions

Day 6 – Fernandina is the far west island, which few cruise ships venture off to. We knew right away that we would see unique things on this island when we were greeted by the skeletal remains of a large whale.

Skeleton Of A Whale

Skeleton Of A Whale

Then for the first time, we saw marine iguanas swimming. If you remember the movie Alien 4, it looked just like aliens swimming, just a little tinier.

Marine Iguana Swimming

Marine Iguana Swimming

While we were taking pictures of sea lions, we saw a flightless cormorant. It’s not especially beautiful but it gained our respect when we learned there are only 1,000 still alive in the world and that they are all living on this one island. We eventually spotted a few more and counted over 30, which is 3% of the world population.

Flightless Cormorants

Flightless Cormorants

Afterwards, we sailed to Tagus Cove in Isabela Island. The scenery was still rocky but there was an orange hint everywhere. Our snorkel session brought us to a spot where penguins and sea lions were swimming within one meter of us. The sea lion wanted to play and would even touch us sometimes but his size was too impressive for us so we backed far away.

Sea Lion Swimming With Us

Sea Lion Swimming With Us

Sea Turtle Chilling

Sea Turtle Chilling

In the late evening, we crossed the equator line for the 3d time! Then we had a moment of whale watching as everyone onboard the ship came on deck to see the Bryde’s Whales.

Whale Watching

Whale Watching

Bryde's Whale!

Bryde's Whale!

Sunset Before Crossing The Equator

Sunset Before Crossing The Equator

Day 7 – On the 7th day, we landed on a black beach in the backside of Santiago Island. All around us were birds diving into the water looking for fishes. This was also another great spot for observing fur seals. They were very noisy and the younger ones kept fighting each other. After our 2-hour walk, some of us went snorkeling, but I went off to play soccer while MuiMui decided to tan on the beach.

Boris' Feet On The Black Sand Beach Of Santiago

Boris' Feet On The Black Sand Beach Of Santiago

Bird Going For A Dive

Bird Going For A Dive

Young Fur Seals Playing

Young Fur Seals Playing

For our afternoon excursion, we explored Rabida Island with its red beach and popularity among lazy sea lions. After a quick hike up, we found a great spot to take a group picture.

Sea Lions On Rabida Island

Sea Lions On Rabida Island

Group Shot

Group Shot

Both Pretty & Lazy

Both Pretty & Lazy

Day 8 – It was our last day and with a morning flight to catch, we woke up extra early to indulge the last of the Galapagos. We took the small boat out to black turtle cove. There were many mangrove trees so we had to maneuver our way in. Suddenly under us was a school of Eagle Spotted Rays passing through. It was a beautiful morning and the water was shallow enough to get a clear view of them. Minutes later, we realized there were also many white tip reef sharks resting in the water. As we continued further, there were two turtles mating in the water. It was a beautiful moment and I was already pleased with everything we saw, but this was definitely a great way to end the cruise.

Spotted Eagle Ray

Spotted Eagle Ray

Sea Turtles Mating

Sea Turtles Mating

*** There is a lot of hype about the Galapagos and after experiencing it ourselves, this is definitely a must do. It was one the most expensive highlights of our travel so far, but we had an amazing time so it was all worth it.

There are a few cost effective ways to reduce the price:
1. Go off peak season! The weather is still great although the water is cold, but there are usually wetsuits onboard to rent. Whatever the season, the animals are always there.
2. Don’t book overseas. Go to Quito and relax for a few days and book your cruise there.
3. If you have to book overseas or if you are in Quito, book direct and avoid the middleman. While it is hard to book directly with the owner, they usually have an agency in Quito.
4. The Galapagos is very popular especially during peak season but there are hundreds of cruise lines so if you can book last minute, you can save even more.
5. If a cruise is out of the question, fly to the Galapagos and enjoy Santa Cruz Island. There is so much to see there. You can even take a water taxi to a few other islands.

While the prices vary in the type of ship you select, no matter what the size is, bring seasickness pills!

Thanks Again Kelly, Sam, Jennifer, and Christian for your pictures!

Iguana Up Close

Iguana Up Close

Heron

Heron

Fernandina Volcanic Landscape

Fernandina Volcanic Landscape

Who's On My Head

Who's On My Head

Orange Sea Turtle

Orange Sea Turtle

Yellow Flycatcher

Yellow Flycatcher

Alpha Male Doesn't Want Us Near

Alpha Male Doesn't Want Us Near

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Galapagos Cruise: Day 1&2 – Santa Cruz and Genovesa Island

By , December 1, 2010 3:06 am
Baby Frigatebird

Baby Frigatebird

Many of the islands in the Galapagos can only be explored by taking a cruise. We decided to go with Yate Floreana, an economic cruise line that goes to Genovesa Island in addition to the western and central islands. We met our group at the Baltra airport and from there, we boarded our home for the next 8 days. The boat was small and the cabins were tiny, but we knew that at the time of booking. There was a total of 16 passengers onboard and a large group of them were biology students. They were studying abroad and part of their curriculum is to go to the Galapagos; how cool is that.

MuiMui-Tortuga

MuiMui-Tortuga

Day 1 – The first day was essentially a half-day. After having lunch on the ship, we explored the Santa Cruz Highlands. Here we found large tortoises grazing on the grasslands. I was impressed how fast they could move. Next we found ourselves walking inside a lava tube that was large enough for us to traverse a good part of it. It started to get dark fast so we made a quick visit to the nearby Twin Craters and called it a day.

Tortoises In Santa Cruz Highlands

Tortoises In Santa Cruz Highlands

Inside A Lava Tube

Inside A Lava Tube

Day 2 – We took a seasickness patch for the first night and it helped with the overnight bumpy ride to Genovesa Island. In the morning after having breakfast, we did a wet landing onto the beach in Darwin Bay.  We were surrounded by bare trees and exotic birds. It was very important for us to stay on the walking path, as there were bird nests scattered all over the grounds, in the trees, and perched on the rocks. Boris and I chose this island specifically because we wanted to see lots of birds, but we couldn’t believe how many species there were in this one area and how close we were to them. My favorites birds on this island included the super fuzzy babies and the red-footed boobies.

Baby Nazca Booby

Baby Nazca Booby

Baby Booby Learning To Fly

Baby Booby Learning To Fly

Time For Feeding

Time For Feeding

Red-Footed Booby

Red-Footed Booby

Just when I put my camera down, one pelican was feeding another and it was such a bizarre scene. It looked as if the pelican was going to swallow the other.

Pelican Feeding Another

Pelican Feeding Another

Before we knew it, it was time to get off the island and go snorkeling. I was feeling a little sick so I opted out and of course I missed out on an incredible school of rays. Luckily Boris and the other shipmates captured the moment for me.

Thanks Kelly For The Photo Of Rays!

Thanks Kelly For The Photo Of Rays!

After lunch, we headed to El Barranco (a.k.a. Prince Phillip’s Steps), which is another part of Genovesa Island. Again, there were massive amounts of birds hanging out in their natural environment. The Nazca boobies (or Masked boobies) were making so much noise with the females quacking and the males whistling at each other. When the day couldn’t be any better, our guide was relentless about looking for a Galapagos owl. I badly wanted to see one and when our guide finally found one, my heart stopped beating. Staring right at us and well camouflaged against the brownish-orange volcanic rocks was a short-eared owl resting by its hole. Twenty pictures later, I still did not want to leave.

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl

Nazca Booby

Nazca Booby

Tropic Bird

Tropic Bird

If you are a bird lover, Genovesa Island is worth the long boat ride and the money. With each snapshot we took, it was sad to realize we were never going to see these birds anywhere else.

More to come …

Me & Frenchie At El Barranco

Me & Frenchie At El Barranco

Group Shot

Group Shot

Lava Heron

Lava Heron

Swallow-tailed Gulls With An Egg

Swallow-tailed Gulls With An Egg

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Viva en Miami

By , March 29, 2010 10:57 pm

We couldn’t leave the states without seeing my old dear friend, Alin, who I have known since high school, walk down the aisle on her special day. We packed up our suitcases for the last time and headed for a wedding in Miami.

The weather was great even with the occasional down pour. While I have visited Miami numerous times before, it was new for Boris. He definitely enjoyed the weather, the feeling of vacation, and of course, the hot ladies.

My best friend, Jessica, and her boyfriend, Ismael, were our gracious hosts. We had delicious Cuban food, yummy creme brulee, and a tour of South Beach. Thank you!

Compared to my previous visits, South Beach was quieter than usual. The musical festival was the same weekend so I’m sure most folks were at Ultra. As Ocean Drive always delivers, there were many suped up motorcycles and cars (R8 … so sweet), one side ocean, the other side filled with restaurants each trying to lure you in, and spring breakers partying it up at the Clevelander Hotel. It doesn’t matter if it is beachwear or nightlife attire, everyone is dressed to impress.

Call it luck or perfect planning, but there was only pure sunshine on the big day. We boarded The Anticipation and as we cruised around Miami, we saw one phat house after another. There was definitely something in the air. The love, happiness, and laughter was all around us. Alin, the bride, looked absolutely stunning. Congratulations Alin and Clairmarc! We wish you both a lifetime of happiness together and are so happy we were able to share your special day with you and the rest of the Waltham crew. For the rest of the evening, I got my groove on with my honey. Thank you for the open bar.

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

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