Posts tagged: diving

Diving Solo Around The World

By , August 12, 2011 7:38 am

Meet our traveler of the week! We had the fortunate experience to meet Lana while we were in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia. And then again by crazy coincidence in Malaysia, a few weeks later.

We liked Lana right away; she is a sweet person who is full of energy and life. Boris had the pleasure of diving with her among the oceanic Manta Rays in Komodo National Park. While she likes to pack light, don’t underestimate her as she has dived in the South Pacific, Fiji, Samoa, Rarotonga, Bora Bora, New Zealand Poor Knights, Australia: Manly Bay, S.S. Yongala in Ayr Whitsunday Islands, Western Australia, Ningaloo Reef, Indonesia: Lombok, Bali, Flores/Komodo, Thailand, Malaysia, Egypt, Caribbean, Hawaii, and Florida.

We hope to run into Lana again some time soon.

Lana Guanabana

Lana Guanabana

Relationship Status: | Single.
Age: | 27.
Where do you currently live? | South Beach, Florida.
Where is your next trip? | Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and visiting my family in Malaysia and Singapore.

Tells us a bit about yourself?
Lana: My two best friends went traveling without me while I did my final exams in university. I met them in Thailand and my world unfolded before me.

How long did you travel for in your last big trip? Which countries did you visit?
Lana: I just finished a 6-month trip. I went to Thailand, Bali, Lombok, Flores, Sulawesi (Indonesia), then Singapore, back to Thailand to meet friends and travel down to Malaysia, Penang, Perhentian Islands, and Kuala Lumpur, then to Miami, California, OC, and San Diego to visit friends, and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico to visit friends. :)

What was your budget and how did you do about staying on that budget?
Lana: My budget was £8000 ($USD 13,000) for diving and flights in between countries and special experiences.  I took the cheapest flights and got all the diving deals.

How do you fund your travels?
Lana: I work really hard!

What did you do to prepare for the solo aspect of your trip?
Lana: I visit old friends; I make new friends; I combine the two. I let friends know where I am planning on going, if anyone wants to come, and if any one can put me up for a few days/ week.

What is your favorite thing you always pack with you?
Lana: My passport. I love my stamps.

What is the most difficult part of solo travel for you?
Lana: Deciding where to go next.

What advice would you give female travelers who are nervous about traveling alone?
Lana: People are really nice and you can find boys/ friends on beaches in cities, at the hostels. Just be friendly and you’ll be fine!

Any general advice for all travelers?
Lana: Make sure you do as much as you can! Make the most of it. If you’re umming and arring over things, just do it. You don’t get this opportunity every day! And think of the jealousy factor when you get home!

What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
Lana: I’m too nice to people who constantly let me down … and I can do anything and go anywhere I like.

What was your favorite country you visited so far? Why?
Lana: I have no idea. Bora Bora was breathtaking on a daily basis. Thailand is so much fun and it’s so easy to go places and do everything. The people are lovely in Laos, very trustworthy. The South Pacific is paradise.  Asia is soooooo diverse and fun!

Any scary stories or low points in your travels?
Lana: I woke up to an earthquake. The whole room at the beach hostel was shaking, but I just assumed it was minor and was too tired so I went back to sleep; I slept through the sirens and evacuation. When I woke up again, I had a bad feeling and just thought to grab my stuff and run. I saw that the ‘beach’ didn’t look too nice and later discovered that it wasn’t a beach at all. I had just landed here at midnight the day before and hadn’t seen it in daylight yet. A local Samoan in a van asked me where I was going and I said I don’t know, as I didn’t know what was going on. He said there is a tsunami. I told him I was going with him. We picked up his father from the care home and other family and they took me up a mountain where 6 schools had been evacuated. Not one soul spoke English. It was scary and I didn’t know what was going on. I text my Dad in UK and he was at football game so I called my mum at home for updates.

Tsunamis can be survived and strangers can look after you in a life or death situation.

Full tsunami story of Lana on BBC:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/8287183.stm.

Was your traveling experience any different to how you imagined it would be?
Lana: On my first night, I realized that I can go anywhere and do everything and there are people out there doing it already, waiting for you! It’s better, more diverse, relaxing, beautiful, fun and complete and addictive than I ever thought it would/could be!

Boris mentioned to me your fascination with nudibranchs. Can you talk more about this?
Lana: Nudis are just so wonderful, colourful, elegant and lovely. I wasn’t really into them until after diving at several places and then I could appreciate the range of varieties and how cool they are. I get so excited when I see a new one I haven’t seen before! The colours and patterns and textures are just unimaginable!

Nudibranch

Nudibranch

You have an exhausting diving list. What is your favorite diving spot so far?
Lana: Komodo / Bali / Australia

Any tips for divers?
Lana: Do as many dives as possible because we’re killing this planet and all the beauty and tranquility will be lost forever very soon!

How do you adjust after a big trip?
Lana: I book another one. :)

Finally what’s the best thing about traveling?
Lana: Everything is possible!

Diving With Manta Rays

Diving With Manta Rays

Do you enjoy our traveler of the week section? If you or a friend has a crazy travel story to share, contact us and provide a short description of your travels, a link to your blog if you have one, and we will gladly send you questions our readers want to know about you.

Another way to be on our blog is we are looking for guest bloggers who want to share their travel stories with us. Share with us your Holidays to Croatia or places we haven’t gone to before.

Merci!

Indonesia: Bali Coast & The Gili Islands

By , April 1, 2011 5:05 am
Relaxation In Gili

Relaxation In Gili

A visit to Bali will not be complete without some relaxation time in the sun and beach. Our next three stops accomplish exactly that, but each delivering a different vibe and experience.

If it was not for a popular shipwreck, the village of Tulamben would probably not exist today. There is little infrastructure, just a few diving hotels and not much else to see if you are not diving or snorkeling. Our hotel is just a short swim away from the shipwreck. While looking for a company to dive with, Boris runs into his first diving instructor from Koh Tao, Thailand, Alice P.! She recently relocated here; what a small world.

Local Woman Carrying Diving Gear On Her Head!

Local Woman Carrying Diving Gear On Her Head!

Boris and our friend, Ben, both sign up for a day and night dive. The day dive is ok, but it does not have the exploration feel Boris was expecting. However, the night dive with Alice, the divemaster, is different and a cool experience. The lack of lights gives it a more claustrophobic feel so exploring all the rooms of the wreck with a torch has more of a mysterious touch.

Lush Landscapes

Lush Landscapes

Trying to catch transportation to the village of Amed, which is only a short ride away from Tulamben, is not worth the trouble so we rent a motorcycle. Soon after taking a turn into the road that leads to Amed, the scenery becomes very lush with mountainous backdrops. We drive through several small villages mostly filled with hotels. As we make our way up the cliff, there is a wonderful view of the coast. This is enough to get us to change my plans and stay in Amed.

Frenchie On Moto

Frenchie On Moto

Welcome To Amed

Welcome To Amed

With so many accommodations here and being that it is low season, we get the pick of the best. We rent a small quiet villa with the pool to ourselves. For lunch, we randomly pick Kamara Resto Warung run by the super-nice Gede Sama and his wife. They cook up a Balinese dish, called Nasi Campur, a rice dish topped with various meats and vegetables. It is so good that this is the only place and dish we eat while in Amed! For dessert, we go back on our motorcycle and do a run for longan fruit. It is almost like lychee, but with a brownish peel and white flesh that is very tasty.

Our Mini-Villa In Amed

Our Mini-Villa In Amed

Inside Our Mini Villa

Inside Our Mini Villa

From Amed, we take a fast boat to the Gili Islands. The ride is very rough, but luckily it is short. I recommend taking this route since it is not yet mentioned in Lonely Planet. Also, dive companies in Amed go out to the nearby shipwreck and charge the same as in Tulamben so staying in Amed vs. Tulamben may be a nicer option.

The Gili Islands is composed of three small islands and for our first night, we try out the smallest of the three called Gili Meno. We enjoy the quietness and small number of tourists, but the hotel accommodations turn out to be a horrible experience. Unless you book the only one expensive hotel on the island, the rest are basic with lots of mosquitoes and the beaches are filled with dead coral.

Baby Turtles On Gili Meno

Baby Turtles On Gili Meno

The next day we head to Gili Trawangan. I expected a crazy party island but to my surprise, the island has a great balance of nice hotels, restaurants, bars, and various beach areas to enjoy. Being in the sea feels great, but there are lots of coral so it can hurt.

Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan

Frenchie

Frenchie

The Gilies is a great place to kick back. The islands are so small you can easily bike or walk around it. If there are too many tourists in one part of the island, just head the other direction. Just don’t expect too much out of the beaches in Indonesia as they are enjoyable, but we have seen better.

Bicycling Around The Island

Bicycling Around The Island

Our Bungalow

Our Bungalow

Dining For Two

Dining For Two

Movie Night In Bungalow

Movie Night In Bungalow

Cute Light Decor

Cute Light Decor

Surfers Done For The Day

Surfers Done For The Day

Private Treehouse Deck

Private Treehouse Deck

Fancy House

Fancy House

Poor Little Lionfish

Poor Little Lionfish

Where The Party Begins

Where The Party Begins

Drink On FIRE

Drink On FIRE

Where The Party Continues

Where The Party Continues

B+D

B+D

What We Paid: IDR USD Euro
Tulamben
– Private double at Paradise Hotel [fan, private bath, short swim to shipwreck] 250,000/double 28.75 20.35
– Diving 250,000/dive 28.75 20.35
– Motorcycle rental 25,000/half-day 2.90 2
– Meals at hotel 45,000 5.20 3.65
– Meals outside hotel 25,000 2.90 2
Amed
– Private mini villa at Pazzo Hotel [private bath, free wifi, pool, friendly staff, restaurant, highly recommend] 250,000/double 28.75 20.35
– Motorcycle rental at Beten Waru 30,000/full-day 3.45 2.45
– Nasi Campur at Kamara Resto Warung 10,000 1.15 0.80
– Amed Sea Express fast boat from Amed to the Gili Islands [75 mins] 250,000/pp 28.75 20.35
Gili Meno
– Private double at Perama Kontiki Bungalow [recommend getting something at least on the 2nd floor b/c of the mosquitoes, bring your own mosquito net if possible] 200,000/double 23 16.30
– Meals 16,000 1.85 1.30
– Water transfer to Gili Trawanga 20,000/pp 2.30 1.60
Gili Trawangan
– Private bungalow at The Beach House Resort [clean, pool, friendly staff, restaurant, recommend] 300,000/double 34.50 24.45
– Street food meals 10,000 1.15 0.80
– Local fried fish at Night Market 15,000 1.72 1.22
– Barracuda fish at The Beach House restaurant [by weight] 80,000 9.20 6.50
– Bicycle rental 22,500/half-day 2.60 1.80
– Single scoop of Gili Gelato [excellent] 15,000 1.72 1.22
– Fast boat [80 mins] + shuttle transfer [90 mins] from Gili Trawangan to Kuta [highly recommend buying one-way ticket in case of cancellations with company] 250,000/pp 28.75 20.35

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

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

Ko Tao: Diving Videos

By , April 22, 2010 6:04 am

Here are some videos of us during our dive, enjoy!

Ko Tao: Diving in Turtle Island

By , April 21, 2010 6:10 am

Ko Tao means Turtle Island in Thai because of the exceptional number of turtles living there when the island was first discovered. With tourism booming, the giant turtles have preferred for more quiet waters.

This island is also known for hosting amazing dive spots with very clear visibility and a huge biodiversity. We will spend six days here to get open water certified and to relax.

When we first set foot on Ko Tao, we were approached by a large group of locals offering us lodging and diving rates. After looking around and talking to a few diving facilities, we quickly learned that all the diving facilities have the same rock bottom price which they have locked to. Walk-in prices were 9800 bahts and we ended up paying 9000 bahts ($281) each. We decided to stay with Ban’s Diving Resort because they were a resort in addition to being a diving facility. We were able to negotiate on free lodging with a/c during our training.

We wanted to get certified within three days so one of our group members could finish on time before he returned to France. Our training began right away with 2 hours of video on the first day.

On the second day, we spent the whole morning in the pool learning how to remove water from our mask, breathe with a tank, communicate underwater, and mostly how to stay at the same level while underwater. After a short break for lunch, it was time to go back to the classroom to finish the videos.

As we were leaving the classroom, we were attacked by water guns and buckets of water because it was Songkran, the Buddhist New Year, and water fights were customary.

The next morning after the holiday, everyone was sleeping in, so there was no class. We left in the afternoon for our first dive in Mango Bay, the north of the island. Alice, our French instructor, made sure we prepared all our equipment correctly and repeated the instructions to us before entering the water.

We jumped in the ocean and slowly made our way to the bottom while equalizing the pressure in our ears. As we were descending, we were surrounded by thousands of fishes. A school of barracudas began blocking the sunlight. Angelfishes, clownfishes, scorpion fishes, and a stingray gave us a warm welcoming in our first dive.

We reached 12 meters and it was time to head back. Time went by so fast that 51 minutes felt like only 20 minutes. Onboard, we changed our tanks for a second dive at Twins.

We arrived back at our hotel around 6pm to finish our written exercises and complete our final exam.

The following day, we are all up at 6:30 am for a quick breakfast and another dive at Twins. However this time, we would reach 18 meters. I personally did not notice much of a difference between 12 and 18 meters.

The last dive was at White Rock. We spent one hour under water enjoying the different kinds of fish and coral around the rock.

Overall, I was very pleased with my diving experience in Ko Tao and with Ban’s resort.

Ban’s Diving Resort (ask for Alice P. for French and English speakers):
Sairee Beach, Koh Tao
Tel: + 66(8)5136 0602
www.bansdivingresortkohtao.com

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Panorama Theme by Themocracy