Posts tagged: snorkeling

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 3-4-5: Santiago, Isabela, and More

By , December 6, 2010 5:00 am
Penguins!

Penguins!

Day 3 – In the morning of the 3rd day, we awoken to find ourselves at a new island called Santiago. It was a dramatic change of scenery as we went from having lots of wildlife and trees on Genovesa Island to nothing much besides lava on Santiago Island. The dried up lava flows captured some interesting shapes like the Darwin toilets.

Lava And Sea On Santiago Island

Lava And Sea On Santiago Island

Landscape On Santiago

Landscape On Santiago

I'm Stuck And I Can't Get Out

I'm Stuck And I Can't Get Out

Lava Noodles

Lava Noodles

Darwin Toilet

Darwin Toilet

For our daily snorkel excursion, we went to Bartalome Island. There were many colorful fishes in the water, but the highlight was when we saw our first Hieroglyphic hawkfish and penguin swimming in the water. We didn’t have wetsuits on this time around and while it was bearable for some time, we soon returned to land.

Hieroglyphic Hawkfish

Hieroglyphic Hawkfish

Penguin In The Water!

Penguin In The Water!

In the evening, we had a romantic group stroll to the top of Bartalome Island. We watched the sunset and soon after, it was just the moonlight and lights from cruise ships in the open water.

Me & Frenchie At Sunset

Me & Frenchie At Sunset

The Moon From Bartolome Island

The Moon From Bartolome Island

Day 4 – By the 4th day, waking up early was getting more difficult, but the motivation of seeing new kinds of animals helped get us out of our bed each time. Today was going to be extra special since we were going to visit the island of Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat) where the local traffic is mostly fur seals. We found some sunbathing on the rocks and others sleeping inside the bushes. We were advised to give them space, as they can get dangerous. With their large eyes and adorable faces, it was difficult to believe they would attack.

[Difference between seals and sea lions: earless seals (true seals) and eared seals (sea lions)]

Landscape On Chinese Hat

Landscape On Chinese Hat

Baby Fur Seal

Baby Fur Seal

Mama and Baby

Mama and Baby

We Cant Get Can't Enough

We Cant Get Can't Enough

Our afternoon snorkeling excursion brought us to the shallow waters next to Santiago Island. It was a great spot to see the fishes up close. We spotted a huge blowfish and white tip reef sharks just a few feet away!

Me & Frenchie Snorkeling

Me & Frenchie Snorkeling

Shark!

Shark!

Group Of Yellowtail Surgeonfish

Group Of Yellowtail Surgeonfish

In the late afternoon, we relocated to Dragon Hill in the northwest of Santa Cruz Island. It was very hot, but it didn’t stop us from looking for land iguanas. Since it was mating season, most of the iguanas were inland. We only sighted one land iguana during our two hour hike. It was massive and when it heard us, it crawled as fast as it could into the shrubs.

Looking For Land Iguanas

Looking For Land Iguanas

Land Iguana

Land Iguana

Reflections

Reflections

Day 5 – While we already visited Isabela Island during our land tour prior going on our cruise, it still felt like our first time. The day started off with a morning snorkel where large tortoises guaranteed our full attention. It is just an amazing experience time and time again to swim alongside tortoises of this size, as they are so graceful and peaceful in the water. We also spotted a few large rays in this area.

Tortoise Swimming With Us

Tortoise Swimming With Us

Sting Ray

Sting Ray

In the afternoon, we went to the Turtle Breeding Center of Arnaldo Tupiza. There were many turtles of various sizes. We then cruised to Islote Tintoreras to see the white-tip reef sharks in their resting area. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a Galapagos Hawk.

Baby Turtle And Egg

Baby Turtle And Egg

Galapagos Hawk

Galapagos Hawk

White Tip Reef Shark

White Tip Reef Shark

Galapagos Heron

Galapagos Heron

We LOVE The Galapagos

We LOVE The Galapagos

Our time in Isabela was short so I was happy we had done a trip by land beforehand. We just can’t get enough of these animals.

Special Thanks To Kelly, Sam, Jennifer, and Christian for your pictures!

Final days of our cruise to come …

MuiMui Getting Kissed By A Marine Iguana

MuiMui Getting Kissed By A Marine Iguana

Aww, Another Baby Fur Seal

Aww, Another Baby Fur Seal

Penguin Sunbathing

Penguin Sunbathing

Fat Crab

Fat Crab

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Ko Tao: The Sunset

By , April 23, 2010 3:19 am

When I withdrew from the diving course because the deep blue was just not for me, I got to see a little more on and off the island.

My first on-the-island venture began with me wandering by foot, but it did not take me too far. I could have hopped on a taxi but the exact destination would have to be known. Instead, I decided to ask two sweet looking gentlemen if I could hop on their ATVs. They were going south, so I was going south.

As I rode on an ATV with my two new German friends, Leon and Toby, I thought people were completely mad for riding around on scooters and motorcycles. The roads were so poor that it was just mainly dirt and rocks that any slight mishap would result in serious injury. I also found that it was difficult to navigate around, as there were not many street signs or obvious landmarks that corresponded to the map we had. After being lost for sometime, we ended on a dirt road going up this insane hill. I held on for dear life as we shift right and left, up and down, and bump after bump.

We ended up at this remote bungalow resort that had about 6 guests, who all came in by taxi boat. I was definitely in a different neck of the woods as I saw tents and nudists and heard only the ocean. It was a quiet private location, which was much appreciated.

Thank you Leon and Toby.

My off-the-island venture was an attempt to kayak the entire island of Ko Tao, with the Frenchies, in 8 hours. It felt so free being out in the middle of the ocean just with our swimsuit and snorkel gear.

Our first stop was Ko Nang Yuan. It is just north of Ko Tao and formed by a group of three tiny islands that are joined together by a three-way stretch of pure sand beach. We parked on the island and did a short hike to the viewpoint that looked exactly like the postcards, but less dramatic now knowing the actual size.

When it was time for a paddling break, we jumped in the water and viewed the ocean below. I was amazed how much of the ocean life I got to see by snorkeling that Boris did by diving. While you cannot compare the two, snorkeling was pretty amazing too in Ko Tao. I saw a rock of yellow, orange, red and blue Christmas Tree Worms. There were so many different kinds of fishes that I felt like I was swimming in a large aquarium. A little spot north of Ban’s and across from the island of Ko Nang Yuan was my favorite snorkeling site.

Next we paddled our way to our lunch spot in Mango Bay. What a well-deserved lunch meal and all I wanted was a salad. The view from the bungalow restaurant was high enough to see the entire bay filled with beach goers, divers, snorkelers, fishers and tourists roaming around. Since it is also a difficult spot to get to, there was a lot less people.

After lunch, we went snorkeling and there were even more fishes. There were schools of Butterflyfish that were not afraid of us. There were many small bright fishes and large meaty fishes that I did not want to approach me.

After hours of pure enjoyment, we realized we could not paddle the entire island if we wanted to return before dark. Also, we just did not want to continue paddling for 8 more hours so we headed back, making only skinny-dipping stops.

As we sailed into the beach by Ban’s Resort, we were on time for the perfect sunset that this area always guaranteed. The sky was bright red and orange and was a reminder that the time we are given on this planet is so precious.

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Mu Ko Ang Thong: The Golden Bowl

By , April 17, 2010 6:44 am

We were early risers for our first excursion to Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park, at 7:30am! Our package included pickup from our home to the Fisherman’s Pier and aboard a large wooden boat where we are greeted with breakfast and by bright smiles of the tourists aboard.

Ang Thong means bowl of gold
Mu Ko means group of islands

After a 4-hour cruise, we arrived on our first island. We had the option of hiking or kayaking and we chose hiking. As we were making our way up by holding onto a rope and stepping over large rocks, I regretted not wearing my sneakers. It was 500 meters to the top and with each rest stop, the reward was an amazing view of the islands. In 20 minutes we made it almost to the top. To get to the tip, I had to climb a bunch of pointy steep rocks. I hesitated at first but after seeing Boris climb like a cute monkey, I followed. A few scratches later, I was at the top! What a breathtaking view. The islands were so lush and it looked liked a bunch of turtles hanging out in the open water. While hiking down, Megan and Matthieu were lucky enough to see real monkeys.

We were served lunch on our way to the second island. It was one piece of fried drumstick, chicken curry, and rice. I was pleased with the meal and by that time, I needed meat.

The second island was a little smaller but same green water and soft sand. We did a short hike to the lake in the middle of the island and then I put on my snorkel gear and was ready for ocean exploration. I saw various corals, small fishes, and something that look like an eel. Boris found a sea urchin and somehow got poked. He was ok but has a forever reminder in his finger.

After hours of fun in the sun, it was time to head back. What a fulfilling day.

If you are in Ko Samui and are looking for a tour agent, we recommend Maytee of RCI Tour Travel. He offered us upfront reasonable prices and was very honest about everything. The total price of our Ang Thong tour was 1100 bahts ($34) per person, which was great compared to the 1800 bahts we were first offered by another agency.

Maytee Shanyib of RCI Tour Travel
100/6 Moo 1, Maenam, Koh Samui
Tel: 077-248 001
Email: maytees@hotmail.com

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

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