Getting to El Nido
I was booked on a trip to Tubbataha in June 2016. and decided to go to El Nido just before. El Nido is a beautiful area in the north of Palawan Island in the Philippines known for its multiple limestone islands rising sharply from blue, blue water. There are three options to get to and from El Nido. One of them is to fly. I flew to El Nido on AirSwift, a small local airline. The flight was about an hour. It was expensive but the airline has excellent service and I recommend going that way. The other two options to get to El Nido are to fly to Puerto Princesa and take a bus (up to 10 hours one way) or a van (up to 5 hours one way). To leave El Nido one can either fly back to Manila and continue on from there or take a bus or van to Puerto Princesa and continue on from there.
Leaving El Nido
Since I was going to Puerto Princesa to board a dive boat when I left El Nido I decided to take a bus (an air-conditioned one) as it was cheaper. But when I asked the staff at the Spin Designer to book a space for me in one of the buses they talked me into paying a few more dollars to take a private van. That doesn’t mean I was going to be the only one on the van, it means that I was going to be one passenger in a 10 passenger air-conditioned van (if you’re lucky as I found out). The van is faster than the bus because they don’t make as many stops to pick up more passengers. This is important as the drive takes anywhere from 4 to 6 hours! Two stops are made; one for potty and one for lunch. My van with 10 passengers took off and within half-an-hour stopped for the “potty” stop (they don’t really call it that but that’s what it is). At that point we took on a few more passengers. Now we’re at 12 passengers in a 10 passenger van. I’m thinking to myself wait a minute; what happened to the more comfortable van option. Then, a few miles down the road the driver sees a couple on the side of the road and he picks them up also!
So there we were, 14 people in our 10 passenger van and a driver. I had no idea where my luggage was including my unlocked carryon bag. I did have my camera backpack, and a small bag with iPad, iPhone, wallet, and passport with me. Luckily when I got on I had picked a seat in the row behind the driver next to the door and this row was the only one that did not get extra people squished in. I felt really bad (not bad enough to trade though) for one gentleman who had to be 6’2” stuffed into the back of the van with very little leg room. He was part of the couple that had been picked up on the road. And even with the air-conditioner going full blast it was hot in that van! The two twenty-something girls from Manila sitting next to me said that this was standard procedure. So just an FYI, if you take the van make sure to sit in the front seat or second row. All other seats get stuffed with people beyond their capacity.
At that point I was wishing I had taken the bus where I would have had one seat allotted just to me with my luggage down below and carryon above or under my seat. Sure it would have taken longer with more stops. But the scenery was beautiful; after climbing up the hill out of El Nido there is a view looking back out over the blue water to see the multiple beautiful islands of the El Nido area rising out of the water. The lunch stop was at a roadside restaurant in a pretty spot with a pond and green hills around, with a colorful tent roof. As we continued on we drove past banana farms, rice fields and other farms. There was road construction in some areas, but most of the road was quite good.
In the end it took a little over 4 hours to get to my hotel in Puerto Princesa and I had another interesting travel adventure to tell about my Philippines trip. And the driver dropped me off at my hotel, what a deal!
The next SCUBA diving adventure is coming soon! I’m heading to the Philippines to SCUBA dive Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park on the Philippine Siren with seven friends. We’ll be on the “extended” trip boarding the Philippine Siren in Puerto Princesa, Palawan Island and disembarking at Cebu City, Cebu island. This adventure has been a long two years in the making, but it’s almost here, and before I know it I’ll be taking off from SFO headed to Manila. I’ve been saving my United miles and will be flying round trip to Manila using those miles, and on the way home I’ll be flying first class. Woohoo!
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a remote collection of two coral atolls in the Sulu Sea that is only accessible from March through June (when the weather permits) that is known for its incredible coral reefs and marine biodiversity. The park consists of approximately 10,000 hectares of coral reef at the heart of the Coral Triangle, known for its beautiful coral and a high density of marine life including many endangered species (sharks, turtles, whales…). In addition to the Tubbataha Reefs we’ll visit Apo Island, Dauin, Sumilon Island, Pescador, Oslob, and Moalboal to name just a few of the famous dive sites! I am so excited to be diving such an amazing place! And we’ll be diving on the Philippine Siren, one of the luxury liveaboards owned and ran by Worldwide Dive & Sail.
An extra adventure to El Nido, Palawan! Due to the flights available when booking with miles I ended up arriving in Manila a few days earlier than I need to be. I considered options of what I can do (not really wanting to stay in town for three days) and decided to go to El Nido to check out that beautiful area of towering limestone cliffs. I’ll do a kayak tour through the islands around El Nido; Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret lagoon, how cool does that sound. My Sony in its housing is perfect for kayaking and snorkeling because it is so small and easily hand held. I’m staying at a nice looking hostel for a decent price with a private room and bath. The resort with the rooms over the water I wanted to stay at was $375 a night, sigh…a bit more than I can afford. And I’m flying to El Nido from Manila to save time and then will ride the bus from El Nido to Puerto Princesa. An extra adventure!
Getting ready for the trip. I’m at that point of trip preparedness where I’m getting my gear serviced and looking into either upgrading my laptop or trying to do a trip with only my iPad. My Sony NEX5 camera needs servicing and I am thinking about leaving the trusty Nikon D300 at home and taking a lighter weight camera with me for land photography. I have my packing down to a science and can go on a three-week trip with only one checked bag, my carry-on and a camera backpack but am taking flights on some smaller airplanes where baggage weight is restricted. The dilemma is not whether I want to pay overweight charges, but how much do I want to pay in overweight charges, and honestly how much weight I want to pack around on my back. So many decisions to make before departure day!
I’ll be making updates to my blog as I am able before I go and while traveling. Parts of the trip will be completely unplugged. No “cloud” in the Sulu Sea, haha. So keep an eye here and on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/DivermaidenTravelBlog for photos and updates on the journey.
If you have any questions you can leave a comment here or on the Facebook page (which will probably get faster replies).
See you in the water!
For years I have heard from Katrina and Bruce about Kosrae; how great the diving is, how beautiful the island is and how peaceful life is at their resort, Kosrae Village Ecolodge. Finally after booking a trip on the Palau Siren I decided since I was going to be in the area I was going to visit Kosrae.
“I’m going to Kosrae” I would tell people. Where is Kosrae? How do you get there?
Kosrae is an island in Micronesia. To get there I flew from San Francisco to Honolulu where I spent the night at the Airport Pacific Marina Inn which was comfortable and convenient although a bit expensive for what you get. The next morning I flew to Kosrae stopping at two of the Marshall Islands (Majoro and Kwajalein) on the way. The Marshall Islands are atolls, barely above water and one of them was just wide enough for the width of the runway and a narrow road going parallel to the runway. So I was very surprised when we descended to Kosrae to find that it was mountainous and covered with trees. The runway is on a man-made peninsula inside a protective coral reef. After a 30-40 minute drive along the coast I arrived at Kosrae Village Ecolodge.
The cottages at Kosrae Village Ecolodge are called “lohms” and are built in traditional Kosraean style with a thatched roof and walls of woven reeds. The peaked roof is open to the ocean breeze at the top front and the plank floor is made of hardwood sanded smooth. On three sides the walls consisted of windows. The windows are covered by screen (no glass) and are open to the ocean breezes. This allows the cooling ocean breezes to come through the room and keep it reasonably cool without air-conditioning. The windows had roll-down blinds for privacy and/or to keep the rain out. Did I mention that it rained? It rained a lot! Everyone told me it was out of the ordinary to have this much rain at this time of the year. The wind would start to blow and then I knew that I had moments to get to cover. The sky would open up and downpour and then it would be over…until the next time.
In my “lohm” there was a large table (that I used as a camera table), a smaller table (with coffee pot and required accessories), a refrigerator and the bed. The bed was draped in mosquito net which I found kind of fun and exotic and the bed was soft and comfortable and had plenty of pillows. The room was quite large and had plenty of electrical outlets although I hesitated to use some because they were wet and/or rusted. Because of the rain the walls were damp, the ocean facing wall so wet that it dripped onto the floor and the front floor was soaked for about a foot from the wall.
The bathroom was large and in similar style with wood floor, woven reed walls and thatched roof. The shower was separated from the rest of the bathroom by a wall. The floor of the shower was wood slats with gaps between them so the water could run out. There was a bamboo fence around the shower with a gap between the shower floor and the fence so that if you wanted to you could climb down there and check out where the water goes and what is going on under the room. I considered doing that and then decided I really didn’t want to know what was going on down there and opted not to. And an important shower detail; there was plenty of hot water for after dive showers. There were some shelves in the bathroom and an area for hanging clothes in the bathroom. I used two of the hard plastic chairs as a stand to hold my suitcase and lived out my suitcase instead of unpacking everything since I was only there for a few nights.
My lohm looked through the palm and mangrove trees to the ocean where in the morning I walked out and photographed the sunrise. As I mentioned earlier, it rained a lot while I was there occasionally causing me to run back to the shelter of my porch to protect my camera. But it rained only 5-10 minutes and off I would go again. At high tide the waves pounded at the debris and sand berm protecting the shoreline and at low tide the exposed reef stretched way out and I would see locals fishing on the very edge of the infringing reef. One time I walked way down the beach and when it started raining I had to shelter at the very end lohm, which luckily was not occupied.
The open-air restaurant was built in a similar fashion to the lohms and had a large open dining area with a bar in the back. There were plenty of tables nicely covered with cloth and vases of flowers. I felt that an improvement would be a sitting area with soft chairs and a couch, maybe near the bar area where one could hang out in the afternoon socializing, reading or just having a cold drink. The only chairs at the resort were hard plastic and not overly comfortable. The local ladies who worked in the restaurant often had their small children with them who were shy at first but became very friendly and were fun to talk to. The waitresses were very attentive and the food at the restaurant was delicious! The only place that wireless internet worked was in the restaurant and it was slow. Evidently in Micronesia they get their internet (and phone I think) from a satellite.
The office and dive locker were on the other side of the restaurant, with an area to store gear that was kept locked except when needed with a rinse area and hangers. The first day they set up my gear to my liking and after that took care of it until I left when they rinsed it and hung it to dry. There is a 20 minute +/- drive to get to the marina where the boat is docked. I understand that they can take the boat from the resort if the weather and tides allow. But the marina was fine and gave me the chance to see some of the local’s homes, and some nice views of the ocean and the mountains.
On my last day in Kosrae I took a guided rainforest walk to the Menka jungle ruins. The walk is a four hour sometimes strenuous but mostly easy hike along the river to the center of the island to the mysterious ruins where local lore says the goddess Sinlaku lived. Devotees of the goddess would spend up to a year in residence in two room stone structures;
worshiping the goddess and making and partaking of suka (also known as kava), a mildly narcotic drink made by pounding the suka root on flat stones. Salik, my guide, showed me some of the edible and inedible plants on the walk and even climbed a couple of trees to get some of the wild green tangerines common to the area and to get a breadfruit for me to take back to the resort and have made into breadfruit chips (delicious BTW). It was a great last day in Kosrae!
This post is kind of an overview of my visit to Kosrae, including some information on the resort and how I got there. I need to say that everyone there was very nice and took great care of me!
More information on Kosrae Village Ecolodge & Dive Resort is available on their website.
More images from Kosrae.
Gallery of underwater images.
Snorkeling at Jellyfish Lake.
While in Palau we went to Jellyfish Lake. There are actually seven jellyfish lakes but only one is open to the public, Ongeim’l Tketau. The lake contains brackish water and is filled with rainwater (fresh) and salt water which leaches in through the limestone of the island. The Golden jellies have been in the lake for so long (maybe millions of years) that they have mostly lost their ability to sting. They pulse across the lake in search of the sun and in the middle are present in the thousands! The jellies bump into snorkelers and each other and it is hard to explain the sensation but it feels a bit like being hit by soft Jello. (more…)
Here I go again, off on another adventure!
On this trip I will be visiting Micronesia, specifically Kosrae one of the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau (Republic of Palau) which is also part of the chain of islands known as Micronesia. Micronesia is comprised of thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. People at work keep asking me where Micronesia is so finally I printed a map and put it on a wall in my office. The easiest way to explain the location is to think of Hawaii, then head west almost until you get to the Philippines. There in the middle of the ocean are the islands of Micronesia.
Palau is known for its SCUBA diving, which is why I’m going of course. I’m hoping to see huge schools of fish, sharks, and reefs covered in a rainbow of colorful coral. Hopefully we’ll see manta rays and turtles also! I’ll be sailing with seven friends on the Palau Siren a beautiful sister ship to the Indo Siren that Randy and I cruised to Komodo National Park in Indonesia on a few of years ago. I’ll be joined by seven friends on the Palau Siren, all underwater photographers, looking forward to diving in the beautiful ocean there.
But first I’m making a stop at Kosrae Village Ecolodge where I’ve wanted to go for years, ever since I met Katrina and Bruce, partners at the ecolodge and NCUPS members from way back. At Kosrae I’m planning on doing some diving along the stunning reef known for its abundance of marine life and pristine hard corals. I’m also going to do some relaxing, read some books and do some walking around the island to take in the local culture. Generally take it easy and get rid of the stress from the busy fall and winter that I’ve had this year.
Keep an eye on Divermaiden.com where I will be updating with pictures and stories as the internet access allows.
Earlier this year my mom, sister and I decided to go on a mother-daughter trip to Hawaii. My mom had never been to Hawaii and my sister hadn’t been in years. I had just had my first trip to Hawaii in March and enjoyed it so when my mom expressed interest in going there I thought that would be a great idea.
Originally we had planned on going in early May but we had to cancel those dates and eventually ended up going in October. I had found a couple of good places to stay using Expedia and TripAdvisor and eventually booked us into a condo in Kailua Kona for four nights and a guest house in Volcano for two nights. The condo was perfect, one bedroom with a king size bed and a convertible sofa, which we never did pull out preferring to spread out sheets and blankets on the couch as is. The condo was very comfortable and we cooked dinner there several nights and made lunch and breakfast saving us some money on dining out. Wanting to make the trip special for my mom with the true feel of Hawaii I had booked us into an oceanfront room. That was a great idea providing us with beautiful sunsets each night. Our last two nights in Hawaii were at a guest house in Volcano, which is a story in itself that I will tell in another post.
But the greatest thing about this trip was the three of us getting to spend some time together. We talked about our lives and laughed a lot about things we’ve done in the past. We also made some memories together that will last the rest of our lives. Who could forget the huge manta rays swooping up from the dark water to within inches from us feeding on the krill exposed by the bright lights? There we were, in the ocean, snorkeling in the dark holding onto a “surfboard” as the mantas circled below us over and over again. We could see down their mouths and through their gills. It was an amazing experience!
On other days we walked through historic sites where ancient ruins mapped out villages, we walked down long trails to beautiful waterfalls and we went snorkeling in protected bays in one of which Mom and I saw a turtle! We drove to the southernmost point in the United States where the water was the blue of the sky only 10 times more saturated, and the shallow water a beautiful aqua color that I can’t find words to describe. Hawaii is beautiful and we enjoyed every moment. And who could go to Hawaii without shopping. I can tell you that several Christmas presents were purchased on the trip.
But being on vacation in Hawaii wasn’t my only reason for this post.
While we were on the trip I noticed how my mother was starting to seem a little frail. Well, maybe not frail; but I had always thought of her as so strong. She is still healthy and actually quite strong for her age, but by being in close contact with her for a week I realized that she is aging, and slowing down a bit. After I came home I knew that I wanted to spend more time with her. So more mother – daughter trips will be planned. Parents; and grandparents are special people that sometimes as we grow up and live our own lives we don’t see or talk to them as often as when we were younger. But this is the time when we should be spending time with them, if not in person then on the phone, on Skype or Facetime, with emails and letters. Don’t miss out on spending time with your mom or dad or your grandparents, take them on a vacation…
Or, just give them a call to say hello and I love you.
I love you mom!
Adobe DVD’s and boxes go away as Adobe’s Creative Suite moves to subscription.
No longer will we be buying a box with a DVD in it or buying a license and downloading Adobe software to our computers, ours to use for ever and ever. The model has changed!
The world of photographers was rocked a bit when Adobe announced that Photoshop, in fact almost all of Adobe’s ‘Creative Suite’ is going to a cloud based subscription service. What! Subscription? How much? How does it work? How will we get it? Who thought this up?
These were all questions in our minds.
All this contemplation began for me after getting an email informing me that my Lightroom 5 beta was over. Lightroom 5 was now available for upgrade so I brought up the Adobe store to buy my Lightroom upgrade. Lightroom is one of the few Adobe products not being changed to subscription only. Usually I buy a boxed version but I couldn’t find that option on Adobe’s online store. Now what was I to do?
Like any other red-blooded American photographer I picked up my phone and called Adobe. After being asked to press “1” to have someone call me back in 5-10 minutes (yeah right) and pressing “0” (the smart choice) to be put on hold for the next available representative, I was eventually put through to a very nice person who told me all about the new subscription model and how it was going to work.
Yes, she tells me, the “Creative Suite” is no longer available as application(s) that you purchase once and get a license and that’s it. Anyone wanting to use part of the Creative Suite, now called the Creative Cloud, will have to subscribe. And the prices can be steep depending on how you use your Adobe products.
- Subscribe to the “Creative Cloud” for $49.99 a month ($29.99 a month if you have a version of Creative Suite newer than CS3).
- If you just want Photoshop (now called CC instead of CS) you pay $19.99 a month ($9.99 a month if you qualify).
- The special prices ends July 31, 2013, so if you want to take advantage do it soon.
- Any of the applications are available on a month-to-month basis but at a higher price.
Generally, other than Lightroom, I have only used Photoshop… oops I mean CC so I didn’t get information on the whole suite, but I think it works pretty much the same, just more expensive.
How it works and other information:
- The application is downloaded and installed on your computer (up to two devices) and it resides on your computer, not the Adobe cloud.
- The application is available on or off-line.
- Save your work to the Adobe cloud or to your hard drive or to both.
- Your cloud is able to be shared and has 20 GB of storage.
- Download either the full Creative Suite or just Photoshop (now known as “CC”).
- Lightroom is still available as a licensed product as are Elements and a few other Adobe applications.
- CS6 is the last of the licensable Photoshop versions is still available.
- Adobe is no longer selling any boxed software on their website or by phone.
- If you really want a boxed version of Lightroom there are some that were distributed to retailers so check your local Best Buy or other software distributor.
I think I’m going to take advantage of the special for those with a currently licensed product newer than CS3 and sign up for CC only. At the end of my year at $9.99 I’ll switch to the month-to-month plan. I use Lightroom mostly anyway. I might miss the convenience of being able to use CC at will whenever I want to but it seems silly to pay a lot of money for something I only use occasionally.
What are you going to do? Will you:
- Subscribe to an annual subscription.
- Subscribe month-to-month.
- Just use Lightroom or Elements and not use Photoshop at all anymore.
- Switch to Apple and use Aperture.
I’m interested to hear what other photographers will do. Send me a comment and let me know.
Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored by Adobe or anyone else and no free software (or cloudware) was received by the author (unfortunately ;).
My first time to, and impression of, Hawaii
As mentioned previously Randy and I went on a “free” trip to Hawaii. It turned out to be not so free but that’s ok, we went and we had a good time. It was my first time to Hawaii so I was really looking forward to the trip. For a long time I had listened to people talking about how wonderful Hawaii was; the blue ocean, the white (and black) sand beaches, surfers hanging out in the waves, waterfalls and volcanos. All of it sounded so exciting! So when we got there it was late and we walked to a very modern American mall to find some dinner. Then the next day we picked up our rental car and started exploring. I must admit, I was a little disappointed. It seemed just like home. We were in a town with the same stores (even a Costco) and the same gas stations and restaurants. Where was the romantic tropical paradise I was expecting?
FREE TRIP TO HAWAII – ENTER HERE!
I am not naïve or stupid, and I’m an adult and know that you don’t get anything for free. But a year ago I started the process to win a free trip to Hawaii which turned out to not be free and was a completely frustrating process.
It all started a year ago at the local travel show. I submitted my name to win a “free” trip to Hawaii. I thought that my name was going to be put in a barrel, which would be turned a few times after which someone would pull a name from the barrel and announce the winner. Sounds like very low chance of my winning right? Well I was surprised to get a notification that I had won and all I needed to do was… (more…)
BALD EAGLES AND WILDLIFE AT THE KLAMATH BASIN NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES
Recently Randy and I headed to the far northern part of California to photograph Bald Eagles. The eagles winter at the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge primarily at the Tule Lake Refuge and the Lower Klamath Refuge. We had joined a Meetup, Bay Area Photography Events, for this adventure. A link to a gallery of my images from the adventure is at the bottom of this post. (more…)