Travel

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Posted by on May 28, 2017

An Adventure of a Lifetime

Last year I went to the Philippines with a small group of friends where we boarded the beautiful Philippine Siren and set off for Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the middle of the Sulu Sea. Our adventure started in Puerto Princesa, Palawan Island. We were so excited as we boarded and the crew greeted us huge smiles of welcome! We were directed to the dining area where we gathered with a cold drink for a briefing. Shu and Ed (cruise director and assistant cruise director, not to mention dive guides extraordinaire) covered all aspects of life on board including diving and dining schedule, where things were on the Siren, and on-board safety. We met the crew and then hustled to the dive deck to put our dive gear together for the first time. For the rest of the trip the crew took care to keep our dive gear ready to go and our tanks filled with nitrox (included in the price).  More…

A turtle swims right up to a diver to get its picture taken.

A turtle in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park swims right up to a diver to get its picture taken.

 

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Transportation Adventures in the Philippines – El Nido

Posted by on Oct 16, 2016

Transportation Adventures in the Philippines – El Nido

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.

AirSwift unloading passengers and luggage at a tiny airstrip near El Nido.

AirSwift unloading passengers and luggage at a tiny airstrip near El Nido.

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!

Notice how the maximum passenger capacity is blank?

Notice how the maximum passenger capacity is blank?

One of the buses I "could" have taken to get from El Nido to Puerto Princesa.

One of the buses I could have taken to get from El Nido to Puerto Princesa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

View looking over bay in Palawan, from van.

View looking over bay towards El Nido, from van.

 

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.

Colorful lunch stop El Nido to Puerto Princesa

Colorful lunch stop El Nido to Puerto Princesa

Van driver navigating road construction.

Van driver navigating road construction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Read the full El Nido trip report!

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Coming soon: Another SCUBA Diving Adventure

Posted by on Mar 13, 2016

Sister ship to the Philippine Siren.

My last SCUBA diving adventure was on the Palau Siren, sister ship to the Philippine Siren.

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!

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Kosrae Village Ecolodge & Dive Resort

Posted by on Sep 10, 2014

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?

I'm Here! Kosrae Village Ecolodge.

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Jellyfish Lake Snorkel

Posted by on Mar 2, 2014

Kathy Snorkels with Jellyfish

Kathy Snorkels with Jellyfish

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.

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Micronesia Here I come

Posted by on Feb 8, 2014

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.

Map of Micronesia Showing Kosrae

Map of Micronesia Showing Kosrae

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.

S/Y Indo Siren

The Indo Siren at Full Sail

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.

 

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Spend time with your mom – go to Hawaii

Posted by on Jan 1, 2014

Mom, Lisa and I in front of the Kilauea Caldera.

Mom, Lisa and I in front of the Kilauea Caldera.

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.

The view from our 4th floor condo in Kailua Kona.

The view from our 4th floor condo in Kailua Kona.

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!

Night Snorkel with Feeding Manta Rays

Night Snorkel with Feeding Manta Rays

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.

Lisa and Mom at the Southern-most point in the United States.

Lisa and Mom at the Southern-most point in the United States.

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.

The Three Glamorous Snorkelers!

The Three Glamorous Snorkelers!

I love you mom!

 

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A Whirlwind Visit to Maui, Hawaii

Posted by on Mar 29, 2013

Randy and Kathy on the edge of a waterfall flowing into an emerald green jungle pool.

Randy and Kathy on the edge of a waterfall flowing into an emerald green jungle pool.

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?

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Free Trip to Hawaii

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013

Getaway to Hawaii Certificate

Getaway to Hawaii Certificate

 

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…

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Visiting and Photographing Yellowstone National Park

Posted by on Jan 3, 2013

Yellowstone National Park

In 1872 the United States established the first national park in the world, Yellowstone National Park. The main reason for the park’s establishment was to protect and preserve the geysers. But the area was also home to an incredible array of wildlife including grizzly bears, bison, elk and wolves. Unfortunately those wolves eventually vanished and by the 1970s, there was no evidence of a wolf population in Yellowstone. In 1995 66 wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, coming from grey wolf populations in Alberta, Canada. This was highly controversial, and still is. Photographing those wolves was instrumental in our desire to visit Yellowstone.

 

Randy, Kathy and Chris at Yellowstone's North Gate

Randy, Kathy and Chris at Yellowstone’s North Gate

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