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Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Happy New Year

Milford Sound, New Zealand

This photo shows Milford Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand. I’d never visited this part of New Zealand before. The area is known for its high rainfall, but we had fine weather and spectacular views of the pristine water, mountains and bush. The scenery was stunning.

I’d like to wish everyone a happy, safe and prosperous New Year. All the best for 2011!

A Birthday Surprise

My husband pulled off a wonderful surprise for my recent birthday. I knew we were going away but I thought hubby had organized a quick trip to the South Island of New Zealand. On the day we were meant to leave, he woke me up at a very early hour with a cup of tea. When I went to check my email there was a note attached to the computer along with a flashdrive.

The note said, “Good morning, Shelley. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to insert this flashdrive. It will not self destruct in five seconds, but you may!!”

Curious, I inserted the flashdrive and a movie started. Hubby had booked us a cruise on the Volendam and the movie showed all the ports of call. Honestly, I had no idea. He really pulled a swifty on me :grin:
Luckily I had a few hours to pack and organize/reschedule the few things I needed to sort out before we traveled up to Auckland to board the cruise ship.

Volendam

The cruise started in Auckland and stopped in Mt Maunganui, Napier, Wellington, Picton, Akaroa, Dunedin (Port Chalmers), cruised the Milford Sound before crossing the Tasman Sea to Hobart in Tasmainia, Eden on mainland Australia and ending in Sydney. The surprises kept coming with some fun tours booked and a new bracelet for my birthday. We went dolphin watching to see the rare Hector dolphins, wine tasting, hiking, swimming and sightseeing. We even visited the real Middlemarch where I took loads of photos. I half expected one of the Mitchells to round the corner and say hello. In fact, the Mitchells are so real to me, I was a bit disappointed when they didn’t!

We both had a fun time and arrived home rested and ready for Christmas. It was the best birthday ever.

Oh, Give Me a Home Where The Buffalo Roam!

Camera Critters

I took this photo of bison in Yellowstone National Park. They’re very big up close and dangerous, yet many of the tourists we saw were busy stalking them with digital cameras.

Bison_YellowstoneNP

To view more animal photos visit Camera Critters

Snorkeling with Sharks and Stingrays in Moorea

Camera Critters

I interviewed Mr. Munro this week about his recent experience snorkeling with sharks and stingrays.

Moorea

What made you decide to snorkel with stingrays and sharks?

Moorea is a small but beautiful island. We could either explore the island or do some sort of water activity. When I read about swimming with sharks the theme music to Jaws came to mind. The stingray part of the excursion sounded just as dangerous. Steve Irwin anyone? In the end I decided you have to take risks occasionally because you can’t stay wrapped in cotton wool all your life. Besides, I could have fallen off my bar stool or slipped on the wet deck…

Tell us a little about the experience. Were you apprehensive?

Apprehensive was an understatement! I finally gathered courage and entered the water with my snorkel gear. It felt as if I were getting into a tepid bath. I still wasn’t too sure, but it seemed okay, then the guide started throwing dead fish into the water. I thought he was mad. Then I realized he was “on” the boat and I was in the water. I decided perhaps I was the idiot!

How close did you get to the stingrays and sharks?

Stingray

After the fish throwing things happened quickly. A stingray glided past, then another one. They wanted to play, swimming right up and over me, wanting to be stroked and rubbed. I was so excited I forgot about the sharks. That was until something caught my eye, heading straight for me through the clear water. The problem with wearing goggles is that everything is magnified. The shark looked enormous. It was actually only one meter in length. There were about six or seven black tip reef sharks circling, deciding if I was on the menu or if the guides’ dead fish were more appealing. I’m happy to say the latter seemed more popular for a snack. Being surrounded by stingrays and sharks, I was overcome with a sense of euphoria, not fear at all. The sharks kept a respectable one or two meters distance all the time.

Mr Munro and Shark

Snorkeler and Shark

Black Tip Sharks

What else did you see during your time snorkeling?

There was a lot of other sea life around – lots of different fish – and coral, but the coral wasn’t that exciting. I was very fortunate to follow a moray eel for about a hundred meters as it went from rock to rock looking for and eating fish. That was almost as exciting as the sharks!

Fish and Coral

Moray Eel

Would you recommend this experience to others?

I’d put this experience up there at about number three or four on my list of life experiences. Seeing the gorillas in Rwanda is number one on my list. I really enjoyed my swim with the sharks and stingrays, so if you get a chance to visit Moorea … do it!

To see more animal photos visit Camera Critters.

Helmet Dive in Bora Bora

Camera Critters

This week I thought I’d combine my Camera Critters photo with a story about our visit to Bora Bora.

Helmet Diving in Bora Bora by Shelley Munro

One of the fun parts of travel is the planning of a holiday. There’s the research, both online and in books, the correspondence with travel and tour operators and the detailed discussions at home with my husband. Should we or shouldn’t we?

My husband, in particular, loves the planning part of our overseas trips. This process starts months ahead. First we decide which part of the world we’re going to explore, we look at our budget and then it’s the research.

Our latest trip was a Pacific cruise on board the Dawn Princess, the Love Boat from the old TV series. There were stops at Tonga, Rarotonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, Samoa, American Samoa and Fiji. Once we’d booked our trip and put a countdown graphic on our computer, it was time to decide what we’d see and do at each stop.

“Let’s do this,” my husband said one day.

I read the details of something called a helmet dive. “It sounds good,” I said. “But I won’t be able to see a thing without my glasses.”

“You can wear your glasses underwater. The helmet goes over the top of your head. Your hair won’t even get wet.”

“Oh,” I said. I watched a YouTube video with my husband. It did look like fun. According to the site, your head didn’t get wet, no swimming experience was necessary and the excursion was suitable for all ages. “Okay,” I said. “We should do it.” I kept my lingering doubts to myself. I can swim, but I much prefer to keep my feet firmly on dry land.

Before I knew it, we were booked for a helmet dive when our ship reached Bora Bora in Tahiti.

We traveled out to the tour company’s diving platform on a speed boat. That’s when I started to get a little nervous. What if I didn’t like it? To my relief, I wasn’t the only one who was experiencing anxiety.

Bora Bora

Bora Bora is a beautiful spot. The water is a brilliant blue, an impossible color that makes you wonder if the photographer has employed Photoshop to touchup photos. The sun shone and a faint breeze stirred the foliage on the trees. Beneath the surface, we caught glimpses of fish while we waited for our turn to descend into the water.

The helmets are large clear bubbles. Imagine a cartoon spaceman’s helmet—they’re exactly like that. They’re weighted to keep them in place, which means they’re pretty heavy.

Bora Bora

We climbed down a ladder at the end of the platform and waited for the helpers to winch a helmet in place and place it over our heads. I was surprised at the weight. With the helmet over my head, I slowly went down the ladder under the water. Initially, you have to equalize. A couple of the other women had experienced trouble. I was determined I wouldn’t end up the same so I was busy making saliva and swallowing a lot. LOL Probably more than you want to know!

Bora Bora

Under the water was magical. There were loads of fish of all colors swimming around us. A diver and a photographer swam around helping and showing us different things. Lots of different things grew on the rocks and fish darted in all directions. A stingray swam around us, floating around our helmets in a graceful dance.

Bora Bora

Photobucket

Bora Bora

The current was surprisingly strong, so I was glad of the added weight of the helmet. Walking along the sandy bottom was quite difficult and we all looked a bit silly flapping our arms. With so much to see, the time sped past quickly.

Bora Bora

Bora Bora

One at a time, we climbed back up the ladder and waited for the helper to attach the winch and remove our helmets. It was the first time I’ve ever swum and kept my glasses and hair completely dry.

The helmet dive ended up being one of our trip highlights. It was both exciting and magical seeing fish and a stingray in their natural habitat. I especially recommend a helmet dive to anyone who, like me, has wondered what it’s like to scuba dive. I believe helmet dives are available in a number of places now, including the Caribbean, so if you’re interested in trying one do some online research before you leave home.

To see more animal photos visit Camera Critters.

Elephant: A Great Way to Travel

Camera Critters

Elephant

My photo this week was taken in Phuket, Thailand.

To see more animal photos visit Camera Critters

A Visit To New Zealand, Land of the Long White Cloud

Have you ever wanted to travel to New Zealand?

I’m lucky enough to live in New Zealand, and today I give you a virtual tour of my beautiful country. I’m visiting Lisabet Sarai at Beyond Romance today where I discuss New Zealand and books.

A Tick Off The Bucket List

One of the things that hubby and I have wanted to do for ages is drive around in a convertible. We didn’t want just any convertible. We wanted to drive a Mustang convertible. In fact a Mustang was my husband’s dream car when he was a teenager.

Fast forward to our stop in Hilo, Hawaii. We hired a nice fire-engine red Mustang convertible for the day.

Photobucket

It was a gorgeous day, and we had great company (another couple we met on board the Dawn Princess). We drove from Hilo up to the Waipi’o Valley.

Photobucket

Did I mention we drove a Mustang? It was a really smooth ride, and according to hubby, great to drive.

The Waipi’o valley is beautiful – the road ends and you look down on a wide, flat valley. There’s a black sand beach and the surf crashes onto it. Here’s a photo of me (in the hat I purchased at the Sydney Royal Easter show) with the valley behind me.

Photobucket

It was a fun day, and we have one less thing on our bucket list.

What is one thing that’s on your bucket list?

All Roads Lead to Walmart

There were almost 2000 passengers on our cruise ship with most of them coming from Australia. A few days before the ship reached Hawaii, we all started to talk about the excursions we wanted to do while stopping at our four Hawaiian ports.

The number of passengers who said they were going to Walmart astounded me. I mean Hawaii is a beautiful place—one of my favorite island destinations—with so many interesting things to see. Volcanoes. Sea horses. Snorkeling. Whales. Turtles. Gardens. Waterfalls. And the list goes on.

We arrived at Kona (our first stop) and, to my surprise, there was a special bus that transferred people from the ship to the nearest Walmart. Passengers returned to the ship loaded with Walmart shopping bags. Really, in some instances I thought the shopping bags were walking by themselves because I couldn’t see the person carrying them!!

Our next stop was Hilo and the word had spread about the bargains available. Everyone was desperate to visit Walmart, even the crew who wanted to stock up on toiletries and small items etc. It became a sort of a joke on the ship. Have you visited Walmart yet? ( In our defense—we don’t have a shop quite like Walmart in Australia or New Zealand.)

And if you’re wondering, did I visit Walmart? Why yes, I did. Just briefly to get something for my cold and sore throat (to combat the buggy thing I picked up on the ship) and to check out the Sony ereaders. I didn’t stay for long though, since there was a Borders nearby. I left my husband and friends to their wandering in favor of checking out the latest romance releases.

Do you shop at Walmart? And, out of curiosity, what do you tend to purchase there?

Spotlight on Tonga

The first stop of our cruise was the Kingdom of Tonga. The group of islands is known as The Friendly Islands and the people we met were lovely. It was pouring with rain during our day in port, and I have to admit that this wasn’t my favorite destination. Most of the islands are volcanic in origin. We visited Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu and Vava’u. I liked Vava’u best since it was more picturesque. It’s a very popular place with boaties and there were many yachts moored around the port.

Fishing Boat, Tonga

Fishing boat.

Taro, Tonga

Taro, at roadside stall.

Carving, Tonga

Carving outside home in Vava’u.

Flower

Flower after the rain.