Inside the Aquarium: Diving in Honduras

Out of the cold, damp weather of Colombia we took a flight to the island of Roatan in Honduras. When we arrived in Roatan we didn’t have any plans, but we knew was thatre there was spectacular diving here.  Since we hadn’t done much diving lately I was itching to get back in and make myself feel more comfortable with being underwater and the only way to do that in my opinion is by practicing. Once checked into our little cottage type room we headed out to see what sort of specials the diving shops might have. Our first shop we stopped at had a few Australian girls working at and they were very informative and friendly so we decided to sign up right away for a certification in advanced open water diving.  This certification requires us to learn to drift dive, night dive, dive with navigation, deep water dive and a wreck dive. I was excited to be in a class again because I like when there is an instructor to guide us while learning new techniques.

Our first dive for the course was our deep dive which we were so lucky because it also included a ship wreck. It was amazing descending over the top of this large sunken ship, the water was so clear we didn’t even notice how deep we actually were. In the specific area there were massive grouper and snapper, they looked almost prehistoric. Our second dive was a drift dive in which we were supposed to learn how to swim with currents and such, but there was hardly any current so we didn’t get to see the star of the show during this dive “Texas”. You know how people always say “it’s always bigger in Texas,” well they named this site after Texas because there is gigantic sea weed and barrels. Almost like a valley of them, barrels so big you can supposedly curl up in them, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see because we didn’t drift that far. We will save that for our next trip to Honduras. The third dive was learning how to navigate underwater using a compass and land marks, the sun etc. Adam did really well with this lesson; I on the other hand failed miserably. I had to redo so many of the steps I think the instructor passed me because he felt sorry for me.

Adam out in front of the wreck

Dana in the wreck

Brain Coral

Dana goofing around

Our fourth dive didn’t wow Adam and I that much at first because it was a night dive, and at first I was nervous. The thought of swimming at night made us feel claustrophobic, but with our humor watching the other two divers made us laugh almost the whole dive. They were bouncing all around, and couldn’t get their buoyancy correct. Towards the end of the dive was one of my favorite memories of diving. We were told to kneel in a sandy patch and cut our lights. Then as your eyes started to adjust to the night, the moon sort of lit the water around you. After a few minutes or two your eyes really started to adjust to the darkness and there was what they call “String of pearls” that glows in the water, it is actually shrimp, but looks like a strand of pearls that light up bead by bead. It was really amazing, these things were all around us, lighting up. I felt like this was something out of the Avatar movie or something so surreal. Our fourth dive the next day was a really cool dive, we swam through these crevices in the bottom, almost like cave diving but learning how to control your buoyancy and not hit the coral.

More giant brain coral

A massive grouper

This by far has to be some of the best diving Adam and I have done. Every place we dove on this trip has its highlights, but Roatan was jaw dropping on almost every dive. It was very exciting to have been here and to have dove so much with such great dive masters too. Our meals here were pretty basic; one of the highlights was wing night at a local restaurant. Other than that we made a lot of pasta in our kitchen and fought off thousands of termites our last night on the island. That evening there was a nice evening thunderstorm which must have disturbed the termites. I’m not lying to you when I say they were as large as wasps and there were thousands of them. It was one of the most annoying things to deal with. It got really bad we had to move to another room and sit with the lights out because they were attracted by light. At this point, we’ve gotten used to things like this… at the start of the trip, I would’ve totally freaked out!

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Heading North into Colombia: Gold, Rain, and Mud!

After our time in the Galapagos, it was time to trade in our boats for buses once again. We headed northwards towards the capital of Ecuador, Quito. Now Quito is one of the cooler places to visit in all of South America: you can cross the equator here, and the historic center of Quito is a UNESCO heritage site. Unfortunately for us, we only got to stay for 12 hours before having to depart for Colombia. Yes, due to a slight scheduling error, we had to hurry our tails up to Bogota, Colombia, before our friend Cody from Orlando arrived there.

At least the journey up to Colombia was pretty interesting. By now my Spanish has gotten good enough where I can hold actual conversations with people and bring up all sorts of fascinating bits of information to impress and wow the locals (at least I think so). So on this bus ride north from Quito I met a nice guy named Edwin who was a young lawyer from the town of Pasto, Colombia. Well that’s where we were hoping to get to by the end of our bus rides for the day, lucky us! The border crossing from Ecuador to Colombia is a little trickier than most: it involves one bus to the bus stop 20 km short of the border, a cab ride to the border, a walk across the border, cab for about 10 km to the Colombian bus stop, and after that two more buses to the town of Pasto. My new friend Edwin told me he was in Quito for a marathon, which he won. Sure enough, when we made our first transportation switch of the day, along with his backpack he lugs along a giant lottery-winner type check for $500. It was hilarious. He stayed with us through each transportation change, and was another example of the wonderful people you meet while traveling.

The fantastic Ecuador-Colombia border crossing

The next day we got ready for a short flight from Pasto to Colombia’s captial- Bogota. We were cautioned to fly this stretch because kidnappings from FARC rebels still can happen through this area, and we thought it would be better to exercise caution. After all, our friend Cody from Orlando was arriving the next day and we didn’t want to be absent for his arrival! The flight from the Pasto airport was another memorable one. Nestled in the northern extent of the Andes mountains, this would be one of our last opportunities to enjoy the low-hanging clouds that drifted between the valleys. The clouds surrounded the airport and made you feel like you were really in the middle of nowhere, and all of a sudden an airport appeared out of nowhere.

Our plane getting ready for our flight to Bogota

We arrived in Bogota and got ready to see our friend Cody. This was his first time travelling abroad and he was really excited to see us and experience some new things. The first thing we did was take a trip to Monserrate, a mountain in Bogota that has a Catholic church at the top. The cable car whisked us to the top and the views of the city were amazing.

The cable car to the top of Monserrate

Hanging out with Cody - only our second visitor of the entire trip!

The view of Bogota from Monserrate

Our next stop in Bogota was to check out the Museo de Oro – the Gold Museum. We heard from many people who have visited Bogota before us that we had to see it. If you happen to like gold, this is the place to visit. Everywhere you looked was gold – sculptures, jewelry, plates, clothing- you name it, they had it.

Unfortunately, Bogota has a big problem: the weather. Due to their elevation and proximity to the Equator, it is cool and rainy almost year round. So we decided to take a trip out to a little place outside the city that many locals visit for vacation, a town called Villa de Leyva. This charming place had a lot of nice shopping for Dana – the perfect excuse for Cody and I to go out and do some offroading through the hillsides and backcountry. As you can see from the pictures… we got a bit muddy.

The "before" picture

The "during" picture

The "after" picture

Unfortunately, the weather continued to not cooperate and much of the weekend in Villa de Leyva was spent dodging rainstorms. At least a few of the bars were open in town! We met a really nice family who spent time between Florida and Colombia who recommended a lot of places to visit. They were another shining example of all the wonderful people you can meet while travelling.

The main plaza of Villa de Leyva

Our photo with the Nieto family - very nice people!

 

 

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Blog Post 100: A Quick Look Back

Well, this marks our 100th blog post at Travel Go Lucky, so we thought it would nice to take a look back at a few highlights of where we have ventured to explore in the past year…. with only a month left on the trip, maybe we are looking back a bit too soon, but anytime you get to 100 of anything it’s nice to commemorate the event. Enjoy!

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Victoria Falls, Zambia

Ngorogoro Crater/Serengeti Nat'l Park, Tanzania

Virunga Nat'l Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

Abu Simbel, Egypt

Petra, Jordan

Athens, Greece

 

Beijing, China

Our Engagement at the Great Wall of China

 

Agra, India

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Port Charcot, Antarctica

 

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Machu Picchu, Peru

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sun Sets on Our Galapagos Cruise

Like all good things, our Galapagos cruise was coming to an end. We only had two more island to visit, Isla Floreana and Espanola. Lucky for us they provided even more stunning views and creatures.

The oldest and southernmost island, Isla Espanola holds one of the most beautiful beaches in the world on its shores. The beach, known as Gardner Bay, looks a lot like any gorgeous post card setting, with pristine white sand and turquoise water. The thing that sets Gardner Bay apart from those other beautiful beaches are the natives that inhabit it: Galapagos Sea Lions. The funny creatures act just like dogs, and are completely unafraid of humans. As you can see by the pictures, they were wonderful companions on our day at the beach.

Posing for a picture on Isla Espanola

Dana and the Sea Lions

These guys were awesome... but sleepy

Our trip continued to Isla Floreana where we were able to mail a post card from the “Post Office”… which is really just a place where people leave their mail, and hope that someone near where they live ends up delivering it to them. We’ll see if ours ends up getting back to us.  Near the Post Office was an underground volcanic cave that was interesting because it showed off the unique geology of the island. The birds here were particularly interesting as well – especially the Blue Footed Boobies. They dive-bomb into the ocean simultaneously and try to catch fish just under the surface of the water. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

A Galapagos Dove

 

A Blue Heron

Checking out the cool undergound cave

Blue Footed Boobies diving into the ocean for fish simultaneously

Our time in the Galapagos was a wonderful time filled with all sorts of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities: SCUBA diving with sharks, visiting 130+ year old giant tortoises, hanging out on the beach with sea lions, and seeing animals that you cannot encounter in any other place in the world. For now it’s back to the mainland of Ecuador to see what new adventures await us in South America.

A rainbow we saw on our final day in the Galapagos Islands

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Photo Essay: The Last of the Dinosaurs

Okay, so maybe the title of this blog post is stretching it juuuuuuuuuust a little. But as far as I’m concerned, these special guys are as close as I’ll ever get to seeing our prehistoric friends in real life. Enjoy.

A group of marine iguanas, sunning themselves

 

A marine iguana on the beach

Now try and tell me this land iguana doesn't resemble a dinosaur...

Stopping for a drink

Looking good for his portrait

Small-but-unique to the Galapagos, the lava lizard

This lava lizard's orange face better illustrates how they got their name

The famous giant galapagos tortoise

It doesn't get much cuter than baby giant tortoises

Two female marine iguanas fighting for a nest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Galapagos (Birthday) Cruise!

After our adventures under the sea in the Galapagos, it was time to take a trip around the islands in hopes of seeing what wild animals roamed these special places. Dana and I were lucky, managing to sneak onto a 5 day trip around the southern circuit of Galapagos Islands for a great price. The night before embarking on our cruise, we enjoyed one last meal on Santa Cruz with our diving friends Mike and Sandi. They were one of the nicest couples we have met on our trip, and we hope to meet up with them again down the road sometime.

Dana with our friends Sandi and Mike

The next morning we took off to the meeting area for our cruise. Most people who would be on our cruise were just arriving by plane from the mainland. It turned out that a family from Wisconsin ended up on our tour, which was a nice surprise. Once everyone was rounded up, it was off to hop on our boat and check out some sights and wildlife.

Our first island stop brought us to see land iguanas. These guys look like a dinosaurs cousin, but there is nothing fearsome at all in their demeanor. They like to sleep and hang out, not very active creatures. We also ran into our first Galapagos Seals and the colorful Sally Lightfoot Crabs. All you hear about before arriving in the Galapagos is how unafraid of human like the animals are, but hearing and experiencing are two different things. The seals would literally make you step over them at the first dock we landed. They could’ve cared less that we were there.

Our new friend, the Land Iguana

 

If a sleeping seal is in your way, don't expect him to move!

Sally Lightfoot Crabs amongst a sleeping seal

Our tour continued on with a stop to see the nesting grounds of the Waved Albatross. These guys looked very similar to the ones we saw trailing our boat in Antarctica, but this species sticks mostly to the Galapagos. It is hard to appreciate these birds in photos because they look like a giant seagull, but to see them in person is breathtaking. They look like miniature planes when they fly above.

At the end of our first day, I had a special surprise ready for Dana– a birthday cake! The crew baked her a cake while we were out sightseeing all day- pretty impressive for being on a boat. Everyone sang happy birthday and then recounted experiences from our first day of exploration. It was an early night though, because more adventures await bright and early the next morning. The sunset was picture perfect and a sign of good things to come for the remainder of our cruise.

Dana and her birthday cake!

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Underwater Galapagos Adventure (continued…)

Here our the highlights from our second day of diving in the photo department… be sure to check out our Travel Go Lucky Facebook page to see some videos of our dive, including clips of Galapagos sea lions and Hammerhead sharks!

Ready to go for day 2!

Our textbook dismounts into the ocean

A school of Surgeonfish

A starfish

Another starfish

A really cool spotted eel

Dana enjoying herself

Another little guy we encoutered from the first day of diving

Another white tip shark!

He was pretty speedy

Despite their fearsome appearance, the sharks we all saw were pretty docile

 

 

 

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