Swimming with Dolphins

kathleen 10

For the last 20 years of my adult life I have wanted to swim with dolphins. I had the opportunity in Mexico when in Cabo San Lucas, but my travel companion had already done it so we opted to go snorkeling instead.

As I continue to travel and have plentiful opportunities to interact with animals I have developed more of a social conscience and have refrained from doing things that compromise various  animals’ welfare.

So when the opportunity arose to swim with dolphins in Kona, Hawaii – in the wild, not in some pool or amusement park I jumped at the chance!

kathleen 15

Sure I won’t have close up photos with me kissing a dolphin’s snout, and I won’t get to ‘ride’ along their backs, but an encounter with them in their natural environment would hopefully be just as unforgettable.

We chose Splashes Ocean Adventures, an eco tourism company that supports the welfare of the dolphins. Pods of spinner dolphins rest in the mornings after a night of hunting off the coast of Hawaii’s big island. With only 5 of us aboard our small vessel, with a guide and a driver we set off early in the morning.

I’m not the most confident snorkeler, or swimmer, so jumping off the boat off shore into the open ocean had the potential to completely freak me out. The first challenge was to find the pod of dolphins, which are half sleeping, half swimming south. Out boat then raced in front of the pod and we had mere minutes to get in the water, snorkel into their path and hope to see them and swim right above them. The company makes no guarantee to see or swim with dolphins (as you would expect with an in the wild encounter) so we were incredibly lucky to jump in and swim with them not once but 3 times.

Your behaviour in the water also determines how successful your interaction is with the dolphins. You need to keep quiet and just kick over to them, arms by your side. All of sudden the pod was coming and our guide jumped in, and our driver said ‘go now –  go now!’ and then I was in the water madly paddling towards them. The need to reach them in time quelled all fears I had of being in open waters and then there they were! Just metres under me. It was so quiet and peaceful under the water, one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. And then after a few seconds it was over and the pod has passed. A few metres the wrong way and we would have missed it.

kathleen 16

So lucky to have three chances to see these animals in the wild and so up close. It was definitely the highlight of the whole trip and we were so glad we chose this as our ‘expensive activity’ of the week, seeing as we could only afford one!

We the followed the dolphin experience with more snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay. Another fantastic experience and a chance to see more dolphins in the wild, jumping and flipping!

IMG_0205

I was so glad to tick this item off my ‘bucket list’and have an authentic experience out in the open ocean. Highly recommended!

Advertisements

Red Road, Hawaii Big Island

On our recent trip to Hawaii, we stayed in a flipkey accommodation on the Puna Coast near Pahoa. On a Wednesday night, after seeing the black sand beach at Kaimu and visiting the night markets, I drove the long way home up Highway 137, also know as the “Red Road”.

The sun was setting and the road was fairly deserted, which was lucky as it can get pretty narrow. As you drive under the various tree tunnels it also gets quite dark. I almost ran over two wild pigs that ran out in front of my car.

Now a proper paved road, the ‘Red Road’ got its original name from red cinder pavement used in the past to create the surface of the road. The route takes you right past the ocean and lava cliffs, with many spots to pull over and explore the cliffs and swimming spots, the most famous being Kehena Black Sand Beach, where clothing is optional and the climb down is rough. Since I was on my own doing this drive, and it was getting dark, I didn’t want to climb down to the beach and have some sort of accident (which is highly likely)  so I chickened out, and just looked at it from the car park above. We would be visiting other black sand beaches on our trip so I wasn’t too disappointed.

The trees that create tunnels on the road are just amazing, you’ll want to pull over many times to get photos. It was much darker under the foliage than in these images.

I ended up detouring down a very narrow and dark tree lined street to get back to Pahoa, but you can follow the dirt track all the way up to Hawaiian Beaches, past recent lava fields and past more remote and secluded swimming spots. We drove the dirt track during daylight hours, in search of a swimming spot called ‘Natural Lava Swimming Pool’ but even with specific directions we didn’t find it. Instead we drove on to the Champagne Ponds and Kapaho tide pools.

After driving the Red Road I wasn’t going to attempt another off road adventure up the dirt track in a hire car, on my own, after sunset!

b

Sunset with black beaches and palm trees

c

The bumpy winding road of Highway 137

d

Incredible tree tunnels that you may be lucky enough to have all to yourself

e

Plenty of spots to pull over and explore the cliffs

f

I never got up early enough to see sunrise, but it would be spectacular from this side of the island.

g

Dense foliage, where the two black pigs scurried into after crossing the road right in front of me.

i

Another spot with palm trees silhouetted agains the sunset

j

Further up Highway 137 you cross some lava fields

r

This view was seen from the dirt beach access road from Hawaiian Beaches to the paved section of HWY 137.

q

My ‘ wrong turn’ road, looked ominous but did lead me back to Pahoa!

p

Lava cliffs just metres from the road

o

A sign in the front yard of our Hawaiian Beaches accommodation.

m

Sunset over the Pacific

l

I never grew tired of looking at the palm tree views

n

A panorama of the cliffs at the end of our street.

Bucket List – Hawaii

The flights are booked! Less than 100 days to go. I am off to Hawaii in April. Hawaii has definitely been much more on my radar in the last three or so years as a ‘Bucket List’ destination. I’ve been lusting over people’s holiday posts for a while now and seeing too many Hawaiian themed pins on Pinterest.  I had a stopover at Honolulu back into 2013 and all I saw of Hawaii was a few beaches out the window as the plane landed,  as well as the inside of the airport.

I’ll only be going for nine days and we are still in the process of deciding which islands to go to… clearly we can’t go to all of them!  It just means I’ll have to go back for a second trip at some point 🙂  I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the volcano on Big Island,  some of the most amazing waterfalls and beaches in the world, as well as trying some Hawaiian treats like the pineapple whip.

And now the fun starts,  The Planning!  One of my favourite parts of organising holidays is researching, bookmarking and booking accommodation and activities and making lists of possible things to do – with pictures  and links.  I then send this to my significant other for review….  And await his approval ! So on that note,  I’m off to visit Pinterest again!

hawaii-209956_1920

We plan on hiring a car and road tripping to all the scenic sites.

hawaii-142138_1920

Have been reading about some great tours that take you to all the best lava spots.

lagoon-1008332_1920

 Love the look of this lagoon in Ohahu… will need some relaxing time.

Any  comments or recommendations are welcome! Especially for Ohahu and the Big Island.

Nine More Things To Do In: San Francisco

After my first visit to San Francisco, I wrote a post of nine things to do in the centre of the city. That was a trip for 3 days, with a friend and with no car. Four years later I returned for 2 days, with my partner and a car. This led to having a different experience of the city (and one where he got to choose the majority of sites). So here is nine more things to do in San Francisco!

1. Comic Museum – When your fiancé is an an Artist, holidays revolve around exhibitions. The Cartoon Art Museum in downtown SF is small, but interesting if you are into that sort of thing. Pretty rad gift shop too. UPDATE – The museum has closed (Sept 2015) and is searching for a new home, read about it here.

2. Walt Disney – The Walt Disney Family Museum is much bigger than I expected, so it is worth visiting for the price ($20 Adults) and it was really interesting. Of course The Artist could have spent all day there…

3. Crissy Field – A reserve / park along the waterfront of the Presidio area. Great for a drive, ride or walk, head right to the end to get great Golden Gate views.

4. Coit Tower – A great place to get 360 degree views of the city on top of Telegraph Hill.  And it’s only $6 entry.

5. Lands End – Past the presidio on the edge of the Pacific Ocean is Lands End, a national recreation area with great views and hikes. Great for views of the GG from the other side.

6. Legion of Honour – ‘The Legion of Honor museum displays a collection of 4,000 years of ancient and European art in an exquisite Beaux-Arts building in an unforgettable setting overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge’.  We didn’t get time to go in the museum unfortunately, but it is still a spectacular building to see from the front.

7. Lombard St – Having a car meant we could drive down the famous street, but it is so popular that there are people everywhere, making it a bit less special.

8. Small Gardens – All over the city are little parks, gardens, slides, steps and interesting nooks and crannies to explore! We found a few accidentally (like Fay Park in the photo above), but some you need some expert know how to seek them out  (next time I hope!)

9. Sutro Baths – These ruins are located at Lands End, north end of Ocean Beach. See them from above at Cliff House or walk down and explore.

San Clementes, California

The artist and I spent a gorgeous two nights staying in a little motel in San Clemente, Orange County, California. We lazed by the beach, slept in and ate bread (due to both of us suffering from a bad stomach bug – so romantic).

When we felt a little better we walked along the pier and even swam in the ocean. I was fascinated by the train that goes past, right on the sand. Oh and sunsets. You know how I like my sunsets.

 

Photo of the Day… Sunset

IMG_1024

I am such a sucker for a good sunset (who isn’t?). Especially one over the ocean. Especially one with interesting cloud patterns and multiple colours. Ahhhhh.

But this one was a bit different; sure the clouds and colours were there, looming over the silhouettes of cranes and construction at the Port of Los Angeles. Somehow the two elements just worked so well together.

This was taken from the decks of the Queen Mary, docked at Long Beach, California.

Photo of the Day… Golden Gate

san francisco golden gate bridge

A friend of mine does these jumping style photos when she travels in front of many famous places. She took an awesome one on the Great Wall of China with no one else in the shot! Rare…

Anyway, we visited the Golden Gate Bridge (we actually drove across it too – cool) whilst on our recent trip to San Francisco. We drove to the end of the Crissy Field promenade in the Presidio to a little wharf that juts out right in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was extremely windy and the wind was pure ice. So cold. I decided to do a jumping shot in honour of my friend. After 3 goes, nailed it!

Love the results… it’s all about the leg placement! I could get use to taking these… now to just convince The Artist to be my patient photographer each time…