Lisbon Oceanarium

One of Lisbon’s number one Tripadvisor attractions is the Oceanário de Lisboa, an architectural statement in the futuristic Parque das Nações on the Tagus River. The highly conceptual building houses the city’s cutting-edge aquarium designed by architect Peter Chermayeff. Its centerpiece, a massive cylindrical tank holding 100 species, serves as the heart of this aquarium experience.

As visitors circle the 5-million-liter saltwater tank on two different viewing floors, their perspectives constantly shift. They can be eye-to-eye with a school of mackerel floating at the top, or get a close-up look of a bottom-dwelling leopard shark on the sandy floor. The pre-designed path around the aquarium also passes through many smaller side exhibits representing marine habitats from the North Atlantic, the temperate Pacific, the tropical Indian, and the Antarctic Continue…

Mallorca Highlights for Adventurers

Palma cathedral, Mallorca

Twenty-five years after my first visit to Mallorca, I returned to the Mediterranean island in October with Tony in tow. Like many visitors, my first experience here was a rushed trip spent on the busy tourist beaches near Palma. It was only later, through a German magazine article, that I learnt just how many adventurous activities I had missed. So this time around, I wanted to do it right. During our two weeks on the island, Tony and I set out together to discover the best of what the largest Balearic island has to offer. Continue…

The Fantasy of Easter Island

Rapa Nui, known around the world as Easter Island, is one of those fantasy destinations that most people recognize from pictures, but few people actually get a chance to visit in their lifetime. The tiny speck of land is one of the most isolated inhabited islands on the planet. Located 3,687 km west of the already isolated coast of Chile and 4,230 km east of the equally isolated island of Tahiti, this literally is the middle of nowhere. Its closest inhabited neighbor is Pitcairn Island located 1,921 km to the east… yeah, that’s isolated.

So how did this tiny chunk of land thousands of kilometers from anywhere develop one of the most monumental and mysterious civilizations in the South Pacific? It’s a riddle which has baffled outsiders since the island was first visited by the Dutch on an Easter Sunday in 1722. These early explorers discovered Continue…

Penguins and Oceanites

Click images in this post to enlarge

Penguins are seriously entertaining animals. You can sit and watch them for hours. They steal from each other, give each other gifts, fight and flirt. They make “highways” that lead high into the cliffs. They even have protocols for how they move up and down their roads. It you mistakenly get in a penguin’s way, they look up at you as if to say, “Excuse me, you are not following the rules.”

They are curious creatures which show little fear of visiting humans. Much of the joy of visiting Antarctica is just sitting and watching penguins go about their day. It’s the ultimate animal soap opera. But beyond the avian comedy and drama, there is a lot to learn about these animals and scientists literally have to go to some of the most remote locations on earth to Continue…

Cenote Diving in Playa del Carmen

One of the principal reasons we decided to base ourselves in Playa del Carmen for a month was to take advantage of the Mayan Riviera’s excellent cavern diving opportunities. Due to the unique geology of the Yucatan Peninsula and the huge number of cenotes and cavern systems that dot the region, the stretch between Playa del Carmen and Tulum is the world’s leading cave and cavern diving destination. As one local dive instructor told us, this is pretty much the only place in the world where a cave diving instructor can build a full-time cave diving career.

What is the Difference between Cave and Cavern Diving?

You may be asking yourself what the distinction between cave and cavern diving is. Cave diving is a more technical specialty which involves particular certifications and equipment, and requires the diver to master a set of skills such as laying guide lines and navigating at an extended distance from a cave entrance. Cavern diving usually follows pre-laid lines and requires divers to stay within a certain distance of cave entrances. We’ve experimented with caverns and extended swim-throughs in other destinations such as Sipadan and Komodo, but the dives here take cavern diving to a WHOLE new level Continue…

The Vanishing Whale Sharks of Donsol

As I mentioned on our Facebook Page last week, Berlin is THE crossroads for travel bloggers this summer. While exchanging stories and travel tips, we discovered that the whale sharks of Donsol, Philippines appear to be vanishing.

I was stunned.

When I got home, I immediately started researching the claim and discovered that it appears to be true. Apparently, the number of whale shark sightings has dropped dramatically. There has not been much international media coverage on the issue, but newspapers in the Philippines are reporting Continue…

Valencia’s Oceanogràfic

If you clicked through our pictorial of Valencia’s futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, then you might have noticed a shot of the Oceanogràfic, Europe’s largest aquarium complex. The City of Arts and Sciences graciously granted us free entry to the Oceanogràfic so that we could share this attraction with our readers.

The Oceanogràfic is a bit hard to classify as it is really more than just an aquarium but not quite on the same scale as an American-style ocean theme park such as Sea World. The complex includes displays on the world’s main marine eco-systems, including a wonderful example of the kelp forests of California which left me feeling seriously scuba-homesick.

Highlights of the Oceanogràfic include a dolphinarium, a huge beluga exhibit, and two exceptional walk-through aquarium tunnels not to mention Continue…

Diver Assists Entangled Dolphin

Click play to watch video

We initially shared a shorter version of this video on our Facebook Fanpage, but then we discovered the full 8-minute video of Keller Laros helping a dolphin remove fishing line caught in its mouth. This is an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime piece of footage with incredible implications of a depth of intelligence that many skeptics have denied. Researchers will most certainly be studying this footage for years to come.

Being divers ourselves, we immediately recognized Keller’s extensive dive experience. For non-divers, removing the fishing line may seem obvious, but it isn’t. The fact that Keller even noticed the line at all during a night dive with a dolphin swimming around his head is impressive. But Keller was also confronted with a difficult decision: should he try to remove the line and risk spooking the dolphin and thereby risk injury to himself? Clearly, Keller is a pro.

And having dabbled in the difficult art of dive photography and film, we are in AWE of Martina Wing’s exceptional underwater filming skills. From the very beginning, she expertly documents each step of the encounter. I really felt like I was on the dive myself. I cannot convey how much I love this footage. I was offended when I heard a reporter refer to the clip as “amateur footage.” Martina is no amateur. Thanks Martina for keeping your cool and documenting something truly miraculous and sharing that with the world.

Bali Pictorial

Those who know us well – especially fellow nomads – have expressed surprise that we spent so much time in Bali, a destination they associate with package tourism and sprawling resorts. In all honesty, I avoided Bali on my first trip to Indonesia ignorantly dismissing the island as little more than tourist central. But guess what, Bali is beautiful.

While it’s true that portions of Bali have embraced the dark side of tourism and a visit to Kuta can leave you cringing as hordes of drunk Australians stumble their way through the streets, the larger island provides plenty of room for off-the-beaten-track exploration. There is much to discover here: Bali’s unique Hindu culture and architecture is visually stunning; colorful festivals and parades occur throughout the year; the sand runs the spectrum from powder white to glistening gold to charcoal grey to jet black; and the lush tropical center of the island provides for great walks. Perhaps the greatest discovery for us was that the scuba diving is absolutely world-class (and I don’t say that lightly.)

We liked Bali so much that we decided to put together a pictorial to share some of the island’s unique beauty. (I’ll admit the pictorial is a bit culture heavy, but – hey – how many more pictures of rice terraces can we post?) 🙂

Disappointing Diving in Alor

Diving our way through Nusa Tenggara, I have to admit that I had high expectations for the rumored underwater treasures of Alor. Perhaps, after the spectacular U.S.S. Liberty in Bali, sunfish spotting in Nusa Lembonggan, the underwater splendor of Komodo and the quirky muck discoveries in Maumere, I had set those expectations a little too high.

Even our arrival in Alor kicked those unrealistic expectations up a notch. The unusually stunning – almost arctic – crytal blue waters around Alor simply look like they should provide the best diving in the world. As our ferry approached Kalabahi, the massive resident dolphin superpod – only the second superpod we’ve ever seen – surrounded our boat and escorted us to the island. How could this possibly be anything less than perfect?

But reality started to set in once we started looking for a dive shop. Realistically, if you are not on a liveaboard, you only have two options in Alor: the dive shop at La Petite Kepa and Alor Dive, based in Kalabahi.

The French-owned shop at La Petite Kepa has an excellent reputation for quality dives; it also has a reputation for snobby Continue…