Komodo, Diver’s Paradise

Tony diving off the coast of Rinca

It’s not exactly a secret among experienced divers, but Komodo has some of the best diving in the world. While land-lubbers are more focused on the famous Komodo dragons, underwater fans realize that Komodo National Park protects some of the best-preserved coral and underwater life on the planet.

Why? As with Nusa Lembongan, deep channels with cold currents from the south seem to be protecting much of the coral from the hot water streams that have ravaged calmer Asian waters to the north. So far, bleaching seems to be less of a problem than in other parts areas of the tropics. Moreover, nature has gifted Komodo with wild ripping currents which make dynamite fishing difficult. Poachers can blow up the reef, but the strong currents drag all the fish away.

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Exploring Coron Island by Kayak

Thomas Kayaks near Coron Island

Sitting in our stilt house recovering from our spectacular wreck dives, the second major reason to visit the Philippine Island of Busuanga is clearly visible on the horizon. Dramatic and mysterious, Lonely Planet describes mystical Coron Island best when it says, “It wouldn’t be out of place in a King Kong film.”

Ominous walls of jungle-covered black karst erupt from the surrounding turquoise seas. Jagged and spectacular, Coron Island is the ultimate karst showpiece. As mountainous as Yangshuo, as labyrinthine as the Stone Forest, mid-ocean like Halong or Pang Nga, and as razor-edged as the spiky tsingy of Madagascar, Coron trumps them all. The place is Continue…

El Nido, Palawan: 100 Ways to Kill Coral

El Nido's Coral: Crown-of-thorns Starfish

We first published this article on El Nido’s coral destruction in 2010 after our month-long visit to Palawan. Sadly, eight years later, we are still getting comments from travelers confirming further environmental degradation. Read on to find out what causes the coral destruction and make sure to check out the comments below documenting the state of El Nido’s corals in 2018.

Above water, the Bacuit Archipelago is one of the most stunning places on the planet. Below the surface of its perfectly turquoise waters, it’s a different story. A story of neglect, corruption, mismanagement and ignorance.

It is estimated that only 1% of the Philippines’ coral is still in pristine condition. Sewage run-off, anchor damage, shore erosion, a crown-of-thorns starfish infestation, and overfishing are some of the more typical culprits. And, of course, coral bleaching due to global warming is a huge problem. But to kill that much coral, you need to employ some of the more destructive practices such as Continue…

Sipadan and Mabul – Borneo’s Most Popular Dive Destinations

Pulau Sipadan

Some of the world’s most famous islands among scuba divers in the know are Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai in Malaysian Borneo. Sipadan, in particular, features numerous dive sites consistently listed in the top five dive destinations in the world. Divers flock here from all corners of the world to witness the spectacular underwater scenery with its amazing sea life and unusual topography.

Planning your trip to Sipadan Island ahead of time is key. As part of a necessary conservation effort to protect Sipadan, the Malaysian government decided in 2005 to close all resorts on the island and put a strict permit system in place allowing only 120 divers per day. Unfortunately, arranging your permit can be quite confusing. Not all dive shops and resorts can organize permits. Check out Sipadan.com to see how many permits are allocated to which dive shops and resorts in the area. They also provide detailed information on the Sipadan permit system, including how to increase your chances of getting a permit in the first place. Continue…

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…