Jul 312011

Today is a big day!  It’s the start of Shark Week on Discovery Channel. I’ll turn off my phone and sequester myself in the house – all so I can stare, awe struck, at incredible shark documentaries for 7 straight nights.

Discovery Channel’s website is chock full of shark trivia, videos, photos and other cool stuff.  Did you know that you are more likely to be bitten by a human than a shark?  That’s just one of the things I learned while perusing their website this morning.


Tonight at 9:00 (EST) I’ll be watching Great White Invasion.  I hope to go cage diving with them in South Africa one day!

Do you have any shark stories or favorite shark documentaries?

Happy Birthday Mom!

Jul 292011

I remember the first time I went snorkeling.  It was in St. John, USVI, which is known for its amazing reefs.  I was immediately awe-struck by the new underwater world that had just opened up to me.  That was many years ago, and I’ve since become a certified diver.  But I’ll never forgot my first underwater love, and I have remained passionate about snorkeling and teaching others to snorkel.  Below, I’ll share my 10 tips for an amazing snorkeling experience.


1)  Do not touch the coral, the marine life or anything else underwater (except for your own gear if necessary).

2)  Know your limits. Return to shore or float on your back if you become fatigued.  Don’t panic.  Ask for help if necessary.

3)  Do not feed the fish or any other marine life.  This is very important.  It may seem like benign behavior, but if negatively impacts the ecosystem, changes fish behavior and can harm the fish.  It also teaches the fish to associate humans with food (hungry fish have been known to nip snorkelers).

4)  Try to avoid standing up in the water.  If you need to stand, make sure you are on a sandy bottom.

5)  Always ask the locals before snorkeling in unfamiliar waters.  They know the water better than you and can warn you of perilous currents, rocky outcroppings or other dangers.

6)  Go to a local dive shop and get fitted for a proper mask.  Nothing ruins a snorkeling trip faster than an ill-fitting mask.  Fins can be rented, but owning your own mask is essential.  I also recommend purchasing a snorkel with the mask.  Make sure to remove the film from your new mask.  The dive shop can show you how to remove the film by gently scrubbing the mask with toothpaste.

7)  Avoid excessive kicking and splashing.  You will scare away the marine life that you are there to see.    When you need to kick, keep you feet under the surface to avoid a splash and kick smoothly.  Also, keep your feet well above the bottom to avoid stirring up clouds of sand (which will tick off the snorkelers in your vicinity).

8)  Get a local fish ID chart.  It’s lots of fun to identify the fish you’ve seen when you’re sipping your Corona at sunset.  Here are a few from my collection.


9)  If you have long hair, tie it back away from your face (I do a french braid, not so stylish but I’m focused on efficiency underwater).  Stray hairs in your mask can cause leaks and fogging.

10)  Consider wearing a rashguard to protect your skin from the sun and other factors.  You’re also protecting the reef by using less sunscreen.  I did a post about rashguards here.

In addition to the rashguard, consider a skull cap if your hair is on the thinner side.  Mr. Reeftraveler likes the Under Armour 001 skull cap when diving and snorkeling.  It provides not only sun protection, but also warmth.  It also prevents stray hairs from sticking in your mask (which we know causes leaks and fogging – see tip #9).

Do you have any helpful snorkeling tips?

Jul 282011

I’m often asked for suggestions for island and tropical themed music.  This can mean different things to different people, from Reggae to Calypso or even pop, rock or country.  For me, one thing is certain.  I need a heavy dose of reggae in my “Island Playlist”.  I’ve loved reggae since I first heard Bob Marley and Peter Tosh at a young age, and I’ve been expanding my reggae horizons ever since.  Below is a glimpse inside my “Reggae Playlist”.

Jump Nyahbinghi – Bob Marley
African – Peter Tosh
Rat in My Kitchen – UB40
She’s Royal – Tarrus Riley
New Love – Ziggy Marley
Jamaican in New York – Shinehead
Dreadlock Holiday – 10cc
Try Jah Love – Third World
Kpangolo – Majek Fashek
Behind Closed Doors – Lionize
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – Black Uhuru
Israelites – Desmond Dekker
Coming in From the Cold – Bob Marley
Roller Skates – Steel Pulse
Pas de Problemes – Kana
Book of Rules – The Heptones
Trenchtown Rock – Bob Marley
Blind to You – Collie Buddz
Rivers of Babylon – The Melodians

…and from my “Island Playlist”

Volcano – Jimmy Buffet
Island in the Sun – Weezer
Mexico – James Taylor
Santeria – Sublime
Southern Cross – Crosby, Stills & Nash (the ultimate song about sailing to Tahiti)
Coconut – Widespread Panic
No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems – Kenny Chesney
Kokomo – The Beach Boys (how can you not include a song that mentions Aruba, Monsserat, Jamaica, Martinique, Bermuda, Bahamas, Haiti and Kay Largo?)
La Isla Bonita – Madonna
Cheeseburger in Paradise – Jimmy Buffet

What are your favorite island tunes?

Jul 262011

I’ll admit it.  I’m an airplane geek.  I love flying (except for the boarding, deplaning, food or lack thereof, and being crammed in like sardines parts).  I want to learn everything I can about airplanes and how they fly. I’ve been known to watch airplane landings on youtube for fun.  You get the picture. So it’s only natural that I would want to photograph the world as seen from 38,000 feet (window seat please!).  I hope you enjoy my photo collection of islands from the air.

Weary Bay, Far North Queensland, Australia
Mr. Reeftraveler and I stayed in the rainforest at a small, eco lodge called Bloomfield in Far North Queensland, Australia.  The lodge is not accessible by car, so the trip there consisted of a white knuckle puddle-jumper flight from Cairns, a van ride on a bumpy dirt road, and finally a boat trip across the Bloomfield River (home to the most enormous crocs I’ve ever seen).  Once you reach the lodge, a pontoon style boat is pulled onto the beach via tractor.  I took the photo below as we said farewell to Bloomfield (in a light aircraft that had duct tape on the wheels).
Here’s the “light aircraft”
and the tractor….
The Great Barrier Reef has around 900 islands and almost 3000 individual reefs.  Flying over it was a magical experience.  The area below is the general area where the wonderful Steve Irwin lost his life.  Steve was an amazing guy, a dedicated educator and a passionate animal lover.

French Polynesia
We honeymooned in French Polynesia, and I fell in love twice.  I feel in love with Mr. Reeftraveler over again, and I fell in love with the Tahitian people, the water, the reefs, the landscape and the sights and smells of Tahiti. And while I knew that Tahiti was breathtakingly beautiful, I wasn’t prepared for the sight of the islands from 38,000 feet.
This is the atoll of Rangiroa – an underwater paradise.  Rangiroa is the second largest atoll in the world.


Rangiroa has two passes (entries into the atoll), below is the Avatoru Pass.

The Tuamotus are a chain of 78 flat, coral atolls in French Polynesia (which include Rangiroa).
The main island of Tahiti, by contrast, is green and mountainous.

I wrote about my trip to the Maldives here.  You saw the Maldives on land and underwater.  Now you can see the Maldives from the air.  The photos below were taken on the seaplane flight from Male to Mirihi in the South Ari Atoll (we didn’t quite reach 38,000 feet).

Some of the world’s most amazing reefs are found in the Maldives.
It seems as if every resort has over water villas.

Ethereal beauty like I’ve never seen…

Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a friendly country, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.  Below is the northern coastline as seen from 38,000 feet. It’s really quite stunning, isn’t it?
What is the most beautiful sight you’ve seen from the air?

Practice Safe Sun with Rashguards

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Jul 242011

I’m an avid sunscreen user and practice direct sun avoidance when possible. But as a beach lover and water sports fanatic, total sun avoidance is not practical or desirable. That’s where my beloved collection of rashguards comes into the picture.  Long a staple of surfers everywhere, the rashguard has recently skyrocketed in popularity.

For those of you thinking, what in the world is a rashguard?  I’ll explain.  A rashguard is a water-friendly shirt, made of sun protective, quick-drying fabric. The primary reason for my rashguard obsession is laziness.  I dread those full-body sunscreen applications that must precede any beach day or snorkel expedition.  By wearing a long-sleeve rashguard, you can cut the sunscreen ritual in half and skip the upper body (but please don’t forget to apply sunscreen if you remove your rashguard).

Athleta Rutched Guard

Now for the second main reason that I adore my rashguards – warmth!  I like my ocean temps to be in the 80’s (25-28 C), but this isn’t always possible.  A medium or heavier weight rashguard will keep you warm while you snorkel or frolic in the waves.

Other reasons to embrace the rashguard

1)  Protect against scrapes or coral burns (but please remember to avoid touching coral)

2)  They make stylish quick-drying shirts for other outdoor activities

Photographing Black Tip Sharks

Kayaking in Fakarava, Tuamotus

3)  You want to provide your little ones with the best sun protection possible while they build sandcastles or play in the waves

4)  Modesty – Maybe you aren’t thrilled with the idea of exposing your arms or midsection

5)  Eco-Consciousness – Less sunscreen use = healthier reef

My favorite rashguards are from Athleta.  Their rashguards are feminine, stylish and protective (did I mention stylish?).  Their Ruched Guard is a nice substantial weight, comes in several colors and has a longer length which can be shortened with side ties or lengthened to cover the posterior. It has traveled around the world with me – from Rangiroa to Moorea to the Maldives to Roatan.  Their Summer Shade Tee is another personal favorite.  It has seen the inside of my suitcase more times than I can count.

Other sources for rashguards for men, women and children are Lands End and Coolibar.
Fit tip – a rashguard should have a snug fit.  There is nothing worse than layers of loose, wet fabric.