Dec 042016
 

The holidays are rapidly approaching (yikes), and, if you’re like most of us, you may be struggling with gift ideas for those on your list.  We’re here to help.

We’ve put together a list of some of favorite products and services for Travelers, Photographers, Scuba Divers and Bonaire Lovers.

 

For Travelers & Global Nomads

Swatch Watches– I rarely travel without a Swatch watch.  The affordable price point means that you don’t have to fret about loss or theft.  And the fact that all Swatch watches are waterproof makes them indispensable for ocean lovers. Another plus, many larger airports have a Swatch store, and Swatch offers free battery changes for the life of your watch.  This white one is my new fave.

Amazon Kindle Voyage – This is the new device in my arsenal, and I’m in love.  Where do I begin?  The battery life is incredible.  It lasts for weeks.  The screen is easy to read, easy on the eyes and user-friendly.  And who doesn’t want access to new books at their fingertip?

Elta MD UV Clear Sunscreen, SPF 46 – Whether you are trekking in the Himalayas, Skiing in Taos or sailing the South Pacific, sunscreen is critically important.  I go through bottles of this product.  It has a high level of protection, yet it feels light and will never cause breakouts.

Dakine Split Roller Duffle Bag – My Dakine bag has not had an easy life.  It’s been thrown onto luggage belts in Fiji, rolled through rocks and dirt in the Serengeti and hauled in and out of multiple boats in The Maldives.  Yet it has held up like the workhorse it is.  And type-A neat freaks those who like multiple organizational options will love its many sections and pockets.

Ray-Ban Folding Wayfarers – These classic shades are now made in a cool folding design that fits easily into your pocket or travel bag.

 

For Photographers

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 – This is hands-down the most critical element of my photography arsenal.

Gitzo 3532LS Tripod – This sturdy carbon-fiber tripod is also flexible and adaptable.  We love it for outdoor and wildlife photography.

Think Tank Perception Pro Camera Backpack – This backpack went with me to Tanzania, and it was perfect for my safari needs.  Inside it I hauled one SLR body, two point and shoot bodies, two lenses, an underwater housing for my Olympus TG-4, my MacBook Pro and multiple other accessories.

The Underwater Photographer, by Martin Edge – If you want to learn underwater photography or want to perfect your underwater photography, this is without a doubt the book for you.

 

For Scuba Divers

Henderson Lycra Dive Skin – Whether you wear it alone for snorkeling or under a warmer wetsuit for diving, this dive skin is comfortable and well-made.

Reef Fish Identification Book – These fish identification books by Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach have been a crucial part of our library for as long as I can remember.  They are a must-have for every scuba diver.  They are available for the Pacific and Indian oceans as well as the Caribbean and Atlantic.

Scubapro Spectra Mini Mask – My mask of choice.  The low-profile design and smaller size is a great choice for female or smaller divers.

Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) Membership – We faithfully renew our DAN memberships each year.  The benefits are numerous and include dive accident insurance, a subscription to Alert Diver magazine and dive safety education.  Membership is $35 for an individual and $55 for a family.

 

For Bonaire Lovers – Our favorite local Bonairean products & services

Cadushy Rom Rincon – This spiced and artisan-crafted rum is made for sipping.  Get it while you are in Bonaire. It’s not available anywhere else.

Phish Phaktory Bags – These tote bags are made from recycled sails and materials found in underwater cleanup dives on Bonaire.  The bags are cute, sturdy, well-crafted and will last forever.  The owners/artists are super cool and truly care about our environment.

Carrying my Phish Phaktory tote at Bonaire's Carnival

Carrying my Phish Phaktory tote at Bonaire’s Carnival

Flaming Flamingo hot sauces, salt and jams – We love these made-in-Bonaire products.  Our fave is the mango hot sauce (Steve practically drinks it).

A tank card from Dive Friends Bonaire – Give the gift of air!  Dive Friends Bonaire offers a handy tank card for local divers.

Elements Jewelry – Elements dichroic glass pieces made great colorful gifts and souvenirs.

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire hats and shirts – Help Bonaire’s sea turtles and wear cool gear at the same time.

Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire Diver Certification Course – We are both PADI certified Coral Restoration Divers.  It’s both fun and important work.  Courses are available at Buddy Dive, Harbour Village and Wannadive.

Cleaning the algae from a tree in the coral nursery

Meredith cleaning the algae from a tree in the coral nursery at Klein Bonaire

Italy in the World, Bonaire – Give a beautiful bottle of Italian wine or a great Prosecco from this boutique and restaurant in Bonaire.  We love the Santero 9-5-8 prosecco for a sunset toast.

An extensive wine selection at Italy in The World, Bonaire

An extensive wine selection at Italy in The World, Bonaire

Latitude 12° Designs Bonaire Necklace – OK, this is my jewelry design company.  I design and create custom jewelry in sterling silver (or the metal of your choice).  My Bonaire Necklace is a great choice for showing your Bonaire love.  But the choice is yours – all pieces are custom made, and the sky is the limit.

The Bonaire necklace in sterling silver

The Bonaire necklace in sterling silver

Custom mermaid necklace in sterling silver

Custom mermaid necklace in sterling silver

Custom, hand made necklace for the ocean lover, by Latitude 12° Designs

Custom, hand made necklace for the ocean lover, by Latitude 12° Designs

custom bracelet set by Latitude 12° Designs

custom bracelet set by Latitude 12° Designs

All of the products mentioned above are products we use and love.  We have purchased each of these products (some over and over), and they were not gifted to us or given to us for promotional purposes.

Sep 022015
 

I’ve often written about my fondness for the window seat on an airplane.  For me, it’s like unfolding a map and seeing it come to life.  From our normal vantage point on land, we don’t see that Italy is shaped like a boot.  But from 38,000 feet in the air, unique geographic features are readily identifiable.

On a recent flight from Bonaire to Houston, we took a route that followed uncharted territory for me (presumably to avoid a tropical storm brewing in the mid-northern Caribbean).  Here are some shots from my window seat.

The mountains of northern Venezuela

The mountains of northern Venezuela

Venezuelan mountains, just off the Caribbean coast

Venezuelan mountains, just off the Caribbean coast

The northern coast of Venezuela

The northern coast of Venezuela

The aqua-tinged Caribbean coast of Venezuela

The aqua-tinged Caribbean coast of Venezuela

And moving on to another Caribbean country…

Cozumel from the air

Cozumel from the air

Mexico's Riviera Maya from the air

Mexico’s Riviera Maya from the air

Another view of Mexico's Caribbean

Another view of Mexico’s Caribbean Coast

Leaving Riviera Maya

Leaving Riviera Maya

If you like my aerial shots, here are some others-

Cuban Reefs from the Air

The Glory of the Pilot

St. Thomas from the Air

An Aerial Tour of Fiji

Islands from 38,000 Feet – including shots from Australia & The Great Barrier Reef, Maldives, French Polynesia, and Dominican Republic

Nov 052014
 

Being that I’m from the United States, I’ve never really researched Cuban reefs or dive resorts.  What’s the point if I can’t visit?  But on a recent daytime flight from Bonaire to Houston, I was mesmerized by a series of gorgeous reefs in the aquamarine waters below.

Photo of Maria la Gorda from the Air

A quick look at the flight path told me that I was looking at Cuba.  I was floored.  Yes, I know that there is diving in Cuba, but I never envisioned reefs this extensive or beautiful.

Bay of Maria la Gorda Cuba from the air

As I gazed downward, I sighted a lone resort perched on the edge of a glorious bay.  My travel-curious mind went into overdrive.  What resort could this be?  Remote, on a reef with a deepwater bay, white beach – what else could you want in a resort?  It has to be a dive resort, I thought.

Maria la Gorda reef from the air

Here’s a closer look.

Maria La Gorda Cuba

Obsessed, I immediately googled cuban dive resorts upon landing.  A few minutes of research, combined with the knowledge of our flight path, told me I was most probably looking at Maria la Gorda.  Located on the Guanahacabibes Peninsula (a UNESCO Biosphere reserve), resort literature boasts that “Experienced divers rave about the diving, ranging from vertical walls to coral canyons, tunnels, and caves, and even the remains of Spanish galleons.”

Perfect!  So I’ve scouted a remote dive-haven that I can’t visit.

To the rest of the world, have you dived Cuba?  Can you confirm the identity of the mystery resort?  Been to Maria la Gorda?  Is it as beautiful as it looks from the air?  Should I apply for a permit to visit Cuba?

Oct 242014
 

I’ve recently written about the great planespotting opportunities on Bonaire.  At Flamingo Airport, getting up close and personal with arriving jumbo jets is as easy as pulling your vehicle off of the road.

Yesterday I went to photograph Arkefly’s Dreamliner as it arrived on Bonaire from Amsterdam.  Apparently, I’m not the only planespotting geek enthusiast on the island, because several others were waiting, camera in hand, for its arrival.  Since I arrived several minutes early, I took some shots of Windsock beach, which lies just on the airport’s outskirts.

Looking south from Windsock/Corporal Meiss dive sites

Looking south from Windsock/Corporal Meiss dive sites

View towards town

Paul Allen's Tattoosh in the harbor

Paul Allen’s Tattoosh in the harbor

After a few minutes, I spotted the Dreamliner on its final approach.

Dreamliner incoming

I wonder if the pilots notice the camera wielding people waiting at the start of the runway?  It’s likely they have more important things on which to concentrate, I hope I suppose.

Dreamliner on final approach to Bonaire

A bit blurry despite a 1/250 shutter speed

A bit blurry despite a 1/250 shutter speed

Touchdown

Touchdown

My favorite tool for tracking incoming flights is Flight Aware.  It’s a helpful tool for real time flight data, so you don’t have to miss a photo op for those pesky early arrivals.

Aug 172014
 

Most planespotters are familiar with the classic images of Air France or KLM jumbo jets arriving over St. Martin’s sandy white Maho Beach. But many aren’t aware that there is another Dutch Caribbean island that offers quite a similar experience.

Caution Sign Airport

At Bonaire’s Flamingo Airport, getting up close and personal to arriving jets on final approach over the turquoise Caribbean is easily accomplished.

United 737 approaching Bonire's Flamingo Airport

United 737 approaching Bonire’s Flamingo Airport

United approach 2

 

United landing in Bonaire

United 737 on the Tarmac

United 737 on the Tarmac

On June 12, 2014, Arkefly introduced its new thrice-weekly Dreamliner service from Amsterdam to Bonaire.

Dreamliner_

Arkefly Dreamliner in Bonaire

Dreamliner front of airport

Dreamliner Tail

Dreamliner close up

Currently, this flight arrives on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in the late afternoon.  So grab your long lens and head down to the Windsock Beach/Dive site for the best views of this flying beauty.