Mar 142017
 

Steve and I recently traveled to Lake Tahoe for the wedding of a close family member.  It was my first visit to this magical mountain playground, but it won’t be my last.  While I grew up in the mountains as an avid skier, I lost my fondness for cold weather and any and all sports that go along with it.

I haven’t willingly been in the snow for several years, so I was unsure as to how I would handle the environment in Lake Tahoe in March.  Would I remain inside, huddled by a fire, making every attempt to avoid the out-of-doors except when absolutely necessary (i.e. when leaving the premises for the wedding or rehearsal dinner)?  Or, would I don my snow boots, brave the elements and venture down to the lake to take photos?  Thankfully, my obsession with love of photography took charge, and as it turns out, I had a great time in the fresh mountain air.

Panoramic lake view in Incline Village

Panoramic view of Lake Tahoe

We had two sunny winter days during our trip

We had two sunny winter days during our trip

The sky during a storm which dropped two feet of snow

The sky during a storm which dropped two feet of snow

Steve and me braving the storm

Steve and me braving the storm

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Incline Village, which is nestled amongst the evergreens on its own private beach (with pier).  I was very pleased with our lodging choice.  The resort has a beautiful spa, several outdoor hot tubs and a large heated outdoor pool that I used daily.  It also has several good restaurants, a Starbucks and a great gift shop.  And if you ever get a chance to dine at the Lone Eagle Grill – run, don’t walk.  Not only is the food amazing, but the view is one of the best you’ll find in the area.  And for the skiers out there, the resort has a ski valet and is close to Northstar and Mount Rose ski resorts (among others).

The beach at the Hyatt Regency Incline Village

The beach at the Hyatt Regency Incline Village

The resort's pier - no doubt amazing during summer

The resort’s picturesque pier

Close-up of the beach, which was comprised of pebbles in an array of neutral hues

Close-up of the beach, which was comprised of pebbles in an array of neutral hues

Large pinecone were found all along the shore

Large pinecones were found all along the shore

Devouring the Baked Tahoe at the Lone Eagle Grille. This marshmallow-meringue encrusted dessert is pure perfection!

Devouring the Baked Tahoe at the Lone Eagle Grille. This marshmallow-meringue encrusted dessert is pure perfection!

There were a few wildlife sightings during our brief time exploring the lake’s beaches.

A beautiful mallard on the shoreline of the lake

A beautiful mallard on the shoreline of the lake

Well, alright, not exactly wildlife... This is Piper, she travels around the country in an RV.

Well, alright, not exactly wildlife… This is Piper, she travels around the country in an RV.

The wedding that we attended was the perfect representation of the couple’s love for Lake Tahoe and the mountains.  It was held at a beautiful rustic-chic venue near the lake.  The couple attended to every detail themselves, including hand-crafting most of the decor (including the centerpieces).

The Groom hand made the wedding place card holders

The Groom hand made the wedding place card holders

The Groom's father hand-crafted a rustic wooden bench for guests to sign.

The Groom’s father hand-crafted a rustic wooden bench for guests to sign.

Champagne was served on the balcony overlooking the pine forest and snow-capped mountains

Champagne was served on the balcony overlooking the pine forest and snow-capped mountains

Steve and me during cocktail hour

Steve and me during cocktail hour

I can’t wait to return to this paradise, perhaps in the warmer months.  Have you been to Lake Tahoe?  Winter or summer?

Dec 312016
 

As 2016 comes to a close, we want to thank you for sharing our adventures with us.  We wish you all a happy and healthy 2017 filled with love and adventure.

Rain, rain and more rain.  That’s been the weather forecast on Bonaire for the past month.  But we’re not complaining.  This desert island, along with its flora and fauna, welcome the life-giving H20.

The increased rains also mean that dive and snorkel conditions have been less than optimal.  But it’s still Bonaire, which means that the diving is still incredible.

Here are some scenes from the island this week.

tattoosh super yacht

Paul Allen’s Tatoosh has been docked in town for several days. She is 303 feet of super yacht complete with a helicopter and two 46 foot boats.

Tattoosh from her stern

Tatoosh from her stern

The Courtyard Marriott has been completed and is open for business.

The Courtyard Marriott has been completed and is open for business.

The Salt Pier - one of the most interesting dive sites on the island

The Salt Pier – one of the most interesting dive sites on the island

A panoramic view of the Salt Pier

A panoramic view of the Salt Pier

Dancing beak to beak in Gotomeer Lake

Dancing beak to beak in Gotomeer Lake

Another pair of flamingo mates at Lake Gotomeer

Another pair of flamingo mates at Lake Gotomeer

Eared Dove atop cactus near Rincon

Eared Dove atop cactus near Rincon

A Blue-tailed emerald hummingbird shimmers on its perch

A Blue-tailed emerald hummingbird shimmers on its perch

How are you celebrating the new year?  As tradition dictates, Bonaire will have multiple fireworks displays on the waterfront tonight.

Apr 122013
 

On a recent sojourn to the Big Island of Hawaii, I found myself checking into the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel for five days of doing whatever the heck I want unscheduled relaxation (much needed after a four day business event, which was fun but tiring).

Prior to the trip, I researched all of the Kohala Coast hotels, and none seemed to have the right low-key “vibe”. One had a dolphin prison captive dolphin program, so it was immediately off the list.  Others seemed too corporate-y, too large, too impersonal or too crowded.  Once I started reading about Mauna Lani Bay, I knew I had found a winner.

Upon first entering the resort, I felt a sense of tranquility while gazing at the breezy open-air courtyard and verdant Hawaiian foliage.

mauna lani courtyard

Mauna Lani Courtyard2

mauna lani interior pond

Mauna Lani Courtyard

It’s not just the abundance of foliage that makes this hotel green.  It’s eco-friendliness and awareness was one of the top selling points for me.  Here’s why…

Green Sea Turtle Program

Since 1989, Mauna Lani has raised over 200 juvenile Green Sea Turtles (Honu – in Hawaiian) in its own saltwater ponds. They feed, care for and nurture the baby Honu until they are fit for release into the ocean. Each July 4th is Turtle Independence Day at Mauna Lani for the Honu that are large enough and healthy enough for release.    This hotel respects the Honu!

Mauna Lani Sign

Juvenile Honu in Mauna Lani Pond

Juvenile Honu in Mauna Lani Pond

honu at mauna lani2

Mauna Lani Sign Sea Turtle

Honu Head Out

Hawaiian Saltwater Fish Ponds 

Within the grounds, there are 7 saltwater fish ponds that date back to 250 BC.  The original purpose of these ponds was to raise fish to feed the Ali’i (Hawaiian royalty).  Mauna Lani preserved the ancient ponds and continues to nurture them.  The ponds are stocked with Hawaiian fish, including my favorite – the Humuhumunukunukapua’a.

Saltwater Pond at ML

mauna lani grounds pool area

mauna lani grounds waterfall

Solar Energy Program

The resort has a 3-acre solar energy system – one of the largest and most powerful resort-based systems in the world.

The rocky beach was beautiful and uncrowded.  We watched humpback whales breach from our shaded cabanas while wild Honu sunbathed on the lava rock.

Honu on Beach

Kona Palms

The food was excellent.  Each morning I devoured an Acai Berry Parfait at breakfast, along with a strong Kona coffee.

Coffee Shop

The spa was a tranquil oasis, nestled in the greenery among palms and manicured grounds.  I had the Hawaiian Hot Stone massage, which melted away all traces of stress and tension.  I highly recommend this treatment.

And while our room was quite nice, the views from our (wind whipped) balcony were even nicer.

View from room Mauna Lani

View of Mauna Kea from our Balcony

View of Mauna Kea from our Balcony – The World’s Tallest Mountain when Measuring from the Sea Floor

The only area where I was slightly let down was the quality of the shore snorkeling.  It just wasn’t what I expected.  The wind was fierce during our stay, so I’m sure that affected the visibility.  Thankfully, I had plenty of other amazing underwater experiences in Kona.

Have you been to the Big Island?  What did you like most about it?  I’m already dreaming of going back…

edited to add:  I’m told by reader Tasha that there is great snorkeling by the beach club in the deeper water where the Winona moors.  Thanks Tasha for this useful information.

Jan 272013
 

I recently wrote about my experience at Matangi Island Resort in Fiji.  We journeyed to Matangi, armed with suitcases full of photo and dive gear, primarily to see what we could discover under its clear turquoise waters.

Shore diving and snorkeling enthusiasts will be happy to hear that there is an extensive house reef which extends several hundred yards off the main beach.  In addition to the house reef, there are many reefs just a short boat ride from Matangi that are prime spots for both diving and snorkeling.  The dive boat leaves each morning for a 2-tank dive, and the snorkeling boat leaves each afternoon.

Here are my favorite shots from my week at Matangi.

Matangi Underwater

Underwater photos from Matangi, Fiji - Shot by Meredith

[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-reefscape2.jpg]Reefscape
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-nemo-closeup.jpg]Clownfish
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-3-butterfly-fish.jpg]Butterflyfish
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_damsel-fish-looking-at-cam-wm.jpg]Curious Damsel
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_blue-star-matangi.jpg]Blue Starfish
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-giant-clam-2-wm.jpg]Giant Clam
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-butterfly-fish-boat-snorkel.jpg]Butterflyfish
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-clownfish-with-anemone.jpg]Clownfish in Anemone
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-worm-with-olympus-wm.jpg]Christmas Tree Worm
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-damsel-fish.jpg]Damselfish in Coral
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-lizard-fish.jpg]Lizardfish
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-reefscape-from-olympus-wm.jpg]Matangi Reefscape
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-snorkel.jpg]Mushroom Coral
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-staghorn-coral-w-fish.jpg]Damselfish in Staghorn Coral
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-starfish-clinging-to-coral.jpg]Blue Starfish on Coral
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-reefscape.jpg]Reefscape
[img src=https://www.reeftraveler.com/wp-content/flagallery/matangi-underwater/thumbs/thumbs_matangi-two-clownfish.jpg]Two Clownfish

 

 

 

Jul 152012
 

I just returned from my first trip to Sunset House in Grand Cayman.  Sunset House is a true diver’s resort, located on one of the best dive and snorkel islands in the Caribbean.

This is a no-frills resort, yet it is comfortable, clean, convenient and friendly.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Sunset House to divers or snorkelers, but beach-goers looking for pampering and amenities should probably look elsewhere (Sunset House has no beach).

Sunset House from the Water

Sunset House Deck, Seaharvest Restaurant

Sunset House Grounds

There are two pools on the grounds – a natural sea pool and a standard swimming pool.  The sea pool is often used as a shore diving entry point.

Sunset House Sea Pool

Pool with Waterfall

Sunset House has an enclosed restaurant, Seaharvest, as well as an open-air bar.  Complimentary breakfast was included with our stay.

Seaharvest Restaurant

Seaharvest has an extensive menu, with many American, Mexican and Indian offerings.  My favorites were the veggie tacos and the Tofu Vegetable Curry.

SeaHarvest Restaurant Menu

For shore dive and snorkel enthusiasts, the resort has it’s own house reef, complete with a wreck and a mermaid statue, both sitting in about 50 FSW.  Between both diving and snorkeling, I think I spent about four hours each day in the water (and I didn’t regret a minute of it).

Amphitrite – Photo by Mr. Reeftraveler

The dive operation, Sunset Divers, makes tanks available 24/7 for shore diving.  They also offer daily 2-tank boat dives as part of their dive package, complimentary lockers for your gear and unlimited shore diving.  In addition to the two boat dives per day, they offer special trips to Stingray City and the Kittiwake wreck 2-3 times per week.

 

I was impressed with their operation.  They were safety-conscious, professional, helpful and friendly.

One of the main reasons we chose to stay at Sunset House is that it’s the home base of Cathy Church, one of the most respected underwater photographers in the world.  Cathy has built an underwater photography mecca here at Sunset House (I’ll share more about her operation in a subsequent post, so stay tuned).  This was my first time in the water with my Canon G12 and Fisheye Fix Underwater Housing.

 

And I suppose it isn’t ironic that you find gorgeous sunsets at Sunset House.

Keep reading (or subscribe to new posts via email), because I’m going to show you what we found on the house reef in an upcoming post.