Summer, sun, beach and sea – we love it! Anyone who has looked around here on our blog will have already noticed that we are huge beach fans and cannot get enough of white dream beaches and turquoise blue water. What looks and feels so great in real life, unfortunately, often looks rather unspectacular and sometimes even really boring in photos. To be honest, taking beautiful photos on the beach is not an easy task, because there is not much variation. Water, sand and strangers constantly running into the picture – these are the ingredients for a typical beach photo that nobody wants to look at after their vacation. With a lot of luck, the photo may even be deserted, but unfortunately a picture like this, usually shot head-on towards the sea, is still not particularly exciting. And somehow every beach photo looks so identical that it is hard to remember at home which beach it was taken from. Does that sound familiar to you? Touché. Until not so long ago we also took a lot of photos of wonderful beaches, which all looked pretty much like this: Super nice, but … ..Gäääähn. Know one, know all. That is why in this article we show you 9 tips & tricks on how you can immediately take better and more exciting photos on the beach without having to invest huge amounts of money in new equipment. Grab your smartphone or camera and get started right away! Pay attention to the horizon line Right at the beginning we would like to mention two points that we have already discussed in our tips for better travel photos . We have a photo for you of a really great beach that just doesn’t look good despite the wonderful colors and the brilliant white sand. Right? Boring beach photo with a crooked horizon Something seems totally wrong … but what … do you think of it? Right, the horizon is completely crooked. It’s just a small thing, but a straight horizon gives rise to the effect of a photo. If the horizon is only slightly crooked, it can easily be straightened in post-processing. With really very crooked photos like this one, however, you would have to cut too much away during editing and the photo would be unusable. Therefore: Just make sure to keep the horizon straight when taking pictures and you will immediately have a photo that looks a lot better. If you can’t do it well on your own, then every camera and smartphone has the option of showing grid lines in the display, which you can use for orientation. It definitely works. Image composition and the rule of thirds Rule of thirds represented by fictitious lines. The house is placed on the intersection of the lines at the bottom right. The rule of thirds If you have already faded in the grid lines, we will tell you what it is all about. The grid lines are actually there to better implement another rule in photography: the rule of thirds. The picture is fictitiously divided into nine boxes. The rule of thirds says that our eyes perceive a picture as particularly harmonious if it can be divided horizontally or vertically into three equal parts. The horizon is placed either on the lower or the upper horizontal line, depending on which area of the photo is to be emphasized more. In the case of an endless white beach, for example, the beach should be in focus and take up the lower 2/3 of the picture, but if you have a particularly blue sky with white fleecy clouds, then give the sky more space in the photo. This rule is practically the basic rule for every image composition. The composition of the picture In the next step you can now think about the composition of the picture. What else can you do so that your beach photos don’t look so boring? Our tip: bring objects and people into the game! Keep an eye out for interesting things – is there a tree somewhere? A lighthouse, a lifeguard station, a sand castle, a rock? Then use these things and place them left or right in the lower third of the picture. Beach photo with the rule of thirds applied and a straight horizon. Better right? Is there anything that could result in interesting color contrasts in the picture? Are there lines in the picture that can guide the viewer’s gaze? Are there things that are suitable as an exciting foreground or as a natural frame in the picture? Just try it out and take a lot of photos. Little by little you will get the glimpse of how you can pimp your beach photos in this very simple way. The tree protrudes into the picture from the lower left third and loosens up the otherwise boring scene The rocky coast offers an exciting color contrast to the blue sea and leads the viewer’s gaze into the picture from the bottom right Pay attention to clean equipment Actually, of course. It’s hard to believe, but unfortunately the practice often looks different and you often take pictures with dirty equipment without being noticed. Especially on the beach it happened really fast and then you snap forever with a dirty lens (or worse: a dirty sensor!). Then at home the bad adult comes because all the photos are for the bin. There are several dangers lurking on the beach: sand that scratches the lens and crawls into every crack in the lens, greasy sunscreen and salty water splash from the sea. If you are only traveling with your smartphone, then simply clean the lens every now and then with a clean cloth, that’s enough. It gets a little more complicated with a real camera: Try to avoid changing lenses on the beach. Especially with a system camera like our Sony Alpha 6000 *, this can turn out really bad, because once the sensor is exposed, a small scratch from a grain of sand is enough to ruin the whole camera. Otherwise, you should handle the camera with care. Use a lens hood to protect the lens and put the camera in a sand-free storage area after use. In case you don’t believe us that this is important: We wrecked our beloved Samsung NX3000 on our last vacation in the Bahamas. For 2 years we carelessly tossed her around in the sand and in sandy beach bags and now she has made an exit. On her gravestone it says: SIG (sand in the gears). God bless them. By the way, we simply use this cleaning set * for cleaning (the bellows is for cleaning the sensor; since we do not expose the sensor on the beach, it always stays at home). A simple paper handkerchief loses fibers when cleaning, which then adhere to the lens, so it is only suitable to a limited extent. Work with the sun instead of against it What’s the best thing about the beach? Exactly, the sun! What many people don’t know: Unfortunately, bright sun is not that great for taking photos. The light is very hard at lunchtime, it casts large shadows on people’s faces, as well as the reflection of the sand and water. Under these circumstances, it is hardly possible to produce usable beach photos. If you want to take pictures with the sun and use it to your advantage for beautiful beach photos, here’s what you can do: The right time to take photos … … is in the morning or in the evening. It doesn’t have to be sunrise at 5 a.m. or sunset at 10 p.m. (you are on vacation after all!), But avoid the times between around 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. At this time the sun is too high and casts strong shadows. Your best friend is the golden hour . Taking photos with the light Look for an image section where you don’t have to take photos against the sun, but where the light comes from behind. So turn away from the sun. But watch out for the shadows! Normally with this constellation you have at least your own shadow in the picture, which you now have to get out of the picture again. Or you just make a virtue out of necessity and play with it 😉 Can’t avoid the shadow? Then make it a motive! Take pictures against the light In this situation, the following is likely to happen: Your camera will either focus on the light area in the picture (the sun) and the picture will be insanely dark, or it will focus on the dark area and the rest of the picture will be way too bright Use yourselves and either play with silhouettes on purpose or you try to brighten the too dark area in the picture with the flash. Huh? Flashing in broad daylight? Yes, you read that right. This works out. The bad news: Most cameras and smartphones have such a weak flash that you won’t get very far with this method. We therefore advise you: play with silhouettes. Beautiful photos can be created especially during sunset. Important: always position the object directly in front of the sun, Silhouette at sunrise on Miami Beach Change of perspective for exciting vacation photos Try NOT to take photos at eye level. Hold the camera at stomach height, bend down on your knees or point it up. There are exciting things to discover, especially on the ground, which are ideal as a foreground in the photo – seashells, a few stones, a piece of driftwood, your own feet…. Waves, for example, look much more dramatic when they are recorded from further down. Seashells as the foreground in the picture. The photo was taken on Sanibel Island in Florida Don’t forget the details Keep your eyes peeled for the details. You will not only get beautiful vacation memory photos if you take a long shot of the beach in its simple beauty, but above all if you also include the details. On such a beach there are great things to discover that ultimately create the “beach feeling” and that are therefore worth not only in memory, but also photographically. Take a look around what there is to discover. Perhaps a crab is wandering across the sand somewhere, someone has forgotten their coconut, you have just bought a bright red melon that looks amazing against the blue sea or a fisherman is getting ready with his boat on the water. There are countless motifs, you just have to keep your eyes open a little. Little cancer on the beach in Aruba A fisherman on the beach in the Bahamas. G. MAN! A coconut in the shade of a tree If nothing really happens on the beach, there is one thing you can do that always works: Hold your drink in the camera! No fun, a delicious cocktail with the beach scenery in the background is a motif that is guaranteed to put you in a good mood and you will remember the moment for years to come. In order to make the photo at least artistically valuable, pay attention to a nice depth of field. In our 10 tips for beginners for better travel photos , we have already touched on what this so-called bokeh is all about and how you can achieve it . Basically, a bright lens is important (an aperture of 2.8 or less should be), but meanwhile some smartphones can conjure up this blurring effect , e.g. the iPhone 7 Plus or the two Huawei models P10 and Mate 9. You don’t have any of them , there are also apps that can create the effect in post-production, e.g. the app ‘Bokeh Lens’ (iPhone) or ‘After Focus’ (Android). The difference to a real bokeh is of course visible, but it is enough for a snapshot. Drink a Bahama Mama in the Bahamas: Check! Use cool photography gadgets This is for those of you who not only sizzle in the sun, but occasionally swing into the water. We use three gadgets for our recordings on the beach and in the water, which we think are very cool and do not want to be without. An underwater camera : The classic is certainly a GoPro camera (we have a GoPro Hero 4 * ourselves), but we are of the opinion that there are also much cheaper alternatives for the beginning, such as this Action Cam *, which can also take useful underwater recordings conjure up. Try it out, go snorkeling with it, swim to secret caves and grottos and take photos there – and if it’s totally your thing, then invest in a GoPro. Clip-on lenses for smartphones *: With these little miracles you can conjure up interesting and funny photo effects for extremely little money. The lenses are simply clamped in front of the smartphone’s camera and you already have a super wide-angle shot or a frog’s-eye view. Super wide angle in particular is really useful on the beach because you simply get a lot more of it on the picture. Cumbersome fiddling with the panorama function of your camera is a thing of the past. A camera dome : Have you ever seen footage where half of the image is underwater and the other half in the air? We absolutely wanted to take pictures like this, but despite a lot of patience / skill we couldn’t manage it with our GoPro. Frustrating. As we have now found out, it can’t work at all, you need a special gadget called a camera dome. So we have now ordered this dome for the GoPro * and the first impression in the bathtub is great. We are really excited about his first mission! Stingrays in the Caribbean, recorded in video mode with the GoPro Hero 4 Try long exposures There is no better motif than water to take your first steps with long exposure. You have probably already seen pictures of waterfalls or rivers where the water looks soft – sometimes really cotton wool – has it? That works with long exposure. We don’t like it in this form because it looks very unnatural, but if used discreetly you can achieve great results with long exposures. How is that going now? You have to set the shutter speed on your camera manually. The program for this is a semi-automatic program and is called aperture automatic or time priority , you can find it on the setting wheel of your camera under the letter S.(Eselsbrücke: S as in “Shutter speed”, ie shutter speed). There you will find values such as 1/640, 1/60, 1/5, 0.4 ″, 1 ″, 5 ″, etc. These manual setting options are now also available on many smartphones. In order to be able to work with long shutter speeds, you need a tripod . We use this inexpensive and lightweight travel tripod * or look for a natural tripod like a railing or a rock if we don’t have it with us. The main thing is that the camera is stable. You can use a flexible mini tripod * for your smartphone . Caution: Long exposure makes your image significantly brighter, so it only works in the twilight in the morning or in the evening if you do not want to use additional equipment such as ND filters (these filters darken your lens so that you can work with long exposures even in daylight But this is for advanced photographers and not for the beginning). To get started, start with a shutter speed of about 1/5 second, your camera adjusts the aperture accordingly. Take a look at the picture in the display: Does the exposure fit or is the picture much too bright or too dark? What happens if you choose a slower shutter speed, e.g. 0.5 seconds (the camera refers to this as 1/2 or 0.5 ″)? Is the picture way too bright? Then go for a test in the completely manual mode, in which you can also set the aperture manually (the camera has done that for you so far). The aperture are the numbers that the camera designates as f 5.6, f 11, f 18, etc. The higher the number, the more closed the aperture and the less light penetrates the lens . If your picture is too bright due to a long shutter speed, you have to close the aperture. If you have now closed the aperture as much as possible, i.e. selected the largest possible number, and the image is still much too bright, you have to choose a shorter shutter speed. Just try a little around until it fits. Sometimes it doesn’t work – that’s because it’s too bright outside. Without an ND filter to darken, there is not much you can do at this point. The two sample pictures were taken in very dim light in Lofoten . In the picture below you can see a normal shot of the beach in automatic mode, the picture above shows the same scene with a long exposure without additional filters (with a filter you could and would have had to expose much longer to get the water really smooth unfortunately it looks more blurred than “smooth”). Both images are completely unprocessed as they come out of the camera. Do you see the difference and the potential of a long exposure? So: try it out! Long exposure on the beach in Lofoten. 0.5 sec. Shutter speed, f 25, 28mm, ISO 200 The same scene photographed in automatic mode. 1/160 sec. Shutter speed, f 4, 28mm, ISO 250 Get into the picture with you! No bikini figure? Can’t be, you’re wearing a bikini (or swimming trunks, hopefully) and have a figure = bikini figure. It’s that simple. So off in front of the camera. There is nothing more stupid than vacations where you hardly end up with a photo in which you can be seen yourself. Beach photos in particular live from the people in the picture and you can do a lot with the magical backdrop. For every figure problem there is a good pose or a photography angle from which it just works, we promise! (Big bum: sit down and take pictures from behind / above, upper body pictures in the water; Big belly, but great legs: Instagram hot dog leg photos, photos from behind. Just to name a few examples) Very important: Dare to do something! You don’t have to spend hours shooting with your Instagram husband, but a bit of poses and photo-effective accessories such as a large sun hat *, a stylish beach towel * or the like. make a lot. If that’s too stupid for you, then just ask your companion to snap photos every now and then throughout the day. Preferably unnoticed by you, because these are the most natural and beautiful shots 🙂
Actually, Jamaica was not on the plan for this year. But sometimes life plays its own game and suddenly all plans are thrown overboard, turned straight through the mixer and in the end something comes out that nobody would have expected. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s just a brown, unsavory broth. In the case of Jamaica, the former definitely applies: Jamaica is not brown, but black, white, blue and above all one thing: green! The decision to fly to Jamaica was made just a few weeks before departure – and so in mid-August, with an outside temperature of 20 degrees in Germany, I got on the plane with a backpack for the first time and found myself almost 11 hours later at 35 degrees and 80% humidity in the hustle and bustle from Montego Bay again. I had neither the time nor the nerves to explore the island’s sights beforehand and I only booked the first two nights – but hey, it was not my first time in the Caribbean after Aruba , St. Maarten and the Bahamas I was also given active support in the form of my sister who lives in Jamaica … will be fine 😉 I was on the island for a total of two weeks, experienced scorching hot sunny days and scorching tropical rainy days, on which it poured out of buckets as you can not imagine (Hurricane Harvey luckily spared Jamaica, but its foothills were still a to feel little, I imagine). Before there will be articles on the highlights of the island and tips for individual travel in Jamaica here on the blog in the next few weeks, I would like to tell you in the old tradition On the day of my arrival, I started straight to Negril …. Mainly away from Montego Bay, because here you really don’t find much more than a series of relatively self-contained hotel complexes. Negril is also one of the tourist centers of Jamaica, but with the famous 7 Mile Beach there was of course a highlight that I, as a fan of white dream beaches, couldn’t miss 😉 Since Negril is located in the far west of Jamaica, the sunsets are there really magical. For the most beautiful sunset (and cliff jumping, if you dare) make a little detour to Rick’s Cafe! After Negril, my sister and I went back to the north of Jamaica, but again this time without a stop in Mobay – the destination was Ocho Rios. With the Irie Blue Hole, a highlight awaits that is still something of an insider tip. Grab a taxi that will take you to the Blue Hole and a local guide who will take you through the waterfalls and cascades, which is significantly cheaper than a fully organized tour from a tour operator Beware: it will get wet! If you want to take photos, be sure to take a waterproof camera with you. I saw some Americans wiggling through the waterfalls with their big SLR cameras – not a good idea…. I had my GoPro Hero 4 * with me and stowed towels and other stuff in a waterproof backpack *, that worked well. If you are into action and like to jump around in waterfalls and water holes, I can also warmly recommend the YS Falls. Since they are a little hidden inland and you need 2 hours to get there, whether from Negril or Montego Bay, they are not overcrowded with tourists. You can stay there the whole day to your heart’s content and take turns sizzling in the sun, going swimming, plunging from ropes into the waterfalls or floating over the breathtaking scenery on a zipline. Incidentally, between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, in the village of Falmouth, you will find another highlight that can only be marveled at four times in the whole world: in the Luminous Lagoon and the Glistening Waters live microorganisms that are set in motion in the Darkness glow blue. The phenomenon is extremely difficult to capture with the camera, so unfortunately I only have this crappy photo for you … but I think you can imagine how crazy it really is. After Ocho Rios, I went to the east of Jamaica, Portland and the region around Port Antonio should be my home for the next few days. Port Antonio is often mentioned in the usual travel guides as another tourist center, but I can tell you one thing: it has little to do with the tourist strongholds of Montego Bay or Negril. Here you finally experience the “real”, original Jamaica. The large hotel complexes give way to small guesthouses, there are no more fast food chains, but jerk chicken is grilled openly in the street in smoky bins, the prices are reasonable and as a woman you finally don’t get “Company for tonight” every 2 minutes, but can talk to people normally (if you can handle Patwah. Most important phrases: ” ALLRIGHT!”and “YEAH MAN!” ) Why did I end up in Portland in the first place? As mentioned briefly at the beginning, my sister lives in Jamaica, more precisely in Portland. I spent most of the time there in the hinterland in the foothills of the Blue Mountains – without internet and without running water. And shall I tell you something? Wasn’t bad at all. (This is reality, my host. Thank you for letting me show the photo 😉) The main attraction of Portland, which attracts many tourists for a day trip here – rafting on the Rio Grande – I left out due to cost reasons. Fortunately, there are a few other great things to discover here that are cheaper. Take the Blue Lagoon, for example: this is where warm salt water and cold fresh water mix – swimming in it feels pretty crazy. We rented a kayak at the Blue Lagoon and are now out to sea (which, thanks to an approaching storm, we ended up prematurely). If you’re looking for a nice public beach in Portland, be sure to visit Winnifred Beach (or Winifred, nobody knows). There you will meet a lot of locals, only a handful of tourists and in the evening there is also a little partying here. In general you always find something in Jamaica that I have never encountered in any other Caribbean island: rivers, rivers, rivers. Since these logically have to end somewhere, this is often the case on a beach … and so one comes across this picturesque picture again and again in Jamaica, in which a river or waterfall, sometimes smaller, sometimes larger, flows directly into the sea on a white sandy beach (Incidentally also on Winnifred Beach). I came across the prettiest river-into-sea-on-dream beach picture quite unexpectedly on a beach called Frenchman’s Cove. I was honestly wondering why a beach should cost US $ 10 entry and I was pretty grumpy, but please take a look at the pictures … the blast, right? The following photos were all taken at Frenchman’s Cove Beach: I don’t want to lose any more words at this point, just let the pictures speak for themselves 🙂
Nothing could better describe what happened to us on our hike to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon. If the Havasu Falls (or Havasupai Falls) don’t mean anything to you: Don’t worry, that’s no shame, because the Havasu Falls are actually not so much the focus of tourism, even if they are probably on every Places to See Before You DieList at the top. This is mainly because this incredible place in Supai Village in the middle of the Grand Canyon can only be reached via a very long and strenuous hike – not for the average tourist. To make matters worse, getting a reservation for a Havasu Falls night is about as likely as seeing the northern lights near the equator. Forget it. So what to do Complete the entire hike in a single day? Day hiking to Havasu Falls has been banned for some time because it is too dangerous. If you turn up for a day hike at the Havasu Falls Trailhead, the Havasupai Indians are said to not let you down into the canyon in the first place. So we had a really great plan of how everything could work without a reservation, we researched for months beforehand and planned everything through – and we failed terribly. None of this worked. In the end, the hike turned into an involuntary day hike. And that was by far the toughest challenge that Christian and I have ever had to master! There were moments when I wasn’t sure whether we’d both make it out of the canyon safely. And the worst thing is: It wasn’t even our fault, it was the internet. Much of the information about Havasu Falls is downright incorrect (or out of date). With this post we would like to shed some light on the darkness and bring the information (if we have it) up to date, so that you can better plan your own hike to the Havasu Falls. Because we don’t want you to just let this insane place slip away because you are unsure about the planning – do it! The Havasu Falls are amazing and are definitely one of those experiences that you will tell your grandchildren about! Havasu Falls: waterfall paradise in the desert If you landed here, you probably already know what the Havasu Waterfalls are all about. Hence the short version: Oh. My. God. The longer variant goes like this: The Havasu Falls are a waterfall of Havasu Creek, which flows through the Grand Canyon as a tributary of the Colorado River. That alone, a river in the middle of the Grand Canyon, is special enough, but it gets even better. Havasu means blue water and that is exactly what Havasu Creek is: blue. Caribbean-beach-turquoise-blue-I’m-twisting-because-it’s-so-beautiful-blue! Fancy a little foretaste? You are welcome: But why so blue, Havasu? Seen soberly, this incredible color is caused by a very high concentration of calcium carbonate in the water, the river bed consists of light limestone, which reflects the color of the river even more intensely. The Havasu Creek permanently deposits lime and thus creates new basins and rivers again and again – it does not look like the year before. It’s crazy what nature can do. From its source to the mouth in the Colorado River, Havasu Creek not only forms Havasu Falls, but also more waterfalls: Navajo Falls If you hike along the Havasu Trail, the first stop after the Supai Village is the Navajo Falls, which by the way looked very different before the last big flood in 2008. Havasu Falls If you follow the trail further into the canyon you will reach the famous Havasu Falls, near which the campground is located. The Havasu Creek plunges about 30m into the depth and forms a series of impressive natural pools (I would like to withhold the pictures from you at this point 😉) The Havasu Falls are about 3.5 km behind the Supai Village. Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls The Mooney Falls and the Beaver Falls can be reached further along the Havasu Creek, they are again approx. 1 km (Mooney) and 5 km (Beaver) from the Havasu Falls. If you want to see these waterfalls, you have to plan an additional day with an overnight stay. Particularly impressive is Mooney Fall, which plunges over 60m into the depth, i.e. is more than twice as high as the Havasu Fall. How to get to Havasu Falls: planning and accommodation Alright! You are now probably maximally confused, but you really want to see this insane oasis in the middle of the Grand Canyon, right? How does that work now? Basically not many roads lead to Rome here, but exactly one. Namely the one from the Hualapai Hilltop down into the canyon in the Supai Village (13 km). From Supai Village we continue to Havasu Falls with the campsite (+3.5 km) and optionally further to Mooney Falls (+1 km) and Beaver Falls (+ 4 km). Here you can see an overview of the routes and the approximately required time, the distances are ONEWAY: distance Duration Hualapai Hilltop (Trailhead) to Supai Village 13 km Approx. 4 h Supai Village to Havasu Falls / Campground Approx. 3.5 km Approx. 40 min. Trailhead to Havasu Falls Approx. 16.5 km Approx. 5 h Havasu Falls / Campground to Mooney Falls 1 km 15 minutes. Mooney Falls to Beaver Falls 4 km ? So. Do you notice something? From the hilltop to Havasu Falls it is just under 17 km, easy. With walking back, a total distance of almost 34 km. Does that sound like it could be done in a day? No. That is why there are two overnight accommodations in the Supai Village : Overnight in Havasupai: Havasu Falls Lodge and Havasu Falls Campground A. You can stay at Havasupai Lodge . Reservations by phone only. Or B. Get a place on the campground. Reservations also only by phone Here you can find more information and a number of different phone numbers for reservations. The internet says getting through the phone is like winning the lottery. Desired dates don’t exist at all – which is a bit stupid when you unfortunately have a timeslot of 2-3 weeks. Since we have now seen the hut on site in which the reservations are accepted (that is also the hut where you have to report and pay the fee when you arrive at the Supai Village), we can say the following: A Constantly ringing phone and several rather sedate-looking ladies are perhaps not the best team. It took us about 15 minutes to register and pay. There was no line in front of us. Overall, we did not have the feeling that one would like tourists here, which is also reflected in the height of the Fee … but more on that below. So what can you do if you haven’t been able to get a reservation for an overnight stay? We researched our brains to death beforehand and came across the following options: Havasu Falls in one day: take the helicopter or ride the mule Option A. You can ride the mule , either into the canyon or from the bottom up. The mules / horses / donkeys transport, among other things, the luggage of the campground / lodge guests down to the Supai Village and back up again. If space is free, you ask nicely and pay around $ 80, they also transport exhausted hikers. However, there are no fixed times here, the mule columns are deployed as required. Option B. The helicopter flying. For the Havasupai Indians, the helicopter is the only way to transport larger things down to the village. We found the only information about the flight times of the helicopter here and here , according to which it allegedly flies on certain days between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. for about $ 90 (the allegedly official website of the Havasupai Indian tribe seems to be taken offline, we mean ourselves to remember but also to have found information here in advance) So if the last flight leaves at 1 p.m., it doesn’t take long to understand that under these circumstances a return flight is not an option. So we planned to fly down with the first helicopter at 10 a.m. and make the way back out of the Grand Canyon on foot. A good 17 km sounded tough, but doable. But it should turn out differently. Because we have learned: Even the helicopter only flies when needed! Timing for the Havasu Falls Hike At 9am we parked our car at the Hualapai Hilltop. How to get to the Hualapai Hilltop Here, too, there is exactly one way: Either coming from the west or from the east, you take the turn on Historic Route 66 onto Indian Road 18. This takes you straight for about 1.5 hours to the Hilltop, where the road ends in a dead end. The last place before turning towards Indian Road from the west is Peach Springs. There is the overpriced Hualapai Lodge * , which is why we have found cheaper accommodation in the next larger town of Kingman * . It is approximately a 2.5 hour drive from Kingman to Hualapei Hilltop. Coming from the east the next town is Seligman * (which is basically a Route 66 open-air museum, absolutely worth seeing!). So we arrived at the hilltop at 9 o’clock, happily trudged over to the old Indian woman in the wooden hut and asked where and when the helicopter was flying. “Do you have a reservation?” “Ehm… no… we’d like to fly in and then hike back out, we don’t need a reservation. Or do you mean a reservation for the helicopter? “ “No, there’s no reservation for the helicopter. You need one for the campground or the lodge ” “Yeah, but we don’t stay for the night, we read that there is a helicopter that could fly us in. So we’d like to take the first one and hike out in the afternoon” “No, you can only fly out with the helicopter, you can’t fly in. “ We like this: Hm. Why. Makes no sense. “Ok, so if we hike down now, is there a chance to catch the last helicopter to fly out? When is the last one? ” “Ohh… it’s windy today. Not too late. Maybe around 5 or 6 if he’s a good pilot. If you start right now, you can make it down in 3 hours, you look like you’re in good condition. But you can also walk out if there is no helicopter. “ That means: The information about the helicopter and its flight times, which you can find here for example , are wrong! There are no fixed flight times for the helicopter! It depends largely on the weather and how strong the wind is on the day. Since the wind strength also changes during the day, it is decided spontaneously when the first or last flight will take place. Don’t plan with the helicopter! In addition, the lady sent us on a day hike without hesitation. We cannot confirm that day hiking to the Havasu Falls is prohibited by the Indians. It seems possible! In general, nobody will stop you at the hilltop, after all there are no barriers or similar there. We didn’t get the impression that anyone cared about who went into or out of the canyon. So we had to make a decision, and quickly. In retrospect, I can hardly describe how much I had set myself in mind to see Havasu Falls … to call off everything now was out of the question. We did not hesitate for a second and started the way down on foot, in good luck that we will somehow get the last helicopter if we accelerate. Havasu Falls: The hike through the canyon I don’t want to waste a lot of words here, I want to let pictures speak for themselves. The first part down into the canyon (approx. 2.5 km) is quite steep. No problem on the way down, on the way back it will cost you your last strength. Be prepared for it. It’s not going to be fun. At some point you will reach something like a level, it is hardly noticeable that you go deeper and deeper into the canyon. Here you walk for hours over scree and now and then over a few stones, which is basically easy to do. You can’t get lost either, there are no branches, the path is self-explanatory. On the way, you can always pause on a stone and briefly understand that you are in the Grand Canyon. Hell yeah! On the way you will meet mules and horses again and again, sometimes with luggage, sometimes without, sometimes with “master”, sometimes without. Don’t worry, they are harmless and know where to go. After a total of approx. 8 km you will reach a sign that shows you the way to Supai Village. The “Almost there” on the sign is a lie. From here it is still 5km to the village . From here the ground changes from rubble to sand. If you have cursed before, there is more to curse from now. Walking on sand is exhausting, we all know that. But: It is slowly getting greener, you can see and feel that the landscape and the climate are changing. And at some point you hear a little brook babbling, which you can see a little later. To be honest, we don’t know whether that was the Havasu River or just an extension of it. The Havasu River, which we met later, was definitely larger. From now on it’s not far to Supai Village (ok, that’s a lie too). In any case, you will arrive there at some point, exhausted and happy, with a distance of almost 13 km in your bones. Alleluia! In the Supai Village you have to register in the first larger hut on the left. We arrived there after about 3:40 and I claim we were pretty quick. Costs: You have to pay a tourist avoidance premium (“Fee”). We have read various information about the amount in advance (everything from $ 15 to $ 60 was included). We had to pay $ 88 per person . For whatever reason. Unfortunately, there is no simply walking past the hut, you will be checked later on the way to the waterfalls. From Supai Village to Havasu Falls it is another 3.5 km (approx. 40 min.). On the way you will first encounter the Navajo Falls and if you continue following the now almost thunderous Havasu Creek, you will soon reach this almost surreal place where the turquoise blue river plunges into the depths. You are at the Havasu Falls! If that doesn’t belong on some official Places To See Before You list, then I don’t know … How we survived the Havasu Falls Day Hike And now comes the point where we’ve realized we have to seriously go all the way back. Running himself. Fucking 17 km. That was around 4 p.m. We had already been given badges saying “DAY HIKE” when we arrived, but it is well known that hope dies last. She died when we passed the helicopter landing pad in Supai Village on the way back – no helicopter and no one there. Although the last helicopter was not supposed to fly until 5 p.m. … the wind was probably too strong. Since the sunset threatened inevitably at 6:40 p.m., we decided not to waste any more time and started running. As fast as possible. Because we would no doubt get into the dark, and that’s no fun in the Grand Canyon. The headlamp *, which we actually took with us out of nonsense “if something is”, turned out to be a lifesaver. Without them we would probably have found our way anyway, because there aren’t many options, but we probably sprained or broken everything in the process (the hyenas have already rubbed all their paws). If you now think that you can see something halfway in the dark: Not in the Grand Canyon. Dark is not always dark and very few of us are already familiar with such a darkness as here. Without a headlamp you will be lost at the latest on the last part of the route when it goes up again steeply. In addition, there are certainly wild animals in the Grand Canyon, which are undoubtedly better deterred with a headlamp.seen but we have only one horse – which was probably even better. The fear of not getting out of this shit safe was big enough. If you are sitting in front of your PC rolling your eyes and wondering what exactly was so bad – I would like to briefly describe the pain that will overtake you during a day hike to the Havasu Falls: Have you ever participated in an Iron Man or have you ever run a marathon? Yes? Then you know the pain and the state in which the body puts itself in order to be able to endure the pain. No? Then you have no clue. Really none. I am certainly not an enthusiastic athlete and certainly not a runner, but that wasn’t the reason. Christian is very athletic and regularly takes part in triathlons … I don’t want to show off, but in the end we both felt like shit. We would have loved to just cry in pain and despair. It’s just a fucking 34km in a single day! This is not a clean asphalt road on which you can maybe pack the route somehow, but the Grand Canyon. 34 km over slippery scree, sand, due to the heat, approx. 1300 meters in altitude. At some point every meter is in every single bone, so much so that your bleeding blisters on your feet are the slightest problem. Because at some point your head doesn’t go along with it, you want to give up, but you can’t … and the desperation and the uncertainty of how long you can hold out, both physically and mentally, begin to wear you down. It took us more than 5 hours to get back, significantly longer than for the way there. That sounds very dramatic, so I don’t want to ignore the personal circumstances: Unprepared in the darkness of the Grand Canyon to have to run more than twice the expected distance was certainly a particularly stressful situation. If you know what to expect beforehand, if you run such distances regularly and if you are sure that you can do it physically, then you will have fewer problems. Apart from running long distances on a regular basis, there is no way to physically prepare for a day hike to Havasu Falls. So again: even if we did it – we strongly advise against a Havasu Falls Day Hike! It’s no walk in the park! Apart from the physical exertion, it is also pointless to get this wonderful place over with so quickly. Because there are not only the Havasu Falls, but also the other waterfalls, which are no less spectacular. For this you definitely need a reservation at the Hualapai Lodge * or on the campground, at least for one night. The route is not feasible as a day hike under any circumstances! Tips for the Havasu Falls Hike – Please try to get a reservation for at least one night. – If you are planning a day hike: start early. It will take you a full day to do this. And by complete we mean complete. – The last option for supplies (refueling, food, drinks) before you drive onto Indian Rd. 18 is in Peach Springs or Seligman. After that there is nothing more! – Find out more about the climate in the Grand Canyon . The Havasu Trail is on the South Rim. It gets extremely hot here, especially in July and August, while it is still pleasant on the North Rim during these months. We would advise against a hike to Havasu Falls in the middle of summer, May, June and September are perfect. – Bring enough water! And, please, also sugary drinks, Gatorade or Powerade, you need energy and electrolytes. Too much water flushes the minerals out of your body. By the way, the water from Havasu Creek is drinking water, so you can fill up your water bottles with it. A Gatorade in the shop in Supai Village costs $ 4, and there is overpriced food here too. – Take nutritious and filling, but light foods with you for the hike. Muesli bars, protein bars, energy bars, bananas, whole grain sandwiches or similar – Wear the right shoes! It doesn’t have to be heavy hiking boots, but they shouldn’t have slippery soles and provide good support. A pair of sexy waterproof trekking sandals are perfect, I bought this reasonably tolerable model from Teva * . – Wear functional clothing, 2-3 layers, it can be chilly in the early morning hours. Put your bathing suit underneath if you are planning a day hike, there is no way to change. – A headlamp * saves lives! Don’t forget to replace batteries. – Bring blister plasters, waterproof plasters *, sunscreen, a light towel * and mosquito spray * (Nobite! No car, please, the mosquitoes will only laugh about it) – In principle, you can also book a guided tour to Havasu Falls, the organizers will then take care of the permits. However, the costs are not low. We really want to keep the information here up to date, because the sparse and sometimes incorrect information about a Havasu Falls Hike almost broke our necks (in a figurative sense). The involuntary Grand Canyon Day Hike was so incredibly tough that I can hardly put it into words. Please don’t take this lightly.
Most people associate the Caribbean dream come true with the small southern Caribbean island of Aruba: palm trees, crystal clear turquoise blue water and white dream beaches wherever the eye can see. And that’s also true, because Aruba has the most beautiful beach in the entire Caribbean , thanks to the breathtaking underwater world every dive here becomes an adventure and you can even swim with flamingos . If that’s not enough, it should be said: Aruba can do even more! What many do not know: Aruba’s north side offers the most stark contrast to the dream beaches on the south side that you can imagine. The absolute highlight on Aruba’s north coast is without a doubt the Natural Pool, a round rock formation directly on the sea, into which the waves slosh into it again and again, creating a natural pool. What at first sounds quite unspectacular is one of the main attractions of Aruba, for which many day tourists (e.g. who come to Aruba on the cruise ships) often skip the wonderful beaches. The tours to the Natural Pool are often fully booked days in advance, so a little planning doesn’t hurt. In this article we will show you what you can expect from your Natural Pool adventure on Aruba, what you should pay attention to and – most importantly – how you can explore the Natural Pool completely free of charge. Off Road in Aruba: The Arikok National Park The Natural Pool (also called ‘Conchi’ by the locals) is located in the middle of the Arikok National Park, a very barren nature reserve that takes up almost 20% of the area of Aruba . We have already hinted at it: Who so far has only taken pictures of Aruba’s beautiful sandy beach eshas seen, who can hardly imagine that the island is otherwise characterized by barren, dusty dry landscape, in which little more than grows than man-high cacti and aloe plants (the symbol of Aruba, next to the Divi-Divi trees, of course). This is due to the simple fact that Aruba has no inland water and in the southern Caribbean, as one of the islands ‘under the wind’, hardly ever gets rain, you won’t find a hurricane season in Aruba. It is warm and sunny all year round, so the flora and fauna look accordingly. At this point just a few pictures: The further you go to the north side, the more bizarre and rocky the landscape becomes (and the more dangerous the native animal species become, for example you come across more and more wild, very (!!) dangerous donkeys, as can be seen in the picture). In the area of the Arikok National Park at the latest, paved roads are becoming increasingly rare: You are on the road off-road, Google Maps can often no longer help and some of the routes cannot be covered with a normal rental car. Natural Pool Aruba: The Best Aruba Adventure The way to the Natural Pool is not that simple, especially if you want to go out on your own: Since the Natural Pool cannot be reached via a paved road, Google Maps will unfortunately lead you astray. It took us two attempts to find the Natural Pool. On the first day we turned around again because, thanks to the lack of a GPS signal in the Arikok National Park, we weren’t sure whether we were on the right path and were afraid of getting lost (we had already been on the road for over half an hour with far too little water and slowly lost orientation in the barren landscape). It is therefore all the more important to start the Natural Pool adventure halfway prepared – because the journey is part of the goal! This is how you get to the Natural Pool You can basically reach the Natural Pool in Aruba in 3 ways: By guided tour, with your own 4×4 or off-road with a rental car and a short hike. By guided tour to the Natural Pool This is the tourist variant 😉 For those of you who have little time in Aruba, a guided tour to the Natural Pool is ideal. You will be brought as close as possible to the Natural Pool in an off-road vehicle, the last section (possibly 200m) you have to cover on foot. The cost of a natural pool tour is around $ 90 per person , the tours last about 4 hours and you will be accompanied by local guides who also take good care of their sheep at the natural pool. Here you can book various Natural Pool tours (remember to book in good time, as the tours are often booked out a few days in advance. Only a limited number of people can be brought to the Natural Pool): On your own to the Natural Pool If you don’t want to pay $ 90 and are not afraid to pave your way through the Arikok National Park with a real off-road vehicle, then this is your alternative. Rent a jeep in Aruba – and by that we mean a jeep, a real off-road vehicle, not an SUV, not a fake off-road vehicle, but a real off-road vehicle. Everything else will not work. You have to drive over large stones, rocks, deep holes and unpaved, sandy soil. The way to the Natural Pool through the Arikok National Park cannot be covered with a normal vehicle. So don’t even try, off-road driving is usually excluded in rental vehicle contracts in Aruba, so that tourists don’t make nonsense with their Fiat Puntos. And no, there is no other way than off road through Arikok National Park. There is just one way. Tip: Since Google Maps won’t show you the way on site, get directions beforehand. You can find very good and precise directions here: Directions to the Natural Pool . It’s best to print them out! Without these clues you will not find the way. Off road walk to the natural pool If you don’t want to rent an off-road vehicle or if you don’t feel comfortable driving it, there is a third way to get to the Natural Pool, which, however, requires a little stamina. You drive with your normal rental car into the Arikok National Park, the roads on this way are just so that you can drive them carefully (!). Enter Rancho Daimari as your destination on Google Maps . Please not Natural Pool Aruba , this is the wrong way! (namely the one that can only be driven on by off-road vehicle!). There is a small parking lot above the Rancho Daimari, here you park your car, pack your belongings and off you go. You have to first go down and past the ranch, then always follow the trampled path (by the way, we didn’t have to pay an entrance fee for the national park anywhere. We wouldn’t have known where … to give the donkeys? Put a note between the cacti? It was far and wide not a soul to be seen). Go towards the coast and keep to the right. It is best to just follow the coastline to the east, then nothing can go wrong. Along the way you will come across a few smaller beaches in addition to the bizarre landscape – we strongly recommend that you do NOT go swimming here ! The current on this side of Aruba is extremely dangerous, but you can see that from the waves with a little common sense. After a 1.5 to 2 km walk (approx. 45 minutes ) you will reach the Natural Pool. It took us two attempts to find this way to the Natural Pool. The first time we stopped because we weren’t sure whether we were right at all, as Google is more likely to cause confusion here, as I said, and GPS does not work. After checking again at home, when we were sure that we had actually already been on the right track and that we only had to go a little further, we tried again the next day and this time found the Natural Pool. In the Natural Pool itself, the current should not be underestimated. The right side is more or less open, the current sometimes pulls you properly towards the open sea. Sometimes such violent waves slosh into the pool from the left side that you get pretty doused and lose your grip. But don’t worry – at the Natural Pool there is always at least one ranger on site (plus the guides for the guided tours) who takes care and can help immediately if problems arise. Incidentally, there is another smaller pool above the main pool, which can be reached with a little climbing. The water here is warmer and calmer. Natural Pool Aruba: This is what you need for your adventure What you should definitely take with you are a pair of sturdy bathing shoes . The rocks in the Natural Pool are quite slippery and sharp-edged, you won’t get far with flip flops (not least because the current will tear them off your feet and then you can only wave wistfully afterwards). The Natural Pool is no fun even barefoot, Christian can tell you a thing or two about it … What you don’t expect at all in the Natural Pool (and even many locals don’t know that): fish! Colorful, funny fish! Take your snorkeling equipment with you, it’s worth it! If you want to experience the natural pool on a hike like us, then think of sturdy shoes . The 2km walk is not a flip flop walk. Extra trekking shoes are not necessary, but sneakers or other sturdy footwear should be. I went on the adventure -as usual- semi well prepared in my Birkenstock and in my summer dress. Already went. With the Birkenstock you can also go into the water wonderfully (= sturdy bathing shoes), they have patiently endured all kinds of tortures for several years. Otherwise: towel, enough to drink, sunscreen, something to eat (you will be on the road for around 3-4 hours in total, regardless of whether you book a guided tour or explore the natural pool on your own). And please no Mimimi, because it wobbles in the jeep or you have to walk over stupid stones (we say that because we have had a few critical words on site from American tourists who have already been driven as close as possible in the jeep. of the ‘comfort’ of the excursion): The way to the natural pool is part of the experience and the natural pool is also not a whirlpool in which we can all sit nicely together.
Whether the pigs in the Bahamas , the flamingos in Aruba or the alligators in the Everglades – somehow we get into animal adventures again and again on our travels . Well, of course it doesn’t happen by accident 😉 And so it wasn’t a coincidence that we planned a rather big dangling for one thing during our Florida road trip: We wanted to swim with the manatees . The big gray manatees are something of a symbol of Florida and, if you know where, can be found practically anywhere in Florida’s waters. Swimming with them is only officially allowed in one place in Florida , the Crystal River. Without anticipating too much – we can already tell you that swimming with manatees is one of the kind of experiences that you won’t forget in a hurry. Touching the gentle giants or having the fattest smooch of all time pressed right in the face by a manatee is impressive (and tickles!). Our bucket list, which we don’t actually have, definitely got a big, fat hook that day. Manatees in Florida There are only four species of manatees left in the world. Curiously, their respective areas of distribution are very far apart; the so-called manatees live in Florida and on the Gulf of Mexico. You can see the manatees all over Florida’s waters, they do well in both salt and fresh water. There is one simple reason why you will probably not run into manatees by chance in Florida: They like it warm. The funny manatees look a bit chubby to us and we automatically assume that they have a thick layer of fat that protects them from the cold, but that’s not the case. All pure muscles (and heavy bones 😉). And so, unfortunately, the manatees freeze pretty quickly, which forces them to stay in warm waters. Where in Florida do you find the manatees? Manatees can be found in Florida wherever the water is cozy and warm. This is particularly the case inland in northern Florida, where numerous river springs arise. Above all the Homosassa Springs and the Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, where the water is constant all year round at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Especially in winter, when the water outside the springs and in the sea becomes cool, the manatees are drawn to the warm springs. From November to March is peak season Manatee and they abound throughout Florida by the hundreds around the hot spots in the water. Especially the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a real manatee paradise! Here you can watch the peaceful manatees in their natural environment all day long. A good overview of the places in Florida where you can watch manatees can be found here: Top manatee spots See wild manatees in Florida As great as it is to watch the manatees in their natural habitat, one thing is forbidden everywhere in Florida: Diving, snorkeling and swimming with the manatees. So you can’t just jump into the water with the animals if you feel like it. The manatees belong to the endangered species and enjoy special protection in Florida, be it through the swimming ban or specially separated protection zones into which the animals can retreat. Because although the manatees have hardly any natural enemies in Florida due to their size, there is one thing that really worries them: the human being with his motorboats. We saw many manatees with scars on their backs from cuts from the screws of the boats. Unfortunately, the animals are just too cozy and leisurely on the move, to be able to avoid the fast motor boats. Therefore, especially around Crystal River, near the warm springs, some protection zones have been set up, which are not allowed to be entered by boat, kayak or swimming. You should stick to this, disregarding such a protection zone or the swimming ban can result in severe penalties. Crystal River: Swim with the Manatees However, there is one place in Florida where swimming with the manatees is officially allowed : Kings Bay in Crystal River. Hundreds, if not thousands, of manatees cavort here in the winter months, as the Three Sisters Springs nearby feed the bay with warm water. The warmer the surrounding waters with rising outside temperatures in summer, the less the manatees will stay in the bay. The huge animals (whose closest relatives are whales and elephants) have to eat around 15% of their body weight every day – as herbivores that feed primarily on seaweed, this is of course no easy task. The manatees leave the hot springs as soon as possible each year and move on to other bodies of water where they can find better care. There are two ways to swim with the Manatees in Crystal River: Either you try it on your own or you join a guided tour. A snorkeling tour with the manatees In order to be able to experience the manatees, we decided on a guided tour. There are a number of companies in Citrus County and Crystal River that offer boat tours to the Manatees. We have chosen River Ventures , the best-known provider . We really wanted to do a tour very early in the morning at 6 or 7 a.m. , because at this time the water is a bit cooler and the manatees cavort around the warm springs – so the probability of meeting manatees is greater. Unfortunately, apart from River Ventures, no other provider offers such an early tour. So once again we tortured ourselves out of bed at an inhumanly early hour and drove to the River Ventures visitor center very early in the morning. There, over hot coffee, there was a brief introduction to the manatees, some information about the tour and tips on how to handle the manatees correctly. The most important information: Those who move the least in the water will have the most fun! An information that should give us one of the best experiences later 😉 After the short lecture, we squeeze into our sexy wetsuits in no time and off we go by bus to Kings Bay. We take the boat out on the water, each of us is provided with a funny swimming noodle and a snorkel set. It takes a while before we discover the first typical “swirl” that a manatee makes when swimming. As a layman, a swirl like this can hardly be distinguished from a fish on the surface, but our guides have an eye for it, of course. Manatees only have to come up every few minutes to breathe and otherwise spend most of their time eating or sleeping at the bottom of the water. But since they are very curious by nature, they do not necessarily dive down again after taking a breath when they notice that it is,for example So we hurry to get into the water when we spot the first manatee, some of the group paddle afterwards and we are in the cold water for a while looking for manatees – without success. The game repeats itself a couple of times, we go back on board, drive to another spot in the bay where a manatee makes itself felt, go into the water – the manatee is long gone by the time we are in the water. In the end, our guides decide to simply stay at the current location for a while, where two or three manatees can be seen from the boat. The manatee kiss I remember what I learned during the introduction: whoever does the least action in the water is the most interesting for the manatees. So I bob around pretty motionless, because I have already learned that swimming behind is not successful. Suddenly, only 1-2 meters away from me, a large gray back is visible on the surface of the water and my pulse suddenly skyrockets. I force myself to stay calm, not to kick, and tell myself not to be frightened if the manatee suddenly appears in front of my face. Then I put my face halfway under the surface of the water so that I can just see what is happening above, but also have the underwater world in view. At this moment the time has come: A manatee appears right in front of my face, nuzzling my goggles with its bulging snout that is as big as my entire head. A manatee smooch! Gnihi. The moment is over so quickly that I have no time to frighten myself, so I just stroke the manatee for a moment as it swims by before it dips again. Nothing better could have happened to me. But be careful, you shouldn’t be too fooled about a manatee kiss: The animals just see pretty badly and just check who we are and whether you can eat our diving goggles. This has been going on in the Crystal River for decades. Learning effect on the side of the manatees = 0, let me tell you … A guided tour with River Ventures costs around $ 65 per person , as with all providers. The big advantage: River Ventures offers a tour early in the morning and runs with comparatively small groups. Hence a clear recommendation from us. On your own: by kayak to the manatees If you don’t want to do a guided tour, there is a cheaper alternative: You can rent kayaks for around $ 45 (per kayak) all around Kings Bay and Crystal River . If you already know your way around Kings Bay, that’s great. But since we had no clue and, for example, did not know where the springs are, we would have been pretty lost on our own and probably wouldn’t have seen a single manatee. That is why we, as a first-time offender, decided to take a guided tour. Rules of conduct for swimming with the manatees To make your adventure with the Manatees a complete success, there are a few things to consider. Be calm in the water. Don’t pedal wildly, just snorkel quietly. A swimming noodle is great, with it you can bob around relatively motionless in the water Don’t swim after the manatees if you spot one. In most cases, they’re faster anyway … just don’t do it. It stresses the animals Stay on the surface and certainly not dive after the manatees When the manatees are on the ground, they sleep or eat. In both cases: do not disturb! Should you see a manatee with a cub, that is great luck. Enjoys it! A manatee comes to you and nuzzles you – don’t panic. They have bad eyesight and look for something to eat. Don’t worry, they can’t hurt you Whoever is the calmest will have the most fun! Tips for the Manatee snorkeling tour The best season for spotting manatees is winter , between November and March . Then the waters in Florida are quite cold and the manatees are drawn to the warm springs. It is advisable to book a tour early in the morning as the chances of seeing manatees are much greater in the morning. It is therefore advisable to spend the night in Crystal River on site, then you will not have such a stress in the morning. The Plantation on Crystal River * is said to be very beautiful . During our excursion the following was provided: Coffee and cocoa Snorkeling equipment Swimming noodles Wetsuits Anti-fog spray for diving goggles Indispensable, so bring your own: Towels (1 per person) Water and maybe something to eat (the tour takes about 3 hours) A GoPro Hero * or other underwater action cam * Waterproof case for your smartphone * or waterproof case for your camera * Swimming with the Manatees in Florida was an unforgettable experience. We hesitated beforehand whether we should really take such a long detour to the north, as our time in Florida was very limited. But it was absolutely worth it! We can only recommend each of you to get to know this part of Florida and with it the cute manatees!
Hand on heart: have you ever heard of Exuma? No? Never mind, neither did we until a few years ago. If you are not a huge fan of the Caribbean and are not committed to discovering the most beautiful dream beaches in the world or visiting the swimming pigs of the Bahamas , then you don’t have to deal with Exuma. But if you love buttery soft, white sandy beaches and turquoise blue water as much as we do, then you should be careful now: The Exuma Islands in the Bahamas are the weirdest thing we have seen in recent years! Really now. Exuma is paradise. PARADISE. We have never – never! – seen something like that. And if IIf I write something like that, I don’t really know how to explain what the Exuma Cays are. Nobody believes us anyway. Let’s try it this way: The Exumas are an island chain of the Bahamas consisting of around 360 individual islands. Most of them are completely untouched. The island chain extends southeast of the main island of the Bahamas, New Providence and Nassau. The Exuma Cays belong to the so-called Out Islands of the Bahamas and are visited by significantly fewer tourists than Nassau. That is a huge mistake! It is to be hoped, however, that this will not change anytime soon, because tourist crowds like Nassau have to cope with them would destroy this paradise within a very short time. Characteristic of Exuma is the relatively shallow water that stretches for hundreds of kilometers across the entire chain of islands, which means that the entire area of the Exuma Cays is bathed in a brilliant turquoise blue. This view of the bright blue water is seldom broken by places where the sea is a little deeper and the water shimmers dark blue. In between, the often nameless islets with their white beaches line up, many of them are completely uninhabited or are owned by some celebrity. Exuma Cays: By boat through paradise How did we end up here of all places, one of the most remote places in the world? The answer is simple: Exuma is home to the famous swimming pigs of the Bahamas. As frivolous as it is: Without the rationally simply incomprehensible wish to experience the swimming bristle beasts once in a lifetime, we would probably never have come to Exuma (yes, we are these tourists who only came to Exuma because of the swimming pigs and the Incidentally, only a blank shake of the head from the locals). Fortunately, when we make such decisions, our mind often has a break from broadcasting, and so it happened that we found ourselves poorer by 1000 €, armed with toast and a GoPro on a speedboat, which in a monkey tooth with us through the bluest sea of all time Exuma Cays raced – pigs, here we come! In the first part of our report about our tour to the Bahamas pigs we already reported in great detail how exactly you get to Exuma and what possibilities there are to book such a tour. You can read everything here: Since the pigs on Big Major Cay are not the only highlight on an ocean safari through the Exuma Islands, we have split the report about our adventure for reasons of space. In part 1 we reported about the swimming pigs that we had finally reached after what seemed like an infinitely long 2 hour boat trip. Feeding, petting and playing with them was really an absolute highlight. The pigs were the first stop on our tour – here you can find out how it went afterwards and what else we experienced in Exuma. Adventure on Exuma: petting sharks on Compass Cay After leaving Pig Island and the pigs behind us a bit wistfully, we were of the opinion that after this absolute highlight of the tour, there probably wasn’t much more to come. So we could hardly believe our eyes and ears when our boat set course for a small island called Compass Cay and our guide announced that we would now swim with sharks and stroke them. Pet sharks ?! Wtf ?! I’ll give a shit! 20 seconds later I was in the water petting sharks. Mr. Even though I knew in theory that the Nurse Sharks that live here on Compass Cay are completely harmless, the pump went really well in the water at first. In the first few seconds no shark was seen, but it wasn’t long before the first shark appeared out of nowhere. At that moment, by the way, it was already too late for the instinct to flee spontaneously, because the shark didn’t need 3 seconds to get to us. Ready to be eaten, I gave in to my fate – and stroked my first shark (or rather the shark stroked me by eagerly swimming around me. I preferred to hold still first). At Compass Cay, the island’s owner has built a boardwalk into the shallow water. The nurse sharks that live there are used to the tourists and even voluntarily swim to the jetty at high tide to be petted and fed. The sharks are not fenced in, but can move freely. But since they are well taken care of, they do not seem to have any increased interest in staying anywhere other than Compass Cay. If you want some peace and quiet, just dive down and lie down on the ocean floor under the jetty. The largest of them are up to 4 meters long including their tail fin and can frighten you at first just because of their size. But we get used to it quickly and swim and snorkel for a while with the sharks (which, by the way, look like wet, By boat through paradise: Conch on the sandbank After everyone was collected happy and euphoric by our guide at the port of Compass Cay and directed to the boat, we went on to the next item on the program: Prepare conch salad on a sandbank. Aha. Now we’re supposed to cook our lunch here ourselves in the middle of the sand, which our guide caught earlier during a short stopover in the sea … or what does it look like? And what is that anyway … Conch? Do I have to kill it myself? The snobby tourist in us wrinkles our noses a bit, but as we slowly head towards the sandbank with our boat, we immediately get huge, bright eyes. What’s going on here…?? OMFG! As soon as we set foot on land, we immediately sink into the softest, finest white sand we have ever experienced. The bright turquoise blue sea nestles gently around the white sandbank, interrupted again and again by new, small sandbanks. Holy shit. Unfortunately, we don’t notice much of the preparation of the conch salad, but we are very grateful when our guide brings us a portion of it – in true Caribbean style in a white plastic bowl. Delicious! To clarify: Conch (read: “Konk”) looks to us laypeople like a fairly large mussel, but is a sea snail. The conch is known in German as the “Great Fechterschnecke” and is native to the entire Caribbean, the Bahamas, southern Florida and Bermuda. The conch seems to be something like the national dish in the Bahamas, we encounter it afterwards as conch fritters, as conch burger, conch something … everything is with conch. The shells of the snails look beautiful when cleaned and are sold to tourists as souvenirs for little money (normal is around $ 5 each). But be careful: Since it is a formerly living animal, you are not allowed to import the conch housing into every country. If you want to enter the USA on your way back from the Bahamas, the import is for example prohibited, to our knowledge max. 3 housing per person to be brought. We then learned that the conch is under species protection due to overfishing and we thought about what we should advise you now. The result: we can’t advise you. The conch is so ubiquitous in the Caribbean and it is perfectly normal for the people to eat it. In our experience, in the Caribbean you don’t need anyone with environmental protection, ecological responsibility, overfishing, species protection or anything else – you are not that far there and you cannot be at all. These are First World Problems and the Caribbean is not one of them. Most of the people live from fishing and tourism, not infrequently from hand to mouth. It goes without saying that you don’t give a lecture on such topics to someone like that. If someone offers you conch, try it. And to come back to the sandbar: By the way, here we saw the next shark in the wild. He swam very close to the anchored boats in the shallow water … and as far as we could see it was not a safe nurse shark this time. You have never seen us jump out of the water so fast! This is only possible on Exuma: snorkeling in James Bond’s Thunderball Grotto After we have stayed on the sandbank for a while, we continue to the next highlight of our tour, which is just around the corner: The Thunderball Grotto . In 1965, parts of the famous James Bond film ‘Thunderball’ were filmed in this grotto, since then it has been known as the Thunderball Grotto. For laypeople, snorkeling is only possible in the afternoon at low tide, because only then can you find the entrance to the grotto. Inside the grotto you can expect a breathtaking backdrop and a colorful underwater world. Unfortunately, we only managed to take stupid photos and due to the coming flood we only had a limited amount of time in the grotto … but a little imagination doesn’t hurt either 😉 By the way, you don’t have to lug the snorkeling equipment with you, you will usually get it as part of the tour. After the snorkeling adventure in the grotto, we finally head for an inhabited island of the Exumas for late lunch. By the way, we didn’t know at that moment exactly which island we were on, because nobody told us that. Our credit card statement says it was Deshamon’s Restaurant on Great Guana Cay . Aha! According to Google Maps, this is not possible at all, because Great Guana Cay is completely different. Well then – no idea where we were. The food from the buffet was okay, but the $ 50 for 2 people was expensive, as is typical of the Bahamas. The islet itself looked very nice at first sight and there was even an asphalt road … we really would like to know where we were. The Bahamas iguanas are a very special species because their skin is slightly reddish. So the photos are not a Photoshop Fail, the iguana’s skin is actually red. Incidentally, so is our skin. We applied the lotion diligently, but still burned ourselves a lot during the day. Yeah We are therefore very happy that the day is slowly coming to an end in the late afternoon. Tired and exhausted from all the impressions, we finally set off at full speed on our way back to Great Exuma, the main island of the Exuma Cays, where we stay for 3 nights at the Two Turtles Inn * in George Town. On the boat we treat ourselves to two, three, four Bahama Mamas (THE cocktail of the Bahamas, you have to try it!), Which are again served in true Caribbean style from plastic canisters in plastic cups. Bottom up! This is how you can book the tour through the Exuma Cays In the first part of our report, which is only about the highlight of the tour, the swimming pigs , we have already listed all the providers we know with whom you can do a full-day tour through the Exuma Islands. Here is the overview again: Coastline Adventures (price-performance overview here ) Four C’s Adventures Exuma Water Sports Robert’s Island Adventures Island Routes Exuma Sunrise Tour We were traveling with Coastline Adventures. The individual program items are basically the same for all providers: You always visit the pigs on Big Major Cay, the sharks on Compass Cay, and go snorkeling in the Thunderball Grotto. The rest varies a bit, depending on the direction from which you are heading to the Exumas and how much time you have. Which spot you go to in which order doesn’t follow a fixed plan, but the weather. Your guides on the boat communicate by radio with people on site and decide what the route looks like that day. You will definitely have a lot of fun! Exuma is a blast! Before and after our trip to the Bahamas, we often heard “Oh, Bahamas… that’s pretty boring, isn’t it? There is nothing but two or three beaches … and they are not that beautiful either ”. Hm … no ?! That might be the impression you get when you head for New Providence or Nassau on the cruise ship. However, if you think you have seen the Bahamas because you have seen Nassau, you are unfortunately wrong. Not just a little, but miles. The Exumas are a completely different world that we have never experienced anywhere else! And they are one of the few places in the Caribbean that has been spared from cruise tourism. You can feel that clearly. If you are looking for peace and seclusion and want to get to know the real Caribbean feeling, you have to come to Exuma.
The small island of Aruba in the very south of the Caribbean has a lot to offer. Anyone who knows me a little knows that I unexpectedly fell head over heels in love with ‘One happy island’. To be honest, I originally only came to Aruba because of Flamingo Beach (yes, totally plemplem …) and otherwise I hardly informed myself and preferred to be surprised. And that has definitely succeeded: Aruba completely knocked me out of my socks with its fantastic beaches and a landscape that couldn’t be more contrasting! I already showed you that Aruba can do more than just beaches and real adventure with the Natural Pool , today the second trick follows:Snuba Diving in Aruba ! Snu … what ?! Doesn’t that mean scuba diving and is it just normal diving? No not really. Here comes the explanation: What is snuba diving? Snuba Diving is a word creation from the two terms Scuba Diving (diving) and Snorkeling (snorkeling). And that’s exactly what Snuba Diving is: a mix of both disciplines. I don’t know about you, but I think snorkeling is only moderately exciting. In the sea, water constantly sloshes into the snorkel, the glasses fog up every few seconds, there is water in there anyway and … and oh, it just sucks. At least a little. Not to snorkel in the Caribbean is of course not an option. So I started looking for ways to get to see as much as possible of the colorful underwater world of Aruba without a diving license – and I came across Snuba Diving. How exactly does Snuba Diving work? The principle is very simple: Instead of heavy diving equipment and oxygen bottles on your back, Snuba Diving has an approx. 20 m long hose that regulates the air supply. The oxygen source remains on top of the boat and you can dive down about 20m with the hose in your mouth. Without a diving license, without heavy equipment . The air is usually enough for a dive of about 30 minutes. Snuba Diving in Aruba: Diving on the SS Antilla Aruba is known as one of the most beautiful diving areas in the world: In addition to the colorful Caribbean underwater world, there are also some shipwrecks to discover, the waters around Aruba are a true cemetery for ships among divers. The SS Antilla is a former German cargo ship, built in 1939 and sunk again in 1940 by a fire that it started. It is located about 700m off the coast of Aruba at the level of Arashi Beach at a depth of almost 20m – so just right to explore it by snuba diving. The SS Antilla is now considered one of the most beautiful wrecks in the Caribbean, even though it broke in the middle. To get it straight: the dive to the wreck of the SS Antilla was more than impressive! This is how you book your diving adventure Of course, you cannot do a Snuba Diving tour on your own. There are plenty of excursions tailored to the tastes of American tourists on Aruba, and a snorkeling tour on the SS Antilla * is one of the most popular tours in Aruba. As part of this tour, you can also book the Snuba Diving package. You will take a catamaran from Palm Beach (where all tours start at Palm Pier) out to the Caribbean Sea up to the height of the SS Antilla shipwreck. I strongly recommend booking in advance!Only a small group of people can be supervised at Snuba Diving per tour, places are limited to approx. 6 people. You can of course also book the snorkeling tour spontaneously, but the places for snuba diving are probably already occupied too soon. Aruba Arriba! Course of the Snuba Diving Tour As already mentioned: The contents of the snorkeling and diving tour are clearly tailored to American tourists. This not only includes sandwiches on board, but also a cocktail called Aruba Arriba, which is touted as the national drink. So far we were of the opinion that the island’s own Balashi beer was Aruba’s pride and joy, but be it – the Aruba Arriba tastes good! The Americans on the boat see it the same way and it doesn’t take long before the pack of party-mad Americans, some with flippers on their feet, are doing a round of line dance on the catamaran (Yes. OMFG. I will probably never get rid of this picture … ) That this is actually about snorkeling seems to have moved into the background somehow. With 1-2 Aruba Arriba in mind, we willingly let our Snuba Diving instructor Angelo strap on the equipment and show us a few tricks, for example how to get water that has run underwater out of the diving goggles. As a novice diver, I have to get used to breathing evenly with a mouthpiece, and in the first few moments underwater I feel panicked. But Angelo manages to get me on the right track and slowly we are sinking deeper and deeper. Aruba’s underwater world: Colorful Caribbean fish and a sunken shipwreck What awaits us down there just below the surface of the Caribbean Sea beats what we have seen so far while snorkeling in Aruba: Lots of colorful fish up close, corals, better-not-to-touch sea urchins and a lot of stuff , of which we still do not even begin to know what it is. Our teacher Angelo shows us what we can touch and what we should rather keep our hands off and watches us newbies very carefully so that we don’t accidentally make nonsense. He also heroically uses a GoPro the whole time, thanks to which we can now delight you with wonderful underwater shots of our snuba diving excursion. I hope you are as enthusiastic about these impressions as I am. For me, snuba diving in Aruba was my first time diving and it completely flashed me! So much so that since then I have definitely wanted to get a diving license in order to be able to discover a lot more of this crazy part of the world that has remained largely hidden from me so far. Until then, I’ll definitely be back for a new Snuba Diving adventure right away!
The chances that you’ve never heard of Exuma before are relatively high. Exuma … where is that please? And what is that? And why should you care? I’ll tell you: Exuma should be on your bucket list immediately (!) If you are looking for incredible underwater worlds , the clearest turquoise sea and the most incredible dream beaches in the world. The Exuma Cays are a chain of islands in the Bahamas, still relatively unknown as a travel destination in Germany and they have so far been completely spared from cruise tourism in the Caribbean . And the most important thing: they are hard to beat in terms of beauty. The main island is Great Exuma with the capital George Town, which has just about 1400 inhabitants. It is incredibly difficult to find good information about Exuma, which is why we ended up sitting completely unprepared on our plane to George Town. Ultimately, we asked the locals on site on Great Exuma what you can do here and what you should definitely see. The result is a lot of great tips, including a few real insider tips that are guaranteed not to be found in any travel guide. So if you are planning a Bahamas vacation in the near future and also want to visit Exuma, then you should definitely read on now. I’ll show you 10 highlights and sights on Exuma that you shouldn’t miss. Here we go! I have to pack my equipment for the Bahamas My camera: Sony Alpha 6500 * Two lenses: an all-round lens from Sigma * (perfect for traveling and affordable, it is connected to the Sony 6 series together with an adapter * ) and a 30mm fixed focal length from Sigma * GoPro underwater camera * and a matching dome for half-half recordings * Waterproof sunscreen without microplastics with a mineral filter * (for the sake of the environment and the sea) DJI Spark drone * Nobite mosquito spray * (the best!) Exuma: home of the swimming pigs The reason why Exuma has come into the focus of most people in the first place couldn’t be cuter: The swimming pigs of the Bahamas . The bristle beasts have become the main attraction of the Bahamas in recent years. Fortunately, it really has to be said, the island on which the pigs live is so remote that the day cruise tourists who land in Nassau hardly have the opportunity to integrate a trip to the pigs into their limited stay . If that were different, the pigs would probably already be completely overrun by tourists and dead. There is no way around the Exumas to see the swimming pigs. You can find out everything about how to get here and the tours offered here . Snorkeling in the Thunderball Grotto The Thunderball Grotto is located near Staniel Cay and is so named because scenes from the famous James Bond film ‘Thunderball’ were first filmed here in 1965. In the grotto there is an insane underwater world with tons of colorful fish to discover. To get there, you either have to rent a boat or take a guided tour of the Exuma Cays . In general, an Exuma Ocean Safari as offered from Great Exuma is a very good opportunity to get to know the most beautiful part of Exuma: the sea. In such a tour, in most cases not only the swimming pigs and the Thunderbal Grotto, but also the next two highlights are integrated: Swim with sharks at Compass Cay Swim with sharks? Yes, you read that right! A group of Nurse Sharks lives on Compass Cay. Nurse sharks are completely harmless to humans (even if it is very difficult to believe). The sharks at Compass Cay are so used to the visitors that they voluntarily allow themselves to be petted and at high tide even swim on the jetty built into the water to dust off food. You can snorkel with the sharks and pet them without fear at Compass Cay. We would have loved to have packed one and taken one with us, they were so friendly 😉 Pet iguanas on Iguana Island I don’t know whether the small iguana island in the Exumas is actually called Iguana Island. I suspect that it has no name at all, because not all of the approx. 360 cays of the Exumas have a name at all, as most of them are actually uninhabited. Not so Iguana Island – hundreds of iguanas live here! If you are afraid of lizards, this highlight on Exuma is sure to be pure horror. The iguanas come out of the bushes as soon as a boat approaches the beach. As soon as you have solid ground under your feet, you will immediately get on your skin. Those who have salad with them are well advised 😉 You can read more about visiting Iguana Island and our ocean safari through the Exuma Cays here . Swim with sea turtles at Hoopers Bay Attention, now comes a real insider tip that you will probably not find in any travel guide in the world: The best place on Exuma (and maybe even in the whole of the Bahamas) to meet sea turtles is Hoopers Bay. Hoopers Bay is located on the main island of the Exumas, Great Exuma. You will probably have your hotel on this island anyway, just like we did (we stayed at the Two Turtles Inn *), so a visit to Hoopers Bay is an absolute must! With a length of approx. 60 km, Great Exuma is much larger than you initially think and so when we arrived we were actually quite overwhelmed at first what we should do here. Since we really wanted to see sea turtles or even swim with them, we asked the locals if there was a beach on Great Exuma where the Sea Turtles frolic more often than elsewhere. The answer: Hoopers Bay. And the kicker is: you can even feed them! Get some frozen fish at the supermarket in George Town and you’ll have the time of your life! 🙂 (but watch out for your fingers, the turtles are sometimes a bit clumsy). Stocking Island: starfish and stingrays Just a few hundred meters from Great Exuma is Stocking Island, a small island at the height of George Town. You can reach Stocking Island by ferry, once an hour Elvis’ Water Taxi will bring you there and back for about $ 15 per person . The crossing takes less than 15 minutes (depending on how many friends of the driver want to be dropped off somewhere in between). On Stocking Island you will find wonderful beaches, absolute tranquility and with Chat ‘N’ Chill a beach bar like from a Caribbean picture book. The prices in Chat ‘N Chill are not cheap, as is typical of the Bahamas, but the cocktails were surprisingly really, really tasty! 9 $ for it …. free. YOLO 😉 The Chat ‘N Chill has a few special pets, by the way: Tame stingrays. There are always several rays romping about on the beach, they swim bravely to the shore and even let themselves be petted. The reason is, of course, the food again: The Chat ‘N Chill piles up the empty bowls of the conch (conches …?) In the water and so there is always a small snack to get for the rays. If you should find fishy scraps somewhere, you can carefully place them on the palm of your hand and feed the rays with them. You will also encounter the rays while swimming and snorkeling in the water – but here I would recommend keeping a respectful distance. They are still stingrays and even if they look peaceful, an accidental sting of their sting can kill a human. There are also giant red starfish on Stocking Island, and there is even an entire starfish beach. We found one of the fine specimens washed up on the beach and quickly took a few snapshots before we brought it back into the deep water. Even when snorkeling you will see starfish lying in the seagrass on the bottom again and again. Do us a favor: Even if it is unclear how much it really damages the stars if they are touched or even taken out of the water – please don’t do it. Dive briefly down and touch the star is probably not a problem, but it is better not to take it out of the water. We did get the information from locals that the starfish can survive on land for up to 24 hours and that touching them is not a problem either, but I don’t know if that’s really true. Tropic of Cancer Beach on Little Exuma If you still have time and rent a car, a detour to Little Exuma is a must. Little Exuma is the little sister island of Great Exuma and is connected to it by a bridge. The Tropic of Cancer Beach is one of the most beautiful and at the same time lonely beaches in the world. The sand is so bright that your eyes will water and it is very likely that you are completely alone on the beach. The approach to the beach is quite bumpy and complicated as it is unfortunately not signposted. If you feel like watching a video (unfortunately not mine) and can live with the fact that your eyes are about to get wet, shiny eyes – please be very: Since we have seen it with our own eyes: nothing has been edited on this video. The water throughout the Exumas glows just as blue as in this video. To be honest, it looks even more intense in real life … believe me, the Bahamas, and Exuma in particular, is completely crazy. Jolly Hall Beach Jolly Hall Beach is admittedly nothing special. It’s basically just another brilliant white stand with turquoise blue water on Exuma’s main island, Great Exuma. Why I still count it among the best spots in Great Exuma is for the simple reason that it is George Town’s “house beach”. If you live in George Town, for example like we did at the Two Turtles Inn *, Jolly Hall Beach is the closest beach that you can reach without a rental car. Don’t worry, Jolly Hall Beach isn’t ugly, it’s just a perfectly normal, super beautiful white Caribbean beach without special features such as sea turtles, dolphins, tame rays or starfish (which doesn’t mean you won’t run into them there!). National dish Conch: eat like a local If there’s one thing in the Bahamas, and Exuma in particular, that you absolutely shouldn’t miss, it’s Conch (read: Konk ). The conch looks like a clam, but it is quite a large marine snail. The conch seems to be something like the national dish of the Bahamas, because it is available in all possible preparation forms and felt on every corner: conch salad, conch fritters, conch burger, conch with conch … We tried conch salad and conch burger and both was extremely tasty! By the way, you don’t have to go to a real restaurant for this, you won’t find that on Exuma anyway. Just order a dish with conch at any hut you come across on the way. Street food, like everywhere else in the world, is the better choice in the Bahamas anyway 🙂 Incidentally, the lobster at Santanna’s Bar & Grill on Little Exuma should also be divine . The Conch Burger and Pig Roast (… .no, not the pigs from Big Major Cay ) every Sunday in Chat ‘N’ Chill on Stocking Island are legendary! Cocoplum Beach Cocoplum Beach is located in the very north of Great Exuma and is particularly known for one thing: As the sea level falls at low tide, more and more sandbars become visible. Not only does it look beautiful, it is also great for finding sand dollars. Sand Dollars … what’s that again? Short answer: Sand dollars are a type of sea urchin. They are very flat and you can touch them safely. If you want to take a sand dollar home with you as a souvenir, look out for the bright, almost white, skeletal dollars. These are the dead sand dollars, they are often difficult to spot in the white sand. The dark, gray sand dollars are alive and should of course not be collected and taken away. You see, there is an incredible amount to discover on the Exuma Cays. If you’ve thought that there’s not much more you can do in the Bahamas than lying around on the beach, then hopefully I’ve taught you better. One thing is clear: the real sights and highlights of Exuma are not on land, but in the water. For me, the Exumas are not just a few individual islands or a chain of islands, but somehow Exuma is everything – the islands, the bright blue crystal-clear sea, the underwater world, the sandbanks, the animals, the people, the tranquility, the seclusion, the Satisfaction and the deep connection to their homeland that every single native lives and exudes. The Exuma Cays as part of the Bahamas are something very special and, for me personally, one of the most incredible places in the world.
If you come to Jamaica, you usually have pictures of Caribbean sandy beaches, cool drinks and chilled reggae music in your head. So far right – but did you know that there are real mountains in Jamaica and that the Blue Mountains in the east of the island are an absolute hiking paradise? The Blue Mountains stretch from the state of Portland down to the capital, Kingston. At the highest point, Blue Mountain Peak, you can experience one of the most breathtaking sunrises in the Caribbean. In May 2017 I finally managed to make this long-cherished wish come true – experience the sunrise in the Blue Mountains. One would think that as a local resident you would certainly be able to enjoy such experiences all the time, but even as a quasi-local you need two things for a hike to the Blue Mountain Peak: time and good planning. No sooner said than done: Together with two friends we wanted to climb the highest point in Jamaica. The hike to Blue Mountain Peak was meticulously planned and prepared in advance – at least by me, because I was the only German in the group. I gathered all the information I could get to make the trip as nice and cheap as possible. The Blue Mountains in Jamaica The Blue Mountain Peak is the highest peak in Jamaica with a height of 2256m and the sixth highest point in the Caribbean. The summit is located in the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015. One of the world’s most famous and most expensive types of coffee, Blue Mountain Coffee, comes from precisely this region. Despite the tropical climate, temperatures in the Blue Mountains can drop sharply overnight from around 1500 meters above sea level. As is well known, the temperature at the summit is more often around 0 ° C at night. The ascent to the Blue Mountain Peak is usually organized so that you arrive at the summit at sunrise. Why? Because that’s a pretty cool experience. The last place to stay overnight before climbing the peak is called the Portland Gap and lies at an altitude of about 2030m. If you think of camping in the mountains – close! That is forbidden here. Hiking in the Blue Mountains Now that the facts were clarified, the hike, for which we had planned a whole weekend, could actually begin. Since we all agreed that it would be a good idea to organize the excursion cheaply, we decided to use public transport to get to the last point accessible by car. Since 75% of the group consisted of local Jamaicans, the route was quickly clarified: we chose the capital Kingston as the meeting point , as there are the most transport options and the best-developed roads to the Blue Mountains. Via the Peak Trail from Portland Gap to Blue Mountain Peak We initially wanted to go from Kingston Halfway Tree to Papine. From the Square in Papine it should go on to Mavis Bank and from there the last mobile stage to Whitfields Hall / Abbey Green . The last stage was (and is certainly still) only accessible by off-road vehicle, without all-wheel drive you don’t get very far in this area. From Abbey Green you should then walk towards Portland Gap begin (approx. 3.7km). We planned to arrive there in the evening to get a few more hours of sleep before the ascent to the summit – which, as already mentioned, is most beautiful when you arrive shortly before sunrise, which is why we planned to leave Portland Gap around 2:00 a.m. to the Blue Mountain Peak . So much for the planning. Once in the capital, Kingston, the first challenge was to find an ATM that would accept my Visa card. Basically this is not a problem. That day, however, it was one, and we had to go to a total of five different banks until a machine took pity on it and threw out some money. Experience has shown that in many countries it makes sense to always have some cash with you. Jamaica is one of those countries. And if I may allow myself the comment at this point: Do something good for the Jamaican economy and pay with the local currency, the Jamaican dollar. Although it is possible to pay in US dollars in many places, the prices are stated in JMD everywhere (except at tourist hotspots). Machetes, flip flops and the need for food The next surprise was when we met our friends at the Halfway Tree (Kingston transportation center). One of the two actually appeared in flip flops, despite multiple warnings (0 ° C at the summit … you remember) and the other had two machetes in his luggage. I would like to advise against both at this point if you are not native Jamaicans or have roamed through tropical jungle forests from childhood. I, or rather my husband in particular, were packed with groceries, hammocks, sleeping bags and extra blankets . Since we had already lost some valuable time looking for a functioning ATM, we had to hurry and get to Papine as quickly as possible get. If you don’t know your way around the Halfway Tree, ask the nice taxi drivers here. These will lead you to a side street where at least 3-5 taxis are always waiting for passengers to drive towards Papine. When you arrive in Papine am Square , you have the last chance to buy groceries at reasonable prices or to have a bite to eat again somewhere. So if you haven’t packed supplies for the hike, you should look around in a supermarket here again, because Mavis Bankis pretty small. Small buses and taxis run regularly in the square towards Mavis Bank, so it is actually no problem to travel from there by public transport for a low price. Actually. However, it seems that from an unspecified time onwards every afternoon (almost at rush hour) the buses are so overcrowded that it is quite difficult to get a seat without a relationship with the driver. Let alone four places. So we couldn’t help but take a taxi to Mavis Bank – which stopped halfway. But that wasn’t really a problem, because after only about an hour (not worth mentioning by Jamaican standards) the journey continued again. In Mavis Bank arrived, it began slowly to dawn. And then at the latest it dawned on me that my beautifully laid out plan would definitely not work. By now we should have finished the first 4km of our hike and have dinner at the Portland Gap ranger station . Fortunately we met a nice fellow traveler from Switzerland, who told us about a camping possibility. So the plan was quickly reorganized by the group and we decided to go to Whitfield Hallto drive, spend the night there and only start hiking to Portland Gap the next day. So we chartered an off-road vehicle and the driver brought us safely to the destination of the Swiss fellow traveler in the darkness of the jungle. The place we arrived at is close to the Abbey Green coffee farm and the last passable point on the trail to Blue Mountain Peak. At this point I would advise you to write down the driver’s phone number, as you will be driving back to Mavis Bank in the foreseeable future. Portland Gap: Spend the night in the Blue Mountains After a brief, very uncomfortable conversation with the owner of the property, in whose garden we had planned to hang our hammocks until the next morning, we changed our plans again. Get out of here, this person was spooky and we wanted to go straight to Ranger Station Portland Gap. Why not walk a 4km long, unknown trail in the darkest darkness? That shouldn’t be a problem for three Bush-approved Rasta men in sandals and a well-prepared, stubborn German woman. Ha! It wasn’t. To be honest – I really underestimated the first 500 vertical meters of the ascent, which were hidden in the small 4km. Quite overtired but also gleefully we stumbled through the gates of the Portland Gap Ranger Station . Even if it was shortly before 10 p.m., it shouldn’t be a problem to find someone in charge. Actually. There was light and some noise in the ranger station, but no ranger. Nevertheless, a construction worker received us, who kindly gave us the key to one of the not quite finished wooden houses and explained that the ranger was at a party. At this point I should perhaps mention again that you can finally buy food in Papine – but there are still bars in Jamaica even behind the last mountain. Tired and satisfied, we stretched our hammocks in the rustic room. Now the time for the triumph of my German diligence had come: there was enough food for a midnight dinner and with the two extra blankets, the flip-flops also got a little warm again. Almost two hours later we (not) continued fresh and lively to the last stage of the hike to Blue Mountain Peak. It was already 2:30 in the morning and it felt like you had to hurry so as not to miss the magical moment of sunrise. So three out of four members of our group set off without stopping at the single tap (the rest of the way). Or to notice that the flip-flop Rasta was the only one with presence of mind to fill his bottle with water, Since we were on our way to Portland Gap overnight had already used our flashlights, the juice in the batteries was of course limited for the last 6km of the again nightly ascent. You are slowly realizing it: planning is everything. But no matter, you just have to walk a little slower through the dense darkness of the jungle – which is not a problem if you are in a hurry and have hardly slept anyway. Fortunately, the flashlights only gave up shortly before dawn when we were already close to our destination. The particularly exciting thing about this excursion was really not knowing exactly where the journey was going the entire way there. If you neither know nor see an environment and just walk towards it without any visual clues, an extraordinary feeling arises (of helplessness …?). It requires a special level of concentration and willpower, which we find difficult to generate in times of extensive signage. Fortunately, someone at the summit told me that I had now reached the summit – without a sign I would hardly have recognized it at first (just kidding). Here we go: At sunrise on the Blue Mountain Peak Arrived at the highest point of the beautiful island of Jamaica, the sun was not long in coming. It almost looked as if the fiery red ball would rise in front of you at eye level. Pleading as if to salute the sun, one saw all the quivering summiteers stretch their numb fingers (and toes) for the first rays of sunshine. Slowly the warm light pushed over the mountain peaks and the whole beauty of the Blue Mountains finally revealed itself. The whole cursing about the exhausting night hike, the disorganization and the mishaps was suddenly forgotten. We spent a couple of hours on the summit because it is a really unique place. The climate is different from the rest of the island and the views are indescribable. There is a tall metal frame that was built as an additional lookout. From there you overlook four federal states of the island and can also look down to the sea. It is breathtaking to watch how the sunbeams suck in the morning dew and it condenses into clouds around you. Speaking of clouds – the weather on Blue Mountain Peak is just as changeable as anywhere in the mountains. As beautiful as the morning was, around noon thick rain clouds came in and we decided to start the descent quickly before we got wet. A second highlight was definitely the way back to the ranger station. Only now in daylight could the mountains be seen in their full size and splendor. Just like the changing vegetation, which grew steadily from the barren, low bushes at the summit the further you descended. A little deeper, outside the border of the national park, coffee fields of the famous Blue Mountain Coffee line the path as well as majestic eucalyptus trees. By the way, on the way down you can easily buy coffee beans from the local coffee farmers. Just ask when you meet someone … they will definitely help you. Tips for hiking in the Blue Mountains I have already given you a few tips on the way, but you are sure to have many more questions about planning your hike to Blue Mountain Peak. Here we go: Does it cost anything to stay at Portland Gap? And how can I imagine the Ranger Station? Yes, staying in the cabins costs something. The Ranger Station was still under construction in the summer of 2017, but already has outside toilets, washing areas, etc. More detailed information on prices and availability can be found here: Portland Gap Cabins (you have to call or write an email to book) Is there an entrance fee for the national park? Yes there is a fee. However, this is fluctuating, the current fees can be found on the website of the national park. The people there are friendly and accommodating. Since we didn’t meet the ranger until after the descent, we didn’t pay until afterwards. Where else can you stay in the Blue Mountains? While tempting to some, wild camping is not permitted. At an altitude of approx. 1500m there are some guest houses, e.g. Whitfield Hall . Can I do the Blue Mountain Peak Trail without a guide or Jamaican company without getting lost? The Blue Mountain Peak Trail is a well-developed hiking trail that cannot be missed once you are on it. However, the same applies here: Hiking is always safer in a group. The trail should not be left under any circumstances, for the purpose of shortening or the like. and remember that the ascent is in the night. Are there any other hiking routes to the summit? There are countless ways up into the Blue Mountains, but only one really developed hiking trail. The Blue Mountain Trail can be extended as desired, ie you can start the hike before Abbey Green, for example. If you want to roam freely and on untrodden paths, then a local guide is essential. Are there guided tours of the Blue Mountain Peak? Yes there is. As always from large and small providers. If you have little time available, it can be worthwhile to have the trip organized. However, if you have planned some time in the Blue Mountains region, it is worth considering booking a guide who can also show you hidden corners off the main route. You should definitely bring this with you on a hike to the summit of the Blue Mountains: A refillable water bottle. I like to use this here , because you can hug them together unfilled so beautiful and well stowed Torch and spare batteries, preferably a good headlamp . And a second flashlight, trust me Cash, preferably JMD, not US dollars Enough groceries and snacks Warm clothes, before sunrise it is very cold at this altitude Not necessary, but useful: A light rain jacket * (the weather in the mountains is unpredictable) Headgear, the sun is sizzling Because the sun sizzles at this altitude: sun protection for the skin Mosquito spray (my recommendation: buy Nobite * in advance in Germany or ‘Off’ on site. Autan will not impress the Caribbean mosquitoes) Selfie stick (last joke on the side) or a real camera. Worth it! Katrin, the main author of this blog, uses the Sony Alpha 6600 * . More about Katrin’s camera equipment while traveling.
There are places in this world that everyone has probably heard of before. Places that should be so special and beautiful that it can hardly be described. Those that you have to visit because otherwise you would regret never having seen them on your deathbed. Highway 1 along the California coast is one such place. Even if we always say that we don’t have a bucket list , but just let ourselves drift – the Pacific Coast Highway (or California State Route 1, Cabrillo Highway … Highway 1 has many names) was somehow one of our secret places to see before We Die . Two years ago I would never have thought (and probably neither did Christian) that we would see this place at some point in life, it seemed unreachable. And now we can put a big fat hook on it. We did it. We were in California and did a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway! But what exactly makes Highway 1 so special, aren’t there twelve million scenic roads in the world? Yes, there is. But they are not California State Route 1, which connects two of the largest metropolises in the world with San Francisco and Los Angeles. They probably also do not lead through the most varied of climatic zones and landscapes, through untouched nature, past wild animals that you otherwise only see in zoos, and through a mega-agglomeration that is second to none. In this post we will recapitulate a little and take you along our route from San Francisco to Los Angeles, in the hope of being able to pass on a bit of the fascination of Highway 1. We’ll tell you the highlights, practical (survival) tips and how your schedule should or could look like. Sights and highlights along Highway 1 San Francisco and the Silicon Valley As I said, we drove from north to south along Highway 1 along the west coast and in our opinion that is the better way. Why? 1. Is the northern section the more scenic. So you are right in the middle of it right at the beginning and can indulge your being flashed extensively. If you start in the south, you might even be a little disappointed and can’t understand what’s so great about Highway 1. 2. If you drive around on the outer lane of the road, i.e. directly along the cliffs. The view during the entire journey is incredible. If you start in San Francisco, then you have probably already seen the city and we would strongly recommend that to you. Don’t miss out on San Francisco! The city has a very special vibe, just like the entire Silicon Valley around Santa Cruz, Palo Alto and Stanford University south of San Francisco. So if you are in a similarly freaky mood and are attracted to Silicon Valley , then like to drive through these very unspectacular places or take a look at the Apple Campus in Cupertino. From here the world is ruled, maybe you can feel it 😉 Monterey and Monterey Aquarium The next stop is Monterey. Only a small town in itself, but with the Monterey Bay Aquarium you can see one of the largest aquariums in the world. The famous whale watching tours also start from here . The best time for whale watching in Monterey Bay is the winter months between December and April. It is best to book a tour in advance, there are many different providers. Also from Monterey you can reach the famous 17 Mile Drive , a unfortunately chargeable road that takes you 17 miles through the beautiful region around Pebble Beach. Since we were here in September and also don’t particularly like aquariums / zoos, there wasn’t much to do for us in Monterey, so we skipped it and only went back on California State Route 1 south of Monterey. And this is where the landscape really gets down to business: After you have reached the beautiful village of Carmel-by-the-Sea(believe us, you don’t want to eat or stay the night here, it’s one of the most expensive cities in California), the streets suddenly become more curvy, steep cliffs and cliffs open up in front of you, the wind whips your nose, you can Not only see the rough Pacific, but also smell and hear it. All of the pictures you’ve seen of Highway 1 so far have probably been taken here, on the stretch between Carmel-by-the-Sea and San Simeon. Tip: From here there is no longer any possibility of catering until San Simeon. Buy provisions for the trip and fill up with fuel. Bixby Bridge The first real highlight of the route is the Bixby (Creek) Bridge. Even before that, there are always bays and vista points from which you can watch the hustle and bustle of the Pacific along the rocky coast, but at this bay there is a very special photo opportunity with the Bixby Bridge. The reinforced concrete arch bridge was built in 1932 and looks really impressive with its massive, approx. 80m high pillars. To make matters worse, there is also a wonderful little beach under the bridge that you definitely cannot reach. Boo Big Sur and Pfeiffer Beach You are already at the height of the Bixby Creek Bridge in the Big Sur region, but the “real” Big Sur is yet to come. The landscape changes slowly after the Bixby Bridge, Highway 1 no longer runs directly along the coast and before you know it you find yourself in a scenario that you would expect from Yosemite National Park. The road meanders through a dense forest of meter-high coniferous trees and we are slowly beginning to understand why this region has to fight so much with fires almost every summer. Even when we drive through Big Sur, it is September, it has been burning for months. You don’t notice much of it on Highway 1 itself, the road is open. But the entire Big Sur State Park is closed, so hiking is not possible. The famous Pfeiffer Beach can unfortunately only be reached via such a hike. Keep that in mind when you plan, in the summer months you may not be able to do / see a lot due to the fires raging in the hinterland and the state parks. If Big Sur State Park is open and you are planning a hike, there are a few places to stay * here , but they are quite expensive. There is also a small gas station (also very expensive, please do not refuel here if it is not absolutely necessary) and the Nepenthe restaurant , which we did not test ourselves, but which my doctor (!) Recommended to me very enthusiastically when I did her told about the upcoming trip. McWay Falls / Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park This is by far the craziest picture that nature conjures up along California State Route 1. A waterfall falling onto a sandy beach and the whole scenario is surrounded by turquoise blue water and dark cliffs? All right, keep dreaming … Seeing this place was very, very high on my wish list. Since this picture first haunted any of my feeds (probably Instagram), I’ve started researching exactly where this crazy place is. Now such a picture is in our own Instagram feed . Bam. Unfortunately, the beach is closed to the public, it is inaccessible and can only be gazed wistfully from above. There are also some hiking trails through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park itself, but they were also closed due to the fires. Normally you can get a little closer to the waterfall along the Waterfall Overlook Trail. Watch elephant seals (Elephant Seal Vista Point) In San Francisco you may have already seen the sea lions at Pier 39 , here you can see elephant seals. They’re a size bigger, louder and smell a little stronger. Sounds fun? Yes! If you mark the Elephant Seal Vista Point on Google, you will not miss the right place. It is just before San Simeon and you can easily park there. The elephant seals don’t mind that so many people look at them, but don’t get down to them. The beach belongs to the elephant seals.