Maho Beach St. Maarten: Planespotting on the world’s most dangerous beach

It must have been sometime in the 90s when I saw a report on television about an airport on a tiny island in the Caribbean where planes land only a few meters above the heads of the bathers. Of course, as a teenager, I didn’t remember the name of the island or the beach, but it must have been burned into my subconscious somewhere: I have to go there. There is no other way I can explain it to myself that I actually started googling at the end of 2015 and in mid-2016 I was on a plane to St. Maarten that was supposed to take us straight to this adventure to Maho Beach. The story is similar to that of the flamingos in Aruba – what must, must! Maho Beach – St. Maarten – Saint Martin – Wtf …? Most holidaymakers end up on St. Maarten by chance because the route of their cruise ship takes them there. But how is that actually called right now … St. Maarten – Sint Maarten – Saint Martin – St. Martin … or what? Yes. Both Sint Maarten and Saint Martin (each also known by the abbreviation St.) are correct names for the really small Caribbean island that used to be part of the Dutch Antilles. The different naming results from the fact that it is on St. Maarten / St. Martin gives a Dutch and a French part. Since the capital Philipsburg is a free trade zone, it is a popular port of call for cruise ships and thousands of cruise guests are “tipped” onto the island almost every day. The main attraction of St. Maarten is without a doubt Maho Beach, And we wouldn’t be us if we were too this nonsenseuhhh … not have already done this adventure . In contrast to the day tourists, we took a total of 4 days for St. Maarten and were able to explore the island quite well. Now there are the full load of pictures, at the end of the article there are a few practical tips about Maho Beach. Rush hour on Maho Beach Yes, there is such a thing. There is air traffic all day at Maho Beach, but the large planes from overseas and the USA usually arrive between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The flight schedule looks different every day of the week, so it’s best to inform you in advance which aircraft will land when on ‘your’ day. We used this overview of arrivals and departures , because the machines taking off can also be interesting if you want to head towards the fence. What it’s all about? The machines usually start with the butt towards the beach and are very close to the fence due to the limited space. The planes have to give a lot of material to take off, because the runway is very short and abruptly bounded by hills, which is why the planes have to come up very quickly. In reality this means that it is damn hot, warm and windy in the jet of such a turbine. The fence surfing at Maho Beach is quite popular , although highly visible warning signs are attached everywhere. Fortunately, there have been no major accidents to date, but we were able to experience firsthand that the situation can quickly get out of control. Somehow we positioned ourselves incorrectly when launching a larger Insel Air machine. We thought that we were pretty much on the edge and not in the middle of the jet of the turbines and suddenly a full gun went off. EVERYTHING has flown around our ears including ourselves! For about 5-10 seconds I wasn’t sure if this would survive because I was just stuck in the middle of a goddamn sandstorm. The final losses to report were: a contact lens and a hair tie. Buuhuu. So don’t make nonsense! I’m pretty sure we were on the edge of the spectacle and don’t want to know how the people who were in the middle of it were doing. But it’s also a fact: Maho Beach is fun. We couldn’t get enough of it and were there for at least 2 hours every day. On the beach itself it looks rather bad for reasons lying around (although this is quite possible on the edge if the background noise doesn’t bother you). You can also sit comfortably in the two bars on Maho Beach every now and then. The Sunset Beach Bar is good for planespotting, the prices for food and drinks are also okay (not cheap, but okay). Here you will also find the famous surfboard , on which the arrival times of the machines are dailyto be written out. Cheaper drinks are available in the bar on the other side of the beach, but from there the view of the arriving planes is a little worse. PS: Happy Hour starts at 4 p.m. in the Sunset Beach Bar. Bottom up! Practical tips for Maho Beach: arrival and parking In general, getting to Maho Beach is very straightforward. St. Maarten is so small that the beach is basically just a stone’s throw away, no matter where you are from. Arrival from the airport Maho Beach is located directly on the runway of Princess Juliana Airport (SXM), so you could theoretically walk to the beach in about 20 minutes (the road meanders and makes a few detours). Alternatively, you can take a taxi and be in max. 5 minutes to the beach. It’s stupid with luggage, of course, but if you can put it somewhere or have a stopover of several hours in St. Maarten, take the opportunity. Arrival from the port of Philipsburg Most holidaymakers arrive here by cruise ship. In Philipsburg you can either rent a car and jet off on your own or take a taxi to Maho Beach. The taxi prices on St. Maarten are regulated and are posted. A taxi ride to Maho Beach costs $ 20 , shared taxis are cheaper. You can find all information at Taxi St. Maarten. A drive from Philipsburg to Maho Beach takes about 30 minutes. Note that on St. Maarten in and around Philipsburg and Simpson Bay there is usually a traffic jam in the afternoon and you will need longer on the way back to the port. Drive off in time! If you want to rent a car and explore the island, we recommend booking in advance . St. Maarten is very small and the number of rental cars is limited. Spontaneously on site you will either not get a car or only completely overpriced. We always book with cheaper rental cars * Parking at Maho Beach This is also simple: There is a parking lot directly at Maho Beach with normal prices (we think we remember about $ 5). If you are a guest in the Sunset Beach Bar, the parking costs will be charged. Alternatively, you can look for a free parking space a few meters further on the fence around the runway, but there is rarely anything free there.    

Between alligators and pythons: kayaking through the Everglades

Admittedly, when we look at the pictures of our kayak tour through the Everglades, we get a little queasy. In some photos we are extremely close to the alligators and the terrifying thing is – we didn’t even notice it along the way. Because one thing is clear: When you are in a kayak on the rivers of the Everglades, you are no longer in your own habitat, but in that of the alligators and pythons. Man has little to report here. And you can be sure: Whenever you discover an animal in the Everglades – be it an alligator, a fish or a wild bird somewhere between the trees or the arms of the mangroves – at that moment the pairs of eyes of at least 20 other animals are on you and you have no clue of it. And that is exactly the reason why we decided on a kayak tour on our road trip through Florida , which of course couldn’t miss the Everglades: We wanted to experience the animals in their natural habitat. It was clear to us from the start that we would not do an airboat tour. The airboats are so extremely loud that they completely scare off even the last water flea. Firstly, this is pretty uncool for the animals, and secondly, you will hardly see an alligator. It is not without reason that airboat tour operators often combine airboat tours with alligator shows such as “Alligator Wrestling” to ensure that visitors see alligators in the first place and thus reduce their disappointment. Our opinion: it doesn’t work at all! So we were looking for an environmentally friendly alternative and came across kayak tours through the Everglades. That sounded like a blatant adventure and we didn’t think about it for long: we’ll do it! Everglades Kayak Tour: Start on the Turner River The day we want to explore the Everglades starts early. We got bogged down with planning the trip and that’s why we start in the morning in the east of Florida in Homestead, which is actually a bit too far away as a starting point for a full day in the Everglades. So we drive in the wee hours of the morning armed with coffee on the Tamiami Trail through the Everglades National Park all the way west to Everglades City. This is where our agreed meeting point for our kayak tour is: At 9 a.m. we meet Ryan and Ozz from the Everglades Kayak Company , who will take us on a private tour through the Everglades today. After a brief briefing on the situation, our guide Ozz drives us to the Turner River, where our adventure begins starts. By the way, there is a small sight to be admired along the way: the smallest post office in the USA in Ochopee! As we drove by, we almost missed it, it’s just a small white wooden house on the roadside. There is exactly one person in it, because there is no more space. It remains to be seen whether there are really many locals who drop their mail here or whether it is more of a tourist attraction. Kayak through the wilderness of the Everglades After a short drive of about 15 minutes we arrive at the starting point on the Turner River. The Turner River is located in the middle of Big Cypress National Preserve, the area in the Everglades where you can find most of the animal and plant species. You can even find wild pumas (yes, real pumas!) Here, which are pointed out by warning signs everywhere along the Tamiami Trail (a little hint: the Americans will explain to you that there are panthers here. For us, panthers are the black ones Big cats, in America panthers are the brown big cats we know as pumas. A certain species lives in the Everglades, namely the Florida panther. As we understand it, it is a puma. So don’t look out for big black cats, but for brown ones, they are harder to spot After we have carried the kayaks to the water with our guide Ozz, there is a small paddling and safety introduction. For both of us, who last sat in such a vehicle during a school trip in middle school, it is immediately clear how it works. We carry our kayaks into the water and off we go. Ozz is a pretty big guy, by the way, and tells us that he grew up here and is constantly camping wildly in the Everglades (the area around Thousand Islands is said to be amazing!) – we feel in good hands with him and we are sure that he is if in doubt, knows what to do We paddle slowly over the Turner River and let the impressions work on us. The deeper we go into the Everglades, the quieter it gets. At some point you can only hear the quiet beating of our paddles and the chirping of birds. We haven’t discovered any alligators yet and it actually takes a while to get there. To our left, a large alligator lies calmly in the sun and eyes us critically. Of course, we can’t keep the recommended minimum distance of 3 meters on the narrow river and so the pump is quite a problem when we have to pass the huge alligator. Ozz explains that typically 15-20 alligators have been seen at this point, but the water is so shallow that most of them have retreated into deeper waters. At the time of our tour at the beginning of April, the Turner River has very little water because it has hardly rained in the last few months – and so it doesn’t take long before we run aground with the kayaks. That means: get out! Into the knee-deep, muddy water in which alligators, pythons and all kinds of critters lurk. We’re really fed up and our guide Ozz doesn’t seem so relaxed either. In the end everything goes well and we are safely back in our kayaks. Alligators, pythons and … alligator fish? The deeper we go into the Everglades, the more water the Turner River carries. The paddling is slowly becoming more relaxed, the river is wider and we can marvel at all sorts of animals. Almost every tree has some giant bird that we have never seen anywhere before, watching both us and the fish in the river. We see more and more alligators at the edges of the river and you really have to look carefully not to miss them. The reptiles know exactly how to move in order to remain undetected. We experience a brief moment of shock when one of the alligators suddenly descends only 3-4m away from us and swims towards us … old Swede! Ozz had previously explained to us that the alligators are usually afraid of the big colorful kayaks and swim away if we get too close – this alligator saw it differently! We watched to get away and couldn’t spot the alligator either, but our GoPro took this photo: Do you see him? He’s right next to the kayak! Another creepy discovery during the tour were pretty big fearless fish with really nasty teeth. They just didn’t want to make room for us in the water and that we wanted to pass them with the kayak didn’t interest them. They couldn’t even be pushed aside with a paddle! They look a bit like alligators with their teeth and Ozz also gave us their name, which we of course forgot. Google says it was alligator pike, you can take a look at it… .ieks! On the way back we also saw pythons and that was the moment when Christian really worked up a sweat. He can’t with snakes at all, especially not when they sneak up swimming through the water. It’s really hard to see the pythons in the water, only now and then a part of their body or their head flashed out of the water a few centimeters from our kayaks … that was pretty scary. For about 10-15 years there has been a real python plague in the Everglades due to introduced giant tiger pythons and it is very likely that you will encounter one of these giant snakes in the wild during a kayak tour through the Everglades. For this reason, Ozz decided that he would no longer drive with us to the other side of the Turner River: There the river becomes really narrow and meanders between mangrove tunnels. Sometimes it is so narrow that you have to get the paddles into the kayak and paddle a little by hand – due to the low water it would have been much too dangerous. Getting stuck in mangroves between alligators and pythons is certainly no fun and so we were almost a little glad that our adventure came to an end here. On the way back Christian almost capsized because suddenly a fish jumped out of the water directly over his kayak and he was extremely scared! That seems to exist in the Everglades too: fish that jump out of the water almost three feet high … whatever for 😉 Information about the kayak tour through the Everglades A kayak tour through the Everglades is organized relatively simply. We did our tour with Everglades Kayak Company . A 3-hour tour costs around € 100 per person , full-day tours around € 190 per person. A competent guide leads you through the waters, most tours take place on the Turner River. Arrival and overnight in the Everglades The kayak tours all start in the west of the Everglades, so it makes sense to spend the night there too. The village of Everglades City is well suited , as it is also the starting point for kayak tours. There’s not much else to see in Everglades City, but the accommodations are cheap and you’ll be right in the middle of the action. We got a bit bogged down with planning and only had to travel for almost 2 hours by car from Miami in the morning, which was suboptimal. Equipment for the kayak tour Depending on how long you are on the road, you should pack food and drinks. Before you start the tour, it is best to go to a toilet again, because there are none on the way. You have to pack your cell phones and cameras waterproof, because the paddles keep getting water and mud into the kayaks. And if you should capsize … not good (for many reasons …). Otherwise absolutely vital: Because of the mosquitoes in the Everglades, you should definitely wear long clothes and use mosquito spray! But no car, please, you can’t impress the mosquitoes in Florida with that. In Florida there is mosquito repellent from OFF! to buy, alternatively you can order one from Nobite here, which works very well. We found our kayak tour through the Everglades awesome and we are totally happy that we did this adventurehave dared. If you’re not in the mood for the overcrowded and polluting airboat tours, then this is definitely the best way to get to know the untouched nature of the Everglades. It is important to be accompanied by a local and competent guide in order to make the whole thing as safe as possible. After the tour we heard that the alligators can capsize such a kayak, our guides have repeatedly emphasized that they have never experienced an unprovoked attack by an alligator. The fact that the kayak tours through the Everglades are generally even made with children speaks for us that they cannot be excessively dangerous. So from us a clear GO! 🙂

Swimming with the pigs in the Bahamas: We did it!

The swimming pigs in the Bahamas are such a thing that an outsider can hardly understand. I heard for the first time about 9 years ago (long before they got hit by the Expedia advertising) that somewhere on a lonely island in the middle of the Caribbean, a group of pigs were happy and contented and had a lovely long day Do nothing but eat, lie in the sun and swim in the turquoise-blue, crystal-clear water on a dream beach . So not only are these pigs living my personal dream, you can also confidently state that overall it’s a pretty weird thing. Anyone who knows us knows that we are into exactly such adventures : Because of a few pink birds to theFlying to Flamingo Beach in Aruba ? Check. Going to St. Maarten to Maho Beach because of the supposedly most dangerous beach in the world? You already guessed it: The swimming pigs in the Bahamas were mandatory . It took 9 long years until we could finally afford this fun and we can already tell you: It was worth every penny. Visiting Pig Island in the Bahamas Out Islands is one of the most impressive things we have experienced so far. Not even because of the pigs themselves, but rather because we have never, never, never seen such incredibly blue, crystal clear water as there in the middle of nowhere. The cute pigs were just the icing on the cake. Our heart beats for the Caribbean anyway , but THAT tops everything we’ve seen so far. In this article you will find out exactly where the pigs live and how you can get there. Where in the Bahamas do the swimming pigs live? The swimming pigs live on an uninhabited island called Big Major Cay in the Out Islands of the Bahamas. Big Major Cay belongs to the group of Exuma Cays , which consists of a total of around 360 individual islands. Only a fraction of it is inhabited, the main island being Great Exuma . A manageable 1400 people live in Exuma’s capital George Town. The uninhabited pig island Big Major Cay with the famous Pig Beach is located approx. 110km northwest of Great Exuma and can only be reached by boat (more on this below). Did you swim …? Joking aside, nobody really knows that. Rumor has it that the great-great-great-grandfathers and grandmothers of today’s pigs were abandoned by a group of pirates on Pig Island and then forgotten, another theory is that they were survivors of a shipwreck. Evil tongues claim that the pigs were brought there by resourceful business people as a tourist attraction. The truth is probably somewhere in between: at the end of the nineties, two men allegedly brought the pigs to the island in order to be able to take care of themselves after the apocalypse that was announced for the turn of the millennium. No apocalypse, pigs still there. They are still looked after by their owners today, read here . What do the pigs eat? Well, they are pigs … so the answer is everything. And with pleasure! The pigs are totally greedy, but have an eye on what you are offering them. The pigs are well looked after and fed by the tourists and locals, there are a few troughs with food and water for them on the beach. You can guess what they leave in the troughs: Carrots. So don’t bring them vegetables! The pigs, for example, really like apples and bread and literally pounce on them. Our tip: Get 2-3 packs of toast where it is cheap. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the Bahamas. As everywhere in the Caribbean, food in supermarkets is very expensive and cereal products in particular are not available at all or only for a lot of money. In fact, we have already bought the bread in the supermarket in the USA because we knew that it would later become a problem on Exuma. The tour operators usually have a little bread with them to feed them, but it is not enough. Bring your own bread! And don’t think you can kid the pigs. They see exactly when you have nothing to eat and are gone immediately. No food – no pig selfie 😉 How to get to Pig Beach on Big Major Cay That is the question that most of you are most interested in. We ourselves were busy planning the trip to Pig Beach for ages, because the information about it, especially on German websites, is really more than scant. A trip to see the swimming pigs still seems like a very exotic adventure and it is not easy to plan. The short version: You have to get on a plane that will take you to a bus that will take you to a boat that will take you to the pigs. So we make every effort to present all options as compactly and comprehensively as possible. If you have any questions or need help afterwards, write to us in the comments! Travel from Exuma to the swimming pigs As already mentioned, Pig Island or Big Major Cay, the correct name for Pig Island, belongs to the Exuma Islands. The easiest way to get to Pig Beach is from the main island of the Exumas, Great Exuma. Great Exuma with the capital George Town is regularly served by several airlines, for example Bahamasair or Silver Airways . These fly from many airports in Florida (the easiest is from Miami) or from Nassau (Bahamas). Nassau is generally the hub in the Bahamas, so no matter where you are from, you will rarely find a direct flight to George Town on Exuma, but will likely change in Nassau. We did it like this: We combined our road trip through Florida with a trip to the Bahamas. We found a cheap flight to Great Exuma (George Town) on our desired date from Fort Lauderdale with Bahamasair. We stayed on Exuma for 2 days (3 nights). We booked the return flight to Miami so that we had a 3-day stopover in Nassau. Which option is best for you is best tested at Skyscanner * or momondo *by. We advise you to stay on Exuma for at least (!) 2 days. Not only is the island incredibly beautiful and, in our opinion, spared from mass tourism – you also need a little flexibility when planning. In the Bahamas everything runs a little slower and more chilled than here. We had booked our tour to the pigs in advance (more about the possible providers in a moment) and two days beforehand it was canceled due to too few participants. Not funny if you fly to Exuma especially because of the pigs and only have a time window of 2 days! So we panicked a lot and quickly organized a new tour with very rudimentary WiFi while we were out. In the end everything worked out, but that can also be different! In such a case it helps Another alternative is: Take the ferry from Nassau to George Town on Exuma. Bahamas Ferries have regular connections. But watch out for the sometimes very long travel times! Depending on the ferry you are on the way for over 12 hours (and overnight), there are also not daily connections. Unfortunately, this option did not work for us due to lack of time. Here you will find accommodations on Great Exuma * . Warning: There is no cheap here. Exuma has about 2-3 high rise hotel complexes and with the comparatively cheaper accommodations you have to reckon with Caribbean standards. We stayed at the Two Turtles Inn * . Arrival from Nassau The journey from Nassau to the swimming pigs is rather unusual because the distance from Nassau is further than from Exuma – but it is possible. There are a few providers who offer a day trip by speedboat to the swimming pigs. But be careful – the prices are steep. For a day trip from Nassau you should expect around $ 400-500 . Providers who offer day trips from Nassau: Harbor safaris Coastline Adventures: We were traveling with this provider, but from Exuma. You will receive offers and prices on request by email, the booking is also made by email. Here are the options and prices , option C is the day tour from Nassau. Staniel Cay Vacations We find a day trip to the pigs from Nassau not ideal . The reason for this is that on this trip it is often only possible to visit the pigs. Because of the long distance you are on the road for a very long time, you head for Big Major Cay without detours from the north and then you go back again. If you are touring from Exuma, you are from the south. In this way you can drive the entire breathtaking nature of the Exuma Cays, see the most incredible blue water that you can only imagine and besides the pigs have some other interesting stops such as Iguana Island, diving in the famous Thunderball Grotto or visiting one Sandbank on the program. Arrival from Staniel Cay Staniel Cay is the closest inhabited island to Big Major Cay. It has a small airport, which is mainly served by the airlines Flamingo Air and Watermaker’s Air . So that we understand each other correctly: 8-seater machines land here, and not necessarily every day. Nevertheless: You can’t get any closer to Pig Beach. When you arrive at Staniel Cay, locals will offer you private tours to the pigs, prices of around $ 200 will be charged. It’s too expensive for Staniel Cay to be right around the corner from Pig Beach. We heard that you can go to the tourist office on Staniel Cay and ask friendly questions there … usually someone there knows someone who knows someone who can take you to Pig Beach for around $ 50-100 per person . The accommodations on Staniel Cay * can be counted on one hand, so the prices are accordingly. Have a look at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club . Theoretically, a One Day Trip with Flamingo Air can also be done without an overnight stay, but the planning was far too uncertain for us, so we finally decided on the classic, a tour to the pigs from Exuma. These tour operators will take you to the Bahamas pigs As already mentioned, the swimming pigs can only be reached by boat. Either coming from the north from Nassau or from the south from Great Exuma. Day Tours to Pig Beach from Nassau: As mentioned above, we are aware of Harbor Safaris (approx. 400 $) and Coastline Adventures (approx. 500 $) , which go to the swimming pigs from Nassau (Coastline’s offer from Nassau is hidden here under Option C ). Staniel Cay Vacations also offers a combo package ( around $ 500 ). Day or half day tours from Exuma to Pig Beach: Coastline Adventures : A full day tour including Pig Island, Thunderball Grotto, Iguana Island, Nurse Sharks on Compass Cay, lunch on a small island, preparation of a conch salad on a sandbank. Price: Approx. $ 220 plus landing fee at Compass Cay and lunch. We were traveling with this provider. Booking by email, you can see the price-performance overview here . Four C’s Adventures: You can book directly online with this provider. There are half-day and full-day tours ($ 110 and $ 180, respectively). The program is basically the same as with all providers, but Four C’s Adventures is slightly cheaper than the rest. However, we did see the boats and they are bigger than the ones from Coastline. That means you are traveling in a larger group and have less storage space on the boat (which would have been a problem especially for us with drones). Robert’s Island Adventures: We booked here first because they had very good reviews on Tripadvisor. The tour was canceled at short notice because there weren’t enough participants for the day. We don’t know how well-known and heavily booked their tours are, but due to this uncertainty we would recommend that you book elsewhere if you have a tight schedule. Booking by mail, price about $ 185 for the full day tour. Island Routes: Book directly on the website, but you pay almost $ 190 for the half-day tour . Not recommendable! Exuma Sunrise Tour: We hadn’t discovered this provider at the time during our research, but the price of just $ 100 for a full day tour sounds fantastic! The pick-up from your accommodation is unfortunately not included (and that can quickly cost money on Exuma, as taxis and rental cars are extremely expensive, there is no public transport). Make sure to calculate beforehand whether it’s really worth it. A note: if you live in a resort, do not book a tour to the pigs through the resort! We heard the resorts offer tours for $ 300-400, which is way too expensive! The Sandals Emerald Bay even brings tourists to a fake pig island , which is closer to Great Exuma than the real pig island. Yes, there are pigs there too, but they were brought there specially. The original Pig Beach is on Big Major Cay, don’t be fooled. If, for whatever reason, you should be forced to book through your resort, ask beforehand exactly with which provider the tour is taking place and where you will be going. Swimming with the sows: off on an adventure! Before we continue to fill you with information, there is now finally a load of pictures of the pigs. Oink! We started in Great Exuma by speedboat and Pig Island is the first stop on the full day tour. Unfortunately, the weather was really poor at the beginning and we even had to wear rain jackets on the boat. Little by little it got better and when the sun came out, we finally got to see for the first time in which incredible paradise we actually ended up! When we finally headed for Pig Island after what felt like an endless 2 hours and the first pigs are already paddling towards us, a murmur goes through our group. Suddenly everyone is in a good mood, you only see smiling people and nobody can be kept on board.             Our guides give us bread for the pigs and off we go! They are totally greedy and like to be petted for food. We found it pretty funny that they stand in front of you with their mouths open and expect you to throw something into it – an image for the gods! By the way, there are pigs who are very calm and patient and those who demand their food and jump up on you. That’s really cute – if it’s not that big 200kg pig that is walking around there. Pig hooves on bare skin also hurt – you better give them your bread!             Most likely, you won’t be the only boat anchored at Pig Beach. We were previously worried that the Bahamas pigs have become such a tourist magnet that you will trample yourself to death there – that was not the case. Although several boats were there at the same time, it went quite well and everyone had their time with the animals.               What bothered us, however, was that staying with the pigs only lasted about 30 minutes. We found it too short and would have liked to have stayed longer. On the other hand, you have to remain realistic and the reality is that there is no other way in terms of time. Big Major Cay is in the middle of nowhere (paradise, no doubt, but nowhere) and the drive to get there just takes a long time. Therefore, the times of stay are unfortunately limited, also at the other spots that you still visit. Cost of the trip to Pig Island Since the journey depends on where you come from, how long you want to stay and which route you choose is very individual, we can only give you a brief overview of what the adventure with the swimming pigs cost us. For the flights from Fort Lauderdale to Exuma and back to Miami via Nassau (with a 3 day stopover in Nassau) we paid around $ 440 per person . The Swimming Pig Tour with Coastline Adventures was approximately $ 220 per person . There is also a landing fee of $ 10 per person at Compass Cay. You have to pay this as soon as you disembark. Lunch during the excursion was $ 25 per person (and we are sure that this “restaurant” has no other guests apart from the daily tourists on the pig tours 😉) Total cost of the tour: Approx. $ 255 per person. Three nights at the Two Turtles Inn in George Town * on Exuma cost $ 210 per person . For food and drinks (self-catering) we spent about $ 40 per person during the 3 days (the Bahamas are extremely expensive!). As there is no public transport on Exuma, you have to take a taxi to and from the airport . The cost of this is a flat rate of $ 50 per trip. So we actually would have had another $ 100 taxi fare, but since we found someone who knows someone who knows someone … we only paid a total of $ 60 instead . So the total cost of a trip to the swimming pigs for us was just under $ 1000 per person. Ouch. We can only advise you: close your eyes and go through! It doesn’t get much cheaper than that. We took the cheapest findable lodging on Exuma, didn’t eat out, didn’t rent a car, and only drank tap water. However, the price includes the complete sightseeing flight, which also gave us three more days in Nassau. Rules of conduct for handling the animals At the beginning of March 2017, just a few weeks before our trip to the swimming pigs, a horror report briefly went through the media: Approx. a third of the pigs on Big Major Cay have died.And it’s true: Originally there was a group of around 20 pigs on Pig Island, now there are only around 13-14 animals (we didn’t count them exactly). Sand in the stomachs of the pigs could be identified as the cause of death, so fortunately tourists are not directly involved in the death of the pigs through incorrect behavior. However, we have seen some people who did really stupid things, e.g. harassing the pigs for photos or feeding them beer (the pigs are thirsty and need fresh water, so they learned to drink from bottles. Give them water, but please no beer, cola or similar!) No beer, soft drinks or other alcoholic beverages for the pigs. Drinking water only! Please do not sit or ride on animals’ backs (yes, really. People do that …) If you ran out of bread: went stupid. We have seen people hide sand in the palm of their hands under small bits of bread so it looks like more. The pigs are smart and can quickly see through the trick, but they accidentally eat small amounts of sand. Do not throw the feed in the sand or the water, but directly into the pigs’ mouths. Even pigs don’t feel like swallowing salt water and sand. Ideally, you put the pigs’ feed in the troughs instead of feeding them by hand. When the animals go under the little hut to their troughs, don’t bother them. This is their resting place. You can sit next to it, but otherwise leave them satisfied. Do not stroke or continue to feed.         Finally, one more thing that generally caught our attention negatively and that bothered us: Although so many pigs had died just a few weeks before, none of the local tour operators felt it was their duty to behave inappropriately during the visit to the Pig Beach tourist to prevent. On the beach itself there is a sign that the animals should not be ridden, hand-fed and not fed with alcohol – but nobody paid any attention to that. Don’t get me wrong, the people mostly behaved and the tourists themselves alerted each other when someone went too far (probably because everyone heard about the death of the pigs and was therefore naturally sensitized to the subject). Nevertheless, we also see tour operators as having an absolute duty here. At no point did we get any information from our provider Coastline Adventures on how to behave towards the pigs. We also see a need for clarification and action elsewhere: Many of the providers have Starfish Bay on their program for a day trip . What at first sounds pretty awesome (I mean, starfish galore, how awesome is that?), Has a bitter aftertaste on closer inspection: starfish … wasn’t there something? You shouldn’t even get them out of the water, should you? We didn’t go to Starfish Bay with Coastline Adventures, but one of the employees found a starfish during the trip and gave it to us to photograph. These photos were taken: At that moment we did not really know how to assess the situation because we had never really dealt with the topic of starfish before. And we were simply flabbergasted by this huge, colorful, beautiful starfish that suddenly made the rounds over the boat. We asked how long the star can survive without water and were told that up to 24 hours would not be a problem. Starfish are exposed to the tides in the Bahamas and occasionally get stranded at low tide, which is why they are used to periods without water. That sounded conclusive to us. In the meantime we have done a little more research and are pretty sure that we have been told nonsense.  

Holiday at the sea? 9 tips for great beach photos that you can implement right away

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 🙂

Jungle meets the Caribbean: In 40 breathtaking pictures of Jamaica

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 🙂

Places To See Before You Die: Havasu Falls

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.

Natural Pool Aruba: The Best Off Road Adventure in Aruba

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.

The cutest adventure in Florida: swimming with the manatees!

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!    

Exuma (Bahamas): With red iguanas and petting sharks in paradise

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.

Snuba Diving in Aruba: Diving on the shipwreck of the SS Antilla

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!