A Travellerspoint blog

SAN IGNACIO, BELIZE

San Ignacio, Belize Jan 11-14, 2012

27 °C

On the morning of Jan 11th we took a ferry from San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, to Belize City on the mainland. From there we took a taxi 2hrs to San Ignacio located in the Maya Mountains, only 30min away from the Belize / Guatemala border.
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We stayed at the Maya Mountain Lodge just outside of the city. It was a secluded, which I really enjoyed. We couldnt hear the hustle & bustle of the city at all! Only the breeze in the trees, tropical birds & monkeys :)
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The lodge had a communal deck which was a great area for meeting fellow travelers.
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The 4 of us rented a taxi & driver for an afternoon and visited Barton Creek Cave. Before I go on about the cave, let me tell you a bit about Belize roads ... they are the worst I've ever traveled! If they're actually paved, they have car-sized potholes. But more likely they are unpaved, and pure bumps & potholes & gravel! We had to take the worst road in all of Belize to get to the cave. It was only a few km from our lodge, but took over an hour!
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Getting geared up to paddle through the cave. We had little lights on our helmets and one flashlight per canoe. Other than that it was total darkness. We saw Mayan skulls, and old pottery, as well as stalagmites. I didnt take any photos inside cuz it was too dark for them to turn out.
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The opening to the cave.
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After an hour or so in the cave, we took the same crappy road to Big Rock Falls. This waterfall is not on any of the day excursion routes (probably cuz tour buses could never make it down this road), so we were the only ones here! Awesome!
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We also made a quick stop at the Belize Zoo. I really wanted to see a toucan, as it is Belize's national bird. We didnt see any in the jungle / rainforest ... so we figured we'd for sure see one at the zoo. No such luck ... earlier in the year a hurricane had damaged the zoo and the birds escaped :(

We saw this talking parrot that would say 'Hola' (Hello in Spanish)
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A coatimundi ... there were a few white ones too (albino???) but I didnt get a good photo
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Harpy Eagle ... this bird was huge! At least 2ft tall!
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Howler Monkey
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Grey Fox
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For $50 they locked us in a cage, and let a jaguar out, and he climbed on top of the little cage we were in and we fed him chicken and got to pet him through the cage while he was occupied with the chicken! Cool experience being so close to such a big cat!
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Feeding him chicken
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It licked Kevin's forehead! He said it felt like sandpaper.
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Well, thats it for Belize. We crossed the border into Guatelmala for one day, but that will be my next post.

Posted by ChantelleS 16:30 Archived in Belize Tagged san cave waterfall belize ignacio Comments (0)

AMBERGRIS CAYE, BELIZE

Ambergris Caye, Belize January 6-14, 2012

sunny 30 °C

What a gong show trying to get to Belize!! When you look on a map, Belize is only a couple inches away, LOL, yet we had to fly from Saskatoon to Denver to Houston to Belize City, and then take a ferry to Ambergris Caye. Ugh. However, in Denver our flight got canceled cuz the flight attendant didnt show up to work!! So we had to sleep in the airport and got on a flight the next day to Houston, but now had to fly to Dallas and THEN to Houston. Of course, we didnt make it to Houston on time, and missed our flight to Belize City. Long story short ... by the time we FINALLY got to our resort on the island, we had lost a full day of vacation, and all 4 of us lost our luggage!!

This is our resort ... Villas at Banyan Bay.
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One afternoon we went for a walk down to the Victoria House Resort ... probably the nicest beach on the island!
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To be honest, theres nothing of interest to do on this island. We rented a golf cart one afternoon and drove around, and still didnt find anything exciting.
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Sunset in San Pedro
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The only thing we did was go snorkeling on the Mesoamerica Barrier Reef (the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world ... 2nd only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef).
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Me with a Nurse Shark.
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Kevin with a shark.
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Kevin & Jedd snorkeling
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Stingray
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Sea Turtle
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Moray Eel
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Eagle Ray
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Our last day on the island we just relaxed with some delicious drinks! Then it was off to the mainland.
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Posted by ChantelleS 10:33 Archived in Belize Tagged beach island belize ambergris Comments (0)

TSAVO EAST & WEST, KENYA

Tsavo East & West National Park, Kenya March 23 - 26, 2011

sunny 33 °C

The #1 thing probably everyone traveling to Africa wants to do, is go on safari! There are several ways to book a safari, ranging from unbelievably expensive to affordable. Unless your wealthy, or incapable of planning your own vacation, I do NOT recommend booking a safari pkg thru a travel agent! They are so expensive! I saw a sign for an 8 day safari for $5999 per person PLUS airfare! We spent $7200 on a 3wk vacation in Kenya for 2 ppl! That included everything ... roundtrip airfare for 2ppl from Canada to Kenya, 3wks hotel, a 3 day safari to Tsavo East & West, all food & transportation, all other sightseeing, and souvenirs! Why anyone would pay $5999 for only one person for only one week is beyond me! I booked all flights & hotels on Expedia. As for the safari ... we booked it upon arrival in Mombasa. Every hotel has a tour desk where they can hook you up with a safari. But even that is pricey. We booked ours thru one of the many vendors on the beach. $1100 for both of us to go on a 3 day / 2 night guided safari. Thats more than enuf days ... we saw every animal on our list (except 1 - rhino), plus many more! The safari price included pickup & drop off at our Mombasa resort, transportation to Tsavo (about 2hrs away), 5 game drives, 1 night each in 2 different lodges, and all food & non-alcoholic drinks.

We were picked up at 5:30am at our resort in Mombasa, and driven 2hrs to Tsavo East National Park. Our safari vehicle was a pop-top van. In my opinion much better than an open-air vehicle. We felt much safer in here knowing that if danger approached we could just lower the roof! Also, all roads in Tsavo are dirt, so it gets quite dusty / dirty ... its nice to be able to sit down and be out of the dust. In an open-air vehicle you & your camera's lens would be filthy!
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Our first of 5 game drives started the second we arrived in Tsavo East NP. We passed through the gates and were on our way. All the roads were dirt ... beautiful red dirt! We definately dont have red dirt in Canada! And acacia trees!
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Huge termite hills were everywhere (as you can see in the background of this pic)! This one was taller than me!
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It took about 45min before we saw any wildlife, and suddenly BAM, theres a zebra right on the road!
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I just love zebras! They are my favorite! I love their stripes & funky mohawks :)
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Zebra bums at a waterhole across the road
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While we were watching the zebras, a herd of elephants approached! WOW! (can you see the adorable baby zebra?)
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Elephant family!
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The elephants raised their trunks and sniffed the air for danger before they crossed the road right in front of us!
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We expected to be searching the bushes for wildlife with our binoculars the whole safari ... but everything was so close to the road, or right on it!
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They crossed the road to get to a waterhole
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Elephants cooling off in the mud. It was awesome to watch & hear them play! This is why the elephants of Tsavo are red.
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Wrinkly elephant bum!
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We watched the elephants for about 20min, then continued on. We saw a baboon in the grass and a family of warthogs running away.
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Heres a shot of the beautiful landscape within Tsavo East NP.
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More elephants at another waterhole, and a huge Baobab Tree in the background. Those trees, and Acacia Trees were everywhere :)
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After the first day's safari we were brought to our lodge for the night ... the beautiful Voi Lodge! I highly recommend it! Its built into a cliffside, so views are incredible! We could see the plains & 3 waterholes filled with wildlife! Heres a picture from our room of the pool & bar that overlook the plains. The pool is up on a cliff so theres no danger from the wildlife.
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Me having a drink in the bar overlooking the plains & waterholes
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Just by sitting here overlooking the waterholes we saw TONS of wildlife! It was like a safari in itself! Heres a family of baboons we spotted.
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100s of Cape Buffalo and a few elephants approaching one of the waterholes! What a sight!
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Elephants at one of the waterholes near the lodge
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Umm, I think this photo is self explanatory, lol!
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This guy was scratching his bum on a rock!!
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Affectionate elephants
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Another view from the lodge
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I think this is a Blue Heron, but I'm not sure
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There were tons of these colorful lizards around the lodge!
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HUGE Rhinoceros Beetle!
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Thats it for day 1 ... a morning safari 7am - noon, then the afternoon was spent at the lodge watching the wildlife at the waterholes, and then a late afternoon safari 4-7pm. The morning of day 2 we were up at the crack of dawn to enjoy a free breakfast. Our morning game drive was in Tsavo East. Then we crossed into Tsavo West and spent the afternoon at our 2nd lodge, Ngulia Lodge. And the late afternoon game drive was done in Tsavo West.

The first animals we saw that morning were a herd of impala!
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The first waterhole we happened upon was right beside the road and was filled with 27 elephants!
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Fighting elephants
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Black-backed Jackal
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White Heron ???
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Herd of gazelles
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The next waterhole we came across was filled with Cape Buffalo. I love the colors in the photo ... like a rainbow with the blue sky, green mountains, yellow grass & red dirt!
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Look what we found standing on the road all postcard perfect!!!!!
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They stood like that for awhile, almost like they were posing for us! But then some idiot came racing down the road and scared them away!
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One last wildlife sighting before crossing into Tsavo West. Which one of these doesnt belong? LOL!
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Theres nothing separating Tsavo East from West except the Mombasa - Nairboi highway. So we crossed over and headed to our lodge ... Ngulia Lodge.
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The view from our ground floor room ...
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Waterbucks and baboons at the waterhole, seen from our window!
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We spent the afternoon wandering around the lodge searching for wildlife. Safaris are always early morning and / or late afternoon cuz most animals snooze in the heat of the afternoon. Remember we are at the equator, it is quite hot here.
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Rock Hyrax
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This rock hyrax was trying to climb a tree! He'd inch his way up little by little like this, until the branches became too far apart and he'd fall down and have to start all over again.
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Eventually he tried this 'spread eagle' technique with no luck either, LOL! I could've watched him all day, it was hilarious!
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Later that afternoon we headed out on another game drive. This is a Dik-dik, the smallest of antelopes. Tiny like a chihuahua!
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King Fisher bird
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Secretary Bird ... this was a big bird, at least 2ft tall!
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Guinea Fowl
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View of the landscape in Tsavo West. Whereas the East was flat and open making it easy to spot wildlife, the West was more mountainous and had alot of bush, making it harder to spot animals.
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Volcano
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Giraffe :)
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Vervet Monkeys
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Ostrich
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We came around a bend in the road, and BAM, there was a cheetah just sitting there on the side of the road!!! We were told cheetahs are rare in Tsavo, so we were very lucky! Our driver turned the engine off and we coasted up right beside her! She didnt run, in fact she laid down and rolled over! Just like a big kitty :)
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Waterbuck
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Guinea Fowl
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View of Tsavo West
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Back at our lodge, they had rigged a hunk of goat meet in a tree to attract a leopard & a hyena! This was only 20ft from the open-air lobby!
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Well, thats it for our 3 day safari! We also saw a couple hippos and 1 lion, but so far away I couldnt get a photo. So they dont really count. The only animal we didnt get to see that we were really hoping to was a rhino.

A few days after our safari we headed to Haller Park in Mombasa. Its a cross between a zoo and a wild national park. The dangerous animals, such as hippos, crocs and buffalo, are behind a 4ft brick wall (but I'm pretty sure a little 4ft wall wont stop a charging hippo!!), and the tamer animals, such as giraffe, giant tortoises, vervet monkeys, eland, etc, roam around freely and you walk amongst them!! When we pulled into the parking lot there was a giraffe right there just hanging out! I walked right up to him and he just watched me.
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There were also Maribou Storks wandering around. This guys looks like he's about to steal this van, lol!
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The hippos were my absolute fave!!! Before coming to Kenya, all I wanted was to get a great photo of a hippo yawning ... and now I got one!! This is my favorite photo from the whole trip :)
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Happy hippo :)
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Playful Vervet Monkeys were everywhere playing in the trees. I coulda watched them all day :)
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Blue balls, tee hee!
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We came across this Giant Tortoise slowly wandering around!!!
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Mama & baby Eland
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Orange Billed Stork
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There was a river with 22 Nile Crocodiles! At one point during the day the park's employees dangle a chunk of goat meat above the river and the crocs fight for it!
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There was a raised area where you could get face to face with the giraffes and feed them! Their heads are massive! Their tongue is 12 inches long ... they can clean their own ears with it! When you feed them, they wrap their slimey tongue around your hand and pull all the food off, leaving your hand dripping with giraffe slobber, lol!
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Thats it for Kenya! The wildlife was everything I dreamed it would be :D

Posted by ChantelleS 14:43 Archived in Kenya Tagged wildlife animal kenya tsavo voi ngulia Comments (2)

MOMBASA, KENYA

Mombasa, Kenya March 17 - April 4, 2011

sunny 45 °C

Including flight time & layovers, it took 42hrs to get from Saskatoon, Canada to Mombasa, Kenya!!! This is the farther we've ever traveled. We stayed at the Kenya Bay Beach Hotel for 16 nights. The resort was great! Good food, friendly staff, huge room with a/c & balcony, pool, etc.
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The only thing that sucked was the beach! I have never seen anything so ugly! Not once did they clean the seaweed off like they do in Mexico. Yuck! So much filth & garbage washed ashore every single day along with the seaweed. You had to wear shoes to go for a walk, cuz you never know what you could step on!
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There was no such thing as walking along the beach in the water ... this is what the shore was like :( Not cool.
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One fun thing about the beach though was the camel rides! For $12 I got to ride a camel down the beach for about 15-20min. I was pretty excited to cross this off my bucket list ... however 2 min into the ride, I realized riding a camel isnt as exciting as I'd thought it would be. You sit right on its spine, and it rubs your ladybits raw, LOL! I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be for a man!
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Look how he sits! With his legs tucked under / backwards.
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Kevin giving the camel kisses :)
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Peanuts for sale. I asked her how she balanced the bowl on her head. She was walking around, turning her head this way & that way, and the bowl never waivered. She said she was taught as a small girl, and has done it all her life. Just like riding a bike I guess.
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Colorful sarongs for sale on the beach.
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Early in the morning the tide would be out. And let me tell you, I have never seen a tide go out so far! The ocean would literally disappear!
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This boat was anchored the previous night in deep water ... less than 12hrs later and its beached due to low tide!
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First time seeing Ibis birds!
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One morning we bumped into some local fishermen who were on their way out to catch octopuses! The invited us along, and before we knew it we were on a 'sea safari'! They showed us all kinds of sea creatures in the shallow water. But first, let me tell you how HOT shallow water in Kenya is! Yes, I said hot. Up to knee deep, the water is hot like in a hot tub. I'm not joking. Sometimes it gets so hot I curl my toes cuz its burning. Why? Cuz we're at the equator and its +45C everyday here! The heat is unbearable, and the shallow water practically comes to a boiling point! From knee deep to thigh deep its perfectly warm. But when its +45C out, you dont want warm water, you want cold water to jump into! Once you hit shoulder deep, it gets cool, but never cold.
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They caught a crab for us ...
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... and some yucky Sea Spiders ...
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... a sea urchin & a sea cucumber ...
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... cute little baby lobsters ...
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... and a squid - at least thats what they told us this was, but I'm not too sure.
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Another day we went sailing on an African Dhow.
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It seemed to be held together with ropes! The mast was bamboo, and the sails were old sheets sewn together, lol! The actual boat was carved out of a mango tree trunk!large_DSCN0001-1.jpg
We stopped for a bit of snorkeling and found these 2 colorful starfish! Also in this photo you can see how deep / narrow the boat was.
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We stopped at Copacabana Beach for lunch. I ordered chicken, and literally got a whole chicken! And Kev ordered tuna, and got 2 full tuna ... skin, eyeballs & tail included.
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The next day we visited the wood carving factory. It was amazing seeing them turn a chunk of wood into beautiful animals, bowls, statues, etc. They were all so proud of their work, and all wanted me to take a photo of them with it.
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Right beside the factory was a store where finished products are sold.
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Me trying to get my arms around a HUGE 900yr old Baobab Tree nearby.
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The colorful spice market in Mombasa.
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And of course we had to buy some safari hats for our upcoming safari! ... no one actually wears them, so we found out. Total tourist trap, lol!
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Posted by ChantelleS 18:04 Archived in Kenya Tagged beach kenya mombasa bamburi Comments (1)

ANGKOR, CAMBODIA

Angkor ruins, Cambodia Feb 28, 2010

sunny 44 °C

We were too lazy to get up and watch the sunrise over the ruins of Angkor Wat, and to this day I regret it when I see other people's surreal photos of it! So get your lazy butts out of bed and go see it! We rolled outta bed around 8:30am, had breakfast, and then rented a tuk-tuk & driver for $30 for the full day (right til sunset!), and headed to the ruins, only a short drive from our hotel. It cost $40US for the both of us for a 1 day pass. First stop ... Angkor Wat itself! Unfortunately the south side was covered in green scaffolding, so I made this photo black & white so you cant see it as much ;)
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Inside the ruins . . .
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Dancing shiva carvings . . .
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Then we took our tuk-tuk to the ruins of Bayon. There are bicycles for rent, but DONT do it! It was +44C with no breeze at all! I drank 4L of water and only peed once the entire day! It was the hottest, most sweatiest day of my life! The ruins are far apart, so dont waste your energy biking around, save it for exploring the ruins! Heat stroke is no joke! We passed through the Angkor Thom gate lined with Buddhas to get there.
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Every possible surface had the carving of a Buddha face!
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Next up, Ta Prohm! These ruins are still in their original state ... completely over-taken by Strangler Figs. Scenes from Laura Croft Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie were filmed here. Unfortunately platforms have been built and ropes have been hung to make walkways to keep tourists off the ruins. It makes the place quite tacky. But if you can look passed that, its stunning!
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We paid our driver a little extra to take us to Banteay Srei. Waste of time really. All the postcards show these beautiful pink ruins reflecting on a pond. Well the pond was mostly dried up, and the water that was there was covered in algae, so there was no reflection. The ruins were pink sandstone which was different than the other ruins which are made of black lavastone. But they are very small in comparison to the other ruins ... and waaaaay outta the way. I dont recommend wasting your time driving out there. Not even gonna post a pic thats how unimpressed I was. But heres a photo of our filthy filthy feet after a long, hot & sweaty day of exploring!
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Posted by ChantelleS 21:52 Archived in Cambodia Tagged temple ruins cambodia angkor Comments (0)

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