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HUATULCO, MEXCIO

January 21-28, 2014 Waterfalls, iguanas & butterflies, and a stunning sunrise!

sunny 37 °C

My first trip of 2014 was to Huatulco, Mexico. I was hired to photograph a Destination Wedding there :) The bride & groom put me up at the amazing Dreams Huatulco Resort. As I was going through my photos to select ones for this blog post, I realized I didnt actually take that many of the resort itself, but this was my room. large_IMG_4893-001.jpg

View from the beach bar :)
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One of 6 pools (3 of which were infinity pools).
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The resort was located on Tangolunda Bay, one of nine bays in Huatulco.
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I went for a walk to the other end of the beach where there was a pier (above photos), lots of birds fishing, local fisherman, and loads of tropical flowers/plants.
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I only had 2 days of 'work' while there, one day to shoot the wedding, and a second day to do more family photos, otherwise the rest of the days were mine to do as I wanted. So one day I headed to the Yee-lo-bee Butterfly Farm. I just took a taxi and paid the entrance fee once there. Taxi & admission was around $30. Much cheaper than the $80 the resort wanted for a tour! I met 3 Canadians ladies there, and we toured the place together, then stopped for freshed squeezed lemonade afterwards :)
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The 'farm' is a giant greenhouse dome filled with tropical plants and 100s, if not 1000s of butterflies! I think I spent about 1hr in there, trying to photograph each kind of butterfly. If your patient they will eventually land on you :)
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Caterpillar
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Also at the butterfly farm was an iguana hatchery! Bonus! They had Black Iguanas & Green Iguanas of various ages. They breed them here, then release them into the wild ... or so they say.
Black Iguana
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Green Iguana
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They asked if I wanted to hold them ... of course!
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The baby Green Iguanas were my favorite! So cute! They look like the little Giecko gecko from the commercials, lol!
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Colorful bougainvillea were everywhere!
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There was also a pond area at the butterfly farm with these odd looking ducks.
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After a few lemonades, I hopped back in my cab, which had waited for me, and headed back to the resort. Its really only a 10min drive or so, so dont let a cabbie charge you a ton of money! So on the drive back my cabbie decided to hit on me. First he asked if I liked Huatulco. I said yes. Then he asked if I'd like to move here. I saw where this was going right away, lol! This isnt my first time out of the country, I'm no fool. So I answered him with a big NO. But that didnt deter him. He then asked if I liked dancing. NO. He still proceded to ask if I wanted to go to a disco with him that night. No deal. And then finally he asked if I'd like to go to a nude beach with him! Hahahahaaaa, no thank you greasey Mexican, no thank you!!
Back safely at the resort I enjoyed a beautiful sunset.
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The next day I took a stroll through town and found a little spa and got a 1/2hr massage for a fraction of the cost of one at the resort's spa. I also came across a local tour agency offering all the same excursions that the resort was. I booked a tour to a waterfall. Resort's price ... $85. Local agency price ... $40! If you've never been on an all-inclusive vacation before, my #1 tip would be to never ever book excursions through your resort. Just walk across the street to a local agency and get the same tour for half the price. Literally. Resorts always tell you that the local places will rip you off. Not so. I use local agencies wherever I travel. Its the big resorts that are ripping people off!
The drive to the waterfall, however, is brutal! Long, potholes, twisty & turny, up & down! If you get motion sickness easily, take Gravol beforehand, and try to sit in front of you can.
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The walk from the parking lot to the falls is easy, but theres is 2 sets of steep stairs.
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But the walk back was a different route along the river with no steep stairs.
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The waterfall is named Cascada Magica. It has many tiers, a rope swing, and shallow areas for safe swimming. But my favorite part was that there were only 5 other people there!
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After a few hours at the falls, lunch was at a coffee plantation. I'm not one for trying new food, but I did try fried cactus (yuck), and hibiscus juice (yum). They actually put the flowers in water. Let it sit overnight. Then drain the water out & add sugar. It tastes a bit like fruit punch, but not as sweet.
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On the last day I got up at the butt crack of dawn to watch the sunrise. The sun doesnt rise at my beach, so I hitched a ride with the front desk girl's surfer boyfriend to a place called La Bocana.
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The sunrise was the best I've ever seen!
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There was a little pond/pool of water where the river ended with a perfect little boat with peeling turqoise paint floating on it. It was just screaming for a photoshoot ;)
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Silhouetted heron
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After taking more than enough photos of the little boat, I walked across the beach to the ocean where there was a giant piece of driftwood covered in birds sunning themselves as the sun came up.
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I was the only one on this beach, other than the friend that came with me, and a local surfer girl.
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2 birdies gossiping
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So many birds!!
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I took a walk to the far end of the beach where there was a massive flock of American Black Vultures. No one else was on this beach, just me & the vultures! In that moment I forgot I was in one of the most touristy countries in the world!
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I walked very slowly amongst the vultures. They didnt fly away, not even one.
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But they all had their beady little eyes on me! Every time I took a step they'd turn their heads collectively as one, and stare at me. I'd stand still and wait for them to go back to feeding, then take another step ... and they'd all turn & look at me again.
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They were busy feeding on a stingray carcass.
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Not gonna lie, I was nervous that'd they'd attack me. But they didnt. One thing I learnt in Africa is to give wildlife space, move slowly, and they'll mind their own business.
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Cute little hut on the beach.
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After 6hrs at this awesome beach, I had no choice but to head back to my resort. It was time to checkout and head to the airport :( But not before I found a cute little parrot!
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Thats it for Mexico. Next up will be Indonesia :)

Posted by ChantelleS 12:00 Archived in Mexico Tagged wildlife beach mexico bird waterfall iguana animal butterfly Comments (0)

MAYAN RIVIERA, MEXICO

Playa del Carmen, Tulum & Isla Mujeres, Mexico Feb 24th - Mar 2nd, 2012

sunny 28 °C

Me & my best friend, Jo, traveled to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico for one week. We stayed at the Hacienda Vista Real hotel in Playacar (a suburb of Playa del Carmen). It was not all-inclusive, but did include a free pool-side breakfast each morning. It was only $85 per night, booked on Expedia. We felt we didnt need an all-inc resort, as we are huge sight-seers, and would never be at the resort to eat the 'free' food / beverages or participate in any of the offered activities. It was a 15min walk to the beach, which is probably the same distance as walking through a fancy schmancy 5 star resort anyways, lol!
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Just outside of our hotel were these Mayan ruins. Pretty sure they were fake though.
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The beach!
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Not gonna lie, I was pretty excited for my Chunky Monkey!
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I have to say, theres not a whole lot to do in Playa del Carmen, unless you love to shop for tacky souvenirs or sit at the beach. There is however, an array of exotic animals you can hold for a photo which they charge you $$ for, even though the photo is taken with your own camera, and is usually blurry & lop-sided. Definately not worth the $20 they were charging, but we couldnt resist the cuteness, and so spent an entire day walking up & down 5th Ave in search of wildlife. The first animal we came across was this adorable, blue-eyed 1.5 month old tiger cub!!
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Jo bottle feeding the baby tiger. Look at his big paw!
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Snoozing with a milk moustache :)
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Next we came across a little Squirrel Monkey. He was smelly, albeit cute.
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Me & a parrot
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We found a guy with 2 iguanas ... a momma & baby :) Jo has 1 on her head!
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Iguana kisses - I was terrified it would lick me, lol!
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Look what we found next! A 5 month old lion! She was heavy!
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I put my finger in the lion's mouth and she sucked on it like a soother! The guy said 'If you feel her trying to move your finger left or right (aka towards her teeth) pull your finger out!' Well duh! Just look at her eyes!
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Entertainers on 5th Ave
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Here is an odd looking spider we discovered!
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I had the urge to try on the biggest sombrero I could find!
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And the smallest, LOL!
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One morning we took a collectivo to the Mayan ruins of Tulum for only 70 pesos! Significantly cheaper than booking a $100 CAD tour. The collectivo drops u off on the hwy, but just follow everyone else to the ruins ... everyone will be going in the same direction. Its only a 2min walk. There is a train that comes by every few minutes to pick up passengers and take them to the admission gate. The train is only 20 pesos, or u can walk the 1km no problem. At the gate its 57 pesos to get in. There are guides for hire, but we went in without 1 as this was my 4th time there. Guide, or no guide, its still much cheaper than a tour. The grounds are very manicured, and full of tourists. Theres not too much to see other than El Castillo perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the blue Caribbean, a few smaller ruins (none of which you can climb or touch), and a beach for swimming. If your looking for more history, try Chichen Itza. If your looking for pyramids you can still climb, visit Palenque! Theres 8 pyramids there, 7 of which can still be climbed! (This will be in a later post).

When the guards werent looking, I snuck under a rope and climbed behind this small ruin for this photo, mwahaha! (thats my evil laugh)
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The beach by the ruins. If you only want to visit the beach, you still have to pay the admission, as the beach is inside the site.
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There were iguanas everywhere!
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One of the many pathways throughout the ruins.
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After exploring the ruins a bit, we relaxed at the beach.
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Huge cliffs & boulders on the beach!
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Another day we took a bus from Playa del Carmen to Cancun (1hr, 30 pesos), and then a collectivo from Cancun to Puerto Juarez where the ferries depart for the tiny island of Isla Mujeres (10min Cancun - Pto J, 6 pesos; ferry Pto J - Isla roundtrip 140 pesos). Once there, we rented a golf cart for the afternoon and toured the island in style (500 pesos for the golf cart til 5pm).
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The golf cart rental company provided us with a map of the town. We headed over to the Avalon Reef Club. We wanted to see the King's Pool, which is a natural pool carved into the rocky shore by the waves. Its located on the resort's grounds, but is a public spot ... you will be escorted to it by a guard, who then stands there and watches you like a hawk til you leave. But it was nothing exciting, I didnt even take a photo. The resort sure is nice though! I would definately stay there!
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Just look at that water! :)
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Welcome to Paradise!!
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After a quick dip in the ocean, we hopped back on our golf cart and headed to Punta Sur, the southern-most tip of the island, where El Garrafon Park is located. It cost 200 pesos for a half day admission. Theres a few restaurants within, that are all-inclusive, alcohol is also inc, as well as zip-lining, snorkeling, kayaking, hammocks, infinity pool, etc.
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There were some paths along the cliffs / ocean that we followed for some great views!
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After our walk we had lunch at 1 of the restaurants ... nachos & cheese, and quesadillas ... and strawberry daiquiris :)
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Then we did some zip-lining. If you've zip-lined before, then dont bother with this one, lol! But if its your first time, then its a good beginner course. I'd zip-lined before, and found it rather lame, but it was Jo's first time and she was terrified!
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The view from the 2nd zip-line platform of El Garrafon
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Well, thats all for the Mayan Riviera part of our trip. Stay tuned for posts on the ruins of Palenque, and Mexico City & the ruins of Teotihuacan :)

Posted by ChantelleS 11:34 Archived in Mexico Tagged wildlife beach ruins monkey mexico iguana del parrot playa tiger carmen mayan lion Comments (0)

NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND, GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

North Seymour Island | Galapagos Islands | Ecuador January 17th, 2012

overcast 33 °C

There are tour / travel agencies everywhere along the main drag in Puerto Ayora. We stopped at Albatross Tours and booked ourselves 2 yacht excursions. The first one to North Seymour Island, and the next one to Bartolome Island for $570 for both tours for 2 ppl. So today was the North Seymour excursion. A bus picked us up at our hotel and drove us across the island, through the highlands, to the opposite side, where our yacht awaited us (about 1hr of driving). We took a zodiac to our yacht and set sail. The island was approx 1hr away. Its teeny tiny, all black lava rocks, cactus trees and incense trees. This island is a birdwatcher's paradise!
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I cant remember what type of frigate bird this is, but the tree its sitting in is an Incense Tree. These are the trees the incense sticks that you burn are made from.
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Magnificent Frigate Birds were everywhere! I was hoping to see just 1 with his chest puffed out, but there were tons of them! The best part about these protected islands is how tame the wildlife is. The birds did not fly away. You could walk right up to them and they'd just look at you. They have absolutely no fear of humans! Its quite astounding actually!
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Again, not sure what type of frigate bird this is. Sorry :( There were just too many types of birds to keep track of! If you are big into labeling your photos correctly, I recommend bringing a small notepad to write down their names.
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There were a few Yellow Land Iguanas and little Lava Lizards as well.
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We only saw 2 Blue Footed Boobies up close, and a few Masked Boobies too far away to get a photo.
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Theres no beach here, just endless amount of black lava rock!
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Blue Footed Boobie on the lava rocks
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And amongst those lava rocks are sea lions! Baby sea lions! SO CUTE! Also, marine iguanas are camoflauged nicely in the rocks.
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Sleepy sea lions :)
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Young Sally Light Foot Crabs ... when they are young they are black, as they age they get more colorful.
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After about an hour long guided tour, we got back on the yacht. Our next stop was Las Bachas Beach, which is actually on the northern part of Santa Cruz Island. Dont let the clouds fool you, it was HOT! Lunch was served onboard as we sailed to the beach.
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A Blue Heron I believe ???
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A colorful adult Sally Lightfoot Crab.
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After a bit of snorkeling at this beach we headed back to the marina for our bus ride back to our hotel.

Posted by ChantelleS 20:08 Archived in Ecuador Tagged sea wildlife iguana animal lion galapagos ecuador Comments (0)

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