We like to travel. A lot. Here are some of our favorite trips. If you want to see the pictures we've taken, click on the Pictures icon. I'll be loading some of our older photos, eventually.
Africa was nothing short of amazing. In July and August of 2017, we went to Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa (OK, we also went to Namibia and Zambia, but just for a few hours each). We saw giraffes, zebra and gnu. We spied cape buffalo and kudu. Our masterful guide found a leopard hiding in the bush. We came upon several herds of elephants, some over 50 strong, plus one that charged us after we startled him. There were more different species of birds than we could count and we stumbled upon a rhino at night. The highlight had to be this lion that came up to the edge of our camp -- we stood there and watched the thing circle just behind our tents. The lowlight involved a rough twelve hours in an open bush buggy over dusty washboard terrain but the payoff was so, so worth it. The icing on the cake were the warm and friendly Africans -- and this was true across all the places that we visited. Africa: we're already trying to figure out when we'll return.
We decided it was time to get back on the complex-travel-destination horse in the fall of 2016 so we went to Laos and Vietnam. Ha Noi was madly frenetic, Luang Prebang in Laos was delightfully sleepy (if a bit on the oh-my-God-we're-a-mile-from-the-sun side), and we finally ponied-up the dough to stay a night at the opulent Oriental hotel in Bangkok. The highlight was a trip to the gorgeous series of waterfalls at Kuang Si along with the nearby Moon Bear sanctuary in Laos. The lowlight was that Karen was assailed by some medical issues that really needed to be handled in the states and we ended up cutting the trip a week short.
The Balkans was a fascinating trip that we took in the spring of 2015. We visited Mikonos, Santorini, and Crete in Greece; Croatia; Bosnia and Herzogovina; Montenegro; and Slovenia. I'm glad we went to Mikonos and Santorini because I'd be sad if I'd never gotten there but they've really geared-up for the tourist and the prices are crazy. Crete, on the other hand, was charming and I'd love to go back (in spite of the really difficult economic problems the country is having). The highlight was a hike (I know: who am I and what have I done with Wade?) through Plitvice Lakes in Croatia -- what fantastically gorgeous scenery! The lowlight was the palpable feeling of deep-seated inter-cultural hostility in Bosnia and Herzogovina.
We used Google flights for our 2014 trip and ended up someplace we've been wanting to go for ages: Turkey. The place has a bunch going for it what with its history with the food, the culture, and the history (not necessarily in that order). The highlight was probably walking around Istanbul at night and seeing the beautiful mosques bathed in spotlights. The lowlight was probably walking around Istanbul at night and getting lost on poorly-lit, deserted back alleyways. I'm so glad that we ended up in this beautiful place.
We spent three weeks in Scandinavia, about half of it aboard the Russian research vessel, Akademik Sergey Vavilov, sailing closer to the North Pole than the Arctic Circle. We achieved our goal of seeing polar bears (WOO HOO!) but, in addition to them, we saw reindeer and arctic fox and puffins. Freaking PUFFINS! OK, so that was pretty cool. The rest of Scandinavia was pretty nifty, too, with super nice people and some of the best weather I've ever seen (but really, really expensive).
It was the best of diving, it was the worst of diving. Our trip to Indonesia in September of 2012 had, by far, the most, super hyper cool fishlife weíve ever seen. Five species of octopus (giant pacific reef, blue ringed, coconut, mimic, and the much acclaimed wunderpus photogenicus), nudis galore, lots of sea horses (including multiple species of pygmy), banggai cardinalfish, flamboyant cuttlefish, ornate ghost pipefish, freaking cool frogfish (including hairy ones), plus the usual suspects of south pacific reef fish. Oh, and Wade got the bends.
Thresher sharks. Un. Freaking. Believable. Plus a bunch of other stuff like actual clown fish, mandarin fish, and anemone shrimp. In May of 2011, we spent 2 weeks in Cebu, Philippines followed by a 3 week business trip in Seoul (which, while fun and enlightening, just wasnít diving). The lowlight: of the four ears we brought with us, three of them got infected. Karen had to see three different doctors in the Philippines and another in Seoul before hers were cleared-up. Yikes.
We'd been wanting to do PNG for ages, for both its diving and its diverse array of traditional cultures (the country houses something like 12% of the worlds languages). So, in July 2010, we spent a week, each, at the Tufi dive resort and in Rabaul (to attend their mask festival) where be boarded the FeBrina for another week of the best diving we've ever seen.
The diving provided many highlights including a pod of dolphins (seen only by Karen so it really doesn't count), shrimp smaller than 1/4 my little finger nail, and our first hammerhead shark. As for lowlights, having strep throat in a developing country can be an interesting experience. Luckily, it's easily combatted with a $5 visit to their local clinic (which looked about like you'd expect it would).
Papua New Guinea is a magical place, indeed.
We love Thailand in general and Thailand diving in particular so, in December 2009 we dove the Similans and Richileau Rock on back-to-back live-aboards on the Genesis II with Sea Bees. On the actual dive on Richileau Rock, we saw 4 cuttlefish, 3 ghost pipefish, 4 species of shrimp, nudibranchs galore, and so many lionfish it got boring. Great Thai curry for every meal. Beautiful, cheap, and yummy (plus the Thai people are among the friendliest on the planet). Was there a downside?
French Polynesia, which we visited in July 2009, is easily the most beautiful group of tropical islands on the planet. Moreover, it was a very sharky place: lemon sharks joined the dive group on Bora Bora and we got to see the famous massive swarm of reef sharks, albeit at a distance, on Rangiroa. Plus, a hawksbill turtle swam up to me and then pushed off my face when he realized I didnít have food for him. The highlight was probably blasting through Tiputa Pass at 10 knots. The lowlight was the horrific, bone crushing cost of, well, everything.
"Russia in winter?" we were asked. "Seriously? Do you guys own a history book?" Well, we went, anyway, for Christmas 2008. The Russian people were sweet, the sites were phenomenal, and the lines were even short. The highlight, in a bulging quiver of highlights, was probably walking around Red Square at night. Sitting alongside that, though, was seeing Lenin's body, watching people skate through Gorky Park, the cornucopia of Rembrandts in the Hermitage, the beautiful restoration of Peterhof, and even the stunning Metro stations. The lowlight, and we're stretching, here, was probably the Cosmonaut Museum -- it was closed for restoration. Russia in winter. Who knew?
Just Beqa this time (June 2008) and it was, as usual, lots of fun (though we miss the previous chef). The highlight had to be the incredible shark dive: half a dozen bulls, tearing up the floor plus a big, beautiful tiger shark. The lowlight was that the weather kept us from diving for a couple of days (and caused a migratory sailboat to get stranded on the reef).
We've been excited about going to the middle east, in general, and Egypt, in specific, for quite some time. For Christmas 2007, we went to up and down the Nile and over to Petra in Jordan and had a whopping good time. The highlight may have been seeing the Tut exhibit in the Cairo museum or seeing Petra or the Valley of the Kings or -- there's so much to choose from. The lowlight was the incredible stench of the Horus Hotel in Aswan -- and their make-shift bidet.
Weíd heard of the legendary diving in Palau and had wanted to go since we got certified to dive. We did, over Christmas 2005, and, maybe because its renown overblew our expectations, we were a little disappointed. The manta rays didnít show up to German Channel and we didnít witness anywhere near the diversity that we expected. Iíve talked to several people, since, who said that Palau was wonderful so we probably just got the luck of the draw on this, particular trip. All of that said, the Jake dive was a lot of fun (saw a baby cuttlefish by the mooring line) and jellyfish lake was everything one could hope for.
We have a great Irish friend who was gettng married and there was no way we would miss it. The reception was, easily one of the top ten best events of our lives. The warmth of Doreen's family, the traditional Irish music, the food, but most of all it was the privelege of watching the guests interact with each other. This was the warm family experience the movies try to reproduce but never quite accomplish.
We got together with Wade's dad, his girlfriend, and some of their friends for a raft trip through the Grand Canyon. The highlight was the phenomenally beautiful scenery. I did this trip with my Dad and mom when I was 15 and I just don't remember it being so pretty. The lowlight was, well, that we aren't campers and we weren't used to the heat and the sand and the lack of showers and the...
We wanted to get wet and we hadn't done Coz so, off to the Yucatan it was in July of 2006. What a wonderful dive spot! We saw all sorts of cool stuff including whale sharks in Holbox! The highlight, though, had to be meeting a great group of divers. Not only did we make some new friends on the dive boat, we also met up with a bunch of great people from ScubaBoard. The lowlight was the bug bites (not that we had that many bug bites, it's just that this was a pretty cool trip).
So we gave the Albuquerque balloon festival another visit in October of 2005. The highlight was a morning mass ascention against a perfect New Mexico sky, munching on a paper cone full of cinnamon rolls. The lowlight must have been the bitter cold the morning before (but we had to think pretty hard to find this).
Our daughter went to Europe with four of her friends (Karen and I tagged along, too) to celebrate high school graduation in the Summer of 2005. The highlight was watching five teenagers feeding pigeons in Venice. The lowlight was, if only for 15 minutes, losing track of two of them in London.
This trip taught us a lot about, well, running a tour. Karen wrote this stuff down and you can read about it here.
We dove Phuket with the Sea Bees dive operation in April of 2005. The highlight was the clouds of fish and all the different species of shrimp. The lowlight was the visibility. It wasn't the worst vis we've ever seen but it was 20 - 30 feet on many dives.
Boston and New York were the co-destinations for Christmas 2004. The highlight was, probably, seeing Rent on Broadway. The lowlight, if you can call it that, was the intense cold (at least for us California kids) in Boston. The snow sure was pretty, though.
This scuba diving trip took us to two sites on the Viti Levu island of Fiji in August 2004: Beqa Lagoon Resort and Wananavu Beach Resort. The highlight had to be diving with eight (eight) bull sharks. The lowlight was a tank emptying swim back through a heavy current on that same dive. Luckily, everyone came out of it okay.
We went on this scuba diving trip aboard the Nekton Pilot in April of 2004. The highlight was all the fish (more than the Caymans) including free-floating shrimp, conchs, gigantic hermit crabs, foot-long squid on a night dive, sand-colored rays, and schools of creole wrasse. Arminda's cookies were a close second (she's the Pilot's excellent cook). The lowlight was that we had two, count-'em, two diving accidents on the boat. Luckily, everyone came out of it okay.
Come Easter, 2004, and there's another business trip for Wade. I went to the Chernobyl museum (which was all in Russian or Ukrainian), ate borch and drank vodka in the local restaurants, and bought amber and Soviet memorabilia at their big street fair. The highlight, though, was wandering around Kiev on orthodox palm sunday and getting to hear magnificent choral music coming from the churches. The downside was navigating the subway system, entirely in cyrillic, where the maps, the signs in the subway stations, and the signs on the subway trains all used very different abbreviations for the names of the subway stops.
This was the Christmas trip for 2003. The highlight was the entire city of Siena (though Venice is always pretty cool). The lowlight was schlepping our luggage through some of the less desirable neighborhoods of Venice at around eleven PM.
In August 2003, Karen, Chelsea, and I went to La Paz to see the famous hammerheads of El Bajo. Unfortunately, we went in August which is not the season for hammerheads. La Paz does have very nice diving, though, and we had a lot of fun with sea lions, sea horses, and all the usual suspects. Oh, and we also experienced a category 1 hurricane: scary wind and rain going sideways in one direction, a nice sunny lunch on the patio, followed by scary wind and rain going sideways in the other direction.
The Caymans are supposed to house some of the best diving in the Caribbean so, in April of 2003, we went. We were rewarded with our first seahorses, Bloody Bay Wall, my first night dive, Stingray City, and the realization that jellyfish can be absolutely beautiful. On Grand Cayman, a very nice man cleaned my regulator after I got sick on a dive (the tripís low light). From there, we flew to Little Cayman on the worldís tiniest plane, landing on the most rural grass runway known to man. But, on the other side of that flight lived the best jerk chicken on the planet (which may have just been the highlight of the trip).
We went on this trip in August of 2002. The best highlight was watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat. The lowlight was in Tibet, sitting in our third hotel in as many days (1st had no water, 2nd had no room), having some trouble with the food, gasping for air, and working to help our sick daughter feel better.
We took the Nekton Pilot in June 2002 to Cay Sal Bank, off Cuba. We had some wild experiences on this trip like a 3 1/2 knot drift dive with a simultaneous negatively buoyant entrance by thirty divers off the back of a massive live-aboard dive boat. This was also the trip that got us completely hooked on diving with sharks. The highlight was discovering that you can swim toward a shark which would freak it out and cause it to swim away (and using this newly learned skill several times at the standard location, but not the day, of a shark feed). The lowlight was pretty much every minute on Bimini island (ick).
Headed to Hawaii to get wet in December 2001 and experience a trip of firsts. We saw our first shark, did our first one hour dive, and the highlight of the trip: we spent time with our first manta rays! We heard whale song underwater on the back side of Molokini and we witnessed, with horror, divers being ejected from the water by divemasters who didnít think their skills were up to the task.
We did a quick trip to the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in October of 2001. The highlight had to be going up in one of the balloons on Sunday -- that was fantastic. If there was any lowlight it would have to be that some of the events were winded-out (I guess this isn't abnormal for the festival).
This was our summer 2001 trip, taken in July. There were several highlights but the best was probably sitting silently at the bottom of a tidewater glacier listening to it pop and rumble. The lowlight had to be the cost -- there was a lot of bang but, for us, it cost too many bucks.
We spent a month between Australia and New Zealand in July of 2000. As part of that trip, we took a 3 day live-aboard to the Great Barrier Reef and discovered that one of the best things about diving is the divers (at the same time, one of the best things about Australia were the Australians). We really enjoyed Australia but we especially liked our time on Kangaroo Island (and, there, we especially liked the gourmet food at our bed and breakfast). We also went to New Zealand but our schedule was just a little short and we spent most of the time driving around the South Island. The highlight of the trip was diving with minke whales; you could see the intelligence behind their eyes as they swam by. The lowlight was getting caught in a current and subsequently being abandoned by our dive master.
After Karen learned to dive in the Southern California winter, she declared that she would never again dive in cold water. So, when we all decided to get certified (and Karen, recertified), we did it on the Big Island of Hawaii in February, 2000. The highlight had to be diving with turtles (though the octopi were pretty cool). The lowlight was the day of cold pool diving.
We did this in August of 1999. It was pretty interesting but a lot more work than we expected. The highlight was seeing Machu Picchu but the lowlight was when Karen ended up in the Quito hospital with amoebic dysentary.
This trip, made in February of 1998 was the best we've ever done. It was mind bogglingly beautiful. The highlight was having penguins crawling all over us at Aicho Island. The lowlight was extreme motion sickness while crossing the Drake Passage.
My boss came to me one day in December 1997 and informed me that we were going to Iceland. Tomorrow. Six days off the winter solstice. All of this, though, made for a fascinating trip. The sub-24 hour notice meant that it was no more expensive to fly business class (Virgin Atlantic upper class, no less) than economy. The timing meant that I got to experience several six hour days that consisted entirely of that beautiful orange dawn/dusk light. The highlight was probably that I got to hammer-out the design of a new DSP with three other engineers (I know, for a highlight, thatís cheating). Lowlight? Coldest day Iíve ever experienced.
In April of 1997 we visited Spain (Semana Santa in Grenada is pretty cool), Portugal, and Morocco. We really enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the Arabic culture in Morocco and our highlight was experiencing this, as well as the exotic sights, sounds, and scents, in the souks of Marrakech. The lowlight was getting our lives threatened (!!!) by an over-zealous hustler in Fes.
We took off for Cancun in February of 1995. We really enjoyed our two days in Chichen Itza and our highlight has to be seeing it in the twilight from our hotel room while listening to the music drifting up from the cantina downstairs. The lowlight was running out of cash when the whole system of ATM cash machines went down the Sunday before we were to leave.
Our daughter was 3 in the Summer of 1989 and we needed a vacation. The Bahamas introduced us to conch chowder and the much needed alcoholic beverage, the Bahama Mama. The upside is that we got a much needed rest in a lovely tropical destination. The downside was that Chelsea really didnít like the flight and the poor thing cried for hours after we got to Nassau.
We got married at the end of this trip in 1985 which, kind of, makes it our honeymoon -- if you squint. Apart from the obvious, the highlight was seeing Everst with a trio of new-found friends. The lowlight was getting metaphorically kicked in the head for 24 hours by various individuals in Dehli.
"Men wanted: for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success."
Sir Ernest Shackleton