Manta Ray!

Manta Ray by Jenifer DeLemont
A Manta Ray swimming at Gun Beach.

It’s unfortunate that rays are such a rare sight on Guam. My husband and I have been snorkeling nearly every weekend that we have lived here, but we never say one.

Yesterday, we finally saw one for the first time ever and it was glorious. It went gliding along the ocean floor in front of us and it was beautiful. It’s hard to tell scale under water, but it was big. I would guess about four or five feet across; maybe a little more.

 

 

If it helps for scale, we were snorkeling on the surface of the water about 30 feet from the ocean floor. Anyway, it was a magical experience and I am really glad that we got to have it before we moved to Hawaii.

Manta Ray by Jenifer DeLemont.
One more of the Manta Ray.

If you check out my YouTube Channel, you can find a lot of the other amazing sea life that we have seen here on Guam.

We have come across a lot of stunning things, from turtles to cowrie shells, and even a friendly barracuda. It has been a real adventure living here, and I’ll miss it when we go.

Guam Snorkel and Dive Spots

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Tanguisson Beach

Tangussion: Snorkeling in Shallow water; no diving.
Access: Everyone.

Out past Two Lover’s Point down a thoroughly sketchy road, you will find Tanguisson Beach. It is the site of an old power plant. Now that the plant is shut down, you can go swimming in the area where the hot water used to come out. You can even see some fish there. However, people mostly go to Tanguisson to sit on the beach. The sand is white, the water is blue, and everything is beautiful.

If you look to the right side, you will see a path hidden at the edge of a cove. Following this path takes you to the second part of Tanguisson. This has some iconic rocks that people usually take really stunning pictures with.

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Second Beach at Tanguisson

The water is shallow at Tanguisson, but you can swim there. Once upon a time in 2016, it used to be a place where you could see hundreds of sea urchins. However, an explosion in the puffer fish population happened in the spring of 2017, and the puffer fish ate all the sea urchins.

Much of the coral bleached in the big bleaching events in the summer of 2015 and 2017. However, there are still some fish and corals living there. The key thing to remember is to not go past the reef. This is an area that is known for dangerous tides, sharp rocks, and no lifeguards. If you go on a weekday, you will likely be the only one there. If you are swept out to sea, no one will know.

Given that, I recommend that you go swim in the shallows. Look at the fish, take pictures with the rocks, and lounge on the empty beach. Collect sea glass, which is often found there. Have a picnic. But don’t go beyond the reef.

Tanguisson Under Water

Gab Gab: Snorkeling or Diving in Deep Water.
Access: Restricted. 

If you are looking for some deeper water, Gab Gab Beach is one of the best places to go. It has easy water access because of the stairs, and it even has showers. This is a very popular place for both snorkeling and scuba diving.

However, Gab Gab is on the Navy Base. That means that if you don’t have a military ID, you need to find someone who does in order to go there. This is kind of a bummer if you are a tourist, or a local with no military ID.

On the upside, if you can go there, you will find it less crowded than other places because access is restricted.

Gab Gab Entry Point

I like to go to Gab Gab because it is easy to get into the water. There is no long wade or swim to get out to the reef. And, the water is calm because it is inside of a harbor and is therefore protected from currents and tides that might otherwise prove problematic.

I also like to go to Gab Gab because it is a brilliant place to see turtles. They tend to enjoy spending time in some of the more shallow areas where they can bask in the sun. They also swim over to the boats at the port, and eat algae off the sides. Any day that I go snorkel or dive and see a turtle is a good day in my book. They really are magical.

Gab Gab was effected by the bleaching event in the summer of 2017, and some of the corals in the more shallow areas died. However, the deeper reef is still intact and as beautiful as ever.

Gab Gab Under Water

Gun Beach: Snorkeling or diving in deep water. 
Access: Everyone. 

Another fabulous place to snorkel or dive is Gun Beach. A quick word of warning: About every six months, someone dies at Gun Beach. Therefore, I need you to listen up to the warning I am about to give you:

This is a reef that is not enclosed in any way. There are waves, currents, and tides. If you see white caps when you look out, do not get in the water. Just hop back in your car and go to a different spot for the day.

The people who die at Gun Beach are usually scuba divers who go out too far, and then get caught in a current and pulled out to sea. They only find the bodies about half the time. Please don’t leave the safety of the reef, and do not go out when the water is choppy.

Gun Beach

Most of the time, the water is smooth as glass and it is perfectly safe to snorkel or dive at Gun Beach. You park out by the Beach Bar, and then walk out to the water. Look for the pipes, and follow them out to the reef.

The water is colder than anywhere else on the island. If you are used to Hawaii water temperatures or colder, you will be fine. However, if you are used to the tropics, I recommend wearing a rash guard and pants.

The reef is beautiful. There are so many kinds of corals and fish! A lot of times you see bigger things too, like giant porcupine puffers, octopus, and huge schools of trigger fish. This is easily one of my favorite places to snorkel, and the swim out really isn’t that bad. I would note that the swim out is much easier at high tide, so keep that in mind. However, you can really make it out at any time of day.

As long as you do it on a calm day, Gun Beach is amazing. I highly recommend it.

Gun Beach Under Water

The Spanish Steps: Snorkel in Shallow Water; no Diving. 
Access: Restricted. 

The Spanish Steps is another one of the beaches with restricted access. Like Gab Gab, it is on Navel Base Guam. Unlike Gab Gab, there is no easy access to this snorkel spot. You will have to hike in, and the trail is steep and dangerous.

If you go, I recommend hiking boots, long pants, and climbing gloves for the parts so steep that you have to use the ropes provided. It’s not a long high, but it is a very intense high. I wouldn’t bring small children or anyone with any major physical limitations.

However, if you can make the hike, this tiny pocket of life is really very pretty. Obviously you can’t dive there, but the snorkeling is awesome!

Spanish Steps Beach

The Spanish Steps are at the very end of Orote Point. You can’t go out into the open water because the waves and currents are crazy. However, inside the shelter of the rocks, you can see all kinds of fish and larger marine animals.

I have seen some of the best anemones, eels, and schools of fish that I have ever seen on Guam at the Spanish Steps.

Go at High Tide. It is the only time you will be able to swim over the coral. If you go at low tide, you can’t do anything except float in a little pool of water. At high tide, you can glide over coral gardens and see lots of cool fish.

Spanish Steps Under Water

Fish Eye Marine Park: Snorkeling or diving in deep water.
Access: Everyone.

Fish Eye Marine Park is my favorite place on Guam. There is no easy access. At high tide, it is a long swim out. At low tide, it is a slippery and dangerous walk. However, once you get past the long, shallow coral shelf, you will see the most amazing things!

There are a lot of advantages to going to Fish Eye. First, it’s easy to see where to get in. You just head out under the walkway for the observatory. The parking lot is right there. Once you get into deep water, you have so many options!

Fish Eye has a double reef, which means that you can swim along and follow the reef to the left or right. However, you can also go straight out through the deep water. I know that sounds scary. The first time I did it, I was nervous. However, you soon come to a second reef spanning hundreds of meters out to the wave break and full of corals and life.

Fish Eye Marine Park

Another great thing to do at Fish Eye is to swim out to the left. Once you get past the rows of sea grass, you can swim to the left in a HUGE area called the Piti Bomb Hole Preserve. There are so many deep areas where bombs made holes in WWII, and the edges are ringed with exciting corals.

I have seen turtles, sharks, huge schools of all kinds of fish, a barracuda, and so much more! It is the only place around Guam that I have ever seen cowrie shells. There are angelfish and spiny toad fish and all kinds of wonderful things. It is definitely worth checking out.

If you bring scuba gear, I recommend swimming once around the base of the Fish Eye Observatory. It looks like a giant tin can under water, but a huge variety of fish live there because the Fish Eye people regularly throw chum in the water. Then head to the left towards the Piti Bomb Holes, where you will find plenty of deep places to explore.

Fish Eye is often a little crowded. However, there is still nowhere else I love as much. Just be sure to wear a long-sleeve rash guard and long pants. Maybe even a bandanna over your hair and gloves. Jelly fish are often sighted there, and they cant sting you through clothes. It’s better safe than sorry since you want to make sure you have a good time.

If you don’t have clothes to wear in the water, there is a dive shop right across the street from the Marine Park, and they have all kinds of cool options.

Fish Eye Under Water

Old Wives Beach: Shallow and Deep Water Snorkeling. Diving only by boat. 
Access: Restricted. 

Old Wives Beach is one of the most dangerous beaches I have ever been to. If you feel the need to go, do it at high tide and make sure there are no storms in the area. It is a long slog to get out to the deeper water. The rocks are sharp, and often the waves can be forceful.

Once you get out to where you can easily swim, you have options. To your left you will see a little island, and on the other side of that is Dadi Beach. There are often spinner dolphins sighted there.

To the right is Tarzan Cave and Orote Point.

Old Wives Beach

The sea floor is littered with trash. The military dumped a lot of things there during the war. Make sure you don’t touch anything if you are diving. The military believes that there could be un-exploded munitions down there.

There are lots of turtles and other large animals who like to hide among the trash. If you dive there, it will have to be on a boat out of the Agat Marina, because you would never get out to the deep water with gear on.

That said, I have seen some schools of fish, a dolphin, and several turtles. So, if you are willing to brave the waves, tides, and sharp rocks, you might see some cool stuff.

Old Wives Underwater

Tumon Bay: Shallow Snorkeling; No Diving.
Access: Everyone

Tumon Bay is the area where all the resorts are. If you stay at any of the major hotels, this is what you will see from your window and this is the place you can walk to the water.

The water in Tumon Bay is very shallow, even at high tide. There are not many places that you won’t be able to stand up. As long as you stay inside the bay, it is a perfectly safe place to be. However, some people like to go out to the edge of the bay and jump into the deep water. I actually watched someone do this, and they were swept out to sea. The recue crews had a very fast response time, and they were there within minutes. However, they never found the guy’s body.

It’s fine to do a drift dive out there past the reef with one of the tour companies. When a boat is monitoring you and you have dive gear and a safety sausage (required for all boat dives on Guam) then you are safer. But as a swimmer with just a snorkel mask, you chances are not so good.

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Tumon Bay

So what can you see in Tumon Bay? Well, count on lots and lots of trigger fish. The most common kind that you will see are called Picasso Trigger Fish here, but in Hawaii I noted that they are called Black Bar Trigger Fish. Either way, we have a lot of them in Tumon Bay. We also have ells, schools of various baby fish, and all kinds of other stuff.

Wear coral shoes even though it seems like the sand is safe. Lots of things live in that sand, and from long-horned cowfish to eels, you don’t want to step on them.

There is a very strong current when there are storms. This can make it a real challenge without fins. Don’t go in the water when the current is really strong because it will suck you over to Gun Beach and out to sea.

Tumon Bay Underwater

Boat Dives

Most dives on Guam are done from a boat, because shore access is limited. There are several options for companies to take you diving, but go with MDA. They are the best, and have access to the most places.

You will need a safety sausage to do a boat dive on Guam. Most boat dives are drift dives because of the currents, and you need to have a way to signal the boat to come pick you up. You can rent all the gear you need except for the safety sausage, so bring one or be prepared to buy one.

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Sunset over Tumon Bay

Just Photos Around Guam

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This is me at the top of Mt. Lam Lam. There are not a lot of mountains to climb, so I just climb the same one over and over. Island life, huh?

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This is the “desert” side of the island down South. There are a lot of trails to valleys with waterfalls and pools to swim in. I like the tall grass and the red dirt. They contrast well with the blue sky and the fluffy clouds.

 

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This is me with the first waterfalls that you come to on the Tarzan Falls hike. They are smaller than the main waterfall, but still pretty.

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This is Tumon Bay, where we live. It is the most beautiful view I have ever had, and I know we’ll never have such a beautiful view out of our windows again.

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These are wildflowers out on the trail. Usually you just see types of ground orchids, but these pretty lacy flowers are new to me.

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Rich and I at Hamamoto Fruit World. It is basically just a really big orchard for tropical fruit trees, but I really liked it because I love plants.

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This is the view from Two Lover’s Point. You are looking down at Tumon Bay, and one of the short little buildings in the middle is our condo building.

passion flower

This is my favorite flower. It is called a Passion Flower. They come in different colors. When I was a little girl, my aunt had some that were orange and purple. I loved them. The ones here are mostly white, but they are still pretty.

Missing Turtle

Larry

For more than a year there was a turtle living at Fish Eye Marine Park. He ate the food that they threw in the water for the fish, and visited with the tourists. Some people called him “Larry,” and other people called him “Crush.”

I don’t know what he called himself.

However, he had a small metal tag under each front flipper. One said NOAA Maui USA, and the other said PI2775. He was a green sea turtle who was approximately 50 years of age, and he had a girl turtle in the Piti Bomb Holes near by that he seemed to visit with.

In Mid-July, the tour operators at Fish Eye watched as people from the Department of Agriculture came and took Larry the turtle away.

They said they were taking him “to study,” according to the tour operators.

However, when we called the Department of Agriculture, they  claimed that the turtle “was a nuisance” and so as moved “to the other side of the island.”

Now of course, this was not his first time being caught on Guam. The Marine Biologists at Underwater World took him for study. They weighed him, measured him, and then released him on the other side of the island.

He swam right back, because he enjoys people and food.

However, after the Department of Agriculture claims to have taken him “to the other side of the island,” he did not swim back.

He was a very strong swimmer, and you can be sure that he was capable. How can you be sure, you ask? Well, the people at Underwater World were actually hoping that they could find some evidence that his rear flipper (which was damaged) made it too difficult for him to be in the wild.

They hoped this because they have a rescued sea turtle in the aquarium already, and they hoped for a second.

However, according to the laws governing the treatment of an endangered species, if they are found to be able to survive on their own, they cannot be “rescued.”

Ergo, we know that if the turtle had actually been released by the Department of Agriculture, he would have swam back as he had done before.

We cannot make conclusions from the information that we have. However, we can know two things for sure.

1. Turtle meat fetches a high price on Guam and on the other islands in the chain, because the Native people eat turtle. They know that these turtles are endangered, but some choose to do it anyway. Anyone who took the turtle to sell would have made a LOT of money.

2. They were very suspicious on the phone and asked for my husband’s full name and information before claiming that the turtle was moved. If they are keeping track of who is asking, then one would suggest that they have a reason to be worried.

I am not saying that the Department of Agriculture sold the turtle. However, I am saying without a doubt that they were the last people to have him, and that in two months, he has still not been sighted anywhere else.

If they did not sell him, then their choice to move him certainly seems to have brought about his untimely demise, leaving his girlfriend single and removing his genes from the species.

Furthermore, I spoke with several tour operators who said the initial complaint against the turtle was falsified.

They claim that he was good for business and made the tourists happy and that they would never have done anything that led to his removal.

It is certainly suspicious.

I hope that there will be an investigation, since selling an endangered species for profit is obviously illegal. However, given the diminished funding of the EPA, I worry that justice will not be served.

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Side Note:

I have also not seen the female turtle who was hanging around the Piti Bomb Holes near Fish Eye. However, I am not sure that not seeing her is significant. Green Sea Turtles are not social, and it is possible that she was just around to “visit” a boy turtle for a bit.

This is what she looked like:

girlfriend

If you look, you can see that you doesn’t have a tail that extends past her shell, or claws on her flippers. Only males have those traits (which is actually to hold onto the female’s shell.)

She was a little smaller than the male turtle, but they seemed similar in size and age.

girlfriend two

Anyway:

The point of this post is that if anyone has any information about the green sea turtle lovingly called “Larry” or “Crush” who used to live at Fish Eye Marine Park, please let me know.

Thank you.

Coral Bleaching at Gab Gab 9/2/17

Healthy coral has color to it. In the picture above, you can see healthy coral thriving at Gab Gab reef on May 2nd, 2017. This is what it is supposed to look like.

Unfortunately, the coral around the world is dying, and I want to talk about it for a moment.

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Coral is made up of many tiny animals called Polyps.

These little animals have specialized chloroplast cells inside called zooxanthellae. These chloroplasts absorb sunlight and convert it to food for the polyp. Without them, a polyp will die.

When the water temperature in an area gets too hot, the zooxanthellae stop being able to work. They are sensitive to temperature, and so they die.

When they die and the polyp pushes them out, the coral becomes white (since polyps have no color.) Eventually, the polyps die and the coral becomes nothing more than skeletons covered in algae.

 

The reefs on Guam are bleaching. This is part of a worldwide event, which is being driven by climate change.

I wanted to share these pictures and videos in an effort to draw attention to the fact that this is happening, and how awful it is.

These pictures are taken at Gab Gab, just like the one at the top of the page. The difference is only a few months, but the difference in the temperature in the water is extremely noticeable.

Before, it used to be a little chilly when you first got in. Gab Gab is a reef that goes from the surface water level down more than one hundred feet. Deeper water, in my experience, tends to be colder.

And yet, yesterday when I got in the water, it was hot.

I beg you all to take a very close look.

I think a lot of people who have never been snorkeling or diving are able to easily ignore the bleaching of the corals and the dying of the reefs.

For me, living here, it is much harder.

Coral are home to thousands of species of animals, and as they die, those animals will also die.

The diversity of life that we had in our oceans was amazing, and losing it is absolutely horrifying.

I have no words beautiful enough or sad enough to write the eulogy for our oceans. Nothing said or written could capture how beautiful this reef was just a few months ago.

Seeing the reef now as it bleaches and dies is one of the most painful things I have ever seen.

Mount Lam Lam

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This hike varies in difficulty depending on the weather. If you go early enough in the morning and it is a windy day, this can be a very nice hike.

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If the air is still and you wait until too late in the day, it’s murder.

orange flower (big)

Either way, bring a lot of sunscreen because there is very little shade.

rich from the back

Also, make sure to have mosquito repellent for any spots you make in the shade. If it has been rainy (and it usually is) you will see a lot of mosquitoes.

rich and the view

There are two tops to Mount Lam Lam, and there is some dispute as to which one is the “real” top.

rich with crosses

On the right hand path, you will follow the stations of the cross up to one of the tops of the mountain. This has wonderful views of the ocean and many locals consider it the real top.

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However, if you take the left hand path, you will get to the top of the mountain that is officially recognized as the top.

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I have done both. The top with the crosses is a much shorter path because it goes straight up.

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On the other hand, the surveyors top takes you down into the jungle, and then back up along a poorly marked trial until at last you climb the rocks to the marker.

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It’s a beautiful view from either spot, and I recommend doing both (though maybe not in the same day.)

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If you are Catholic, you might appreciate the little shrine about halfway up before the trail splits off.

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Definitely take some time to enjoy the ground orchids, passion vines, and other beautiful plants.

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On an amusing side note: The locals consider Mount Lam Lam to be the tallest mountain in the world because they measure from the bottom of the Marianas Trench to the top of the peak.

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Therefore, if you climb Mount Lam Lam, you can amuse your friends by saying you climbed the tallest mountain in the world.

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Another Gratuitous Sunset Post

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I discovered when trying to show you all the sunsets that I have seen that I can only post forty at once. I use a free WordPress site for my blog, and apparently there are limitations (which is fine, because it’s free.)

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Anyway, here are the rest of the sunsets I wanted to show you in my June 5th post.

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One.

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Two.

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Three.

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Four.

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Five.

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Six.

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Seven.

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Eight.

(Note: We have an Airforce Base at the tip of the island and sometimes they play in the sunset.)

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Nine.

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Ten.

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Eleven.

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Twelve.

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Thirteen.

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Fourteen.

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Fifteen.

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Sixteen.

 

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Seventeen.

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Eighteen.

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Nineteen.

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Twenty.

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Twenty One.

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Twenty Two.

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Twenty Three.

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Twenty Four.

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Twenty Five.

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Twenty Six.

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Twenty Seven.

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Twenty Eight.

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Twenty Nine.

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Thirty.

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Thirty One.

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Thirty Two.

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Thirty Three.

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Thirty Four.

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Thirty Five.

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Thirty Six.

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Thirty Seven.

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Thirty Eight.

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Thirty Nine.

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Forty.

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Of course it’s always better to see a tropical sunset in person. So, maybe some visit me in Guam and come see one!