I am now selling select photos on Shutterstock. I would be amazing if you could spread the word. You can also always check out my YouTube Channel. A lot of my under water adventures are on there.
Since I have been volunteering at NOAA doing reef monitoring, I spend a lot of time in the water. As long as I am on the reef swimming anyway, I may as well snap some pictures for myself, right? So here are some of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them!
Green sea turtle diving.
I don’t take a lot of pictures on land anymore. I am sure that will change in Oahu. It’ll be cooler, so hiking won’t be as unpleasant.
Of all the things I saw and did in Australia, the two best things were the Great Barrier Reef and the Butterfly Garden.
My YouTube Channel has the best of the Great Barrier Reef stuff, because video comes out better than pictures in water full of sediment.
However, the pictures from the butterfly garden are better than the video, so I wanted to do an entire post just to show off the butterfly pictures.
The butterfly garden in Kuranda has a building full of caterpillars, so you can see what the juvenile butterflies look like.
The main building is the garden, which is full of all kinds of amazing flowers and water features.
Now, I know butterflies are not everyone’s thing. I am sure most people would have been more excited by the markets and the shopping opportunities.
However, I like watching butterflies. You can just sit down and watch them flutter around. If you hold very still, one might even land on you.
When I traveled with the Renaissance Festival (way back in my early twenties) there was a butterfly garden at one of the fairs in Texas. I used to love to sit in there and watch the butterflies.
If I ever have a back yard again, I hope to fill it with flowers so I can attract butterflies to my yard. Of course, I won’t catch them and pin them under glass like the gift shop, because that is horrifying.
I took a tour of the blue mountains through a company called Barefoot Down under. I chose them specifically because the flier claimed that only a “moderate” level of fitness was required (while other tours said the hiking was “hard” or “difficult.”)
As a cancer survivor with a heart condition, I struggle. I mean, I am not unfit. I run three times a week at the gym and I swim nearly every day. I can and have hiked all day. In fact, just last year I did the 888 stairs to the top of Ulsan-Bawi in Seoraksan.
That said, I can’t go at break-neck speeds. I can’t run up and down trails. I do need to hike slowly. And that is why I chose the tour group that said the difficulty was only moderate.
Unfortunately, the tour group leader decided that running was the only way to hike.
Honestly, it would have been fine if we got to Wenworth Falls recreation area, and then he pointed out the easy trail to me to get to the falls. It was short, and I saw children and old people on it. After all, I had disclosed that I had a heart condition, and if he was planning on running wildly down the trails, then he should have let me do my own thing and given me a time to meet back up with the group.
However, he didn’t.
He took me into the jungle and then told me the path he was taking to the falls would be “too hard for me” and to “just sit at the trail fork.” I sat. And sat. And sat. He never came back for me and the group did not return. I ended up deciding to hike back out on my own, and I sure am lucky I did! The tour guide had decided to take everyone out going a different way, and I would have missed them all and got left in the forest by myself.
To add insult to injury, he had his wife e-mail me to say “You have wondered off. Please return to the tour or you will be left behind.” When I got back to the city and had wifi, I checked it and when I saw that i was livid. He told me to stay behind, and then planned to say I wandered off and it was my own fault.
Luckily, I decided to hike out on my own.
However, I couldn’t very well yell at him in front of everyone when I re-joined the group (and boy did he look surprised to see me.) After all, one of the other girls on the tour told me that he had pretended to try to come and find me (which I know he didn’t, because I did not move.) Ergo, he played it up for them so that he could make sure it looked like my fault.
I took the high road and tried to act cheerful for the rest of the day. We went to a restaurant with overpriced kangaroo burgers, a street full of graffiti, and an overlook to take pictures. However, the whole time I was thinking about how the guide had tried to leave me in the woods because I confessed to having a heart condition and he wanted to run all day.
The thing that gets me is this: He could have just said “This hike is rated difficult” on the flier. If he had done so, I never would have gone on the tour. I wouldn’t have paid a bunch of money to see Wentworth Falls (which I never got to see.) I would have looked for another tour, or taken a bus up to the park and hiked at my own pace like my friends did when they went to the Blue Mountains.
So basically, the tour flier is misleading. It is not “moderate” in difficulty. It is “hard.” That is something they should change immediately. I have no idea how Wenworth Falls looks, and I spent about an hour in the woods reading my book instead of finding out because the tour guide told me that I was “breathing too hard” as he was literally running up a hill and I tried to follow, and so he told me that I should “wait here until the group returns.” I was pretty disappointed.
On the upside, we did come across Chris Darwin (the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin) completely by chance. So, I got to meet him. At least that was something.
The Reef actually has more bleaching than Guam. If I had to guess, I would say that the shallower water must be the reason (shallow water heats up faster.) Guam is next to the Marianas Trench, so I imagine the overall water temperature in our region might be colder, even though we are on the equator.
You might think it is the types of coral, but it’s definitely not. Nearly all the corals I saw on the Great Barrier Reef were the same as the corals in Guam. There were only a few differences.
Some of the fish I saw on the reef were bigger, which I would guess is because I was snorkeling in deeper water there than what I usually would (since I get better pictures in shallow water.)
There were some huge parrot fish, as well as some large cod and sea bass. I saw a few sharks as well. In Guam I usually see black-tipped reef sharks, but on the reef I saw white-tipped reef sharks. So, that was new.
It was jellyfish season, and I definitely didn’t know that when I booked the trip! We had to wear stinger suits the whole time.
I have actually never seen so many jellyfish in one place. However, the stinger suits protected us, and no one got stung except the guy who took his hood off.
My YouTube Channel has lots of footage of the Reef and all the cool things we saw. I definitely recommend taking a look, if you like the under water world.
The tour guides told me that the best time to see the reef is in August. That is the middle of winter in the southern hemisphere, so I would have thought it would be stormy then.
However, they say the summer is far more stormy, and the good visibility is definitely in August.
So if you go to The Great Barrier Reef, I can recommend Carins Dive Center (who I went through) and their boat The Kangaroo Explorer (which I did the live abroad package on for three days and two nights.) But I can’t recommend going in January, because it was stormy and it was also jellyfish season.
Note: Click the links in this post to see the videos on my YouTube Channel.
First, I am back home in Guam. We will be here until around August or September. Then we move to Oahu.
I recently went on an Australian adventure. I will do a few detailed posts about the things I saw and did, but here is an overview of where I went.
First, I went to Bondi Beach and stayed in a hostel there. I did the coastal walk and snorkeled in Clovelly Bay with a woman from my Snorkel Travel Friends group. I explored the shops and sat and talked with people, and I had a great time.
Later, I moved to a hostel near central station in Sydney. I took the Big Bus Tour and got off to see all the major attractions like the Opera House and some of the old Cathedrals. Then I went on a Blue Mountains tour and met up with my friend Shari from Melbourne.
Finally, I met my friend Melissa and took a flight to Cairns. We went out to the Great Barrier Reef and snorkeled at several spots while living abroad a ship called The Kangaroo Explorer. After that, we went up to the town of Kurunda to see the rain forest.
My very last day was spent in Sydney watching the fireworks for Australia Day. Finally, I flew to Hawaii and then home to Guam.
Right now I am catching up on my sleep and sorting through photos, but soon I will share some of the better shots of the reef, and of my other adventures.
As I get ready to leave Guam this year in August, I am feeling nostalgic about places I have lived and visited.
I have been so lucky so have had such cool adventures. I thought I would tell you about some of my favorites.
I grew up in Arizona. People think that it’s all desert, and some of it is. However, a lot of Arizona is also forest. It’s a very diverse state.
Then, there was South Korea. I loved it there so much! I got to experience seasons for the first time. I also got to teach cute kids and make lots of friends that I still keep in touch with.
I also learned to read and write Hangul, which is the Korean written language. My spoken Korean is not as good as my Spanish, but I did my best.
South Korea is an amazing country. If anyone is thinking of visiting: I recommend it!
I also went to Japan and spent some time there. I really liked the Shinto cemeteries, which have clapping sticks to keep the dead company.
I went to a Cherry Blossom Festival, enjoyed the night life, had tea at a traditional tea house, and in general just enjoyed Tokyo. It was a beautiful place to visit, and I hope to go back some day.
France was amazing as well. The food was so good! I know it’s a cliche to say that the food was the best part, but it really was impressive.
I went for Christmas, so I got to see Paris all decked out for the holiday. It was cold, but thankfully there was no snow. I get cold so easily since I am from the desert…
I also went to England to visit my cousin Stacy. It was really lovely.
Being an American, I guess I think of the U.K. as where most of our culture came from. It certainly has a certain amount of familiarity to it.
The British Museum was a lot of fun, and I tried my first fish and chips after! I also saw all the London Landmarks.
As for Thailand, I always wanted to go there, because I worked at a Thai restaurant in High School and they made it sound so amazing. I have to say, after 20 years of wanting to see it, I was not disappointed! I got to meet elephants, swim in the ocean, and check out several temples.
I only spent a month backpacking around in Thailand, and it left barely long enough. Definitely plan a long trip if you go!
Australia is fabulous! I really fell in love with the land and the people.
I went to visit my friends Melissa and Shari, but I had always wanted to see the country as well. I felt drawn to it because most of Australia is as dry as Arizona. They could also easily rival each other in terms of dangerous animals.
I highly recommend visiting Australia.
I lived in Oregon after South Korea and before Guam.
It is where my family still lives. My mom is in Gresham, which is right outside Portland. And, my aunt is in Hood River. We have our family reunions in Seaside.
I love the Pacific Northwest. Even though I didn’t grow up there, having my family live there makes it feel like home.
Guam has been fabulous.
At first it was a little hard to move to an island. Islands are so small, and it’s a challenge to find anything on island (food and clothes, for example.) Sometimes all the stores are just out of everything. And no one delivers to Guam!
However, I really came to love the reefs here and the whole underwater world. It’s been so much fun, and Rich has liked his job here on the USS Emory S. Land.
And now we are off to Oahu. I have visited several times, since we need to go through Oahu to get anywhere from Guam. So far, I have really enjoyed it. I am terrified about buying a house there and finding a job. But, I know I’ll be able to do it.