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Whale Watching – The Biggest Show on Earth PDF Print E-mail
Written by Cliff Calderwood   
Jun 24, 2005 at 08:11 AM
Whale watching is a spellbinding, entertaining, and thought-provoking adventure trip. It’s a show with the largest mammals on earth as the star performers. Whales are majestic and graceful giants, who’s every move seems effortless, choreographed, and yet playful. In this article discover how to get the most out of your trip.

Imagine a lazy summer’s afternoon on a boat in a gentle rolling ocean. A good breeze softly massages your face where you sit, and you begin to close your eyes and drift away… the sound of the boat’s engine begins to fade and finally stops. The boat, like you, is drifting over the waves and following the breeze. It’s very peaceful and calm and after a stressful week you feel in harmony with the world.

Then something explodes… out of the water… and only a few feet from your nose! A 30-ton humpback… the length of a large house... it breaches… and in another second is gone. And you’re left in disbelief and wonder.

And it’s just the start of your whale watching!

While whales are scattered throughout the world there’s only a handful of accessible locations to view them in their natural environment. The coastal waters of New England and the west coast of North America are prime locations for whale watching. Hawaii and South Africa are also superb locations to spot whales, as are the ocean waters around New Zealand.

So if a vacation or trip takes you to any of these areas make sure you book a cruise and take in the largest show on earth.

Here’s some pointers to make sure you have an enjoyable whale watch.

In the summer months whale watching is popular and so book early – many tours suggest one week to avoid disappointment.

Whale watching cruises can last anywhere from 3 hours to 41/2 hours. If whales are just playing hard to find, then the captain will make every effort to stay out as long as they can to get a sighting.

While most boats are equipped with a place to buy food and drink they don’t usually mind you taking your own pack lunch or snacks. Because it can be a long ride until they find the whales and then back to port take a novel or your walkman and listen to your favorite music, or even whale song CD. If you’ve got young children take something to keep them entertained as well.

Before you book on a whale watching cruise check into the cruise company. Check out their web site, you’ll usually find information about the fleet’s experience and staff.

Today most whale watch boats have sophisticated equipment and communications that help the captain find the whales. But if a company has been organizing whale watch trips for many years it’s a sign they’re doing something right and a safe bet for you.

My most rewarding trips have been when a naturalist or whale expert has been on board to provide information and narrate the tour.

Because of the very unpredictable nature of the whales, they’ll be rare occasions when you just don’t see any. So make sure you book on a cruise that offers a guarantee sighting or you get to cruise again for free.

Offering a guarantee is another good sign of a confident and experienced whale watch company. But remember if they spot one whale and you weren’t watching or somewhere else on the boat when they did – tough!

Whale watching on the open ocean means if you suffer with motion sickness at all then take something about an hour before you board the cruise.

Experienced whale watch cruise captains do not go out in rough seas, but it’s not a harbor cruise and the whale feeding grounds are usually miles from land. The open sea can be a little choppy even in the summer months.

Recommended things to bring on your whale watch are a camera and plenty of film or memory cards (if you’re digital). If you’ve got binoculars take them as whales sometimes surface yards from the boat, and having binoculars will give you spectacular views and close ups others without them just won’t get.

Wear sneakers or something rubber-soled for good traction on a wet and slippery deck. And take sunscreen, sunglasses, and if it’s got a tie strap – a hat.

Because of the breeze and open water there’s usually a 15-degree difference from land out in the ocean. So take a sweatshirt or windbreaker just in case, and especially for a late afternoon trip. Also the boats will go out in the rain and if you’ve got a poncho take it.

The whales are waiting for you. These mesmerizing animals have traveled thousands of miles so you can view them playing and feeding. It’s really the biggest show on earth. So go ahead and take the adventure - they don’t stay for long.

Last Updated ( Dec 21, 2006 at 11:36 PM )
Luggage to Suit Your Style PDF Print E-mail
Written by Gareth Powell   
Jun 21, 2005 at 09:17 PM
Luggage has many schools of thought. Here are but some of them:
  • Minimalist. Cutting down to the bare essentials so that you need only one cabin bag which you can carry on the aircraft. My daughter has this down to a fine art and recently toured India for two weeks with one small, leather Gladstone bag that I bought in China many years ago.
  • The hard case. This refers not to the character of the traveler but to the suitcase used. Almost all flight crews use hard cases. Watch an airline crew collect their baggage from the carousel after an international journey and you will see that it is all medium to large-sized, hard-sided suitcases (nearly always gray) with built-in wheels and extendible handles. Sophisticated travelers sneer at this. But who, I ask, would know better?
  • The suit bag. Many experienced travelers are of the opinion that a well-made suit bag will last for many years and carry everything you could possibly need. A suit bag used as cabin baggage on overseas flights will almost certainly carry everything you need.
  • The enlightened traditionalist. This is a traveler who realizes that the suitcase acquired for the first Big Trip at the age of 21 will not cover all needs, all future travel. So keeps upgrading as time passes.
  • Horses for courses. Differing bags for different occasions. As a matter of sober truth, I have 32 of the damn things. But I was ever the profligate.
    There are, indeed, two main types of baggage. The type that will stand up to the rigors of overseas travel, but is so heavy it eats up much of your weight allowance. And that which is light and easy to handle and falls apart at inconvenient moments.
    There is no such thing as ideal baggage. Only that which can be considered not bad.
    If you are going on an overseas trip with more than four stopovers, your present baggage probably will not stand up to the strain. Get a new case before you go or you, too, will scatter your dirty laundry across the departure area of Dom Muang airport to the amusement of hordes of Thai travelers.
  • Do not buy expensive name-brand luggage. They are called 'steal-me' cases on the reasoning that if you can afford a genuine Louis Vuitton suitcase you can afford to pack valuables inside. Look instead for something that is anonymous, easily cleaned and light. Don't worry too much about the quality. After a trip with four stopovers it will not have a long life expectancy.
  • Do not buy any luggage which has built-in or hang-on gimmicks. They invariably fail. As do combination locks and foldaway handles. Zips are also perhaps best avoided. I have had several sad experiences with zippers which have left me physically and mentally scarred. You may well be luckier.
  • Have wheels, will travel. In my experience, there is no rarer animal than the airport porter – an endangered species – and airport trolleys are not allowed past customs. Some are charged out at outrageous rents and you never have the right coin.
    Therefore, a suitcase with wheels is not a bad idea. Some are easy to maneuver, some aren't. Test before you buy.
    Better yet is a folding trolley which most aircrew members use. Get one with the biggest wheels you can. Oil the wheels before you leave, otherwise you will squeak, squeak, squeak your way around the world.
  • Clearly identify your luggage with labels and tags, preferably plastic. Do not make it so that your name and address can be read by a casual, and possibly evil-minded, observer.
  • Paste your name and address and telephone number into the inside lid. If the airline loses your luggage – and this happens less and less – this is one of the stock questions. Good to be able to give a firm affirmative.
  • Buy a strap-around webbing belt in a bright color with a difficult buckle. Go further and use instant glue and pop-rivets to rivet and glue three straps to it. When these are tightened the bag is unopenable at speed. Thieves want the easy mark so they pass it by.
    My current main suitcase has its straps fastened by rivets and glue and is, I think, probably thief-proof although that is tempting fate.
  • Make your luggage look different. Even if you only bind the handle with bright tape, make sure your baggage is easy to recognize. This will not help in the recovery of your lost case – airlines only telex the style of suitcase to the last destination, not descriptions. But it will help you to spot your case as it comes off the carousel.

Last Updated ( Dec 21, 2006 at 11:21 PM )
Scuba Diving the Philippines is impressive, varied and spectacular PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brett Jankowiak   
Jun 20, 2005 at 11:03 AM
Scuba diving Philippines does not get any diverse, anywhere in the world! No matter what level of diver you are, diving Philippines has something to offer you. In fact I can just about guarantee that the scuba diving you do in the Philippines will blow your mind and make you think twice about diving when you get home. You will literally be spoilt when diving in the Philippines.

Water Temperature
The water temperature diving in the Philippines, is similar to diving in your warm bath at home! It is absolutely divine. A balmy 22 C to 25 C during the cooler months of December to March and 25 C to 28 C during the warmer months of April to November. Water temperatures like these, gives you the opportunity of diving in the comfort of lycra skin suits or 3mm wetsuits. When you are use to diving in 5mm and 7mm steamers or even dry suits, this type of diving is pure heaven.

Why Dive the Philippines?
The Philippine Islands, which there are over 7,100, have the widest variety of marine life in the world. The diving here is still being discovered, it does however have a number of popular spots which are very familiar with the diving tourist and these sites are world class. Outside these popular diving locations lie thousands of unexplored scuba diving opportunities. Since the Philippines has so many islands, with some of them not easily accessible, the allure for the scuba diver in the Philippines to be the first to explore an underwater reef or to discover a wreck is a real possibility.

Statistics from the Philippine Department of Tourism indicate that scuba divers visiting the Philippine Islands, return for an average of 10 trips each. If this is not a high recommendation on the quality and health of the scuba diving industry in the Philippines, then I’m not sure what is!

Scuba Diving Philippines - What Sort of Diving?
Philippines scuba diving has everything to satisfy the most fussy diver. All you have to do, is put your wetsuit on and put your tank together, even then there is someone there to assist you. From here it gets easier. Someone will carry your gear on and off the dive boat for you, help you put your scuba tank and gear onto your back and help you out of the water when you have finished. Sound easy? You bet it is. Now, what type of diving should you expect? Well pretty much everything you can think of is covered.

Pristine reef diving
Exhilarating drift diving.
Big pelagic fish action.
World War II wrecks to be discovered.
Fantastic wall diving.
Muck diving for those who like macro photography.
Deep diving.
Coral Gardens.
Night Diving.
Swim throughs and caves.
Technical diving.
Soft coral spectaculars.

The majority of dives are conducted by boat, usually a very short trip from your resort. If you are not diving from a boat you can generally find fantastic reefs right in front of your resort, nice and easy shore diving. For the ultimate experience, live aboard dive vessels can also take you to areas seldom if ever visited by scuba divers, this is the ultimate experience.

Diving Philippines – What will I see Underwater?
The list is too big to try and let you know what you will see underwater, but I will tell you about the marine life you will definitely see underwater. The marine life is exceptionally abundant, from rare nudibrachs to a high density of the 27 species of clownfish or Amphiprion Sp., not to mention the gregarious colours of the soft corals and the vibrancy of the hard corals. If big fish are an attraction, then schooling barracudas, sweetlips, Thresher and Hammerhead Sharks will not disappoint you. The biggest fish in the world also frequents Philippine waters, the mighty Whale Shark. Even mammals are widely seen, both dolphins and dugongs.
Diving Philippines gives you so many options that every dive will be different and mind blowing, even if it is at the same dive site!

Note: The Philippines has had it’s fair share of dynamite fishing and cyanide poisoning. This is slowly being pushed out, as more Filipinos recognize a better future in tourism dollars. Cyanide poisoning is used for capturing fish for marine aquarium enthusiasts. This practice is being addressed by the Marine Aquarium Council in conjunction with Philippine Authorities, who are training local fisherman in the use of ecological net catching of small fish. They are also teaching good husbandry techniques for the sustainability of this industry.

Diving Philippines is everything and more you want it to be. Your expectations will be met and driven further than you thought possible, the possibilities are endless.

Last Updated ( Dec 21, 2006 at 11:00 PM )
Philippines Surfing if you want to miss the crowds PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brett Jankowiak   
Jun 19, 2005 at 09:59 PM
Philippines surfing is not quite a destination that would conjure up images of brilliant surfing breaks. Truth be told surfing in the Philippines can be fickle, but if you are after an adventure, are willing to go off the beaten track and are not afraid to try something different, then surfing in the Philippines will not disappoint you.

With 7,107 islands, the roaring Pacific Ocean bordering the eastern coastline and the South China Sea on the western coastline and attracting more typhoons than most neighboring countries, Philippines surfing is alive and well. In fact the Philippines are not a new surfing destination, with surfers enjoying the waves here since at least the sixties, maybe even earlier. Let’s face it who wouldn’t want a perfect left or right hander all to yourself!

Philippines surfing can be both temperamental and seasonal, it is important to know when the best time to come is or you may be disappointed, nothing worse that a surfer without surf.

Best Time To Go?
You can either surf the east coast or the west coast. The east coast probably gets the better surf.

The east coast - which is the Pacific Ocean side gets it’s swell from the monsoons, low depression tropical storms and typhoons. The first monsoon to hit the east coast is the south west monsoon which arrives in May and lasts through to about October. Philippines surfing is not that reliable even during the monsoon. The better and more consistent surf is during the north east monsoon or the amihan, during November to April. On top of the monsoons throw in a typhoon or many and you can imagine that surfing in the Philippines can really pump. The typhoons usually come in from the east of Mindanao and head in a north westerly direction hitting the southern Luzon and the islands between Luzon and the Pacific.

The west coast of the Philippines is more inconsistent than the east coast, it relies on the winds through the Taiwan Straights during the north east monsoon. This wind created swell hits the west coast of Luzon. The swell can also be really good when the odd typhoon heads towards Hong Kong. The swell that hits Palawan can be hard to pick, but you are guaranteed to have fantastic waves if you leave your surf board at home, typically if you bring it the surf will be flat!

So when is the best time to go surfing in the Philippines? Well your best to try the east coast during the north east monsoon. But like everywhere surfing the Philippines is inconsistent, however on it’s good day, totally unforgettable.

Where To Go Surfing
Surfing in the Philippines, most popular surfing spots are:
  1. Baler, Aurora Province. East coast of Luzon
  2. Catanduanes, Island province off east coast of Luzon.
  3. Daet, Camarines Norte Province. East coast of Luzon
  4. La Union Province. West coast of Luzon.
  5. Samar, the east coast of Samar Island
  6. Siargao Island, north east of Mindanao
  7. Vigan, Ilocos Sur Province, west coast of Northern Luzon.
  8. Zambales Province. West coast of Luzon.

Philippines surfing has many spots that catch waves, true sometimes you may need to be a bit lucky. Your access to waves is really only limited by your own imagination and how keen you are to head off the beaten track.

Last Updated ( Dec 22, 2006 at 12:36 AM )
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