Posts Tagged With: Travel Photography

Kayaking Adventures at Fort DeSoto (Day 2)

Day 2 of our kayaking adventures took us to Fort DeSoto – a 1,136 acre nature preserve on the southern tip of St. Petersburg. Mullet Key is the big island of the park and it’s shaped like a “V” – the eastern part dips into Tampa Bay while the western part of the park is in the Gulf of Mexico.

desoto_map

I had read that Fort Desoto is great for kayaking and birding. There’s a canoe trail that’s just about 2.5 miles long or for the really ambitious paddlers (and something that’s on my kayaking bucket list), the trail around the perimeter of the island is 10 miles. We launched our kayaks at the apex and paddled due north on our way to North Beach.

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Mangroves lined the waterways

It was a beautiful day for kayaking! I like to hit the water early so as to avoid as many other people as possible. For most of the day, we were the only kayakers paddling Mullet Key Bayou.

This park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail

This park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. This pelican was sitting at the very top of a mangrove tree, soaking in the sun.

This trail was different than the day before at Weedon Island, in that the waterways were much wider here and there were fewer mangrove tunnels. But there was definitely more active wildlife at this park!

The one mangrove tunnel we found - full of crabs and oysters

The one mangrove tunnel we found – full of crabs and oysters

Mangroves

Mangroves

We had quite a ways to go to get from the launch to the top of Mullet Key and eventually to North Beach. We’d paddle for a while, rest in the sun, talk, eat lunch…. one time we were resting and we started to drift closer to shore. I noticed we were approaching what looked like a random patch of sea grass…until the “sea grass” started moving! The waves pushed us within 5 feet of the “sea grass” until we saw a big snout come up to the surface – it was a manatee! The manatee looked like it was larger than our kayaks but before we could whip out our cameras to snap a picture, it meandered away from us. Because manatees are a protected species under Florida law, it’s illegal to chase them and/or approach them unless they come to you. As painful as it was for us to let it swim away without a picture, we bid the beast adieu and went in search of more excitement.

Perfect weather

Perfect weather

We paddled up to the top of the key and as soon as we rounded the tip from mangrove waterway to open water, the wind picked up. We didn’t have to battle whitecaps but there was enough of a breeze and current that made for a long trek to North Beach. By the time we beached our kayaks on the sand, our arms felt like Jell-O.

The open water was a bit rough because of the light wind but the breeze was nice

The open water was a bit rough because of the light wind but the breeze was nice

The tip of Ft. DeSoto is an island (at high tide) but we must have timed it perfectly because we ditched our kayaks and walked around the island looking for shells. It was nice to stretch our legs for a while and explore in the sand during low tide.

In 2005, Fort DeSoto was named America's Best Beach!

In 2005, Fort DeSoto was named America’s Best Beach!

Looking for shells

Looking for shells

A freshly dead horseshoe crab we dragged onto the beach  - about the size of a dinner plate.

A freshly dead horseshoe crab we dragged onto the beach for a picture – about the size of a dinner plate.

Once we got back to our kayaks, we jumped back in the water and headed across the channel to Shell Key.

The southern tip of Shell Key is just a few hundred feet north of the tip of Ft. DeSoto, so it's easy to access by boat.

The southern tip of Shell Key is just a hundred feet or so north of the tip of Ft. DeSoto, so it’s easy to access by boat.

Once parked on Shell Key, we scoured the untouched beaches for more shells. The shells here were smaller than the ones on Ft. DeSoto but we found some very cool calcified coral tubes.

Both Fort DeSoto and Shell Key are great for shelling

Both Fort DeSoto and Shell Key are great for shelling

Sep and me on Shell Key - the water was really that blue!

Sep and me on Shell Key – the water was really that blue!

We walked the beach for a while and on our way back to our kayaks, I spotted something weird floating in the water. Getting closer for a better look, I realized it was a JELLYFISH!

Taking pictures of the jellyfish!

Taking pictures of the jellyfish!

Neither of us has ever seen a jellyfish in the wild before!

Yes, it IS alive!

Yes, it IS alive!

Once we returned home, we found the jelly online and learned that it was Mushroom Cap Jellyfish and is harmless to humans. I must have taken 50 pictures of this thing – I was just so fascinated by it! Thankfully, as we began our trek back to the launch, the wind died way down. The water was calm, there were no waves and it made for easy paddling on our already sore arms.

Calm water

Calm water

On our way back to the mangroves, we found ourselves in the middle of a bunch of mullet (fish) jumping out of the water! There was so much splashing all around us as they leaped and skipped out of the water.

Resting for a picture

Resting for a picture

I think my tattoo does a pretty good job of representing me.

My tattoo

My tattoo: Adventure

We retraced our waves back through the mangroves and when we came out of the tunnel, we heard weird noises…

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… like water spraying…

Dorsal fin!

Dorsal fin!

It was dolphins! We heard them blowing water as they came up to the surface for air! September and I sat quietly in our kayaks, just floating, so we didn’t disturb them. We think there were 3-4 dolphins in this little cove. I think they could sense our excitement as we quietly took picture after picture of them because the more excited we were, the more they’d swim around our kayaks. One of the dolphins swam right UNDER my kayak and came up on the other side! It flicked its head and swam close enough to my boat that had I not been taking pictures and video, I could have touched it.

I did not zoom in this picture - the dolphin was really that close to me!

I did not zoom in this picture – the dolphin was really that close to me!

The dolphins played around our kayaks for probably 20 minutes. When we were entranced by one, another would pop up right behind us! It was absolutely incredible. People pay for that kind of experience and here we were, having a lovely day kayaking and nature-spotting when a group of wild dolphins thought it’d be fun to play with us. AWESOME!

Bye dolphins!

Bye dolphins!

Sep and I could hardly believe what we had just witnessed. We’re still in disbelief that we happened to be in the right place at the right time. The Florida wildlife continues to amaze us and this was, by far, the best kayaking experience we’ve ever had!

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Grand Canyon Reflection

September’s aviator sunglasses make such a great backdrop for photos. This is a reflection of the Grand Canyon that I snapped on our road trip!

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

New way of looking at the world

Categories: Adventure, Africa, Around the World, Art, Asia, Australia, Backpacking, Europe, Explore, Pinterest, South America, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Travel Photography, United States | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s On Your Bucket List?

Categories: Adventure, Asia, Backpacking, Climbing, Hiking, Mountains, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Pinterest, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Travel Photography, Trek, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

It’s no wonder that most of these places are in Europe – a very expensive continent as a whole. But don’t forget that staying in hostels (compared to mid-average hotels) can really cut accommodation costs!

Luxembourg

Copenhagen

It’s no wonder that most of these places are in Europe – a very expensive continent as a whole. But don’t forget that staying in hostels (compared to mid-average hotels) can really cut accommodation costs!

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Categories: Adventure, Backpacking, Europe, Norway, Photography, Switzerland, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Travel, Travel Photography, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Macau – Asia’s Las Vegas

An hour ferry ride outside of Hong Kong shines the casino-dominated, Portuguese colony of Macau…Asia’s Las Vegas. CNN’s international page, CNN GO, says it has been 5 years since the gambling revenue of Macau has surpassed that of Las Vegas, Nevada here in the States and is now the world leader in gambling revenue. Because gambling is illegal in Hong Kong, locals and tourists flock to the island to try out their hands at Blackjack and the slots.

Macau Skyline

There are multiple ferries leaving various ports in Hong Kong, just be sure to bring your passport as the trip is considered international. (Macau is technically part of China while Hong Kong is not. So you need a passport). My first time on the ferry, I was about 3 days into my malaria pills, prepping for my trip to Thailand. I was very seasick and the hour-long ride felt like a 12-hour ride!

Me on the ferry, feeling very sick!

Macau is very unique in that you’ll find street signs in both Cantonese (the main language of Hong Kong) and Portuguese, Chinese food on the streets and European gothic buildings at the city square. Every time I have been to Hong Kong, I book a ferry ticket to Macau and roam around for the day. The last time I was in the casino, I even won 40 yuan (which converted to about $6 USD).

Casino Lisboa in Macau

Casino Lisboa is one of the most well-known casinos in Macau. Built in 1970, the inside rooms are strung with diamonds that make it look like something right out of a James Bond film with Sean Connery. (You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside at the gambling tables, so you just have to take my word for it). I visited this casino with a travel buddy and guy we met at our hostel, and when we entered the Blackjack room, we were definitely out of place. Everyone else was in tuxedos and designer dresses (we went into the high stakes room), so you can imagine how surprised everyone was to see a couple of backpackers in capris and sweaty t-shirts.

In Senado Square (the city square in the middle of the town), you’ll find St. Dominic’s Church – an old Catholic church that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Senado Square

St. Dominic's Church

As you walk further up the street, you pass tons of food vendors selling meats of all kinds of animals, delicious-smelling cookies, t-shirt shops and store owners selling their colorful kites.

It’s at the top of the hill that you’ll find the historic ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral – one of Macau’s most famous landmarks and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info on St. Paul’s, check out Fun Tourist Attractions!

Ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral

Next to the Cathedral is Fortaleza do Monte – Mount Fortress, which used to be the fortress of Macau. (Another UNESCO site). If you climb the stairs to the top of the fortress, you can get a great 360-degree view of Macau!

Fortaleza do Monte

A view of Casino Lisboa from the Fortress

Whether you’re in Macau to gamble, site-see, walk through this historic colony or eat the delicious Portuguese food, it’s definitely worth the ferry ride if you can tear yourself away from Hong Kong. If you’re walking around the city (although, there are taxis and buses), be sure to keep an eye on the weather. During my most recent trip, my friends and I were caught in monsoon-like rains!

This picture was taken right before the rain hit!

Categories: Adventure, Asia, Backpacking, Casino, China, Hong Kong, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Travel, Travel Photography, Uncategorized, UNESCO World Heritage | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paper postcards from your PHONE!

I’ve recently discovered Travel Kit – MSNBC.com’s travel team – and a few days ago, they posted a headline about sending paper postcards from your iphone/smart phone. I had skipped over the article until now which was a big mistake because it’s super cool! Technology can really be a great accessory to travel and adventure. Here’s how…

Postagram – Take a digital photo and send a postcard with a pop-out picture. The app makes your photo look kind of like an antique-y polaroid (like Instagram).

  • App cost: FREE
  • Mailing cost: 99 cents USD

 

Dotti – Similar to Postagram but you can take a “roll” of digital pictures (12 photos) and mail yourself the pictures. This app is good for someone who enjoys 35mm photography and likes to keep hardcopy prints instead of digital photos. Also, by mailing your pictures to yourself while you’re still traveling ensures that the pics are waiting for you when you return. It’s like a ‘Welcome Home’ present!

  • App cost: FREE
  • Printing/Mailing cost: $4.99 USD per roll

 

Cartolina Postale – With this app, you take a photo on your phone, “glue” it to one of the company’s pre-designed vintage backgrounds and send to your family/friends via snail mail! Not as hip as the previous options but still very cool and worth checking out.

  • App cost: FREE (iphones only, I think)
  • Printing/Mailing cost: $1.99 USD to US recipients or $2.99 USD to international recipients

Categories: Adventure, Explore, Photography, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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