I couldn’t wait to see Tiger Kingdom. The little kid dream of seeing a tiger up close. When I saw that Thailand had several places one could visit with Tigers I knew I would go. I read the reviews. I read about responsible tourism. I debated myself about whether I should go. In the end, I knew I had to go. I had to see it for myself. I had to have the experience.
Tiger Kingdom was well managed and clean. Much like many zoos one goes to the tigers are in pens. The tigers on display have larger areas to roam and I saw no evidence that they were drugged. On the contrary, they were active and engaged in play with the handlers. They had toys, games and other activities to keep them busy. Nocturnal by nature, some tigers were asleep but would occasionally get up to wander.
My kids were not allowed in with the largest tigers. My son stayed with the babies. He got to bottle feed them. My daughter enjoyed two different sizes. We encountered the largest. Following our guide, he stated that we were to stay with him at all times, not make sudden movements and to stay behind him. Equipped with only a large prod, it was clear there was little he was join to do if our tiger decided to turn. We went in and our Tiger was might and magnificent. He lay down, head raised and we were guided to sit beside him. We could rub his side, touch his back and paws. Another guide took pictures. Anything our guide said, we did. At one point he said to lie down and put my head on it’s belly and I did. I kept thinking how My mother would kill me if she saw me doing this. All of a sudden, he jumped up and lunged at the cage in front of us a wheel chair went by. Clearly he saw the wheels turn and wanted to play or attack them. He paced back and forth watching the oblivious person in the wheelchair. We backed away.
We walked around to several other tigers. Each one allowing us to visit and touch them. One sleeping tiger was our guides favorite and he showed us his huge teeth. It was about then that I snapped back into reality and realized I was in a cage surrounded by tigers.
I have since recommended Tiger Kingdom to friends. Yet, I do so with reservation. Please understand that I truly believe in responsible tourism and the importance of understanding what it is you are impacting when visiting places like this. It is also important to truly take time to understand the plight of the tiger.
So if you do visit, or just find this blog post interesting. Please take time to help the Tigers.
I had never even heard of a cassowary until we landed in Mission Beach, Australia. The signs were all over the place telling us to slow down or we’d hit them. The local guidebook told us to be careful when walking if you happen upon one as they are listed as the “most dangerous bird in the world”. Standing at about 5 feet tall, with a blue head, a huge protruding horn-like crest on top and giant claws makes them they resemble something out of a Road Dahl book rather than an actual living creature. But they are real and you will see them walking along the side of the road in and around Mission Beach. They are beautiful and frightening.
Mission Beach is a quiet, beautiful town. We made great friends there. Learned to fish for baramundi, went diving on the Great Barrier reef and enjoyed the quiet life of Northern Queensland. The Cassowaries are just a part of what makes this this little area so special.
#100 Sydney, Australia Bridge Climb
There is so much to do and see in Sydney, Australia that may wonder why climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge is on this list but as a family activity this stands out. It is exhilarating and scary. It gives you the most amazing view of the city and there are lots of different ways to do it! http://www.bridgeclimb.com
There are amazing tricks that can be done if you are exactly on the equator. Unfortunately in Quito, if you go to the large monument and line that tourists are directed to you are a few degrees off the actual waypoints. Just on the outskirts of the monument is a small museum that houses a cool equator tour . It’s run down and it takes the intrepid soul to leave the bus tour to venture off and find it while others pose at the sign and landmark.
But when you do you’ll find a place where fun things happen! Check out this video of one of the cool Equator tricks!
Packing too much for any trip is a problem that most of us have. Over packing on a scuba vacation means heavy checked bags and lots of stuff you probably don’t need. Let’s face it. If you are a scuba enthusiast you really don’t need much to be happy at the beach but the right equipment. Our family loves to dive and after a year around the world, diving in lots of different countries we have light packing down.
Pack a 2-3 suits, 2-3 shorts and a few t-shirts and a light sweater. One pair of good walking sandals. That’s all you need. Wear your heavy items if you are coming from a colder climate and shed them as you move south. Bring a hat and sunglasses! Relax, you’re on vacation! Leave the fancy clothes at home and enjoy your week at the beach.
Generally, I only pack a mask and snorkel of my own gear. I rent the BCD, regulator, fins and sometimes, awesome paddle board products. But for shore diving in Bonaire this past week we brought booties, dive socks and fins. I’ve attached a photo of my carry-on items that included everything but my fins. (I brought them on this trip but when we travelled for a year this was something we rented along with our other equipment.) I like dive computers and investing in your own is probably a good idea if you plan on doing a lot of diving.
Pack and use sunscreen! Nothing worse than seeing sunburnt divers trying to put on wet suits. Ouch! (I’m talking specifically to the Canadians…I know we are happy to see the sun – but put the sunscreen on!)
I’m a big believer in sharing the things that work. I have just discovered the Hoboroll by Gobi Gear for packing up all my “must have items” into carry-on. This gem cinched it all up tight and made it so compact there was plenty of room for my camera and essential scuba gear in my carry-on! I could easily have used it as a bag alone if not for bulky fins. Still, with it there was not much need for checked baggage! The best part is I used the hoboroll as a beach bag later in the week as it easily carried four towels and sunscreen and water bottles for us. Thanks Gobi Gear!
We love our simple but amazing little cameras. We use the Canon SX280HS (and it has a sweet underwater case) and a Go-pro. Both are small and easy to pack. True photographers might want bigger and better equipment but these do the trick for us. We have some amazing photos from our travels that prove it!
We finally saw the elusive and hard to find frogfish during our recent trip to Bonaire. They are much smaller than I imagined and this one was bright yellow. We also saw pink and brown ones. They are really quite amazing and Bonaire is a great place to see them! Most of the locals can tell you dive sites where they tend to live.
One of the favorite events that we just stumbled into last year about this time was the Chiang Mai Flower Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Parades, music, flowers, and dancers. This huge festival happens usually in early February and will be held February 7-9, 2014.
We just happened to be in the area and saw it on the schedule last year. The parade went right by the Inn where we were staying and we sat outside and ate and took in the amazing sights. The elaborate floats and costumes were stunning. Some floats display the history and heritage of the land, some pay homage to Buddah or the king and others represented organizations or trades. Each was fantastic and they provided us a beautiful gallery of photos to come home with!
Here is a collection of our pictures to enjoy. If you are in Thailand now – make your way to Chiang Mai to see the Chiang Mai Flower Festival.