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Thursday
Dec042014

Swimming with Whale Sharks in the Gulf of California, Baja Mexico

Just when I thought I'd fulfilled my "bucket list" requirement for 2014 with a magical trip to the Galapagos Islands, my husband Tony and I received the incredible opportunity to travel with the outfitter Baja AirVentures from San Diego to the Gulf of California for the truly once-in-a-lifetime experience of swimming with docile whale sharks, the largest "fish" in the sea.

Getting there was half the fun. Gliding over the massive terrain of the Baja California Peninsula and the coastline of the Gulf of California was almost a religious experience...it was so breathtakingly beautiful. Before we knew it, our plane gently descended onto the air strip at Bahia de los Angeles to begin our adventure.

A scenic boat ride from town brought us to Las Animas Wilderness Lodge, where our expectations were again exceeded, as we really weren't expecting such comfort in such a remote location. As we pulled into the placid harbor and docked on the expansive, white sandy beach, we felt as if we were part of a “world’s most beautiful beaches” travel magazine spread. This is "glamping" at its finest (glamorous camping for those of you not familiar with this term). 

 

The meals were lovingly-prepared and tasty and we often enjoyed fresh fish caught that day as well as ceviche and other local specialties.

The staff was exceptional in all aspects, genuinely eager to please us and cater to our every need. Our pilot guides Fred and Andy, in addition to being expert aviators, astounded us with the scope of their vast knowledge of the history, wildlife and fauna of the region. Their guidance did much to enhance our appreciation of this magnificent place, and their genuine love of Las Animas shone through in all their communications with our group.

Why did we choose this trip? A recent visit to the Galapagos Islands in March of this year whetted our appetites for more such soft travel adventures. We had heard from friends that the Midriff Islands in Baja California’s Gulf of California is known as “The Galapagos of North America” so we were intrigued. A quick internet search brought us to the Baja AirVentures web site, where (after reading all the glowing reviews) we booked the “Whale Shark” tour.

And YES, it is the Galapagos of North America! Topographically, the regions are very similar, although we enjoyed a rare occurrence:  the greening of the otherwise arid desert landscape because of the heavy rains of September. As in the Galapagos, we viewed blue-footed (and even yellow-footed) booby birds, magnificent frigates, countless sea lions, Sally-Lightfoot crabs, manta rays, sea turtles, dolphins and many other species both regions share. And while giant tortoises don't roam the wetlands as in the Galapagos, the gentle, magnificent whale sharks more than make up for this omission.

 The highlight of this voyage was to experience the proximity of these rare and elusive creatures. At one point, we counted 24 gentle giants swimming around us. Unbelievable! I must mention that even though you may not feel inclined or capable of jumping in the water to swim with the whale sharks, you will be able to admire them just as easily from the excursion boat that took us out daily.

I also must add that we were a group of 8 travelers from around the country (of various ages and walks of life) who started out as strangers and departed as friends, bonded by memories of a magical travel experience.

On our final evening, several of us walked along the shore and watched the sparkles under our feet and the glowing fish in the waves, the bio-luminescence phenomenon of the ocean that I have read about but never experienced. And oh, the heavenly sky in this wilderness defies description. I’ll never forget the site of that jet black globe peppered with glowing stars and constellations, including a magnificent Milky Way the likes of which I’ve never seen and will never forget.

We may be physically back home in San Diego, but our hearts are still on the shores of Las Animas Wilderness Lodge. And I suspect they might remain there for quite a while…..

Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, please log onto my PHOTO WEBSITE for a look at this glorious region through the eyes of my camera.

 

 

 

Thursday
Nov062014

Italian Ambiance on the Southern California Coast

    The Southern California coastline is dotted with luxury resort properties ready to welcome leisure and business travelers-- such as the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point.

     

Thursday
Oct092014

Photo Tour of the "Discovery of King Tut" Exhibition at San Diego's Natural History Museum


     From October 11, 2014 to April 26, 2015, residents and visitors to San Diego will have the opportunity to go back in time 3,000+ years to experience the discovery of the tomb of the legendary 18-year-old Egyptian King Tutankhamun, aka King Tut.

                                              PHOTO SLIDE SHOW OF THE EXHIBITION

 

© Joanne DiBona

     Making its West Coast debut, the breathtaking exhibition presents a recreation of the legendary boy king’s tomb and treasures exactly as they were discovered by Howard Carter in 1922.
     Because the fragile originals are no longer permitted to tour outside of Egypt, this exhibit features 1,000 scientifically-produced replicas hand-crafted by Egyptian artisans.
     For those who might hesitate to view less than the "real" thing, rest assured that this exhibit will definitely not disappoint, but vividly bring ancient history back to the 21st Century.
    As pointed out by Mark Lach, creative director at Premier Exhibitions, Inc., presenter of the exhibition, "Because we are using recreations of the originals, we are able to stage the exhibit to replicate the astonishing discovery of the tomb by Howard Carter in every detail, something that wasn't possible up to now." 
     Sure enough, the visitor is taken through scenes that exactly replicate what Carter and his companions must have viewed in their initial entry into the tomb, in every detail, and through every chamber leading to the discovery of King Tut's magnificent, multi-level sarcophagus. Audio tour equipment augments the visitor experience.
     For more information on this exhibit, call 619.232.3821 or visit www.sdnat.org.
© Joanne DiBona
Wednesday
Oct082014

Getting the Best Shot? Here are My Favorite Travel Photography Tips...

    I am honored to be designated as 10Best/USAT's "Travel Photography Expert." I only had 10 words to describe each tip in this list, and I hope these succinct tips can help budding travel photographers get the best shot.. I still use them myself on every shoot.

    Photographers, Galapagos Islands

Wednesday
Oct082014

Elkhart Lake: Wisconsin's Historic Playground

The state of Wisconsin is filled with charming, historical visitor destinations, such as Elkhart Lake.

Please enjoy my USA Today photo show on this delightful town.

The historic Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake Wisconsin