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Should You Swim With The Whale Sharks In Oslob?

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World.

Swimming with whale sharks, a divers dream, but there is a lot of controversy about swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob. Many divers refuse to swim with them in Oslob because they feel the conditions are unfair. I originally wasn’t going to go. I didn’t want to condone the behavior. I changed my mind after talking to some local and expat dive shops and hearing their take. I decided to check it out and experience it myself and try to keep an open mind while I was there.

Shark Finning In The Philippines

Before this tiny town became a popular area to swim with the whale sharks, they were being harvested and their fins sold for income. Shark finning is illegal in the Philippines now, but it wasn’t for some time, and the whale shark populations were dwindling. The act of shark finning is when a fisherman catches a shark then slices of its fins and drops the rest of the body, alive, into the water to die. The sharks aren’t used for their full body meat, just the fins. Shark Fin Soup is very popular in Asia and the fins fetch a high dollar ticket when exported out. Many chefs, like Gordon Ramsey, have promoted not putting fins in shark fin soup. The fins don’t have a taste and have just become this commodity that has drove demand over the years.

How Swimming With Whale Wharks In Oslob Started

Local fishermen use shrimp as bait to catch fish, and the whale sharks were drawn to the shrimp and stuck around the boats. A local dive shop owner encouraged the fishermen not to fin them. He said to bring them into the bay by feeding them krill where they could share them with the community and tourists alike. The small town of Oslob went from not being able to send their children to school and living in shacks with no bathrooms to now where children have education, and families live in homes with plumbing and electric. If it weren’t for the sharks, this small town would still be struggling.

A foreign dive shop owner, from the UK, talked to me about not supporting them for years, in an effort to do their part in helping to put an end to it. He realized that divers were just going to other shops when his shop refused to go. His shop now offers dive trips to Oslob again, but his staff gives a thorough briefing along with educating his guests about the whale sharks and Oslob’s history with them.

My Experience Snorkeling With Whale Sharks In Oslob

My first impression upon arriving was that it wasn’t so bad, organization wise. Once there you are ushered to get your ticket (snorkeling is 1000 pesos and diving is 1500 Pesos). You then head off to another area to listen to a briefing on the do’s and don’ts of swimming with the whale sharks. I like that they have a briefing, but not everyone attends nor does everyone listen to what they are saying. The briefer did hit all the major points: stay at least 6m away from the whale sharks, don’t use sunscreen, and no swimming off from the boat to chase after them.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Once the briefing was over, I waited for my number to be called then headed out to the boats. The boats are regulated, and there weren’t more than 20 boats out at a time when I went. The boats were also all daisy chained up in a line, so there was some organized fashion with the boats, they’re not just a free for all in the Bay. Once chained up to your neighboring boat, you’re allowed to get in the water, staying next to the boat to wait for the whale sharks to pass you.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Here’s where the mixed emotion comes in. There are a few smaller boats in the water with a single fisherman on each, and he is hand-feeding the whale sharks buckets of krill. There tends to be one whale shark per boat, and they just follow the boat up and down the path of the tourists, eating the krill. In my eyes, this is not really an authentic experience. The whale sharks aren’t concerned about anything other than getting fed by the fishermen. They’re basically pets without leashes following their owner.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Why Feeding The Whale Sharks In Oslob Is Hurting Them

What I first noticed is none of the boats have propellers which are great, the whales won’t get chewed up by coming in contact with them, but what I witnessed is the whale sharks still had scrapes and cuts on them. The theory is because these sharks are used to being fed, they are going up to any boat once they are outside the bay thinking they’re going to be fed and are getting hit with the boat propellers.

Feeding the whale sharks is also breaking their migratory patterns. A local dive shop said that it’s the smaller whale sharks that stay in the bay and only for a few years then head off, but there’s not much data proving this.

Final Thoughts

I was surprised to see there were more local tourists here than foreign tourists. Since the whale shark tourism isn’t going away anytime soon, I feel it’s a great way for the local tourists to see what’s in their waters and learn how to protect them and why they’re so important. They are also supporting the locals, giving them a better life. For the foreigners, I felt like I was at Disneyland. Many were screaming like they were on a wild ride. You’re not offered fins unless you bring them. I was the only one on my boat with fins, which helped in getting underneath the manic tourists. Most of the people in the boat, once in the water, were kicking and screaming when the whale sharks got close, and some even kicked them. Not really my cup of tea.

I honestly only spent about 10 minutes in the water with them. Absorbing what was going on around me, I took a bunch of pictures, yelled at a few tourists on my boat who were getting too close and generally just freaking out, and then got out. I honestly don’t know if paying the extra money to dive with them would have been any different.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

As a dive professional, I believe, this is not the way to see these beautiful creatures. When you see one of these beauties in the wild, it’s like you are given a gift. Going to a place like Oslob where you know you’re guaranteed to see them, it takes the thunder away from seeing them in their natural environment. This was my first time seeing them and now more than ever, I want to see them when it’s not a guarantee, but when one randomly shows up on one of my dives. That will be an experience of a lifetime and one to remember and cherish.

 

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World.

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Scuba Diving In Cebu, Philippines

 

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World.

I had two things on my agenda when I went to Cebu Island in the Philippines. Moalboal to dive the Sardine Run and Malapascua to swim with Thresher sharks! I loved the laidback town of Moalboal. I absolutely fell in love with the little diving town and the locals. I really felt a connection there. Malapascua has some incredible diving and is away from the hustle of Cebu Island. It was fun to hang out on bean bag chairs while watching the sunset on the beach. I dove at both places and neither disappointed!

Moalboal

I spent most of my time here. I was only planning eight days and winded up staying 13! I couldn’t get enough of the diving and fell in love with the locals. If my heart wasn’t set on seeing the thresher sharks, I would have stayed here the whole month I was in Cebu. While here, I dove ten times. While all the dive sites are good, there are two that you must do when you’re there.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

House Reef – Sardine Run (3-65m – 100 m from beach)

My favorite dive out of all of them, even over the thresher sharks! This reef is right off the shore so you can take your snorkel gear and go anytime you’d like. I went early (6:30 am) one more and had them all to myself. It was the most magical time! Of course having a tank on your back lets you stay down a lot longer than a single breath, but there was something mystical about being out there with them by myself in that early morning.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Pescador Island (55m+ –  15 minutes)

Pescador is another site that divers come for. The island is a short ride out and has a beautiful, healthy reef that’s full of color. If you’re a frogfish fan, you’re going to love this dive site. We spotted easily 4-5 on each dive.
Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Malapascua

Malapasuca is just a 35 minute boat ride from the top of Cebu Island. The island doesn’t have ATM’s or cars and you can walk the island in a couple hours. The island isn’t just for divers, it’s tailored to all tourists with its beaches lined with bars, dive shops and restaurants.  There are two popular dive sites here, Monad Shoal and Gato Island. Don’t miss diving at these two amazing sites!

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines -  Robyn Around The World..

Monad Shoal (26m+ – 20 mins)

Thresher Sharks!!! This is one of the only places in the world where they can be seen almost every morning. They are best seen at sunrise, so prepare to be up at 4:00 am to jump in the boat to get out there. The sharks are at about 24m so make sure you’re nitrox certified so you can get the longest bottom time with them. This is a show you don’t want to miss!

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Gato Island (24m – 40 mins)

Gato Island is another famous dive site on the island. It’s a marine and sea snake sanctuary. I saw a few banded sea snakes on each of my dives. You can also see cuttlefish, scorpion fish, coral banded shrimp, nudibranchs, and plenty of reef sharks. I even saw my first big seahorse! I mean pigmys are cute and all, but I had a great time following a male around while he jumped from coral to coral.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World.

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Scuba Diving In Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Ah diving in Phu Quoc… When I came to work at a dive shop here, the manager warned me that it wasn’t world class diving. Coming from diving in Komodo National Park for six weeks, I was spoiled with large fish and healthy, colorful reefs. I did some research and found out it would be all shallow diving, and the visibility would be next to nothing, 6 meters on a good day.

To me, any day underwater is a good day, so I decided to take a chance and come to Phu Quoc to dive for four months.

First impressions: The diving wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The reef is nice, but there is bleaching happening here as there is all over the world. The water temperature is 29-30C (84-86F). The reef is shallow, most of the dive will be at 5 meters, but the reef fish are beautiful. You will see everything from small schools of fusilier and sergeant majors, nudibranch, giant hermit crabs, and even cuttlefish.

Unfortunately, there is nothing big in the water. No sharks or turtles to be seen. Phu Quoc is not marine protected, so it is way overfished. The locals only care about their next meal and not the environment. I often see locals spearfishing while I’m diving here and am constantly cutting out marine life from fishing lines and nets.

If you’re looking to get out and get wet for a day, it’s a beautiful day out. But if you’re expecting world class diving you’re going to be sorely disappointed.


PHU QUOC DIVING IN THE NORTH


Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Turtle Island

Turtle Island is by far my favorite place to dive. We usually dive on the north side for our first dive then move the boat to the south side for our second dive. Both are very different dives. The north side has nice baummies that you can swim around. The south side looks like a Smurf village where you can find anemone gardens and whip coral.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Nail Island

Unfortunately, as of November 2016, this dive site is destroyed. Construction commenced to build a private hut on the island and with that builders destroyed the coral in the process. The visibility here has been 1-2 meters at best since with broken coral everywhere.

Nudibranch Garden

This shallow reef goes on for days. Sheltered from the wind, Nudibranch Garden is a great option to dive when Turtle Island has rough surface current.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

 


PHU QUOC DIVING IN THE SOUTH


MPA (Marine Protected Area)

Despite the name of the dive site, the area is not marine protected. It does have some fun boulders to follow along and the topography is different than Turtle Island, but it’s still shallow diving. You may hit 12 meters while you’re here, but the bulk of your diving will be between 6-8 meters.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Pineapple

Another popular site in the south, this L-shaped dive site is easy to navigate and is full of hard and soft coral. Again maximum depth you will get to here is about 12 meters.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

U-Turn

This popular dive site is a sheltered area from the wind where you can have fun navigating through all the hard and soft coral and if you’re lucky to see the occasional cuttlefish.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World


PHU QUOC DIVING: NORTH VERSUS SOUTH


Many people that come here thinking the South diving is the best diving because I believe Lonely Planet did a blurb on diving in Phu Quoc and made the South out to be great diving in Phu Quoc. It’s not; it’s the same as the North.

Personally, having spent three months diving here almost every day, I much prefer the North to the South and here’s why. The visibility has always been much better in the North than the South. I’m talking 2-4 meters in the South versus 6-8 meters in the North.

Yes, it’s true you can get deeper in the South. You can get to 30 meters of seeing all the sand you want. In reality, you will be at 8-12 meters for most of your dive in the South. Unless you’re doing an advanced deep dive course where you have to get to a place deeper than 18.1 meters, but you won’t see anything that deep except for a sandy bottom.

So is 12 meters better than 6 meters? Not in my opinion. The topography is a little different than the North, but neither is better than the other. It just takes longer to get South, 3 hours versus 1.5 hours to get to the North.

Still determined to dive in the South? The best time of year to dive the South is June through October. Want to dive the North? November through May is the best time to dive.




2016 Top 10 Photography Gifts

photographygifts

Still wondering what to get the photographer in the family?  With the holiday’s right around the corner, here are ten gifts for your photographer that will up their photography game. These gifts will be sure to wow and make them happy.

 


IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT INSTANT CAMERA


Top 10 Photography Gifts - www.robynaroundtheworld.com

Bringing the Instant Film Camera back to life! The 1st new instant camera in over 20 years! Cool new features allows you to remote control the shutter using a phone app and control exposure and all manual settings through the app too. Film is sold separately in packs of 8 sheets each.


GO PRO


Top 10 Photography Gifts - GoPro

 

On everyone’s list is GoPro’s latest Hero 5 which had a significant upgrade allowing it to shoot now in RAW. This is a game changer for post production editing.  Catering to every budget, the new Hero 5 Session starts at $299 with the older versions starting at $199. Sure to make every photographer in your family happy.

 


GORILLA POD


Top 10 Travel Gifts - Gorilla Pod

Not just for cell phones and selfies anymore, the Gorilla Pod makes a great accessory for any photographer! This tripod has a ball head that is still strong enough to support your DLSR and Mirrorless camera while having moldable legs.  Ideal for photographing sunrise, sunset, and long exposure pictures. It’s also perfect for getting the weird angle shots, without having to work within the constraints of a traditional tripod.

 

 


FLOATING HANDLE GRIP FOR GOPRO


Top 10 Photography Gifts - GoPro Float Stick

 

A must for the underwater photographer and water sports junkie. This Floating Handle Grip will ensure you don’t lose your GoPro underwater. If it slips out of your hand, the grip acts as a buoyancy device and your GoPro will float to the surface instead of deep into the sea.

 


CAMERA LENS MUG


Top 10 Photography Gifts - Camera Mug

 

A must for every camera nut! This super fun Camera Lens Mug is a useful novelty gift. Drink your morning coffee or tea out of your favorite lens. The inside is stainless steel with an outer plastic that looks like a real camera lens.  Perfect size that fits 13.5 oz of liquid.

 


POP-UP FLASH BOUNCE 


Top 10 Photography Gifts - Flash Bounce

 

Ever wonder how professional photographers get that soft lighting when using on camera flash?  They bounce their flash to diffuse the light and create soft light around them. You can now get the same effect by using this tool, Pop-up Flash Bounce, that was designed especially for the pop-up flash camera.

 


KEYBOARD SHORTCUT SKINS – PHOTOSHOP


Top 10 Photography Gifts - Photoshop Shortcut Skin

 

Having a hard time remembering all the shortcuts in Photoshop? The Photoshop Keyboard Shortcut Skins is the solution not to have to memorize them all!  This keyboard skin has all the shortcuts right at your fingertips. The skin is thin and washable so you can keep it clean.

 


PORTABLE PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO


Top 10 Photography Gifts - Photoshop Shortcut Skin

 

Getting ready to start studio product work? This Portable Studio is a great kit to help you practice your skills without having to buy all the expensive equipment that goes along with shooting corporate product photography. Kit comes with a 24x24inch box, spot lights, backdrops, and portable tripod.

 


CAMERA CUBE LEVEL


Top 10 Photography Gifts - Photo Cube

 

A great accessory to go with the gorilla pod. The Camera Cube Level attaches to your camera’s hot shoe and makes sure your camera is level with its 3-axis leveling. This level is easy to use, won’t break the bank and will assure your pictures are level. Take your photography to the next level. A great stocking stuffer!

 


BOKEH LENS KIT


Top 10 Photography Gifts - Boheh Lens

 

A game changer for your photography, these fun lenses let you create special effect images while you’re shooting without having to do the work in post-production. It comes with 21 pre-cut shapes and another eight uncut disks that you can create your own shape.


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Diving In Komodo National Park

Diving Komodo National Park

I just spent six weeks doing my Divemaster in Komodo National Park. Komodo has by far been the best diving I’ve done to date. The coral is healthy, and the fish are spectacular. So what makes the diving so spectacular? Komodo National Park is in the Lintah Strait. So what does that mean? The straight is smack-dab right in-between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Both these currents are rushing into the straight and the water from these two mix and creates a nutrient rich environment for the marine life in the park. You can see everything from Macro to Mantas!

So let’s talk about the currents then. When people hear about Komodo the first thing they ask is “so how crazy are the currents?” No joke the currents can be psychotic as you will see in the video below. Because you have two different ocean currents flooding the area, you need to throw everything you learned in Tides 101 out the window.

In Komodo, things can change in a minute and without warning. This video was taken at Batu Bolong. The current changed while we were under which created strong back-eddies. The boat had to pull us up and get us out before the ship gets pulled into the current creating a spin. This video isn’t meant to scare you as the boatmen were highly trained in how to get everyone out safely, and we all got out safe. But it is there to show you how mental these conditions can be and how important it is to stick with your dive guide and listen to their directions, so you have a fun and safe dive.

Don’t be scared to come here as the Divemasters are mostly locals who have grown up in these waters and can see what a current is doing from the surface and the non-local staff is trained for months before they take customers out. There are many dive sites that are calmer than others, and the dive shops will assess which dive sites to go to based on the experience of the divers.

While I was there, I dove 19 of the dive sites, multiple times. Most of the diving is done in the central area of the park and depending on the season there are also great dive locations in the North and South. Because I was there during the changing season, I got to experience both ends of the park. Here is a list of my favorite along with some of the most popular, must not miss dive sites when you’re there!


KOMODO NATIONAL PARK – CENTRAL


Batu Bolong (Depth 5-30 meters)

Hands down, my favorite dive site! It’s a party down there! Batu Bolong is one of the dive sites where you need to watch the current. You can only dive right after a change and well before the next change in tide. The current splits behind the rock and creates down currents on the sides and a nice sheltered lee in the middle. You dive the lee side and zig-zag up the wall. There is so much going on down there! Literally hundreds of THOUSANDS of fish. There are so many fish that you will be swimming through them. On the wall is beautiful coral and out in the blue you can see reef sharks, trevally, and barracuda. This site is not to be missed!

Diving Komodo National Park

Manta Point (Depth 5-15 meters)

This drift dive is one of two dive sites where mantas come to play. You can see them breeding, cleaning, and eating at this dive site. The dive site isn’t’ very pretty as it’s made of coral rubble from the years of currents flowing in and out of the straight, but it’s a great place to see the Mantas. The current can get quite strong, so when you see a manta, your dive guide may use a reef hook for you to hold on to, so you’re not fighting against the current.

Diving Komodo National Park

Mawan (Depth 12-18 meters)

My favorite place to see mantas. The dive site is sloping sandy reef which allows for a magical interaction that you might not see at Manta Point. One of my best interactions was here. You can view it in the video below.

 

Siaba Besar (Depth 10-20 meters)

Are you a macro nut? This is the dive site for you! This famous muck dive is full of cool small things. Frogfish, hairy frogfish, devil scorpionfish, wonderpus, white v octopus, robust pipefish, ornate pipefish, nudibranch, flamboyant cuttlefish, dwarf lionfish.

Diving Komodo National Park

Siaba Kecil (Depth 15-30 meters)

Dubbed the Superman drift for a reason. Not for the faint of heart! This bad boy has been clocked at speeds as fast as 1 KM in 7 minutes! Your dive guide will assess the current before jumping in; the average speed is 12-15 minutes before ending in a lee section to catch your breath and hang out in a coral garden.

Diving Komodo National Park

Tatawa Besar (Depth 5-25 meters)

A nice drift dive that has two parts, soft coral area, and a hard coral area. This is a great place to see turtles as they feed on the hard coral.

Diving Komodo National Park

Wanilu (Depth 8-15 meters)

Another muck dive where you can find fun macro life, flounders, stingrays, and the rare and beautiful mandarin fish!

Diving Komodo National Park


KOMODO NATIONAL PARK – NORTH


The Cauldron – Shot Gun (Depth 5-30 meters)

This site is famous for its area called The Shotgun. The site is a bowl underwater that has been carved out after years of currents rushing through the small passage. The shotgun is a lip on the rim of the cauldron where the current runs through, you pop up over this lip and hook into a rock then let the water rush over you while you enjoy the show. Mantas, sharks, and you might even see a dugong!

Diving Komodo National Park
Castle Rock (Depth 5-30 meters)

The Beautiful submerged pinnacle that starts underwater at 4 meters deep. The water temperature is usually warmer than the central parts and visibility is usually great!

Diving Komodo National Park

Crystal Rock (Depth 5-30 meters)

Just like Castle Rock this rock is a pinnacle that just peeks out of the water during low tide. It is blanketed with beautiful soft and hard corals.

Diving Komodo National Park


KOMODO NATIONAL PARK – SOUTH


Pillarstein (Depth 5-30 meters)

Get ready for some fun swim troughs! This dive is all about the topography. It has many caves you can swim through at different depths. You do need to watch how hard the waves are crashing on the surface as there can be a good amount of surge underwater.

Divemaster Komodo National Park

3 Sisters (Depth 5-30 meters)

Named because of the three submerged pinnacles underwater that you can dive. You can do all three in one dive if the conditions are right as they are close to each other. With that said, this is one of the dive sites that needs to be done in perfect conditions.

Diving Komodo National Park

Pengah Kecil (Depth 5-25 meters)

This site is right up there with Batu Bolong. It has beautiful coral gardens flanked with marine life. You will witness schools of fish, turtles, eels, and sharks at this site.

Diving Komodo National Park




Motorcycling Through Vietnam – Saigon To Hoi An



Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

One of my bucket list items is to motorbike through Vietnam. I made it a reality when I was there and booked a tour through Original Easy Riders for seven days, starting in Saigon and ending in Hoi An. My guide, Bin, asked if I wanted a scooter or a motorcycle, but stressed the motorcycle would be more comfortable for the long journey. So there I was day one on a Saigon sidewalk, getting a 5-minute lesson on how to work a fully manual motorcycle before getting thrown into Saigon traffic. Now if any of you have been to Vietnam and their two major cities know the traffic is ridiculous. I wasn’t worried because I’ve been riding bikes for the past 17 months throughout SEA, but still, this traffic is no joke. I learned just to go with the flow and ignore the horns honking Every. Single. Second. Bin helped me pack up my backpack on the back of my bike and off we went!


DAY 1 – SAIGON TO DONG XOAI (210 KM)


Starting from my hotel in Saigon, it takes us about 30 minutes to get out of town, which is pretty congested, but I did fine, and no stalls! Our 1st stop was Chu Chi tunnels where the military and families hid out during the Vietnam war. We walked through one of the tunnels, which is not for the claustrophobic! After, we took a small boat to cross a lake to the Ho Chi Minh trail. After we had exited the ferry, we stopped to see Thanh Hoa Bridge on the Song Ma River which was used to carry supplies across the river during the war.  It was bombed in 1972 and the remnants are still there today. After we jumped back on the trail and headed to Dong Xoai for the night. The ride through the countryside is beautiful! It was nice to get away from the city and ride through the gorgeous green!

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World
Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


DAY 2 – DONG XOAI TO DAKMIL (200 KM)


Our second day was all about seeing how the locals in the countryside live. Our first stop was at a cashew plantation. I love cashews, but I did not know how labor intensive they are! The ladies (yes all women) were peeling them one by one. Once peeled, they get transferred to another room where women and children sort them into three categories: good, broken parts, and bad. Now I know why they’re so expensive! So crazy! Next stop was to see rubber trees. Yes, trees that produce your rubber bands. Did you know? I certainly didn’t! I thought rubber was manufactured by chemicals. It actually comes from trees and is Vietnams #3 export, coffee being #1 and cashews being #2. It was fun to see the process of how they cut into the tree, then watch the sap drip and harden into elastic. Our final stop of the day was at a local farmers house where they grow peanuts. The family gave us fruit to eat and were happy to talk with us about their farm and how they grow the peanuts. The locals are all so friendly and welcoming out in the country. They don’t get many foreigners out in these areas.

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


DAY 3 – DAKMIL TO DAK LAK (150 KM)


We visited two waterfalls this day. The first was fairy pool, after a small hike down to the bottom we had a pool of blue water and small falls to swim in all to ourselves. We stayed for maybe an hour then went off to visit Dray Nu Falls. They call this the Niagara Falls of Vietnam. This big beautiful waterfall is where many locals come to take pictures. There was even a wedding photo shoot going on when we were there.

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


DAY 4 – DAK LAK TO PLEIKU (170 KM)


Visiting Vietnam during monsoon season brings rain on and off all day. This day, it decided to rain all day long. I was comfortable wrapped up in my poncho and had a full-face guard on my helmet. We stopped at three places this day. First stop was a coffee village, where they have a museum of all the coffee presses and bean holders. We also stopped to see and eat tapioca plants and another stop to see how peppercorn is grown. We ended at a resort in Pleiku and stayed in cute little bungalows overlooking a lake.

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


DAY 5 – PLEIKU TO KON TUM (110 KM)


Today we visited was a park where there was a temple, a crocodile farm, pigs and deer. We fed the pigs and deer then went off in search of some coloring books to bring with us to Vinh Son Orphanage in Kon Tum. We sat in on a class of girls aged 11-12 who were learning English. They all looked happy and well dressed. They have a few sponsors including HALO from my hometown of Seattle!

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

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Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


DAY 6 – KON TUM TO KHAM DUC (120 KM)


Easy ride day! We drove through the mountains stopping at random waterfalls off the highway and to walk on ‘monkey bridge’ which is just a super wobbly bridge. These bridges, I could come to find out, are all over the countryside for motorbikes to ride on.

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


DAY 7 – KHAM DUC TO HOI AN (110 KM)


Our last day was jammed pack stopping at a pineapple farm where we ate eat small pineapples dipped in chili salt. We crossed one of the wobbly bridges on the bikes to visit a small village of Laos refugees and played with the kids. Our last stop before we finished in Hoi An was at a rice paper manufacture where we learned how they make rice paper. The vietnamese use either rice paper or rice noodles at every meal.

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


SEE MY 7 DAYS THROUGH SNAPCHAT


I’ve been snapping almost daily! Come see my adventures over on snapchat!

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Snapchat video of my 7-day motorbike ride through Vietnam

 


Diving The Andaman Sea – Phuket & Koh Lanta

 Diving Andaman Sea

I had the opportunity to dive both the Gulf of Thailand in Koh Tao and also the Andaman Sea side when I was in Phuket and Koh Lanta. Both were great diving experiences. I started my diving journey on Koh Lanta where I did a Discover Scuba Dive experience with ScubaFish. Elaine was my instructor, and she was amazing! We had a half day session in the pool then the next morning we took a boat out to Koh Phi Phi to dive to a maximum of 12 meters. It was such a great experience that after I went directly to Koh Tao to get my Open Water Diver certification, then headed back to stay in Phuket for a month and did a few days of diving while I was there. I had the opportunity to explore eight different dive sites.

Diving Andaman Sea - Robyn Hartzell


Bida Nai – Koh Phi Phi


Diving Koh Phi Phi - Bida Nai

A small island off the south end of Koh Phi Phi is one of the best wall dives one can discover. With a depth of 32 meters, it is a great place for all levels of divers to explore. You’ll see plenty of fish swimming around the large, colorful sea fans and sponge barrels. It’s also home to Moray Eels so you should be able to spot one or two on your dive.

Diving Koh Phi Phi - Bida Nai


Loh Samah Bay – Koh Phi Phi


This site, located on the east side of Koh Phi Phi is popular with snorkelers and divers alike. This wall dive is perfect forthe open water diver as it descends to a maximum of 20 meters. Try to go in low season when the boats aren’t so abundant. During high season, you will find upwards of 20-30 boats and long tails all grabbing a spot to drop their snorkelers and divers in.


King Cruiser


Diving Andaman Sea - King Cruiser

Just Northeast of Koh Phi Phi this passenger ferry found itself many miles off course and slammed into Anemone Reef in 1997. Some say it was done on purpose as the reef is shallow and the captain should have known to steer away from it. This dive site is now one of the most popular sites near Phuket. It has multiple decks and plenty of space for you to swim through without disturbing the sealife. It’s perfect for advanced divers as it sits between 12-30 meters.

Diving Andaman Sea - King Cruiser


Shark Point


Diving Andaman Sea - King Cruiser

Northeast of Koh Phi Phi is a dive site that is part of a marine sanctuary. The site got it’s name for the leopard sharks that often visit the site. There is a lot of beautiful coral and schools of fish to be seen at this site. The depth is 0-25 meters, perfect for both open water divers and advanced divers.

Diving Andaman Sea - King Cruiser


Koh Doc Mai


Diving Andaman Sea - Koh Doc Mai

Half way between Phuket and Koh Phi Phi is Koh Doc Mai, which means “Flower Island” The island is made of a big limestone rock that rises out of the water and is un-habited by humans. It is a sloping wall dive with both hard and soft coral that goes down to 25 meters. You can easily swim around half the island in one tank if you go slow to explore the sea life. There are also a few caves to explore. It’s suitable for both open water divers as the west side only goes to 18 meters where the east side drops down to 25 meters for the Advanced divers to explore.

Diving Andaman Sea - Koh Doc Mai


Banana Bay North and South– Racha Noi


Diving Andaman Sea - Banana Bay

The east side on Racha Noi is known as Banana Bay, getting it’s name from all the banana trees that grow on that side of the island. It’s a gently sloping hard coral reef down to 25 meters. Plenty of sea anemones live on the rocks, and you may even spot Nemo. You can explore the North and South end during two dives.

Diving Andaman Sea - Banana Bay


Lha Bay – Racha Yai


Diving Andaman Sea - LHA Bay

The other Racha Island ‘Yai’ is an hour boat ride from Racha Noi. You can do both islands in one day by taking the boat between during surface intervals. Lha Bay is on the east side of the island and gradually drops to 30 meters where you’ll find a sunken ship you can swim through with a proper guide.

Diving Andaman Sea - LHA Bay

3 Days On A Liveaboard Diving The Great Barrier Reef

3 Days on a Liveaboard Diving the Great Barrier Reef: Exploring Flynn Reef and Milln Reef

I have dreamed of going to the Great Barrier Reef for years. It’s one of those places that goes on your bucket list or vision board. I created a vision board while I was planning my trip and I put Australia and the Great Barrier Reef on there. I didn’t realize that I’d get there so soon! The flight from Chiang Mai to the Cook Islands was going to be around 20 hours, so to break up the flight I decided to stop in Cairns and book a 3-day trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

3 Days on a Liveaboard Diving the Great Barrier Reef: Exploring Flynn Reef and Milln Reef

It was the best three days I’ve had diving since I started! Doing a liveaboard is something every scuba diver should experience. I went with Pro Dive Cairns and did 11 dives in 3 days including 2 night dives. Once aboard, literally all you do is dive, eat, sleep. This is truly the best way to dive as you wake up, and you’re already at your dive site you just put on your gear that’s already set-up and waiting for you and jump out for your dive. What was even better is these were all unguided dives, so you pick your buddy and off you go to explore the reef on your own (with direction on where to go during the dive briefs). This was my first time going without guides, and it was pretty awesome. I was able to practice navigation skills, and we could look around the dive site at our own leisure and move away from areas if they got too crowded.

3 Days on a Liveaboard Diving the Great Barrier Reef: Exploring Flynn Reef and Milln Reef

The Great Barrier Reef: Flynn & Milln Reefs

We spent our three days exploring two reefs: Flynn Reef and Milln Reef. Both these reefs are huge with a lot of dive sites on each. There’s plenty to see at these reefs including sharks, groupers, schools of bumphead parrotfish, cuttlefish, nemo and tons of colorful coral everywhere. We got lucky and the second day there we saw coral spawning that only happens a couple of times a year. We also met Brian the resident turtle during our night dive at Mickey Mouse reef.  He’s a bit of a celebrity in Cairns and is even printed on t-shirts!

3 Days on a Liveaboard Diving the Great Barrier Reef: Exploring Flynn Reef and Milln Reef

Both reefs were clear with no current, just fish and critters to see every which way. The coral is definitely the main attraction! They were so colorful and huge! They call them “Baummies“ which is like big boulders of corals that you can swim around. There’re baummie clusters everywhere. I was surprised that we only averaged 14-18 meter dives. With the reef being so shallow, it was perfect for snorkeling too. My dive buddy’s wife snorkeled while he dove and she saw just as much as we did just from looking down. She saw turtles and all the fish and coral. What I loved about doing a liveaboard (my first!) was we were the only boat out on our dive sites all three days. The reef is huge! It covers 132,974 square miles and to reach part of it from Cairns is a 3.5-hour boat ride. Most same day dive boats won’t go out there, so it’s limited to the liveaboards which with the reef being so huge and plenty of sites to choose from, you might not see another boat for the three days while you’re out there. It was true bliss!

3 Days on a Liveaboard Diving the Great Barrier Reef: Exploring Flynn Reef and Milln Reef

Spending 3-Days At Sea

There are many companies that go out to the reef. I found Pro Dive Cairns through TripAdvisor (I was not sponsored), and booked them off their great reviews.

3 Days on a Liveaboard Diving the Great Barrier Reef: Exploring Flynn Reef and Milln Reef

I found staying on the liveaboard really enjoyable and would absolutely do it again. I was in the sleeping quarters for singles which included 2 bunks in the room; I was paired with a girl from Holland. The rooms are small, but you literally just sleep there, so it’s all you need. There’re plenty of shared showers on board too so if you have to wait for a shower, you’re not waiting long. I loved falling asleep to the rocking of the ocean. After being spoiled with Cairns, I will be looking for more liveaboards to go on in the future.

3 Days on a Liveaboard Diving the Great Barrier Reef: Exploring Flynn Reef and Milln Reef

I can’t wait to get back to Cairns and explore more of the reef.

3 Days on a Liveaboard Diving the Great Barrier Reef: Exploring Flynn Reef and Milln Reef


7 Tips for Using a GoPro Underwater




Top 7 Tips For Taking Better Underwater Photos - Robyn Around The World

So you just got a new GoPro and can’t wait to take it underwater and take amazing pictures of what you see. Before you go here are some tips on how to set-up your GoPro and get better pictures underwater.

*All images taken with GoPro Hero4

7 Tips for Using a GoPro Underwater


GET EYE LEVEL


7 Tips for Using a GoPro Hero4 Underwater

The mistake some people make is shooting from the top down. If you do this, you’re going have a ton of pictures of fish backs and not the epic shots of them staring you in the face. Get on their level. Being at eye-level will allow you to get really great pictures of the sea life.


STEADY YOURSELF


7 Tips for Using a GoPro Hero4 Underwater.

GoPro’s aren’t known for their fast shutter speed so you’re going to need to steady yourself while getting the shot. Set yourself up and stabilize your buoyancy so that you’re still when you take the shot. If there’s a rock or sand by you use two fingers or a pointer stick to steady yourself while you take the shot. If you use your fingers fan the area with your hand to make sure you’re not putting your fingers on something alive and make sure your not grabbing onto coral, they’re living too.


BUY A RED FILTER


7 Tips for Using a GoPro Hero4 Underwater

When you go below 10 meters, you lose the color red. Getting a red filter will put the color back in your pictures and save you the headache of trying to correct it post processing later. You can get a filter for ~$30 through Amazon. Polar Pro makes some good ones.


SWITCH BETWEEN VIEWS


7 Tips for Using a GoPro Hero4 Underwater

Change your settings while you’re underwater. See a big school of fish? Change your setting to wide angle to get the best shot. See a cool Moray eel? Change it to medium view for a narrower shot. Play with the views underwater to see the difference the shot makes.


USE BURST MODE


Diving the Gulf of Thailand: Koh Tao

I set my GoPro to burst mode 10 pictures per 3 seconds. As much as you can steady your self, I still like to shoot in this mode, because it helps me set-up my shot. I press the button, and I have 3 seconds to make sure I get the best shot. I tend to grab one of the shots in the middle. Those are usually the ones that turn out best and are in focus.


USE PROTUNES


7 Tips for Using a GoPro Hero4 Underwater

Although you can’t change too many settings in the GoPro, you can change some using ProTunes. Here are the settings for my GoPro Hero4.  Check your manual for other models.White Balance is set to Auto. I set my ISO to the highest speed (800) and low light on so the shutter speed is at the maximum it can handle underwater.


BE PATIENT


7 Tips for Using a GoPro Hero4 Underwater

You’re taking pictures of wild animals. Being in the open ocean is different than being at an aquarium where the animals are confined to a small tank. These critters have miles and miles of water to call their home, so if they swim away from you be patient, there will be others. Take the time to look under rooks and in holes too, some cool eels and rays like to hide in there. Keep your eyes peeled. The perfect shot may be right in front of you.


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