Wakatobi Dive Trip – 2013

09/19/13 Singapore

Arrived in Singapore at 12:15 AM Thursday morning. By the time we got to bed it was 2 AM. My day had begun at 6AM Tues morning, so it was a very long day.

When we fly to Asia, the first day we’re pretty jet lagged so we try not to plan too much. After breakfast we took the metro to Orchard Road, which is the main shopping street in Singapore and the closest tourist office to our location.

We toured Singapore via the Hop On/ Hop Off bus, which is a good way to get a broad overview of the city. There are normally three routes, but one was closed until Monday, because of the Singapore Grand Prix Formula 1 Night race that weekend. We did the city route first and the heritage route after lunch. The stops near the Marina Bay area were not open due to preparation for the race. We really need to look at current events before scheduling our trips.

Finding gluten-free food was challenging, so I had sushi for both lunch and dinner.

09/20/13 Singapore

Took the metro to the Botanical Gardens stop, then toured the Botanical Gardens and the Orchid Garden. My favorite areas were the Evolution Garden, the Orchid Garden, and the Ginger Garden. While walking through the Ginger Garden, we learned turmeric and bananas are part of the ginger family.

After leaving the gardens on the far side from where we entered, we took a bus to the nearest metro stop and then the metro back to the hotel for a much needed rest.

For dinner we went to a hamburger joint in Ion Mall on Orchard Rd that had gluten-free bread.

09/21/13 Singapore

Spent the day at the Singapore Zoo and the River Safari. The River Safari was not completed yet so, we’ll return again after the Amazon section is finished on a future stopover in Singapore.

09/22/13 Singapore

We went to Jurong Bird Park first, then later in the evening we did Night Safari. We traveled to and from the attractions by metro and bus. The Jurong Bird Park was old and in need of renovation.

The Night Safari was very different. You rode a tram in the dark around the park viewing the animals. As an option you could also get off and walk along selected, very dimly lit trails viewing the animals. With very few lights along the trail, getting good pictures was difficult, but the Night Safari is definitely worth repeating sometime in the future.

09/24/13 Bali

Up way to early for a 7AM 2.5 hr flight to Wakatobi. We spent 13 nights at Wakatobi Dive Resort. Three boat dives a day are offered, except for two morning boat dives on the last day. On some days a night dive is scheduled in place of the afternoon dive. We completing 34 dives; one shore dive and 33 boat dives with most of them at least 70 minutes long.

It was great to see Wakatobi’s beautiful reefs were even healthier than in years past and there was very little evidence of coral bleaching, which occurred several years ago due to higher than normal water temperature. We saw tons of fish, especially in less than 25 feet of water, making Wakatobi a world class resort for snorkelers too.

This year the corals were spawning later than normal making visibility more limited and wide angle photography more difficult due to backscatter, so we shot mainly macro. On 10/4 around 9AM, we were fortunate to witness, take pictures and video a coral sponge spawning, which was very cool. I’d always thought coral spawned at night so to witness it during the day was very unexpected and exciting. To view the video, click HERE.

For most dives we didn’t dive deeper than 65 feet, but on one dive there were five white tip reef sharks below so we headed down to 91 feet to get a better look.

The Indonesian gov decided to close the Denpasar, Bali airport on 10/7 at the last minute for APEC, so getting back to Bali was not fun and instead of a 2.5 hr flight to Bali, our trip involved a 2.5 hour flight to Lombok island instead, then a two hour bus ride across the island in a cramped bus, followed by a 2 hour boat ride in a cramped, hot and likely overweighted high speed ( 4 250 hp motors) ferry type boat across the bay to Bali and then finally a taxi to our hotel.

09/24/13 Bali

The Indonesian gov decided to close the Denpasar, Bali airport on 10/7 at the last minute for APEC, so getting back to Bali was not fun and instead of a 2.5 hr flight to Bali, our trip involved a 2.5 hour flight to Lombok island instead, then a two hour bus ride across the island in a cramped bus, followed by a 2 hour boat ride in a cramped, hot and likely overweighted high speed ( 4 250 hp motors) ferry type boat across the bay to Bali and then finally a taxi to our hotel.

Because of APEC our 1PM return flight was delayed 10 hours, as the airport was closed for the diplomats to fly out. The airport reopened at 8PM. Lots of security checks and after another hour delay from all the APEC diplomats leaving Bali, we finally left Bali around midnight headed to Singapore, then a layover and a flight to Hong Kong, then another layover and a very long flight back to the US. All the news corespondents covering APEC were returning home too so we ended up on the same flights. I think Joe and I were the only ones in Business Class who had not been on TV before covering news.

Even with all the transportation hassles on this trip, Wakatobi was still worth it to us and we’re looking forward to returning to paradise for our fifth visit to dive on some of the world’s most spectacular coral reefs while living on a beautiful tropical island or their luxurious liveaboard and eating delicious international meals.

Castles Along the Rhine Cruise on the Uniworld SS Antoinette – 2013

Basel, Switzerland to Mannheim, Germany

6/10/13

Because the Rhine River was flooded, the SS Antoinette could not get to Basel and was docked in Mannheim, Germany. Uniworld arranged to take us from Basel to Mannheim, Germany by bus and planned the route so we would not miss the scheduled excursion for the day. The bus traveled along the Alsace Wine Route, which hugs the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. We toured the wine villages of Kayserberg and Riquewihr, which had narrow, cobblestone streets and timbered Medieval houses with conical roofs, just like you see in fairytale illustrations.

6/11/13
Mannheim, Germany

The excursion today was a walking tour and canal cruise of the central area of Strasbourg. Joe went on the tour and Sue was not feeling well and stayed on the ship and did a few loads of laundry. Lunch that day on the ship was the best of the week in Sue’s opinion and was an elaborate spread similar to the meals Sue had in her early years of cruising in the 90s when smoked salmon and other expensive food items were plentiful for lunch on RCCL. Usually eating in the buffet at lunch Sue’s choices of gluten-free items are limited, but not on this ship. For lunch today she chose mussels, smoked salmon, raw oysters on the half-shell, a large salad and white and dark chocolate moose for dessert. Yes, her kind of meal.:) The only thing missing was a platter of nice, large shrimp. They also had a whole poached salmon displayed, along with gluten-free beef bourguignon and several other gluten-free choices.

6/12/13
Mannheim to Rüdesheim, Germany

A very informative and wonderful cellar and vinegar tasting tour at Weinessiggut Doktorenhof near Speyer. The different vinegars were actually quite tasty and we bought a fig vinegar.The excursion was one of the highlights of the cruise in our opinion.

In the afternoon we toured Heidelberg castle, and afterwards enjoyed a walking tour of Heidelberg.

6/13/13
Rüdesheim to Boppard

In the morning we walked around Rüdesheim then went on the Castle Vollrads wine tasting excursion

In the afternoon we cruised along the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a 40-mile stretch of the river with picturesque castles along almost every bend of the river and the main reason for this cruise.

After reaching Boppard Joe went on the Boppard village stroll and Sue stayed on the ship.

6/14/13
Boppard to Koblenz

Cruised the romantic Rhine River to Koblenz. Took the cable car across the river and toured Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, and then self-toured Koblenz.

In the afternoon we toured Marksburg Castle, the only hill castle on the Rhine that was never destroyed.

6/15/13
Koblenz to Cologne

The excursion was a Cologne walking tour with Cologne Cathedral visit.

About 11pm the ship left the Rhine and entered the first of four locks on the Amsterdam-Rhine canal.

6/16/13
Amsterdam, Netherlands (our 2nd trip to this city)

Debarked from the ship, checked into the hotel and took the tram to the stop nearest the museum and toured the recently reopened and refurbished Rijksmuseum. Much more beautiful than it was in 2003, which was right before it closed for renovation.

6/17/13
Amsterdam

Took the tram back to the museum stop and toured the Van Gogh museum, then took the tram to the canal districts and walked around.

In conclusion it was one of our best non-diving holidays ever. While we had a great time on our first river cruise and expect to do more in the future, we loved our eight days of exploring the beautiful Swiss Alps and can’t wait to return, even with snow on the ground. 🙂