Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018: A Year In Review

2018 started off in a big way. I found myself back in Africa, this time in East Africa for an incredible family safari with the Dillon clan through Kenya and Tanzania. We took part in a Masaai new years celebration at the uber luxurious Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. Ringing in the new years surrounded by a hundred chanting Masaai warriors and dancers. 

  After that safari I rushed back to the east coast for the birth of our first child. Born in Burlington, Vermont on January 19th, we welcomed a baby girl into the world. We named her Catalina after the island that Heidi and I met sailing around nearly a decade ago. 

  After a month of changing diapers and getting used to fatherhood I headed back to finish the Hawaii UnCruise season aboard the Safari Explorer. This would be the start of my new father schedule of working for a month and then off for a month. 

  This summer was my second season as Expedition Leader aboard the Safari Quest in Canada and Alaska. She is the smallest vessel in the fleet, and maxes out at 22 passengers. The expedition staff is comprised of just me. After a few Canada trips exploring the coast of British Columbia we began a brand new itinerary or the Quest in Alaska. The trip went in and out of Petersburg, which meant we were right in the mix of things as far as whales, glaciers, bears, and other incredible adventures. It turned out to be a wonderful itinerary and an even better crew. 

  I ended up spending a lot of time in airports and on airplanes this year. One of my favorite airports to walk through was ORD in Chicago, as the art installations there were just mesmerizing. I got bumped up to first class a few times on United thanks to my frequent flier status. My usual flights were between Vermont, Hawaii, and Alaska...although one of my favorite stops off the beaten path was a visit to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There was some pretty amazing animals, beautiful landscapes, and great adventures around Yellowstone and Jackson Hole. 

  Some highlights from Hawaii were surfing with Ben at Honolua, leading a photography charter backside Molokini, swimming with dolphins, scuba diving for nudibranchs with Heidi, introducing Catalina to the islands for the first time, and in March we bought a place in Kihei, Maui.

   We finally got to move into our Maui place later in the year and I have to say it is an amazing feeling to own a little piece of paradise out here. It is big enough for the three of us, plus I can just scoop up Catalina and walk with her to the beach about 5 minutes away.

  I did get to spend an unusual amount of time in Vermont during the winter which led to an opportunity to hone some of my long forgotten snowboard skills. Being able to see Vermont through all the seasons, especially once Fall came and the leaves started changing colors was a fun experience as well. I managed some very fun photo sessions with the Vermont landscapes this year.

   The highlights from the Alaska season were also plentiful. I took my first ever float plane ride on a ridiculously scenic flight over LeConte glacier and the Stikine River valley. We skiffed with humpback whales who were bubble net feeding right next to us. We walked with giant icebergs left high and dry by the low tides. I kayaked around massive glaciers like Dawes and Sawyer, and led many bushwhacks deep into the most protected parts of the Tongass National Forest. It was difficult being away from the family for these extended periods but facetime comes through in a pinch. Each time I come back to Catalina I arrive with the hope that she remembers me. So far so good.

  The other very big adventure of the year came in late September as I put together the ultimate Kenya safari for some of my UnCruise friends and coworkers. We spent 14 days with our own private car and driver visiting 8 different reserves and parks. We saw the big 5, lots of cats, and even found ourselves in the middle of the famed Great Migration. Watching a giant crocodile take down one of the thousands of wildebeest rushing across the Mara River was the culmination of our trip. It was a sight to remember and an experience that no one will soon forget.

Check out the full story here
  At the very end of the year I find myself back in Hawaii aboard the Safari Explorer. I celebrated Christmas and New Years onboard trying to give these guests the most memorable experience they can have. So far so good. I'm excited to see what 2019 brings for Heidi, Catalina and I. And looking back at this year in review I can't help feeling very lucky for all the amazing experiences and people.

 Check out the full story behind bubble net feeding humpbacks.

 Check out this post about the animals of Amboseli National Park.

Three Generations of Tamaracks
Hawaii at Christmas Time

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Turtles and Sunsets on a Secret Beach, Big Island Hawaii

Just me and this turtle on our own Big Island beach
  With another month of trips onboard the Safari Explorer with UnCruise Hawaii in store I managed to find a quick adventure in my remaining few hours before going onboard. After landing at the Kailua Kona airport on the Big Island where I will meet the ship, I grabbed a rental car and cruised a few minutes north on the highway to a turnoff for the lava rock coast. A long bumpy road ensued over the lava fields. Off in the distance and slowly coming closer into sight was a beautiful oasis of palm trees surrounded by the jet black lava rock.

  The road to Kekaha Kai Beach park is not one for the faint of heart or cars with low clearance. However after seeing the secret beaches and beautiful coves from the plane as we descended made me have no doubt this adventure would be worth it. The close the park at 7pm, and the sun was already low on the horizon so I knew I had to act fast. Luckily I'm pretty adept at jumping from lava rock to lava rock in my local slippers which definitely came in handy.

  The setting sun through the palms provided a wonderful opportunity for photos. A few people remained but by this time of day I had big swaths of the beach to myself. I did end up sharing the beach with a couple of green sea turtles that hauled themselves up for a respite. I managed to get a few photos without disturbing their rest that really encapsulated the amazing experience of an exploration paying off. Now to switch my mind back into leading trips through the islands from the comfortable platform of the Safari Explorer.

 Check out these pics and more of the Hawaiian Islands at https://www.daimarsphotos.com/Hawaii
Beautiful Big Island Sunset

Friday, December 14, 2018

Snorkel with Dad at Two Step, Big Island Hawaii

A secret spot of sand
Snorkelers at Two Step
One of my favorite snorkel spots in the Hawaiian Islands is locally known as Two Step. A beautiful bay south of Kailua Kona, lined with black lava rocks and filled with gorgeous protected coral draws loads of tourists and locals to its clear waters. Sometimes early in the mornings groups of spinner dolphins cruise around the bay, and there are always tons of beautiful fish here. Some of the healthiest, biggest corals in the state also can be found here at Two Step.

School of Yellow Tangs
  A perfect lava bench sits at the edge of the bay. Stepping down onto another bench just at water level that provides easy access to the snorkel site is where the bay gets its name. This was Catalina's first trip to the bay and luckily we found a great little spot of sand that we shared with a couple of other families. The snorkeling was great as usual, and even though the dolphins weren't around, it was fun to share this experience with my dad. Couldn't ask for a much better birthday gift than that.

Dad giving the OK sign

Freediver extreme

Freediving into a cave