Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hotel Molokai: The Sole Hotel on the Island

  One of my favorite parts of the UnCruise itinerary here in the Hawaii is that every week we stop into the island of Molokai. I feel like this is the hidden gem of the islands. And with very little tourists on the island there isn't a huge demand for hotel rooms. This is good news for the only hotel on the island, the Hotel Molokai.

   With no beach or real snorkeling out front, no breakfast offered, and the worst coffee ever in the in-room coffee makers, it still somehow emits enough charm to make it a pleasant stay.  I don't know if it lives up to the base room rate of $204, but there is a beautiful ocean out back that is lined by very photogenic palm trees. The restaurant has been redone and with new owners boasts a delicious menu (lunch/dinner only). Quite often there is local live music at the restaurant and I'm sure the pool is open from time to time, although I havn't seen it.

  The rooms themselves give you a feeling like you are in some ski-chalet with their high angled roofs. The lack of cell phone service is made up for with free not-so speedy wifi, and there are some channels available on the tv.

   For the adventurous people that make the trip to this not so well known island, the lack of amenities doesn't seem to phase them. That is not what Molokai is all about. It is a place rich in history, the birthplace of the hula, filled with off the beaten path adventures. And the hotel Molokai is not a bad place to hang your hat at the end of the day. But you don't really have a choice anyway.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Art in Transit: Chicago Airport Experience

  I spend a lot of time in airports since I travel quite a bit for my job. So I notice when airports go above and beyond to really break the monotony and anxiety of traveling. The best way I've seen this done is with an art installation at the Atlanta Airport that covers an entire terminal connecting corridor and transports the travelers into an airy forest world of nature. They do this by placing green overlapping cutouts on the ceiling that gives the impression you are looking up through the canopy of trees to sunlight above. Then every once in a while there is a break in the canopy where large screen have been built into the ceiling depicting a blue sky with wispy clouds and birds flying overhead. The sounds of the forest and birds especially complete the experience. I've actually seen people stop in their tracks and smile upon entering this space.

  Recently on my way from Vermont to Hawaii I had a quick layover in Chicago's big airport, ORD, and was pleased to see another colorful art installation between terminals. This was transporter the traveler into the aisle of a paint store with all of the color pallets for paint mixing, but on a grand scale. It worked wonders in breaking up the monotony so this was a huge success in my book. Hats of to the artist and the O'hare airport for going above and beyond. The name of the installation is "Sky's the limit", by artist Helmut Jahn and has been listed among America's 150 favorite structures.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

From Snowy Vermont to Tropical Hawaii

   It is time to trade up the wool socks for the board shorts as I head back to the Hawaiian Islands to work on the Safari Explorer as Expedition Leader for UnCruise Adventures. Vermont has been a beautiful winter wonderland and I surprised myself with how used to the subfreezing temperatures I became. It is true what they say, 'there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.' Although there is something to be said about a work uniform that mainly consist of tshirts, board shorts, and sandals.

  After a quick day layover in Maui with some welcomed water time surfing with Ben at Ho'okipa, it is on to the island of Molokai to meet the Safari Explorer. I'll lead the next four trips between the islands of Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and the Big Island. Part of the excitement of being in these waters at this time of year is it is smack dab in the middle of the Humpback whale breeding season here. I even saw a few whales from the plane ride between islands.

  I'm leaving a big part of my heart back on the east coast but work calls...and what a work it is.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Snow Day in Vermont

 Waking up to fresh snow on the ground is a wonderful part of spending time in Vermont during the winter. This morning was one of those mornings. And while a roaring fire, steaming coffee, and holding a newborn are powerful lures to stay inside, the winter wonderland on the other side of the glass was calling. Plus Neka the puppy just loves going outside to race around in the snow.

 So Heidi and I bundled up young Catalina and headed out on a snowy adventure. Neka and I did a little photo shoot to help capture the playful mood the snow brings out.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Getting Around Kenya and Tanzania

  One of the questions I get asked a lot about travel in Africa is what do the safari vehicles look like. And while there are several varieties I thought I would expand this post to cover even more of the typical styles of travel while on safari, from planes to trucks to traditional sailing dhows.

Often when I tell people about pop up roofs and open safari vehicles it is hard for them to understand what I mean. They ask, "like a sunroof?", and "How can you have no doors when there are lions around?".  So here are pictures of both styles of safari vehicles and even one with a lion walking by, (it really does happen!)

Enjoying the pop top roof

 I have seen safari vehicles big enough for 24 people and I've seen a range of sizes down to 4 passenger vehicles that the more exclusive lodges use. Some of the newer models have electrical outlets for your camera batteries and iPhones, while others with a more photography focus come with bean bags that you can use to balance your long lenses on. Onboard coolers are also a nice touch. There is nothing like a cold Tusker beer after seeing some incredible wildlife in the hot, dusty, equatorial savanna.

 This picture on the left is off our sister vehicle in the Masai Mara which would be called an open safari vehicle. There are little half doors and no pop up roof. Luckily the big cats tend to look at the vehicle as one big animal instead of a container filled with little snacks. Blankets or a windbreaker can be nice in these open air vehicles during the cool early morning drives.

Small soft sided luggage only
  Now we are taking it up a notch to the massive fleet of small safari planes that service pretty much every park, reserve, and conservation area in East Africa. These planes are most often 12 seaters that can fill a bit cramped if you tend to be claustrophobic but just cozy otherwise. The view that you get from these planes as you crisscross the continent would be worth it even if you weren't using it as a means of traveling to a new destination. If you have fond memories of the magical plane ride in the movie 'Out of Africa' then this is your ticket to happiness.

Its almost like I'm flying this plane
 Plus these planes give you the added benefit of time. You can see way more of the Africa you want to see in a shorter amount of time by skipping all the miles driving between parks. Not to mention you avoid all of those pot hole filled roads in between as well. The locals might jokingly refer to these drives as the 'African massage' but I would say take a plane if you can and go see more animals! Or like we are doing here on the left, head out across the ocean to one of the many spice islands that dot the coast of East Africa. Zanzibar is the most well known of the Spice Islands but there are some real gems around it like Chumbe and Mnemba that those in the know will go to.

Traditional Dhows
Boat ride to the spice islands
 And if you do make it out to the coast you might get an opportunity to enjoy a boat ride out into the Indian Ocean. Again there are options. Small motor boats zip around island hoppers and scuba divers, while traditional wooden sailing dhows are my choice for relaxing sunset trips.

 Now if you want to get really wild and head out on elephant back or walking with lions that is when I start heading a little farther south towards the adventure capital of Victoria Falls. However, just across the border in Jinja, Uganda you can get all your adventure thrills with one of the top 3 day rafting trips in the world. You can read about that adventure here: Rafting the Headwaters of the Nile.

  All of these options and destinations might seem a bit overwhelming. I've had people tell me before that it is all of these unknowns that keep some people from traveling to Africa. That is what is so great about having someone like me help you plan and see it through from start to finish. If it is going to be a once in a lifetime trip, then we should make it the trip of a lifetime.

  Go beyond tours set up for the masses. Get personalized.