Kev and I planned a trip of a lifetime to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the Amazon Rainforest, the world’s largest equatorial forest on the planet extending into eight countries. We flew into Manaus, Brazil from Miami and stayed the night at the Hotel Tropical Manaus. In the morning we met the group of people we’d be spending the week with on a cruise aboard the Motor Yacht Tucano. The expedition cruise navigated upstream on the Rio Negro as far as a major river called the Rio Jauerperi, about 200 miles from Manaus, Brazil. Below is a map of our route.
The journey took us to many different rainforest habitats which allowed us to see a great diversity of wildlife. We did about three main activities each day each morning, afternoon and evening with our naturalist guides. Each day we walked in the forest and explored small streams that winded their way through into uninhabited interior in order to learn more about the flora and fauna and actually scout for the animals.
I had just as much fun on the day trips as the night trips because it enabled us to see different things. We saw animals including sloths, macaws, festive parrots, toucan, and giant otters during the day and different species of birds like owls, mice, snakes, and caiman in the evening. On the last day of the voyage we traveled to the “Encontra das Aguas”, the meeting of the waters of the world’s two largest rivers: The Amazon River and the Rio Negro. The light colored water of the Amazon and the dark water of the Negro do not readily mix and the two rivers flow side by side for many miles. It literally looked like what black coffee looks like when milk is poured in but not yet stirred.
I’m really glad our first trip to the Amazon was on the Rio Negro. The Rio Negro is a much more acidic river, therefore being home to less mosquitoes. It made it the ideal river to swim in without getting eaten alive. Also, even though there is greater density of wildlife on the Amazon river, there is more diversity of life on the Rio Negro.
After several days on the Tucano, it was nice to be on land. As soon as we got off the boat, we continued on our journey to Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge. It was about a 3 hours drive/110 miles from Manaus back into the thick of the jungle. Even though we were still on the Rio Negro, I’m glad we spent time at the Anavilhanas Lodge because it was a very different experience. The lodge was quite comfortable. My favorite part of our room was the screened sun room with two hanging hammocks. I enjoyed relaxing and reading in the hammock whenever we had a break each day.
My animal highlights from the trip include the following: – Seeing a boa on a branch looming above a mouse obliviously eating a nut – Swimming very close to Amazon river dolphins which are endemic to the Amazon – Seeing an adorable baby sloth very close up on a low brand of a tree in a local village – Coaxing a tarantula out of its nest – Reading in the hammock in the sun room and watching a group of squirrel monkeys jump by right in front of us
Learning how to shoot a bow and arrow was a lot of fun too and swimming in the river with the river dolphins were two of my favorite activities. The most bizarre experience I had was getting locked in the zoo at the Hotel Tropical Manaus while waiting for our shuttle to the airport back to the U.S. but that’s a story for another day.
Some of the key animals we saw on the trip: caiman, Amazon river dolphins, sloths, macaws, Anis, howler monkeys, giant otters, hoatzin, kingfisher, sardine, squirrel monkeys, frog, boa, sting ray, vultures, tarantula, osprey, rusty-barred owl, sickle-winged nightjar, toucans, festive parrots, eagle, piranha, capybara
I often reminisce about me and Kev’s honeymoon trip to Boreno, and I didn’t think anything could top it, but the Amazon Rainforest is definitely up there. We both had an amazing time and got to see so many cool animals, and learned quite a bit too. I really appreciate that our guides took care to present the natural history of Amazonia without exaggeration (i.e. no feeding the animals to make sure we saw them). Everything was guided by the principles of minimum impact, responsible tourism and harmony with the local community. I hope we preserve this amazing place so many future generations have an opportunity to see these spectacular animals.
I spent a long weekend over Independence Day with Kev in Paris. We stayed at Hotel Malte – Astotel at 63 Rue De Richelieu which was a nice boutique hotel. The room was tiny but nicely decorated. Since we were only there for a short trip and I had been begging Kevin to go on another Paris trip for a while, I wanted to make sure we made the most with our time there. We booked several tours via Airbnb Experiences which ended up being the best decision because it forced us to power through our jet lag and we saw a good portion of the city in a relatively short amount of time.
Here’s a recap of our trip and jam-packed itinerary:
Wednesday, July 4th
We landed in the afternoon and though we were tired, we forced ourselves to go out. We stopped at Nina’s Paris, a Marie-Antoinette-themed tea shop that is pink and lovely. I read about Nina’s while doing my research on Paris and I’m so happy we went. The decorating of the parlor was so pretty and feminine and the classic pink cake was delicious as was the original Marie-Antoinette tea. I ended up buying a can of the signature Marie-Antoinette tea which is a delicate tea flavored with apples and rose with a touch of strength from a Ceylon tea basis. So good!
After we were full from lunch, tea, and cake, we headed over to the Eiffel Tower to watch the sun set and to take some evening pics at the tower.
Thursday, July 5th
We started the morning right with “The Delicious East Vegan tour.” We went to Comptoir Veggie for a vegan yogurt parfait and latte, Jay & Joy to sample several vegan cheeses, Manifeste011 to try on vegan clothing, and VG Pâtisserie for some delicious vegan pastries.
After eating our way through Paris we went on another tour, “Lourve-A Crash Course in Art History.” The Lourve can be overwhelming and I did not take art history in school, so I really enjoyed having a guide.
Friday, July 6th
On Friday morning we went on a biking tour, “Paris’ Best Kept Secrets Tour.” We rode electric bicycles which was pretty cool. I normally don’t feel comfortable biking in cities but it wasn’t too scary with our guide and we all chose to wear helmets (oddly, it was not a requirement of the tour company). It was a great way to cover more ground and we even unintentionally came across a new street art piece by famous street artist, Banksy.
After a pleasant morning biking around the city, we had afternoon tea at Salon Proust Ritz Paris. Afternoon tea is one of my favorite things to partake in when I’m in Europe. From there we watched France play Uraguay in the World Cup soccer game which was even more fun being in France for the semi-final. On our walk back to the hotel after a long day, we stopped at Guerlain to pick up one of my favorite perfumes. Guerlain is a French perfume and it’s special to me because not only does it smell good but it also makes me think of Paris and my great trips there.
Saturday, July 7th
On Saturday morning we went on our last tour, “Discover the Secrets of Versailles.” Similar to the Lourve tour, having a tour guide and being able to cut the extremely long line was key for the Versailles tour. The Palace of Versailles is beautiful and I loved hearing about the sun king, Louis XIV. The famous Hall of Mirrors was my favorite part of the palace and I loved everything about the gardens.We couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day to walk the grounds. We enjoyed it so much that as soon as we got home we went on a Netflix binge of the historical fiction show, Versailles.
After a morning walking around the Palace of Versailles, we were driven back to Paris. We enjoyed an afternoon snack with tea and iced hot chocolate at Angelina’s. The iced hot chocolate at Angelina’s is out of this world. From there we headed back to the hotel to grab our bags on the way to the airport but we made a quick stop at Maison Kitsuné to check out their Parisien collection on first.
Overall we had an amazing time. It was a beautiful, sunny weekend so we couldn’t have asked for better weather. Paris is wonderful but the city is even more magical in the summer. I get all dreamy just thinking about the trip–I already can’t wait to go back. Also, Airbnb Experiences for the win! I will definitely be checking out their available tours in any new city I want to explore.
The Galapagos have been on me and Kev’s travel list for a while. I bumped it to the top of my list after seeing beautiful pictures and reading more about the island in National Geographic. They did an article about the declining populations of iguanas unique to the Galapagos due to the rising sea temperature which is starting to kill the algae, their food source. I also heard about Lonely George the tortoise, so I wanted to see a giant tortoise in person. The fact that Kevin’s birthday is the end of March, our anniversary is the beginning of April, and my birthday is the end of April, were just extra reasons to go to Galapagos. We were not disappointed. Even though diving visibility wasn’t great, I got to see all the main critters I’d hoped to see including hammerheads, marine iguanas, tortoises and two critters I didn’t even know about but were happy to have seen including mola molas/sunfish and a red-lipped batfish, which can only be found around the Galapagos Islands and off Peru. It was a trip of a lifetime. Below are my daily diary entries from the trip.
We headed to the airport on Friday night on April 13, 2018 to begin our journey to the Galapagos. We flew all night and arrived in Guayaquil on Saturday morning. We stayed at the Oro Verde hotel which was in the heart of the city and within walking distance of the main strip in town. We had one day to kill in Guayaquil before boarding our live aboard dive boat for a week, so we took it easy, walked around for about two hours through the city to the boardwalk and Ferris wheel, and went to bed early.
On Sunday morning we headed to the airport for our flight to San Cristobal (Galapagos Islands). It was a short flight and then we got picked up at the airport by our dive company. When we got to the marina I could already tell it was going to be a good trip because there were a lot of sea lions swimming and laying out sunbathing and napping by/on the pier. We were tendered to our boat, the Galapagos Sky. After resting for a bit we had one late afternoon easy dive. We didn’t see much because it was a safety check dive but we did have some curious seals come to check us out.
Monday morning after breakfast we had a land excursion. It was scenic and pretty cool walking on volcanic rock. We learned about the vegetation and saw lots of lizards. We also saw a lava heron scouting for food. We also saw some blue-footed boobies but unfortunately no penguins.
After the land excursion, we suited up for an afternoon dive. We dove three times. My highlights of the day were the seals. They were very playful and curious and came to check us out. They are very fast and they glide through the water elegantly while also playfully doing somersaults.
Tuesday was our first day doing four dives and we dove at Wolf Island. We saw a ton of hammerhead sharks and sea turtles. We even saw dolphins swim above us and we had one seal friend that was swimming around us up close and personal. One of the coolest parts of the dives is diving “into the blue.” We start close to the island and towards the second half go “into the blue” –we swim out further from the island and float in a depth of 40-60 feet which provides another opportunity to see sharks and sea turtles. It’s also a little trippy and disorienting because the only thing you can see all around you is blue water and you forget which way is up.
I’ve also never dove in such strong currents other than on two dives in Fiji last year which were incredible. At first the current made me nervous but now I think it’s fun because I’m more confident in my abilities and we went over safety procedures in more depth beforehand. It was my first time receiving a dive alert to activate if we lost the group and couldn’t find the boat too. They later told us it’s called a surge and it’s not ideal to dive in. Because the current is coming from more than one direction, it tosses you around (that explains why we had to cling onto the rocks for dear life in the beginning to avoid being swept away).
Tuesday was also our one and only night dive. The majority of the dive sites have strong currents and are chosen due to being cleaning stations for the animals. The night dive was in a cove so the current was not strong. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much though. I saw a lot of shrimp and the coolest things were decorated crabs that looked exactly like the rocks covered in barnacles. It was also pretty cold (even though we dove in 7mm wet suits and hoods). I was shivering by the end of the dive.
We had another day of 4 dives in one day, but this time at Darwin Island which has Darwin’s Arch — One of the most iconic arches in the world and a key destination of any trip to the Galapagos. Some of the highlights included seeing more hammerhead sharks and an eagle ray up close. The black and white-spotted eagle ray was large and beautiful and did not care that we were there. It swam right next to us munching on huge chunks of barnacles on the rocks in order to get to whatever goodies were inside.
It was a 3-day dive. We did one morning dive at Darwin but because we enjoyed Wolf so much the day before, we went back for our other dives. I saw a school of hammerheads with a juvenile which was awesome (and rare). We also swam with more sea lions.
Today’s dives were amazing! We dove the seahorse-shaped island, Isabela. First, we dove in Ferndaninda and then we had two more dives near the mouth of the sea horse. They were our coldest dives (62 degrees Fahrenheit compared to 68 degrees the previous days’ dives) but some of the best. Fernandina was our iguana dive. The iguanas were awesome and bigger than I thought they’d be. They only go diving once a day for food so the area is protected and apparently only one dive boat is allowed there each day so that the iguanas aren’t too disturbed and can eat. They lay out in the sun all day building up body heat in order to dive for algae in the cold water. It’s something they’ve adapted to in order to survive in that environment.
At Isabel we saw HUGE sun fish/mola mola! I had never seen a mola mola until this trip and they are SO cool. They have a large top and bottom fin and small side ones. They can surprisingly move pretty fast too when they need to. According to our dive master, we were really lucky because we saw about 10 mola mola which is rare. On our ascent, we had fun playing with more sea lions. It was my favorite dive site because we saw cool things, the current wasn’t too strong, and it was absolutely beautiful. We went on a little boat ride on the penga (inflatable speedboat) after our last night and we went into a cave thing and a cove where we saw a ton more sea turtles, sea lions, iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. It was pretty magical.
Later that day we watched a TED Talk on Mola Mola/sun fish and we learned that they can grow up to 5,000 lbs and only eat jellyfish — keeping the ocean safe for other critters. They fan out on the top of the water to absorb the sun (hence the name sun fish) but throughout the day they go from the surface all the way to the ocean’s bottom to eat.
It’s my birthday! The big 3-0! It’s also our last dive of the trip. We dove at Pinto and had a very pleasant dive. We saw a red-lipped batfish (which I didn’t even know existed until this trip), little fish that live in the barnacles and poke their heads out to eat passing particles, one giant manta, and a flock of spotted eagle rays. There was also a school of selimas fish that a sea lions was playing with/eating. We got some good video of that (starting 11:27 in the video above).
After our last dive we went to San Cristobal. We went to a ranchero de tortises to see the famous Galapagos tortoises. Fun Fact: Galapagos actually means “tortoise” in Spanish. We saw a ton of tortoises–we even saw two ‘running’ as a male chased a female to mate. The males are about 3x the size of the females and the males also make very loud grunting noises while mating, so you can imagine our astonishment watching a huge male chase and mount a female and seeing everything play out in front of us while paying a casual visit to the ranch. LOL.
After observing the tortoises for a while we went into town to shop around. When we got back to the boat we had dinner and Kevin surprised me with a cake. I can’t think of a better way to have celebrated my 30th.
We did 19 dives total and I got to see everything I had hoped to see. The Galapagos Islands are so wonderful and I hope it remains protected and that people start taking better care of the world so that future generations can see what we did. I definitely plan on going back to the Galapagos sometime. They were the best dives of my life.
Visiting beautiful, fun and spooky Savannah for the first time during 4th of July weekend
My bachelorette party-Having my closest friends and family with me in NYC for a fun weekend to celebrate was awesome
Ski trip in Aspen – It was my first time to Aspen and it was absolutely beautiful and so much fun!
I of course made a few resolutions for 2018. I feel strongly about continuing to learn and trying to improve myself, so setting New Year resolutions is just a cliche time for me to set aside time to put all of the goals–both career and personal–floating around in my head down on paper though I would do it throughout the year regardless to make sure those goals are identified and to hold myself accountable. Cheers to hopefully another great year full of travel, fun, trying new things and accomplishing things, and memory-making!
On Tuesday April 4, 2017 I married my best friend and boyfriend of six years. I didn’t want a wedding and I wanted to keep things as simple as possible, so we went to the courthouse. Since I am my parent’s only daughter, they really wanted to be there as well, so they flew in the weekend prior.
I was so pleased that everything turned out the way I wanted and it was a stress-free weekend. On Tuesday morning GlamSquad came over to do my hair and makeup and makeup for my mom. After that I threw on my dress and we hopped in an Uber to the courthouse. You can’t make reservations at the courthouse so I was nervous about how long it would take, but luckily with it being a Tuesday, the wait was not long and we were in and out in about two hours. It gave us time to go back to the apartment to have lunch and relax a bit before pictures.
I also wasn’t going to do the whole wedding dress thing either, I was going to just get a designer dress that I could wear again but then my friends made valid points that it was my one time to wear a white wedding dress and that the reality is, even if I bought a nice designer dress for the courthouse and pictures, I wouldn’t likely wear it again so I might as well do the wedding dress that we can only wear once. Kev ended up getting a tux too 🙂
So anyway, I wore a White by Vera Wang wedding dress and we hired an awesome photographer, Jesse Pafundi, that I found through Instagram to take our photos. I chose the photographer because he does a good job of capturing the surroundings just as much as photographing the couple in a beautiful way. We had him for two hours and we started in SoHo/NoHo for some photos by our favorite street art and then we took a cab to the Highline. We lucked out at the Highline; usually it’s pretty crowded but since it was an overcast day there was hardly anyone there. We also lucked out that though overcast, it didn’t actually rain on us.
After pictures, we headed back to the apartment and ordered in pizza while Kev and I finished packing. Then before we knew it, it was time to head to the airport to catch our flight for our honeymoon advernture. The day was a whirlwind but it was perfect and exactly what I wanted.
Since I didn’t want to do the whole wedding thing, Kev and I planned an epic honeymoon. We were gone from April 5th through April 30th and went all over Southeast Asia. Below is a quick recap:
BORNEO – We started the trip with National Geographic Expeditions in Borneo and stayed in three different rainforest eco lodges and saw a ton of amazing animals in the jungle.
BALI – After several days in Borneo, we flew to Bali where we stayed at the most amazing resort for two nights, the Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali. I have stayed at some really nice hotels before, but nothing as grand as the Fairmont in Bali. I definitely could have stayed there a few more days.
WAKATOBI, INDONESIA — From Bali we made our way to Wakatobi Dive Resort in Wakatobi National Park which is a marine national park in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. The name of Wakatobi is a portmanteau of the four main Tukangbesi Islands: Wangi-wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko. We stayed on a live aboard dive yacht and did 23 dives over six days. We became Nitrox certified on the trip and collectively spent almost a full day under water!
FIJI — After land and sea adventures, we headed to Fiji to relax for a few days before heading back home to the US. We stayed at Koro Sun resort who hooked us up with a beautiful underwater ceremony.
Our honeymoon was amazing and it was truly a trip of a lifetime. While being gone for almost a month was a long time, it went by fast and I would do it all over again and again if I could. If anything, it just fed my desire to explore and see more of the world. Kev and I are already planning our next big trip.