2019 Holiday in Indonesia

Three years after our last trip to Indonesia for one leg of our honeymoon, Kev and I returned to spend Christmas 2019 and bring in the New Year. Normally we like traveling to different places, but since we wanted to go scuba diving again and Wakatobi’s Pelagian has been the best dive yacht we’ve ever stayed on with the most abundant and diverse small, colorful critters to see, we were both down to go back. We felt like we were back home in a sense because most of the same crew were there as well as our dive masters!

We were on the yacht for a week and we did 22 dives over a week, being underwater cumulatively for about 25 hours. We did 3-4 dives every day. Our days consisted of waking up around 5:30am, having coffee, going diving, having breakfast, doing some light yoga on the top deck, doing a second dive, having lunch and a light nap, doing a third dive, having a snack, doing a night dive, and then having dinner.

Eat, Nap, Dive, Repeat

We saw so many amazing critters including: sponge crab, decorated crab, scorpion fish, squid, octopuses, frog fish, sea horse, hairy lobster, shrimp, box fish, cuttlefish, many species of nudibranchs, flounder, spotted sting ray, clownfish, horned fish, mandarin fish, and of course my favorite orbicular burrfish.

Here’s a note in my journal that gave me a chuckle re-reading. Maybe I was slightly delirious or I was still in awe of everything I saw that day being underwater for over 4.5 hours – “I keep thinking how underrated fish are. When I see them underwater they are all unique and special in their shapes and colors, so that I think they’re all beautiful. However, when you take a fish out of water, they look dull and they all look the same.”

Wakatobi does not disappoint, we had amazing dives and great muck diving. Magic Pier is probably our favorite dive site ever to see the mating madarin fish which we recognize is rare and very special to see so many congregated in one area. The dive is almost overwhelming because there is so much to see including cuttlefish, crabs, eels in addition to trying to capture the madarin fish mating and making sure not to get pricked by a sea urchin. That’s my idea of an adventure!

After scuba diving for a week, I was looking forward to spending some time on land. Last time we stayed in Bali, we stayed at the Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali which was a beautiful resort, but we were there for such a short time that we never left. This time around we wanted to actually explore more of Bali. Kevin did his research and put us up in the most amazing luxury resort, Amandari, part of the Aman resort group.

Not only was the resort beautiful with amazing service, what I liked even more were the activities that were included with our itinerary. The first morning we were there we woke up at 2am (no joke) and climbed Mt. Abang. It was an hour drive to get to the base and then we hiked for 5 hours total to see the sunrise. We took the General Manager of the resort’s dog with us on the climb which was a lot of fun. She was a big, well behaved dog and she made me feel safe.

We were too tired to stay up for the New Years celebration that night but we got up early the next morning for another activity and I got to learn more about Balinese culture. We went to a family temple which I had never seen before. In America, many people have backyards with trees, bushes, or flowers but the Balinese people are very spiritual and have their own customs so their “backyards” are family temples filled with statues to pay respect to their Gods.

We went to an art school for children and bought some very pretty art to being back home. They paint everything free-hand and the proceeds of the art sales goes to the respective child who created it (hopefully). After we went to Kumulilir that had luwak coffee which is a coffee that consists of partially digested coffee cherries that have been eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. We were walked through the coffee making process and then got to try a tasty sampler of various flavored coffees and teas in addition to the luwak coffee. Our last stop that day was at a community temple which was very beautiful.

The next day was our last day before flying back home. We started the morning with a walk around the Amandari property and surrounding properties, through local neighborhoods, and through some rice fields. We made a spontaneous decision to check out the Ubud Monkey Forest before grabbing our stuff and heading to the airport. I’m really happy we squeezed it in because it was pretty cool. It was definitely a tourist trap but there were so many monkeys everywhere, it was awesome. They can get kind of aggressive so visitors are advised not to get too close, but you can still get pretty close to them since they’re used to people always being close by. They’re practically domesticated because there are large crates full of food so it’s like an all-you-can-eat 24/7 buffet for them. I got some great shots with my camera.

The flight to and from Indonesia was the worst, but it was SO worth the lost 2 days of travel to have the adventure we did. I love it there and can’t wait to go back and explore other parts.

Here is a link to view all of our Wakatobi pics.
Here is a link to view all of our Bali/Amandari pics.
(Though Kev would like to take credit for all of the good ones, these galleries are the compilation of photos that both Kevin and I took throughout the trip.)

Honeymoon Part II: Wakatobi, Indonesia

My fav little fish I became obsessed with, the Orbicular Burrfish, whose eyes look like opals.

After an amazing time in Boreno, we flew to Bali for one day, two nights, before our flight to Wakatobi to board our dive yacht. Here is a link to all of the Indonesia photos.

In Bali we stayed at the Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali. Our room was spectacular. It was literally larger than our apartment with a huge room that served as a dining room with a flat screen TV (though of course we didn’t waste precious time in Bali watching TV) and a seated bench along the whole side of the far wall overlooking the resort and beach. The bathroom was also huge with a giant bathtub, a stream shower, and even a separate room with a massage table.  We arrived to the hotel fairly late in the evening, so we didn’t have time to enjoy the amenities that day, but the following day we woke up around 5:30am with the sunrise, ordered in breakfast at our large dining room with the spectacular view, and then spent the entire day reading and swimming in the pool. That evening I got to enjoy the bathtub I admired since I got there. Kev even ordered me champagne while I read and soaked in the tub (woot woot!).

The next morning we left early to catch our flight to Wakatobi, a luxury dive resort in southeastern Sulawesi, Indonesia. As their site describes, “In a tranquil island setting far from crowds and cities, with no other divers for at least 100 miles, Wakatobi seamlessly blends five-star amenities and civilized comforts with a pristine natural environment; a pairing that has secured its reputation as one of the world’s finest resorts.” Since Kev and I are certified Advanced Open Water scuba divers, we chose to stay aboard the luxury dive yacht Pelagian. Although it was a bit exhausting I’m so glad that we chose to stay on the dive yacht where we had exclusive diving access to remote and untouched sites. Additionally, the yacht itself was really nice. The Pelagian is almost 60 years old, but was recently re-done. She is 115 feet with only luxury cabins for the guests. Up to ten guests can stay on the Pelagian accompanied by a crew of 12. On our trip, Kev and I only shared the yacht with a family of four from Australia. Lucky for us, they were super cool and we all got along great which is important especially when you’re all with each other for the majority of the day between all the dives and meals for several days straight.

The next several days were a blur of dives. Kevin normally goes through his air pretty quickly, so he wanted to become Nitrox certified which of course I got sucked into doing with him as well so he didn’t have to take the course by himself, but it ended up being the best decision. Diving with enriched air allows you to dive for a longer period of time and do more repetitive dives with shorter surface intervals due to the higher blend of oxygen (30%-33% oxygen as opposed to 21% in normal air). There was so much to see on our dives that we were both so grateful for the extra time we got to spend down there.

We did four dives a day for five full days and overall we completed 23 dives over six days. Normally our dives are about 20-30 minutes, but the Nitrox allowed us to dive for 60 minutes at a time, so all in all, we spent almost a full day underwater.  I also celebrated my 29th birthday on the yacht–not a bad way to ring in another fun year of life!

Kev and I have done quite a few dives at this point and Wakatobi was definitely up there as one of the best. My only complaint was the trash floating in the ocean on some of the dives closer to villages. The local people of some of the villages just throw their trash in the ocean and don’t understand the impact.

Some of my highlights of the dives were seeing the orbicular burrfish, pufferfish, cuttlefish, clown fish, mandarin fish that we only saw in one particular area at dusk when they came out to spawn, an octopus, large tuna,  shrimp, and a pod dolphins that swam along the tender of our boat on our way back to the ship from a late afternoon dive.


Wedding and Honeymoon

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 🙂

We even got a cake 🙂

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:

My new fav critter in Boreno, the red leaf monkey. Look at that face!

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.

The largest bathtub ever at the Fairmont in Bali

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.

Mandarin fish that we were lucky enough to see at dusk when they come out to spawn

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.