Top 5 gifts for travellers.

Some people are just hard to buy gifts for, there are no two ways about it. So I scoured the internet and travel magazines for my top 5 gifts that I would love to receive. The added bonus is that its for travellers, So what’s not to love.

  1. This may be good and bad. But if you do like the occasional drink then a travel flask is a must buy. Whether you are on top of a mountain or relaxing on safari what’s wrong with a little tipple. (cola and squash work just as well).
  2. A good set of headphones: Travel the world with your own theme tune, and nobody wants to keep having to buy headphones as the others keep breaking, so get it right first with a good sturdy pair.
  3. Portable showers: They aren’t just good for camping they can be good for any type of travel. So little else to say really.
  4. Scrubba washbag: Now this little beauty I came across was one of my top picks and had to be in my top 5. I have been traveling to many different places and one of the biggest issues I have had is getting my clothes clean, don’t get me wrong rivers and streams do well enough but this wash bag to me is a must have in any travel bag.
  5. Eco-Friendly charger: We all like to take photos of our travels so we can share our memory’s with others. So a good eco-charger is a great expense to make sure we can record our trips. Samsonite’s Window solar charger is a pretty good buy.

Hope you have all enjoyed my top 5. Stay tuned for more.

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Top Safaris around the world.

Safaris are incredible I think we can all agree on that, whether you like them or you don’t. They are a way of seeing the natural world with hardly any human contact. The list below is Arc-adventures top 5 safaris.

  1. Elephants in India.
  2. Polar safaris. (Photographing Polar Bears)
  3. Mountain Gorillas Uganda.
  4. Snow leopards in Ladakh.
  5. The big five in South Africa.

If you do anything this Year make Safari at the top of the list.

http://www.arcadventure.co.uk/

Mexico Chapter 4.

Long Weekend, Part One.

During the ten week phase in Punta Gruesa, we got a chance to have a long weekend break, instead of the one day off, we got three which gave as an opportunity teamed together with everyone else to head off and explore Mexico from a different aspect. A few of us had already decided what we wanted to do, me included so I packed my dive gear and I was going to experience a diving sensation like no other, Cenote diving.

The taxi’s arrived on base, I jumped in with Niels, Muji and Jana and we set off firstly to Mahahual. We may have had a native bottle of tequila to set the chilled out mood for the journey, including the worm of which of course Muji took upon himself to eat! Once in Mahahual, we had a couple of hours to kill until we got the bus and situated ourselves in Fernando’s restaurant. Sensational cuisine and the best beer in town, the perfect way to start off the weekend adventure! Before we knew it, the bus had arrived and we were set again to head closer to Tulum, with only one bus change and about two and half hours. By five in the evening, we arrived at the bus stop on Tulum and hitchhiked our rucksacks to the local hostel just on the edge of town. Full of a range of gringos mostly European and some extremely interesting people, it was going to be an incredible 3 night stay.

Fresh and ready for dinner, there was an incredible little restaurant in town like no other. With a concrete floor, plastic tables and chairs and little more than what seems like a gazebo surrounding you this place was streaming with people, there was barely a seat left. We eventually got a space to sit down shared with a few others and ordered taco’s and a beer. The restaurant has a different set up to most, you simply order what meat you would like on your taco’s, then you have a wide and wild range of sauces and salsas to complete your cylindrical wraps of heaven. Clearly new to this experience based on the warning of the super hot and spicy sauce from others, I took to it quickly and knew where my next three meals were going to be. Of course I erred on the side of caution from the spice warning and layered my taco’s in the sauce and cried my way with tingling taste buds through possibly the most delicious meal I had eaten in Mexico so far.

After the restaurant, we explored town a little bit and ended up finding a favourite amongst many, the shisha bar. As can probably be imagined by the name this is an extremely chilled out bar. For the rest of the night this is where we stayed having a couple of cocktails and tried peach flavour for a shisha and shared it round the group whilst talking about numerous other life evolving experiences we have all had. I headed back about half eleven content with excitement about the diving I was going to be doing the next morning, three Cenote dives. The Pit and Dos Ojos.

Up grouped together with Mike, Niels and Muji I was ready for this whole new realm of diving. Firstly we enjoyed a cheese and ham croissant and a coffee at the café next door to Mot Mot diving and filled in our paperwork. Then we set off to our first dive site.

The Pit was the first stop of the day, I knew this was going to be a different experience, but before even getting in the water I knew this going to be one of the most incredible excursions of my life. Before we kitted up, we went towards the entry point and had a dive brief. Most people would expect the entry point to be relatively tame, but not this one! About a six metre drop (feeling more like 100) to jump in whilst our kit entered via a pulley system. Holding our fins and mask, we plunged ourselves into the water, what an adrenaline rush first hand. Once we were all kitted and had completed our safety checks including torch checks we were ready to enter the ever darkening hole, ready to explore!

As we spiralled down, we absorbed strange and new scenery and a sense of the local and historic Mayan culture, seeing artifacts left from hundreds of years previously. Just one minute into the descent, everything suddenly went blurry, haloclines where freshwater and seawater were mixing flowed at particular depths which made you feel slightly disorientated for a short time whilst you adjust to the surroundings before suddenly being back within crystal clear sight of everything. About thirty metres down and there were what looked like well-established trees growing up, it was like being on a safari with the extravagant scenery, just without the wild animals.

As we reached our maximum depth, forty-four metres, there was one of the main artefacts of the dive, scattered bones and a human skull. With limited no decompression limit at this depth, we merely browsed and spent the rest of the dive spiralling shallower towards the surface. There was so much to take in it was difficult to pinpoint a specific highlight throughout the dive. The texture on the rocks, the artefacts or haloclines, they all gave you a completely different feeling. Looking up from ten metres as we were edging nearer to our safety stop, the tunnel of sunlight was shooting its rays towards us, and eventually disappearing to the darkness of the Cenote, everything creating its unique ore of resemblance.

As we surfaced everyone had the same sense of sensation about them, all of us never having experienced something so breath taking!

Mexico Chapter 3. Kitchen group gone wrong.

It was our turn in the kitchen, six of us in the same group cooking for over thirty people with basic ingredients. Previous groups had done some really nice delicious dishes, this put some light pressure on us to compete and see how mouth-watering we can make our meals. Starting at breakfast, at 5:30 we collaborated in the kitchen and delegated tasks. We had coffee, porridge, fruit and extras to prepare. Coffee was heated in a large pot and when ready put into a pot out the front where people collected their breakfasts. Alongside the coffee we had jam, sugar, maple syrup and a few other sweets to help make the water mixed porridge taste remotely bearable. Back in the kitchen, the porridge was prepared by measuring out enough oats and mixing it with water and constantly paying attention to stir it to make sure to make it as nice as possible. Everything took twice as long to cook on base as you would expect back in your kitchen at home. Over an hour to cook porridge is rather painful, however we achieved one of the best prepared breakfasts of the phase. Making the right amount of portions and having everyone happy with their first meal of the day was task one down. Now to wash up and start lunch!

With some people going off diving amongst the waves throughout the day, we all took it in turns to take control of the kitchen to make sure everything was prepared. That left lunch mostly to Jamie and I and we thought we’d make soup. Cutting up a number of vegetables and adding it to a warming pan of water, we thought this could be a success, it would thicken up and be delicious. Having added potatoes, carrots, onions and any other suitable ingredients to start getting the soup well under way we left it to slowly come to a simmer and occasionally stir it. Then we thought, what would be perfect with soup. Before long we started making flat breads with only flour, water and salt. This was a bit of a guessing game with the ingredients but worked perfectly. We kneaded the dough and made it into small dough balls ready to flatten and cook for lunch. Meanwhile looking at the soup we wanted to thicken it up a bit beyond a watery mix. Looking around the kitchen, we found none other than a massive tin of vegetable stock. Not having specific education between us on how much to add to the soup, we started slowly adding a bit and suddenly a lump accountable for nearly half the tin fell in the soup. Now this really did help to take away from the thinness of the water, but neither of us realised quite how salty stock is.

We proceeded to prepare lunch with the flat breads and had it all ready to dish up. One by one people got a bowl of soup, and one by one the interesting reaction started to spread like a virus. On the whole I think two people braved eating their whole bowl of soup, more capable of shrivelling your lips to prunes than the sea water. Obviously this being a main meal of the day, I felt rather disheartened, only added by crazy Caro (a Parisian I had a love hate relationship with) saying, oh you idiot Kriss, why do you always have to ruin things by adding pepper and making food spicy, to which I proceeded to state that it’s better to have flavour in your food, than not being able to taste anything at all! I needed a time out from some of the abuse and disappointment from lunch and took a swim leaving everyone else to start the redemption of the days cooking group. The one bonus from lunch is that the tuck shop had its highest takings for the whole ten weeks:-D now I thought that was quite an achievement!

With the disappointment of lunch still looming, everyone’s expectations for dinner were rather high. This time Jana took control and I put every effort in to answer the critics from previously. Lentil burgers, chips and salad. For everyone that is missing their western food it was time to up the game and bring everyone some comfort food. I laid my concentration on this with the majority of the cooking group whilst Jana made a delicious apple strudel. Being a vegetarian diet in the week due to not having the means of keeping food refrigerated lentil burgers were the closest you could get to the real thing. Having everything ready for six, the hungry faces on base eagerly came up to get their food. Lentil burgers, chips, salad and more flat bread. No one was going to go hungry this time. It went so quiet you could tell everyone was enjoying dinner and that lunchtime was quickly becoming a memory. But after dinner, Jana’s dessert really put the icing on the cake with people complimenting one of the best meals they had eaten on base. A big sigh of relief and time for an ice warm beer fresh out of the humidity to relax in the hammock with before bed.

Chapter 2: First dive in mexico.

This day had been building for months, a year out of the water and I was finally going to be diving back in. As the first dive on base, we all had to go on a check dive just to see what level of competency we were at and how good our air consumption was. Basically a fun dive running over skills picked up in the PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses.

Having done all morning duties and eaten breakfast, the first group of divers had gone out. Each day we tried to get four waves out depending on weather conditions and how quickly we could turn around each group. Being in the third group I had an opportunity to get stuck in with some of the daily life on base which keeps it running. Obviously every diver knows you need full tanks of air and compressors to fill them and every boat captain knows you need radios to communicate from boat to shore. I started with radio duty and of course studying my Latin coral identification names. Most communication was when the boats were going out and the divers getting into the water, to them surfacing again and the boats coming back from their dives. So in between we had a little time to progress in memorising our corals.

Ten minutes in a minor swarm of horse flies otherwise known as “bastard flies” attacked us. The latter name more for the reaction you give when they sneak up on you. So Mike and I took our initiative and a fly swat and put them together. That’s right, in the radio room we took war on the flies! Swatting them down one by one as they attacked us we started noticing a new infestation. Giant ants started taking the horseflies as trophies in troops of 4 to 6 and walking them along the wall back to their queen. After much distraction and fascination mixed in to the reaction of the ants, the radio called in and the boats were on their way back. Wave one complete, two ready to go.

Having given radio a go, staff members offered to show us how the compressors worked. Therefore after kitting up and getting everything ready for wave three I jumped straight into the next activity. Checking everything was good to go, we started the compressors and started filling tanks, quite a lengthy and noisy process with our relentless compressors Bill and Ben, (yeah they had names!) Then before long, it was time for wave three.

We have geared up did our pre dive checks and are walking to towards the boats, passing our kit to our respective captains. Then as a group of six, 3 each side we pull ourselves up into the boat. Off we jet through the waves to the dive site and as we approach we kit up again ready for a back role entry odd the side of the boat into the sea on the count of three. We all gather around each other before doing our check to go down, what a sensational feeling again, and breathing under water again. As we head further down, the reef wall comes into view. Mind blowing views of colourful arrays of corals and tropical fish beam before me, just minutes into my first Mexico dive and I know that what the next 6 months has in store is going to stay in my life forever.

Moving onto a sandy spot we all kneeled down paying attention to the instructor as they demonstrated a few skills. Mask removal was a mental block with me, struggling on my open water in the UK this is a skill I had to master and properly overcome. Luckily keeping calm this didn’t take long and we moved on. This time doing a few buoyancy skills, swimming through a hoop, knocking an object over with your nose under control from the bottom. Lastly before doing a swim around, we did a mini race. This required us taking our fins off and running along the sand to a finish line. Quickly wising up to the challenge, I emptied all the air from my BCD (buoyancy control device or a waist coat with air) to give me elevation pushing off the sea floor. Much to my delight I crossed the line and replaced my fins before we went for a mosey around the reef. Florescent reds, bright yellows and blues as a minimum on the reef wall flourishing with sponges and corals, time just disappeared. Before it felt like we had seen anything, it was time to surface again. Slowly working our way to our three minute safety stop at five metres, my eyes stayed fixated towards the sea floor. Someone suddenly started pointing and gave the signal like they were flying. A sting ray, once burrowed in the sand drifted away in its elegant posture. Every dive can have a surprise even right towards the end. Once surfaced we signalled to the boat and firstly passed our weight belts to the captain before the rest of our dive gear and again on the count of three jumping back on the boat. The way back I just sat in silence smiling thinking about what an incredible experience I have just had and how lucky I am to know so many more are on its way.

Adventure begins with mexico.

It was time, the hard work had paid off and the excitement was mounting, I was going to Mexico. After dropping my bags off at check in and whilst absorbing the buzz and high energy of Heathrow, it hit me. A sense of reflection on the last few years and the overwhelming feeling of moving into a completely new life changing adventure over the next six months, but one thing for sure I had a grin like a Cheshire cat on my face and I was going to make the most of this amazing opportunity.

Landing at Cancun the adventure was really just about to begin. Task one: collect bags, task two: queue up and clear security, Task three: find transport to my youth hostel. Having worked out a shuttle bus for my journey to Playa Del Carmen, someone immediately grabbed my bags and directed me exactly where I needed to go. Whilst everyone else was getting dropped off in phenomenal resorts where they would remain for the majority of a week-long break, I was on my way to the Colorado Hostel, right in the heart of Playa. First thoughts; get rid of my bags, second thoughts; let’s take a walk around town and get my first taste of Mexico.

Walking down the strip you hear so many noises, classic Mexican music and a range of cuisine, some of the finest I have ever seen. Whilst you walk along everyone is trying to sell someone something, a fast paced exciting atmosphere that contradicts Mexico’s normal go slow policy. Having met a few people that would be on my internship, we collaborated on going for dinner. My first take of the Caribbean Sea front and true native Mexican food was whist sitting on deck type chairs in the sand laying back with a cold beer, Corona of course, being the only cerveza I knew at this point in Mexico!

The next morning we met everyone on the internship in the hostel reception. 24 new faces spanning eight different nationalities. Before long we walked to the bus station moving away from civilization into a secluded location, Punta Gruesa right near the southern tip of Mexico. Surrounded by mangrove one side of the track and a picturesque stretch of beach the other, this was our base for ten weeks.

Sleeping arrangements comprised of small wooden huts with bunk beds shared between six and eight people. Mixed amongst sand all belongings had to be kept in plastic boxes otherwise our belongings would we shared with resident beach mice! There were three concrete buildings surrounding base. The office, palapa and dive store. Now to the more exciting stuff, palm trees with hammocks, a small wooden outside bar, a shoreline so beautiful it would take anyone’s breath away and a volleyball court. Paradise and the dream life is just starting to sink in, this is even before we have started diving!

The rest of the first day we got briefed about all aspects of the next ten weeks which included being split into groups. Groups were then assigned a range of activities needed to keep the base running swiftly. Cooking, toilet cleaning, raking the beach to avoid sand flies, and boat kit up were all the main daily chores all started at 05:30 every morning. I was sensible and got up earlier to join what became the coffee crew. Then after duties and eating breakfast the first dive of the day set out. This primarily was a dive check-up before starting marine monitoring.

Each day was unpredictable, before you even jumped in the water for a dive we would frequently find playful marine mammals swimming with the boats. Pods of dolphins ranging from ten up to one hundred at times would swim around you jumping out the water weaving in and out of each other. For me this was one of the most incredible things, the close interaction they would have with you. Over the ten weeks I saw them on eight separate occasions, each time as incredible as each other. When we gear up we back role into the sea off the side of the boats, we group up before going under water. Each dive site we would slowly sink down and neutralise ourselves in the water just above a reef wall. The reef wall was streaming with biodiversity ranging from coral species and fish species. Our aim over the ten weeks was to train to a sufficient level to collect valuable scientific data of the full range of dive sites. Split into fish ID and coral ID groups, we had to learn a specific range of species and get 100% in ID tests before contributing to the data. For the initial ten weeks the aim was to get a full set of data on each dive site monitored over the phase. After this we had a two week break where we were let loose on our own adventures to explore Mexico before starting dive shop internships.