The ship slowly sails across the mouth of the Sea of Cortez from Puerto Vallarta to Cabo San Lucas today. I spot a Brown booby perched on a Sea turtle this morning, and manage to take a photo of this unusual sight. A few minutes later the booby flies off after his brief rest.
The chefs knock it out of the park today with some amazing cakes, confections, desserts and sculptures, all made out of baked goods and sugar, and on display at noon in the Lido! Apparently there will be a chocolate extravaganza parade through the ship this evening, which is a Dressy Night at sea before we arrive in Cabo San Lucas tomorrow.
I have what will probably be my last swim this afternoon in the Sea View pool, since once we leave Cabo San Lucas, the North Pacific will cool the air temperatures on our way to San Diego and northward from there.
Since it is Dressy Night, I make a reservation at Tamarind for this evening, in order to work on spending my onboard balance. I have yet another wonderful meal with great service!
This is my first day of not wearing a mask. Previously, I wore a mask when walking the hallways and venues, using elevators, and especially when I expected crowds during performances at Main Stage or B.B. Kings. I wouldn’t wear a mask in my stateroom or when outside. I’ve decided to accept the risk and go maskless everywhere for the rest of the voyage.
It’s great to have another sea day, where I don’t have to get up early for an excursion, so I sleep in until 8am. I go down to the Main Dining Room around 8:30am for breakfast at a shared table with two couples, one from Nanaimo and the other from the Napa Valley in California who I have had breakfast with before. Spinner dolphins appear off the stern of the ship, so I jump up to take some mediocre video through the windows with my iPhone.
After returning to my stateroom, my laundry is delivered – such a luxury! I spend the next hour out on my verandah spotting more Spinner dolphins and Sea turtles. I’m using my 100-500 zoom lens, so take some pretty good photos!
I go for a swim in the Sea View pool , and then return to my stateroom to keep checking for more turtles, but they seem to be behind us now. I wait until 1:30pm before going to the Lido Market for lunch. The beef sliders speak to me, so I have two along with some coleslaw and two kinds of sharp white cheese, finishing off with a slice of chocolate caramel cake for dessert.
After not spotting any turtles from my verandah, I go up to the Explorations Cafe for a cappuccino and find a quiet spot in the Crow’s Nest to work on my photos and journal, while I enjoy my cappuccino. At dinner this evening in the Main Dining Room, I learn from someone at the table that the ship has 1,899 total passengers aboard, with 894 Canadians and 839 Americans.
I attend the late show of Boy Band Evolution in Main Stage, which I enjoy a lot. The four young singers all have their harmonies perfected, and the nostalgia factor of their songs is appreciated by this mainly Baby Boomer audience. Before returning to my stateroom, I go to the Ocean Bar for a nightcap martini, where the server always makes a point of charging me $2 extra for the Tanqueray 10 premium gin I always specify. The surcharge never appears on my bill.
I go to the Explorations Cafe in the Crow’s Nest to pick up a cappuccino and a small bottle of Perrier sparkling water this morning, which I take back to my stateroom. Later, I have breakfast in the Main Dining Room sharing a table with all Canadians this morning, who are from: Victoria, Sunshine Coast, and Ontario.
I attend the Ask the Captain event in the Main Stage at 10am this morning hosted by Cruise Director Kimberly. Thankfully, no stupid or embarrassing questions are asked of Captain Jeroen van Donselaar. I always find these sessions interesting, since the Captains almost always reveal little snippets of behind-the-scenes information on how the ship works and the issues they deal with.
I see flying fish this morning and Nazca Boobys are swooping down into the water near the bow of the ship catching them. I take more photos, despite already having many of the similar Caribbean Booby Gulls from past sightings on the Atlantic side and Brown Boobys on this coast. There is one mostly white Booby and another with mottled white, brown and black plumage among the rest.
I have a Martini in the Tamarind bar this evening before going into the Tamarind restaurant for dinner. I start with lobster and shrimp potstickers served with smoked shoyu and pickled ginger. My main course is Barramundi Red Curry with Crab rice and bok choy – all very tasty. I finish the meal with a selection of House-made Sorbets: lemon-basil, yuzu, and lychee.
People watching – Two young male crew members (South Asian and Eastern European) are seated next to me with two old American biddies. It’s a pretty awkward “date” for the young men, but the two women lap it up and carry the conversation. A young couple in their twenties are seated next to my table on the other side. They really stick out since they don’t fit the demographic for this cruise, and don’t seem to socialize with other passengers. However, they appear to be enjoying themselves, so perhaps it’s an opportunity for them to get away…
Trumpeter Nathan Samuelson gives an energetic performance in Main Stage at 9pm this evening, however 45 minutes of solo trumpet playing is a bit much. The house band is backing him up, which improves the experience greatly. He has a very good singing voice in the Michael Buble style, which I would have liked to hear more of. Nathan Samuelson Music
I’m awake at 5am as the ship turns into the Gulf of Nicoya enroute to dock at Puerto Caldera near Puntarenas. Once the Explorations Cafe opens, I get a cappuccino to take back to my stateroom to enjoy on my balcony in the early morning sunshine. I have a bagel, lox and cream cheese with a passion fruit parfait for breakfast in my stateroom, since my excursion leaves at 8am this morning from the pier.
As our rather large group boards two buses, I’m happy to see that Swiss Travel are the excursion company today. I have lots of good experiences with this Costa Rican travel company, who provided services to TravelQuest on their Costa Rica astronomy tours in past years.
We drive for about an hour and a half along the Pan-American Highway (Carretera Interamericana Norte) inland from Puntarenas, passing small farms in the hills until we are almost at San Ramon. The Cloud Forest we visit today is in a private reserve – San Luis Adventure Park – San Luis Canopy Tour. We split up into groups and walk along the trails, and over four suspension bridges which offer elevated vantage points to view the cloud forest below. Each of these bridges stretche between 30 and 78 metres (95 and 253 feet) and are suspended up to 38 metres (126 feet) above the ground.
Our guide stops along the way to tell us about the flora and fauna found in the cloud forest. Our first stop is an open hummingbird garden, where I photograph Amazilia hummingbirds perched on the bushes in the area. Many people miss them, since they are busy talking and moving about. I keep still and move away from the crowds in order to get some good sightings.
Other than the hummingbirds, we don’t spot other birds, butterflies or small mammals. Our guide talks about the plants, such as orchids, heliconias, ferns, bromeliads and other species of aerial plants that are part of this habitat.
After we slowly hike up the hill back to the main office, we enjoy a traditional Costa Rican lunch of beans, rice, vegetables and a choice of chicken or fish. I have the fish, which is very good. There are also some fruit drinks available from a self-serve fountain that is included with the lunch.
On our way back to the ship we stop at El Jardín, which has a massive souvenir shop, a display garden and decorated ox carts in the back, along with a screened area containing some butterflies. I take video of the butterflies with my iPhone, since I know from past experience it is hopeless to take photos of butterflies as they constantly flit about our heads.
The excursion returns at about 3:15pm, just beating the All Aboard time of 3:30pm. The ship doesn’t pull away from the dock until 4:45pm, 45 minutes late due to excursions returning a bit late. We have three days at sea until we reach Puerto Vallarta, so being a bit late leaving port isn’t an issue.
The ship is sailing from Panama to Costa Rica, arriving early tomorrow morning. I have a cappuccino from Explorations Cafe before going to the Main Dining Room for breakfast, since I can’t wait that long for coffee!
I spend the day taking photos of Brown Boobys, who are swooping around the bow of the ship all day. They are a striking bird, and strong fliers. I catch them in flight and feeding on the water using my new 100-500 telephoto zoom and the Canon R5’s active tracking. This system recognizes birds amazingly well, so I capture some pretty good shots – rating some of them 4/5.
Our Executive Chef Bitta gives a cooking demonstration in the demo kitchen setup in the BB King’s Blues Club, hosted by Cruise Director Kimberly. He cooks Cornflakes Crusted Corvina and Tuna Poke, with samples being given to the audience afterwards.
The satellite Internet connection is down today, which gives me time to work on the photos and video I took during our Panama Canal transit yesterday.
I go to the Canaletto Italian restaurant this evening, enjoying the Osso Bucco, which is amazingly flavourful and tender, served with creamed orzo.
There is an intense orange coloured sunset this evening (see banner image above), which reflects off the calm Pacific as we sail northward to Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas) Costa Rica, arriving tomorrow morning. It’s a beautiful tropical evening out on deck!
About a dozen Brown Boobys fly beside the ship this morning, so I take some photographs of them from my balcony. It is hard to identify the Brown Booby from the Caribbean Bobby Gull, since their markings vary so much. I also notice lots of Caribbean Sargassum seaweed (see banner image above) in Mona Passage as we sail south between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, bound for Aruba tomorrow.
I go to a Cocktails with Kimberly event featuring pianist John Bressler this afternoon. He shares that it is his 69th birthday today, and happily answers lots of questions from the audience as well as from Kimberly.
I have dinner this evening in the Main Dining Room, where I walk in with three couples as we are seated at a big table. I have the curried lamb, which is very tasty. Two of my dinner companions from Kelowna recommend the Galapagos Legend ship to explore the Galapagos Islands – less expensive than other excursion ships, and just as good.
Vocalist Maria Campos is the Main Stage performer this evening, singing Broadway songs that became Hollywood movie classics in film. She has a powerful voice, and performs an impressive one-woman show.
We changed time zones last night to Alaska time – back 1 hour. I go down to the Grand Dutch Cafe for breakfast: cappuccino, blueberry muffin and a fruit & yogurt parfait.
Seabirds of the North Pacific – Naturalist John basically takes us through his biology thesis during his 45 minute presentation in World Stage. No doubt it was too deep for most of the audience, but he certainly knows his oceanic species, as my notes reveal.
Cold to warm water – San Francisco to Hawaii
Diving birds close to the North American coastline
Shearwaters – surface and swim underwater
Brant’s Cormorant – diver
Tufted Puffin – skimmers
Pigeon Guillemot – red feet, divers
Brown Pelican – plunge divers very close to shore
Western Gull – eats anything
Subsurface Predators near Hawai’i
Spotted, Striped & Bottle-nosed dolphin
Hawaiian ocean birds
Black-footed Albatross- dynamic soaring
Layson Albatross – 7-8′ wingspan
Wedge-tailed Shearwater – sensitive to artificial lights – collisions
Frigatebird – stealing food, don’t have webbed feet so they drown if they land on the water
White, Red-tailed Tropicbird – long tail feathers
Brown & Black Noddy – plunge divers
Sooty Tern – most abundant
White Tern – urban nesters
I attend the Kahului, Maui Port Talk, but I don’t pick up any useful information that I don’t already know. Since there are no lines at 1PM, I have lunch in the Main Dining Room. I’m seated by myself between two server stations, so it’s very noisy. I have a Heineken beer and a rather uninspiring Croque Monsieur.
On Music Walk: La Musica Latina– the art of the Tango. This performance by the Lincoln Center quartet reminds me of my visit to Argentina and Uruguay in 2020.
Later in the afternoon, I return to the Crow’s Nest to enjoy the Aloha Sunset Music Hour again. I have some good conversation with my fellow Canadians while enjoying two very nicely made Tanqueray 10 Martinis.
I have to wait for over an hour to be seated in the Main Dining Room for dinner, since it is Canadian Thanksgiving today. I find the turkey, stuffing and vegetables are nothing special, but I appreciate the effort by the chefs and enjoy the company of my fellow Canadians while seated at a large table for dinner.
We arrive at our anchorage outside Port Stanley on time this morning around 7am, and after anchoring, the tendering ashore starts promptly. I’m up at 6:45am, have breakfast in our stateroom, and take the first tender ashore to meet our excursion operator. We are driven most of the way to Bluff Cove Lagoon in a large minibus, and then transfer to 4x4s for the last 5-10 minutes to get to the penguin rookery.
We see both Gentoo penguins and King penguins with their young. Most of the Gentoos are molting, so they are pretty miserable, just sitting there trying to survive the unseasonably cold, wet weather (see banner image above). This is Autumn going into winter in the southern hemisphere, and it is only 8°C today. Mind you, we are at 52° South latitude right now, so the weather can’t be expected to be that warm.
Mission accomplished: I saw penguins on the Falkland Islands!
Bluff Cove Lagoon is a small part of a 35,000 acre sheep and cattle farm, where the owners offer access to the penguins and other wildlife. They also operate a small museum, gift shop, and most importantly the Sea Cabbage Cafe, where complimentary sweet treats and hot beverages are served to their guests!
Once we return from the penguin rookery, I walk along Port Stanley’s waterfront road, stopping here and there to see some of the quaint buildings and historic sights. The Maritime Museum is well worth seeing. Passengers from the Roald Amundsen (Hurtigruten, 500 passengers) are also in town, wearing their distinctive coats. I do no shopping, and return to the ship by 12:30pm, and have a very nice Vietnamese rice stir fry lunch in the Lido.
I download all the photos and videos I shot today into my computer and start the task of entering titles and locations. Thankfully, the GPS unit I have on my Canon EOS R is working perfectly. Having all the photos geocoded combined with having access to the Internet makes annotating the photos with place names much easier and faster.
The cruise has been wonderful so far. Tomorrow we sail the Magellan Strait to Punta Arenas, then explore Beagle & Cockburn Channels before we round Cape Horn and sail through the Chilean Fjords. The upcoming week is looking spectacular!
I take my time leaving Hotel Alma this morning. Traffic is light as I drive west from Calgary through the Foothills and the Kananaskis area to Canmore, where I stop to recharge my Tesla at the Supercharger. I grab a cappuccino from Beamers Coffee, which is about a 7-minute walk south of the Supercharger. Back at the Supercharger, while enjoying my coffee I take a photo of the old Moon over the south end of Mt. Rundle before resuming my drive.
The very popular Castle Junction rest stop offers the classic view of Castle Mountain, the Sawback Range and the Bow River. I use three different focal lengths of lenses with my dSLR to capture the scene (see banner image above for cropped fisheye view). I discover later that my telephoto shot of Castle Mountain also captured a raptor in flight near the mountain – bonus! I pull into the rest stop at Eldon in Banff National Park for a rest and to have some lunch. Before resuming my drive, I take a panoramic photo of Castle Mountain from this viewpoint – there is spectacular scenery everywhere you look in the Canadian Rockies!
I recharge at the Golden Supercharger for a half hour before driving Rogers Pass to Revelstoke. Tackling the highway construction westbound doesn’t seem as bad as the eastbound experience. This is the second-longest driving segment for my road trip, so I’m tired by the time I arrive in Revelstoke later in the afternoon.
I’m staying at the Swiss Chalet Motel in Revelstoke on the main drag: Victoria Ave. The Village Idiot Bistro is recommended by the desk clerk, so I go there for dinner. It’s a very casual place with a patio going full bore since it is about 27°C downtown. I sit inside out of the sun and have a High Country Kolsch draught (Mt. Begbie Brewery). It is kind of sweet, but it’s a good summer beer that goes well with my grilled halibut which is excellent, and is served with grilled tomatoes, green beans, onions, and goat cheese – a very heart-healthy choice.
I have a Standard Queen Room in the motel, which is small, but nicely updated with a Queen bed, fast Internet, full bathroom, and air-conditioning. Each unit has a parking spot right outside the door, and the office doubles as the breakfast room. The motel is centrally located – it’s an easy five minute walk to the railway museum, and a 15-minute walk to the shops downtown. There is free parking downtown if you drive.
Today we trade our posh Le Meridien hotel in Kota Kinabalu for a wilderness lodge in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. We fly to Sandakan in East Sabah this morning, drive along the Kinabatangan River (Sabah’s longest at over 500 kilometres) to Sukau and the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge.
Along the way we pass through many kilometres of oil-palm plantations, and arrive in time for lunch (served buffet-style). When one of the staff takes my bag to my cabin, he is attacked by a troupe of Macaque monkeys and is bitten. Not an impressive start to my stay!
Late this afternoon we take our first river cruise in search of Pygmy Elephants, but our guide Junior only finds fresh elephant dung, since they appear to be on the move. We do see a large group of Proboscis monkeys high in the trees beside the river, Silver Langur monkeys, and the Borneo Civet after dark as we return for a late dinner.
The cabins at the lodge are pretty basic, with no air conditioning, just fans and screens on the windows. There are bugs in the room and especially the bathroom. I started taking my Malarone anti-malarial medicine a couple of days ago in preparation for this segment of our travels, however despite the lodge being located right on the river, I see no mosquitos.
April 11, 2018 Wednesday – Kinabatangan in East Sabah, Malaysia
We leave the lodge by boat at 6:30AM for a 2.5 hour trip along the Kinabatangan River. We spot a beautiful Stork-billed Kingfisher soon after we leave the dock. Unlike yesterday evening, today I have my full camera kit with me for the boat trip, I take some good photos of a female Proboscis monkey with a baby in a tree, some Hornbills, a Black and Red Broadbill, a male Blue-eared Kingfisher, a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, an Oriental Darter, some Silver Langur monkeys, a Wrinkled Hornbill, and a small Monitor Lizard. This is my most productive day for wildlife photography!
Our guide Junior gives a presentation on how he started out as a waiter in a resort, becoming a guide 35 years ago, and had the opportunity to work with David Attenborough on The Living Planet series. The biodiversity on Borneo is very concentrated, lending itself to feature films about the rainforest, such as the National Geographic Great Migration series. Junior tells us he is self-taught as a guide, but he is licensed by the government. Same goes for our other guides, which includes his son.
On the afternoon boat trip, we go up a tributary of the main river, where we spot: a Stork-billed Kingfisher (again), a Roller Broadbill (aka Dollar Bird), and an Oriental Darter bird. We see a couple of wildlife bridges built by the government wildlife service to help the Orangutans cross the river channel (since they don’t swim). Our guide tells us the wildlife bridges are mainly used by the monkeys.
I skip the night cruise, since photography is pretty well out of the question, and I really don’t want to be bitten by bugs, pick up any leeches, or attempt to photograph bugs by flashlight.
April 12, 2018 Thursday – Kinabatangan to Sandakan in East Sabah, Malaysia
On our morning boat trip, we see: Proboscis monkeys feeding (including a male), a Cattle Egret in breeding plumage, a pair of Hornbills, a male Black and Red Broadbill guarding its nest, and a young Crocodile on the muddy shore.
After lunch, it is time to leave the lodge by taking a 2.5 hour boat trip down the river to the jetty at Sandakan. This turns out to be an endurance contest, despite having a rest stop half way at Abai Jungle Restaurant and Lodge, a lodge on the lower river run by the same company (S I Tours) as where we were staying. The boats are going about 40 knots and when we are in exposed sea water in the Sulu Sea, the ride is very rough and noisy. I wear my noise-cancelling earbuds to reduce my stress level.
Once we arrive at the jetty in Sandakan, our bags are taken by hand carts to the bus waiting for us, and we are driven a short distance to the only deluxe hotel to be found in Sandakan, the Four Points by Sheraton. It has an infinity pool, gym, 2-level lobby with a piano, and is over 20 stories high. It’s quite pretentious, however I’m happy to have an American-style room with air conditioning, hot water and comfy bed after the last few nights spent in the river lodge!