8 Facts You Might Not Have Known About Ecuador

Ecuador FactsFor the first time since I began traveling non-stop in 2007, I am in South America. I have no particular reason why I haven’t been to South American, I just never got around to it. I’m in Quito, Ecuador right now and tomorrow I’ll be heading off to the Galapagos Islands. It is the beginning of what I hope will be more exploration of Latin America over the next year. I figured it was a good time for another installment of “8 Facts…”

1) Ecuador is the closest country to space. You might think the closest point on Earth to space would be Mount Everest, but you’d be wrong. Continue reading “8 Facts You Might Not Have Known About Ecuador”

Arriving In New Cities After Dark

I like cities at night, but I don't like to arrive in cities at night
I just arrived in Quito, Ecuador. My flight landed at 11:15pm and by the time I got out of the airport through what was perhaps the least efficient passport/customs control I’ve ever seen, I finally took a cab and arrived at my destination.

All things being equal, I don’t like arriving in a city at night, especially if I have never been there before. You can’t see anything and you don’t have a good feel for the city if your first impressions are after dark. Also, when you arrive late at night you have to worry a bit more about thieves, scam artists, muggers and every manner of lowlife which comes out at night. Moreover, you have to do it while carrying your bag which just screams that you are ripe for picking. Continue reading “Arriving In New Cities After Dark”

Cruising as an Independent Traveler

The Carnival Magic
The Carnival Magic
Last May I was invited onboard the Carnival Magic for its inaugural cruise from Venice to Barcelona. With that cruise I have now been on a whopping 3 cruises in my life, which probably takes me out of the category of a rank novice but a far cry from the 100+ cruises that many people I met on board have been on.

Before my first cruise I assumed that I would hate the ship and would enjoy the shore excursions. Three cruises later, to my shock and surprise, I find my views to be the exact opposite of what I original supposed: I like being on the ship and I loathe most of the shore excursions I’ve been on.
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September 2011 Question and Answers

The following questions have been delivered by Pony Express, processed by the Dwarves of Mal-Kunath, scanned and security tested by the best and brightest TSA Agents, and finally kept in a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnall’s doorstep.

This my dear friends, is the September 2011 Q&A!

Bogdan Epureanu asks on Google+: I know that you’re using a DSLR and that you have an own bag for it (as well as your other electronics), still you know probably better than anyone that when you travel (especially if you’re an “off-road” backpack traveler) you have to go as “light” as possible. Under these circumstances, what camera would you recommend? Continue reading “September 2011 Question and Answers”

Fall 2011 Travel Schedule

I haven’t been to New Zealand in over four years

My trusty assistant Amy and have I been working on developing my schedule for the rest of the year. It shouldn’t be as hectic as April-July was for me, but it will still be pretty busy. Starting on Thursday, here is where I’m scheduled to be:

    • September 22 – September 28, Toronto, Ontario: I’ll be in Toronto for G Adventures annual corporate meeting in Niagara Falls and on the 27th I’ll be speaking the Future of Travel event in Toronto for UN Travel and Tourism Day. On the 26th I’ll be having a meetup in Toronto and everyone is invited. RSVP on Facebook.
    • September 28 – October 12, Ecuador: Latin America has been a weak point in my travel resume and I aim to make up for it in the next 15 months. I’ll be traveling to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands with assistance from Trippy.com. They are a new travel planning startup and I am serving on their board of advisors. You can help me plan my trip to Quito and the Galapagos. To get access to the beta version of the site, just use the code word: ARNDT

Continue reading “Fall 2011 Travel Schedule”

Sunday Traveler Photo Essay: Sherry Ott, Driving to Mongolia

My featured travel this week is Sherry Ott who is an accomplished travel photographer and blogs at Ottsworld.com. Sherry has been travel about as long as I have and I have met her on two continents, most recently in Valencia, Spain. Sherry Ott just completed driving from London to Mongolia in the Mongol Rally. A charitable adventure spanning 8500 miles and two continents.

Sherry is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of Meet, Plan, Go!, a website and national event providing career break and sabbatical travel inspiration and planning advice. The event is held in 17 cities on October 18th, 2011.

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UNESCO World Heritage Site #153: Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California

UNESCO World Heritage Site #153: Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California
UNESCO World Heritage Site #153: Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California

From the World Heritage inscription:

The site comprises 244 islands, islets and coastal areas located in the Gulf of California in north-eastern Mexico. The Sea of Cortez and its islands have been called a natural laboratory for the investigation of speciation. Moreover, almost all major oceanographic processes occurring in the planet’s oceans are present in the property, giving it extraordinary importance for study. The site is one of striking natural beauty in a dramatic setting formed by rugged islands with high cliffs and sandy beaches, which contrast with the brilliant reflection from the desert and the surrounding turquoise waters. The site is home to 695 vascular plant species, more than in any marine and insular property on the World Heritage List. Equally exceptional is the number of fish species: 891, 90 of them endemic. The site, moreover, contains 39% of the world’s total number of species of marine mammals and a third of the world’s marine cetacean species.

The property ranks higher than other marine and insular World Heritage sites as it represents a unique example in which, in a very short distance, there are simultaneously ‘bridge islands’ (populated by land in ocean level decline during glaciations) and oceanic islands (populated by sea and air). Moreover, almost all major oceanographic processes are present, of extraordinary importance for the study of marine and coastal processes. These processes are indeed supporting the high marine productivity and biodiversity richness that characterize the Gulf of California. The diversity and abundance of marine life associated with spectacular submarine forms and high water transparency makes this a diver’s paradise.

In August 2011 I visited the island of Espiritu Santo near La Paz, Mexico. We went out via boat and saw an abundance of marine life including sea lions, dolphins and sea turtles. The arid islands offered a sharp contrast to the deep blue waters of the Gulf of California. It was a great experience and one that I would do again in a heartbeat.


Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California

The Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site. This serial property consists of 244 islands and oceanic marine zones. It was recognized by UNESCO for its marine landscape, as well as rich marine coastal habitat. In fact, this area has been described as ‘the world’s aquarium’.

The Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California are located within the Baja California and Sonora Mexican state. It was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 2005.

About Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California

Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California

This UNESCO site is a marginal sea located within the Pacific Ocean. It serves to distinguish the Baja California Peninsula from the mainland of Mexico. This protected area has a total coastline of 4,000 kilometers in length. Meanwhile, the total surface area for the entire gulf is at 160,000 square kilometers. This makes the Baja California as the world’s second longest peninsula. Only the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia is longer.

According to UNESCO, the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California is the most diverse sea on the planet. There are over 5,000 micro-invertebrates that thrive in the region. Meanwhile, there are also about a million people that inhabit the region.

The Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California encompass various protected zones. These zones are as follows:

  • Upper Golf and Colorado River Delta
  • Islands of the Gulf
  • Isla San Pedro Martir
  • El Vizcaino Reserve
  • Bahía de Loreto National Park
  • Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park
  • Cabo San Lucas Reserve
  • Islas Marías Biosphere Reserve
  • Isla Isabel National Park
  • Islas Marietas National Park
  • Archipelago de San Lorenzo National Park

Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California

This natural landscape in the Gulf of California was believed to have existed since 5.3 million years ago, according to geological evidence gathered by scientists. Volcanism has also largely impacted the lad formations in the area. In fact, it is believed that the island of Isla Tortuga was formed due to volcanic activity. As for the shores, there are three types of them available at the protected area covered by UNESCO: sandy beach, rocky beach, and tidal flat.

Aside from the unique geological formations, the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California feature an abundant marine life. It is known to have a unique and rich marine ecosystem. There are several endemic marine species that inhabit the waters of the Gulf of California. Meanwhile, it is also home to the endangered species known as the desert porpoise. Among other marine species that thrive within the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California are manta ray, leatherback sea turtle, killer whale, humpback whale, blue whale, and the Humboldt squid. Since this area has had a history of commercial fishery, UNESCO and other local organizations are currently working hard to restore the number of fish species that live within the region after years of over-fishing.

In 2007, Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California was extended by UNESCO. This extension meant that the Islas Marietas National Park and Archipelago de San Lorenzo National Park was included into the protected area. Along with the extension, the boundary change was also modified.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

My 13 Most Wanted Destinations

I do not have a bucket list. If I did, I’m sure most of the things on that list would have been crossed off by now. That does not mean, however, that I do not have goals or a priority list of things I’d like to do. The following list is of the 13 places I would most like to visit.

You will notice that most of these destinations are out of the way and rather hard to get to. While I still haven’t visited many places which get large numbers of tourists (Shanghai for example), they are relatively easy to get to. If I really wanted to visit Shanghai I’m sure I could do it no problem. I’m also sure I’ll wind up going there at some point.

These places have all captured my fancy for some reason or another. Save for the locations in Canada and Australia, all are in countries which I haven’t visited before. (Technically, I have been to Chile when I went to Easter Island, but it isn’t the same as visiting the mainland of Chile)

Here is my list in no particular order are the 13 places I would most like to visit:
Continue reading “My 13 Most Wanted Destinations”