Diving or snorkeling with manta rays is truly an unforgettable experience. If it isn't already on your list of top things to do, we think it should be! With the largest brain to body ratio of any fish, they have the ability to create special connections with divers. Not to mention, they are harmless, so you enjoy the beauty of their movement without the risk. While there are many places to have magical encounters, here are our 5 favorite places to enjoy these majestic creatures.
1. Kona, Hawaii One of our favorite aspects of diving, is that you never know what you are going to see. This makes each dive exciting and suspenseful in the most fun way possible. For that reason, we don't usually promote or include "baited" dives on our top lists, since you know what you'll experience going into the dive. However, the Night Manta dive in Kona is so magical we have to make an exception.
As more and more hotels continued to develop in the Kona area, the additional light attracted plankton to congregate off the coast. And while plankton are attracted to light at night, mantas are attracted to plankton! The rays are creatures of habit and return to these feeding stations regularly. Dive operators now use lights to attract the plankton and in turn the mantas, offering close encounters with them as they "dance" in the water while feeding.
2. Maldives The Maldives are a scuba diver's parade. Crystal clear waters and wide open ocean make it prime conditions for pelagic animals (those living in the open waters). Year round encounters with mantas and other pelagics (i.e. whale sharks and other shark species) are common. At some of the atolls feeding groups of over 100 have been witnessed. Depending on the season, you may need to visit different areas of the atolls, as the mantas do migrate following the nutrient-rich waters.
3. Yap and Palau The islands of Micronesia near the Phillipine Sea are a must do, and are almost a guarantee for daily encounters with mantas. These two islands alone claim 450-600 resident mantas. In diving, we never want to say anything is guaranteed, but you would be hard pressed to be denied a manta encounter when visiting here. While year round encounters are common, the best season for interactions is October through May. The animals are very active after sunset, so be ready for some of the best night dives of your life!
4. Tofo, Mozambique Surprise! My love of Africa influences an appearance on today's top 5 thanks to the diversity of the continent and its wildlife. There are so many wonderful dive locations throughout Southern and Eastern Africa, but Mozambique tops the list for pelagic diving, including mantas. Mantas call Mozambique home year-round due to the unique currents bringing plankton rich waters to its coastal areas. If you travel between June and October, you will also add whale shark encounters, and possibly even humpback whale sightings, as they migrate through. And don't forget to add in a mainland safari while there!
5. Fiji Ahhh, Fiji - let me count the ways this paradise secures its place in our top 5! It's one of our favorite places for so many reasons, Manta sightings included. Located in the south of the Pacific Ocean, off the east coast of Australia, Fiji is a fantastic place to encounter beautiful reefs, amazing sea life, and big ocean-goers like sharks and of course, mantas. With over 300 islands, and the world's 3rd largest coral reef, the encounters are endless. You will find some of the most colorful reefs in the world, as well as some of the best pelagic and shark dives in the world. To see mantas, head to the Yasawas, Kadavu, Taveuni, or Wakaya islands. Each of these requires a boat or ferry ride from the main island, but absolutely worth the journey. Visit between June and October when the manta population is in the hundreds!
When you're far from home, the last thing you want to worry about is losing something near and dear to your heart... or worse, being without necessary travel credentials. To help safeguard not only your valuables, but your trip logistics and peace of mind, we've put together a few tips on safeguarding your most precious possessions while traveling.
1. DON'T PUT VALUABLES IN YOUR CHECKED LUGGAGE
Carry money, jewelry and other valuables on your person, rather than stowing them in checked luggage. Not enough room for your items when packing your carry on? Consider leaving those extra valuables at home! Did you buy nice gifts while away? Most hotels can assist with shipping items home whether domestically or internationally.
2. CARRY YOUR MONEY IN DIFFERENT PLACES
George Costanza taught us a thing or two about thick wallets. Avoid the backaches and keep your money safer by divvying up cash and credit cards into multiple locations. Place some in your wallet, and choose a couple other backup locations - a purse, hip belt, zippered chest or pant pocket, money belt, backpack, or even with a travel companion. That way if a wallet or bag goes missing, you will have secured money elsewhere.
3. WEAR YOUR CASH
By default most people carry their money in a wallet or bag (purse, backpack, etc). Make sure that one of your multiple money carrying locations is on your person, in addition to a wallet or bag. Money belts are more common, but we are loving these unique wearable options: vests with internal chest pockets, money socks, Sholdit pocketed infinity scarves, Travelsmith's pickpocket proof pants, and even garters and bras built to act as wearable wallets - convenient and clever!
4. STORE COPIES OF YOUR DOCUMENTS
When going overseas, make sure to make copies of your passport, flight tickets, insurance documents, hotel reservations, and anything else of importance. Scan the documents and either email them to yourself or upload them to a syncing program like Evernote. When an emergency strikes, having easy access to backup copies of your info via any internet connection will be indispensable.
5. LEAVE EXPENSIVE JEWELRY AT HOME
While you may love your favorite pieces of sparkle, we recommend not advertising your wealth on vacation by wearing expensive jewelry. This could attract unwanted attention and make you a more tempting target for thieves.
6. STASH YOUR VALUABLES
Most hotels, hostels, and guesthouses have a safe that you can use, either at the reception or in your room. Make use of it. Keep most of your valuables safely stashed, and only take what you really need out with you on your day's adventures. Travel lightly while significantly reducing the chance of losing any of your valuables.
7. LIMIT THE CASH IN YOUR WALLET
Do you find yourself regularly taking out your wallet while out adventuring? Shops, bars, restaurants, oh my! Consider keeping just a small amount of cash inside. Whenever you take out your wallet, you advertise its contents to those around you, and you never know who could be watching.
Travel smart, travel light, and get out and explore! Do you have any of your own tried and true ways to safeguard your valuables while adventuring? Share them with us in the comments section below!
Seven months into this pandemic, and we're still living with so much uncertainty. We've sheltered in place. We've gone stir crazy. We've seen businesses cautiously re-open. Yet we've also seen increases in the rate of positive cases around the country. If you plan to venture out this fall/winter here are some key mistakes to avoid when traveling.
1. Not planning ahead.
If ever there was a time for over-planning, now is that time. Gone (for now) are the days of driving until you feel tired and then finding the closest hotel, or going to a city and just googling activities in the area. Whether leaving your community for a quick weekend or a longer trip, planning ahead must be standard operating procedure. First step... check health and safety updates for your local community and your intended destination. Is COVID-19 spreading in your community? Is it spreading in the places you’ll be visiting? You can check the CDC COVID tracker for the most current information. If the answer is yes to either, now might not be the best time to go. If the answer is no, then let the real planning begin! Plot your route, book lodging, make restaurant reservations and book activities in advance.
Seem like overkill? Remember most cities, towns, and even remote campgrounds are currently operating at less than 100%. Many hotels and restaurants are limiting capacity. Your destination will most likely have establishments that are closed, have reduced hours, are by appointment only, have modified processes, or have set other restrictions in place. Due to this, reservations will book well in advance, meaning last minute open slots will be very hard to come by.
2. Dismissing current state and community requirements.
Many states have quarantine requirements in place to protect an influx of COVID-19 cases from crossing their borders. Some statutes govern residents leaving and returning to their community, while others provide guidelines for tourists arriving from different states. These are constantly changing, and you'll need to check for current updates on any requirements that may be imposed on not only your final destination, but any other states you will travel through en route. You can find the resources for state requirements here.
Additionally, be sure to check for any local town or city updates while you’re on the road. One town might mandate masks on any public sidewalk, while others may just require masks indoors. Tourism board and municipality websites are a great resource as they are constantly updating their information online.
3. Forgetting extra masks and hand sanitizer.
Most places are requiring or strongly encouraging masks, so you should be sure to have plenty on hand. Pack 2 in your suitcase, then pack 2 more. And just because you're on a trip, you can't take a vacation from current health and safety guidelines. Practice social-distancing measures and wear masks around strangers - indoors in public places, and outdoors in crowds or where social distancing isn’t possible.
Don't forget to keep your hand sanitizer handy - not only in your suitcase, but in a purse, pocket or your car's center console. Many towns and businesses have put out hand sanitizer stations, but it's best to be self sufficient for gas station stops, last minute needs and when public sanitizer isn't available.
4. Ignoring COVID Testing Precautions.
Depending on the type of overnight trip you’re taking and if you’ll come into close contact with other people outside your bubble, consider getting a COVID-19 test before you go and when you return home. You may have been exposed to COVID-19 on your travels. You may feel well and not have any symptoms, but as we know you can be contagious without symptoms and spread the virus to others. You and your travel companions (including children) pose a risk to your family, friends, and community for 14 days after you were exposed to the virus. Rapid testing is widely available now at your local urgent care and many other centers, making for an easy solution. Regardless of where you traveled or what you did during your trip, take these actions to protect others from getting sick after you return:
5. Being impatient and inflexible.
Have respect and empathy for hospitality professionals trying to offer you a memorable experience in an environment vastly different from the norm. Hotels have reduced service offerings for certain public places like continental breakfast areas. Be ready to make alternate plans as needed. Going out to eat? If a restaurant server is taking care of you while you are eating and unmasked, don’t talk directly at the server to reduce transfer of aerosols. (It’s awkward, we know, but err on the side of caution as much as possible.) Understand that everyone is trying to navigate our current reality as best they can, so having more grace and understanding will go a very long way. If you're not comfortable following the safety guidelines in public establishments at this time, we recommend utilizing food delivery services instead of restaurants, considering car travel vs. flights, and choosing home rentals instead of hotels with shared spaces.
6. Neglecting local businesses.
Now more than ever, many small business are struggling to keep their doors open. Wherever you're headed, check out local businesses to support on your trip. Local boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores and farmers markets are fun places to fuel up, explore and even find that perfect travel keepsake. (Note: Many prefer payment with credit or debit cards right now, to avoid handling cash.)
7. Not using a travel advisor to help plan your trip.
Even a long weekend trip takes a lot of planning and research to ensure you will have a memorable time. Our job as a travel advisor is to do all the legwork for you, at no cost to you!
Now more than ever, with so many changing regulations and procedures, this proves invaluable. We are keeping up with local town and travel updates, with a wealth of resources to access the most current information. And best of all, did we mention our services are FREE to you?!
This can be a beautiful time of year to explore many corners of the US. If you are making the leap to get away this fall/winter, couple these tips with some flexibility, patience and grace to set yourself up for success. For all other details, Travel Greene would be happy to help you plan ahead so you can enjoy your time away to the fullest!
** Important Note: At this point, the CDC advises against all non-essential travel. While we are not encouraging widespread travel at this time, we understand the reality that it's happening and want to provide information on how to travel safely. Please see CDC recommendations and decide what is best for you and your family with regards to travel. **