Utila Blue

Just back from a bucket-list trip to Utila, Honduras, where I desperately wanted to see the Whale Sharks that famously migrate past the island.

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Despite going out with the dive boats every day of my week-long stay, this mural was as close to a whale shark as I got. I was reduced to drinking my own weight in pineapple juice and admiring the view.

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As you can see, I suffered horribly.

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But seriously, if you are a diver (or even a snorkeler, like I am) you should check Utila out. It’s an exquisite island and the dive culture there is amazing. There are reefs right off shore – I snorkeled several that were 100-150 feet off the beaches that had elkhorn corals the size of a table within two feet of the surface, but then a few yards away had 40-50 foot wall dropoffs. I’m not the world’s most experienced snorkeler but it was like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Will share more photos in the next few days…

Urgent Post: Kickass Animal Encounters!

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I don’t usually post on Sundays, but this is kinda important: The photo above is of my friend Claire Christie, who along with her partner Jeremiah Prescott is in the midst of fundraising for their epic webseries, Kickass Animal Encounters, which is an idea so awesome that if they weren’t good friends of mine I would have to kill them and steal it. Basically, Claire and Jeremiah take us on a journey all over the world, showing places you can see and interact with some of the most amazing animals on the planet, safely, responsibly, and most importantly sustainably. (No cuddling baby tigers that will then be discarded when they get too big, and wind up in an animal sanctuary!) They have a Kickstarter going and are in their last week of fundraising, so if anyone can find a few pennies to donate, that would be amazing. They have some truly outstanding donor gifts, too!

You can check out their Kickstarter here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kickassanimals/kickass-animal-encounters-an-original-series

or peep them on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/kickassanimalencounters

And if you donate, send me confirmation and I’ll send you a special gifty: a 5×7 print from my Edge of the Sea movie, signed by my director and DP! You can pick from any of the stills we’ve published on Instagram, and I’ll make a selection of images available directly to donors as well. That is how strongly I want Kickass Animal Encounters to make it. I made my movie with the support of Kickstarter and I am a huge fan of the program and what it makes possible.

Thanks, and happy Sunday! Another still from Edge of the Sea, while we’re on it:

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Photo of the week: Sky Blue

I love this picture.

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It also frustrates the hell out of me, because it is SOOOOOO VERY CLOSE to being perfect, but the way that the bird’s beak sort of disappears into the foliage drives me nuts. And of course it’s the only frame I snapped like this. This is why I’m not a professional photographer.

I do love the colors though, and the sharp contrast of the blues and greens with the focus on the egret. I have no idea how I managed that. (Which is ALSO why I’m not a professional photographer)

And I like the fact that it looks so crisp and clean, when I was actually in a muddy swamp in Puerto Rico, in an egret rookery, with mosquitos the size of remote control airplanes and bird poop on my shoes, sweating like a pig.

That may be the best part.

More Puerto Rico… bookended

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A couple more pics from my recent trip to Puerto Rico, from opposite points of the west side of the Island… really I don’t know why people from the US aren’t all over PR. I don’t know if it’s because in theory the island is a part of the US so people think it’s not very exotic (I regularly meet folks that think Puerto Rico is right next to the Bahamas; in fact it’s closer to Venezuela than the states) or what, but it’s seriously one of the prettiest places with some of the nicest people, and the best pizza because everyone has lived in New York for five years and GETS pizza. And when I meet people from Puerto Rico they always seem slightly embarrassed to tell me where they’re from, but as soon as they realize I love the island (I’m usually on them like a puppy on a chew toy: “Do you know Isabella? Do you go to Mona?”) they light up and start talking about what a great place it is to live. Odd.

And you don’t need a passport to get there, for those of you who want to start traveling but don’t have the magic blue book yet.

Anyway, top photo from a little beachfront park in Aguada, which is at the far northwest-ish corner of the island; and bottom photos is more from Cabo Roja, which is high on my list to return to. Not pictured are all the iguanas we saw at Cabo, which are apparently camera shy but vastly entertaining and go up and down those cliffs like they have glue on their feet. Every time I tried to get a photo they were over the edge and gone.

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Shine a light

Puerto Rico Adventures! I’m afraid I’m going to bore you with these for a while, since it’s one of my favorite places – I’ve been fortunate enough to go there once a year for the last six years – and I just got back from a trip there a few weeks ago.

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Above is the Cabo Rojas lighthouse, and my traveling companion who is not actually making a break for it – just bad timing on the photo. The lighthouse, like all lighthouses, sits high and proud on an outcropping, facing the breakers of the Caribbean Sea, ready to guide ships thru the Mona Passage that separates the Domincan Republic from Puerto Rico. Officially, it is known as the Los Morrillos Light. We picked it as a daytrip destination from our base in Isabella planning to drive down and take pictures. My photos of the Light itself were, predictably, horrible.

But then we got there… and found THIS!

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Los morrillos Light is actually part of a larger nature preserve, the Cabo Rojas Wildlife Refuge, which includes major bird migration area and a turn of the century salt-flat operation, where salt is gathered by water being directed into shallow lagoons and raked up as the sea water evaporates. It sounds like incredibly hard, hot, backbreaking work, and I’m glad I don’t have to do it. The lagoons are a huge resource for wildlife and as we drove down the dirt road to the lighthouse, in what now seemed like a terrifyingly small Ford Focus (seriously, we could have lost the whole car in the ruts), birds and butterflies flew everywhere around the car.

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At the end of the  road was this lagoon, which was a semi-secret swimming hole for the locals. Los Morillos is on a point with Bahia Sucia (Sweet Bay) on one side, and Bahia Salina (Salt Bay) on the other, but this little lagoon doesn’t seem to have a name. It did have a security guard, playing Reggaeton music in his jeep. We hiked up to the lighthouse and took our photos and were endlessly amused by the resident iguanas, and then went back down to the lagoon to join the swimmers. I was thanking my lucky stars that my companion had insisted on throwing our snorkels in the trunk.

The water is about 4 feet deep and the high lime content from the surrounding cliffs make it an amazing powder blue color. It feels minerally – you come out of a swim feeling slightly powdery, like you’ve just dusted yourself in chalk – and it was absolute hell on my contact lenses. We swam for about an hour, snorkeling around the sea grass and seeing little aquarium-style tropical fish, then jumped back in the car to try and beat the incoming rain (we didn’t).

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It was seriously magical – the views, the secret bay, the feeling of discovery – as if we were the only people who knew about this hidden lagoon. Which of course we weren’t – it was obviously popular with local families, people lounging on the beach, kids splashing in the shallows – there was even one couple that had brought a full-size picnic table umbrella, poked in into the shallows in about two feet of water, and were lolling in the shade and the waves AT THE SAME TIME. That’s some serious forethought there.

Another person who knew about it was my friend Chuck, who’s uncle owns a house just north near Rincon. When we told him about the lagoon, he replied, “Oh, yeah, we’ve been there. You know that area is famous for being a breeding ground for Atlantic Tiger Sharks…”

AAAAAAAAHHHHH?!?!?!?!

Sure enough, when I looked up Cabo Rojo to find some links for this post, one of the first mentions of the Mona Passage was “the area is noted for it’s teeming shark population, which use the passage to go from breeding grounds to the south to feeding areas in the north….”

Yikes! Given the people at the beach I’m guessing that the shark activity is out in the Passage and the deeper bays, not the little four-foot-deep lagoon we were in. And I’ve just learned (while scaring myself silly researching this post) that there are occasionally whale sharks off of Isla de Mona, the large island that sits about 30 miles west of the Puerto Rican Coast and is famous for it’s scuba diving and ability to see large pelagics, in part due to it’s protected status as a wildlife refuge. I really need to learn to dive! Maybe for next year. But I’ll be looking over my shoulder a bit more this time…

(on an added note, I wrote the title for this post and couldn’t figure out why it kept echoing in my head like a song lyric, and my mind kept worrying at it until it popped into my brain: this song. Really. Why COULDN’T Brad change that tire?)