New Mexico Road Trip

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This past weekend I took a road trip around New Mexico. The question I got the most before going was “Why New Mexico???”. After completing the road trip I knew I had made the right choice. So let me tell you “why New Mexico”.

Hot Springs – I am a sucker for cool swimming holes and especially if they’re hot springs. New Mexico has no shortage of either. While I wish I would’ve had more time to explore all the great swimming spots New Mexico has, I was only able to hit up one, and it did not disappoint. We made the short hike to Spence Hot Springs in Jemez Springs area. We were there at about 10am and only came across one other hiker. When we reached the hot springs we were surprised to find it was actually as beautiful as the photos. When touching the water we soon realized it wasn’t as warm as we had hoped. However we decided to hop in and went in to a small cave. Once in the cave the steam made it incredibly pleasant. So while it wasn’t hot tub temperature it got pretty close inside the cave.


White Sands National Monument – This was my main inspiration to travel to New Mexico. I wanted to see White Sands, located in Alamagordo about 3 hours south of Albuquerque, and it lived up to expectations and then some.  Not only was it beautiful, you can sled down the dunes! A few notes about this, there are sleds available at the Visitor Center but check with your hotel first! The hotels usually have a lot from those who buy the sleds and don’t need them again. Also you need wax to get your sled to gain some speed. Again check with your hotel first but the visitor center has it for sale for only around $2. Make sure to stay for sunset, it is not something you’ll want to miss.


Bandelier National Monument – We kind of happened upon Bandelier and decided to pop in and were happy with what we found. This park preserves ancient cliff dwellings. You can see plenty of them on the main loop and even climb the ladders to poke around a couple of them. Take the extra .5 mile detour to Alcove House where you can climb some very tall ladders to a cave high up the cliff.


Santa Fe – We only did a quick stop in Santa Fe but found some delicious tacos at El Callejon for lunch with some amazing dessert at Kakawa Chocolate House. Everywhere we stopped in Santa Fe someone mentioned we should see Meow Wolf. After a third person recommended it we decided to go. Here’s the thing, each time someone recommended it they couldn’t quite explain it other than it’s art. After having been I agree. It is an experience I would say not to miss if you are in Santa Fe. The only way I can describe it is, interactive art. Go with an open mind, know it’s cool and will take you several hours. Otherwise I would recommend going without any other knowledge and just let yourself be blown away by this crazy immersive experience.


Albuquerque – Old Town, Nob Hill, Breaking Bad sights and more. There’s no lack of adventure to be had in Albuquerque. If we would’ve had more time I would have loved to attend a Flamenco performance or taken the tram to Sandia Peak.


Roswell – Roswell was a last minute decision. It was about an hour or two out of our way but we decided it would be fun to indulge in alien theories and stories. When we arrived  the chili cheese festival happened to be going on. It was a small festival but fun to walk around the booths and try some chili cheese inspired foods. Really random but as we were walking around we ran in to BJ Novak, who plays Ryan from the office. We said hi but then left him alone. I never would’ve guessed I’d run in to a celebrity in Roswell New Mexico! After the festival we went to Alien Zone and paid a few dollars to take fun photos in their set up and then hit up the UFO Museum.


Other sights  worth mentioning:

Tent Rocks National Monument – We had planned on going here but ran out of time/took the wrong directions. When I make it back this is a MUST.

Carlsbad Caverns – We kept getting asked if we were going here. It was too out of our way but the caves definitely look interesting.

Truth and Consequences – This looked like a fun quirky town but again we didn’t have the time for it.

PistachioLand – On our way out of Alamagordo we stopped at the worlds largest Pistachio which happens to be at PistachioLand. This was worth the stop as there are over 20 samples to taste and you can take a short tour for only $2 a person.



Fun in Texas

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 10.24.03 AM.jpgTexas has quickly become a yearly tradition in my life. It took me a long time to visit Texas other than layovers in DFW. When I finally spent some time there for a business trip to Austin I knew I had to go back. Now I’ve been back twice and plan to go again. Here are my favorite parts about Texas. By the way, I do realize Texas is huge and I have only gotten familiar with a small portion of it.

  1. BSR Cable Park – As soon as I saw a video of the slides at this water park I knew I needed to go. This park is not your typical water park. They are expanding but the last time I was there they have a cable run for wake boarding, a giant lazy river and the slides. These slides are not your typical slides. They all line up next to each other and are a straight drop with varying degrees of angles to launch you in the air at the end. I’ve found if you visit the park late September or October on a Friday you will mostly have the slides to yourself since school is back in. Ryan and I spent HOURS here going down the slides. They are such a thrill and you can’t help but to laugh every time you go down.
    BSR Cable Park is located in Waco which means if you’re a Fixer Upper fan you’ll be happy to know Magnolia is not far from the park at all. We usually end up spending a hole day in Waco to walk around Magnolia, driving to see the different houses and of course do BSR.
  2. San Antonio River Walk -I love visiting San Antonio and doing the River Walk. There are plenty of places to eat, shop and you can even ride a boat on the river if you prefer. The Alamo is not far at all so you can even take a historic diversion. 
    One of my favorite parts, and something not to be missed, is Paleteria San Antonio.They have the most delicious ice pops made with fun and unique flavors. Last time I was in San Antonio, it was HOT, so my avocado strawberry popsicle was a real treat.
  3. Austin – We tend to stay in Austin when visiting Texas because it’s right in between Waco and San Antonio. Austin is also full of delicious food and fun shops. We make sure to spend time here wandering the fun shops on South Congress and visiting the states capitol right in downtown Austin.IMG_4162
  4. Torchy’s Tacos – Texas has a lot of great food and some honorable mentions are Rudy’s, the Salt Lick, Taco Deli, but my favorite spot is Torchy’s. They serve up some of the best taco’s I’ve ever had. I love their great selection of vegetarian tacos and their breakfast tacos are something I crave no matter what time of day it is. Torchy’s can be found in multiple spots throughout the state so don’t miss out on trying this devilishly good spot.
  5. Bucky’s – Since we’re driving a lot while in Texas we always pass a Bucky’s. One thing Ryan and I love is trying new snacks on a road trip. When we came across this beyond giant convenient store filled with snacks we were ecstatic. This might sound ridiculous but you must visit this gas station/convenient store while driving around in Texas. To give you an idea of how big it is we were at a gas pump labeled number 200 something.
  6. Comal River Tube Chute – This is something I stumbled upon during a girls trip with my sisters and mom. We were hot driving back from San Antonio when we saw the signs for the tube chute. We thought, what the heck? Rented a tube and checked it out. Comal River runs through New Braunfels where it meets a dam. Instead of having tube riders get out and walk around the dam they built a slide in to the side of it. I thought this would be a casual ride, it is not. It starts slow and builds until you are flying down this chute and eventually are shot out in rough waters that often cause you to flip off your tube. It’s a blast!

I’ve really fallen in love with Texas and it’s now my go to weekend trip during the fall. I’m hoping to get back there this year! What are you favorite things to do in Texas?

Baths of Budapest

Six vacation days and a few months left until they expire. This was the situation I was in last September. At first I thought maybe I could go somewhere warm since my traveling options were pretty limited to late fall, early winter, then I saw the price of flights to Europe and thought, why not?

I knew it would be cold in December so I wanted to pick a European destination that would be fun in the freezing temperatures. I had seen amazing photos of Budapest and the gorgeous baths it’s known for and I’m a sucker for hot water, so that’s how we decided on making Budapest our main stop on our December vacation.
We had 3 days in Budapest so decided we would visit 3 baths. After much research I decided on Széchenyi, Gellert, and Kiraly. We wanted to fit Rudas in too but Rudas was not co-ed on the days we were going to be in Budapest. Make sure when visiting baths you know who is welcome inside on what days.

  1. Széchenyi_baths_by_night_2.jpgSzechenyi – This is the bath you will see when you just google “Budapest”. It is a massive out door, ancient looking, bath with gorgeous architecture. Along with the outdoor pools they have several indoor ones to choose from. We came here on a Saturday evening, and I thought the crowds might be bad, and it was busy, but overall it wasn’t too crowded. We were getting a little cold in the outdoor bath so we moved inside but after awhile wanted the atmosphere of the outdoor bath again. Luckily we realized on the opposite side of the bath we were in was another one that was a tad bit hotter, making sitting in 20 degree weather very pleasant.
  2. Gellert – Is another wBudapest_Gellértbad_Männerthermalbad_4.JPGell known Budapest Bath. It’s located in a grand building that also serves as a hotel. Gellert is a bit of a maze so don’t miss out on all the baths it has to offer. It has an outdoor bath however, it’s not very grand and looks like an average outdoor swimming pool. There are also three bath rooms inside that are gorgeous with stunning tile work and historic sculptures. The heat in the baths vary but when you find the right bath it’s easy to sit for awhile and admire the beautiful atmosphere.
  3. Kiraly – Finally we went to Kiraly. This is a much smaller bath house compared to the others and we had read mixed reviews so weren’t sure what to expect. When you walk in to the bath area you are met with a brick arch and upon walking through the arch you end up in a beautiful, ancient looking, dome with sunlight that shines through small holes and through the fog of the bath. The area is made up with one big bath in the middle and small baths surrounding it. Something about the feeling in this bath house was unlike any of the others and while we heard mixed reviews of Kiraly, we loved it.

A few things to know about the baths before visiting. Many times you can book your pass ahead of time and have the option to book a “cabin”. Note that a changing cabin is very small, I recommend it because it’s an easy place to change and keep your stuff secured, but know its maybe 4ft x 4ft.

For many of the baths you can rent towels so you don’t have to lug your own around, but be warned the towels are small so if that kind of thing bothers you, bring your own.

Some of the baths, like Kiraly, do not allow cameras. No one is enforcing that rule but I’d suggest you leave the camera behind as the bath is a place to relax and Kiraly is very small. Taking photos would’ve been uncomfortable.

The baths that do allow cameras still want to make sure you are respectful. Don’t ever take photos of strangers without asking or make sure they are not anywhere near being the main focus of the photo. We had our camera at Gellert and Szechenyi but made sure to either take photos of just us, the architecture, or a sweeping photo with strangers far in the distance. Even then we kept our photo taking to a minimum.

Have you been to Budapest? What bath was your favorite?


5 New York City Must Eats

I love to eat, that’s no secret, so when I’m returning to a place I’ve already been I usually have a list of stops I must make. New York’s lists of musts continues to grow for me so I want to share with you my top 5 favorite eats in this grand city. Without further ado and in no particular order:


1. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie – Levain’s Bakery

These are the cookies of cookies. Levain’s  can form a long line at this small bakery but it is well worth it. These cookies are giant and delicious. There are several flavors but I just can’t get over the chocolate peanut butter.

361223176_2e8cf900d0_b.jpg2. Chocolate Cake Cheese Cake – Junior’s Cheese Cake

This is chocolate cake with a strip of cheese cake inside. This is the cake of dreams. The delicious rich chocolate is perfectly paired with it’s cheesecake filling. I’ve made my sister(who lives in Manhatten) pack a slice in her suitcase for me before. It’s that good.


3. NON-TOASTED Sesame Bagel with Strawberry Cream Cheese – Lenny’s Bagels

A good bagel should not be toasted. Lenny’s bagels meet that criteria so don’t you dare order a bagel toasted here. They have a great array of different bagel and cream cheese flavors, non which you can go wrong. I crave these bagels pretty much daily.

4. Spicy and Sour Spinach Dumplings – Xi’an Famous Foods

This is a new one on my list. Last time I was in NYC I was on my way to dinner but needed a snack to eat on the journey. I decided to give this place a shot after hearing rave reviews. Sure enough these dumplings were delicious. Not only the dumpling but the sauce they were in was lick the plate, or in this case to go packaging, worthy.

Cheesebread.jpg5. Paō de Quiejo or Cheese Bread – The Coffee Shop

Cheese may possibly be my favorite food and bread is up there too. So how can it get better than little bread bites filled with oozing cheese? It’ can’t. Go to The Coffee Shop order the Paō de Quiejo and thank me.

I only named 5 items and I know there is so much more that is to rave about in NYC. So please, share it with me! What’s your must eats in New York?


Galapagos Land Based Trip

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Visiting the Galapagos is such an adventure no matter how you do it you will have a wonderful time. We had a hard time deciding how to “do” the Galapagos whether by cruise or by land. Cruise is the more popular and well known way to visit the islands but it costs a lot of money causing many people to forgo a trip to the Galapagos. There are ways to get cheaper last minute cruises but they still cost a pretty penny. In the end we decided to do Galapagos by land and here’s our experience.

We had 7 days to spend in the Galapagos Islands. There are only 4 islands you can spend the night on and those are San Cristobal, Isabela, Santa Cruz and Floreana. With only 7 days we decided to split that time between two islands. We chose Santa Cruz because it was the easiest to get to and Isabela since the ferry ride didn’t seem too long.

We booked our flights through LATAM Airlines to fly in and out of Santa Cruz from Quito. We then purchased our ferry tickets early through Galapagos Transfers  which I would highly recommend doing as we did not have to stress about getting ferry tickets for the times we needed.

Staying on the islands was great because it really allowed us to get to know that island. We were able to hit all the stops as apposed to only having time for a few. We were also thankful because the week we were there the seas were rough and we didn’t think it would be a good time to be on a boat 24/7. Although, that did make for very rough ferry rides.

While on Santa Cruz we stayed at Hostel Baltra which turned out to be the perfect accommodations for us. We were a group of four traveling together and they have several different sized apartments available. We booked the two bedroom and it was great. The location is on a main street just minutes from Academy Bay. We were also really close to the road full of tables and delicious street food. Another pro to doing a land based tour is the ability to scuba dive where many cruises are not able to accommodate diving. We had an amazing dive where we saw tons of sea life including hammerhead sharks!

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We got to visit all the main sights of Santa Cruz while there and I think one of our favorites was Las Greitas. When we arrived we had it all to ourselves(another pro to not being on a cruise). This is a gorgeous blue waterhole in the middle of big black rock cliffs. We spent hours here without any sort of time restraint and loved it.

We were warned ahead of time that the ferry rides could be rough and it’s no joke.You’re packed on to a boat for a few hours and with rough seas it’s pretty bad. We did learn on our second ferry ride that sometimes there’s a seat up top with the captain and you can ask to sit up there which me and my girlfriend did. It made for a much more enjoyable trip.

When we arrived on Isabela we learned quickly how small of a town it was. It has dirt roads and really has the feel of an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 12.56.23 PMWe loved Isabela and found it extremely charming. We walked on the beach and ran in to a family running around grabbing things out of the sand. After asking what they were doing and them explaining they were catching little crab things they showed us how and we spent quite a while helping them catch these little guys for dinner.

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While that was a blast our favorite experience was the sea lions. We went snorkeling at Conche De Perla and while admiring the brightly colored fish a sea lion swam right up to us and started playing. Soon another one joined.

We just swam in place as the sea lions flipped and swirled in front of us. Often swimming fast at our faces and then diving away at the last second.

While on Isabela we stayed at Hotel La Gran Tortuga which was a very clean hotel with very friendly staff and great breakfast. They do take credit card but I would highly suggest paying in cash since the internet is spotty, during check out we had a hard time paying by card and THERE ARE NO ATMS ON ISABELA. Come to this island prepared with cash.

Overall, if you can’t afford a cruise it is still worth it to go! There are plenty of adventures to have. Cruises give you ability to see more islands and have a naturalist with you on your excursions but if you can survive






African Safari on a Budget

It was my dream, as well as many others, to go on an African Safari for as long as I can remember. The problem with safari’s is you always hear how expensive they are. A couple thousand dollars for just a few days. I wasn’t sure when I would ever get to experience a safari due to the price so when I was headed to South Africa I was doing my research and came across Kruger National Park and that’s where my affordable safari adventure began.

Kruger is a 7,523 square mile national park in South Africa. It is the home to thousands of free roaming safari animals and filled with beautiful landscapes with rolling hills, mountains and plains. The animals are wild and live off the land. You can find the big 5 here; lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, black rhino among many other animals species.


How to get there:
Kruger National Park is located in the North Eastern part of South Africa. We flew from the states to Johannesburg and then took a domestic flight from Johannesburg to Nelspruit. Once having arrived in Nelspruit we picked up a rental car and drove to the crocodile bridge entrance of the park.


Where to stay:
You have a couple of options when visiting Kruger. The first is to stay in a resort OUTSIDE of the park. These are usually upscale, expensive but beautiful with plenty of amenities, however you are set to the resorts schedule .

What we did, and what I would recommend, is staying at one of the many camps inside of Kruger National Park. Each camp has different types of lodging, tent spots, platform tents and yurts that feel like hotel rooms. These camps cost from about $50 to ~$120, very affordable. We moved around while in the park to experience the different camps and here is what I can tell you:

Lower Sabie – This camp sits right on the Sabie river with beautiful views. You can enjoy dinner and watch the active river with hippos and crocodiles. This camp is also right near a pond that almost always has hippos in it and is lively with other wildlife such as hyenas and lions.

Olifants – High up on a cliff this gorgeous camp has sweeping views of the valley below. The animals are a little harder to find this north in the park but the landscape is beautiful.

Skakuza – This is the largest rest camp in the park. It has good dining options and plenty of accommodations. This camp also sits on the Sabie river with grand views. This camp does get busy throughout the day as it is a common stop for tours and travelers.


Final Words:
Once you’re inside the park you drive yourself and spot animals. It’s awesome to be on your own schedule and go where you want to go. If you want to take a guided tour those can be arranged at the camps. There’s nothing quite like having a lion pride walk across the street in front of you or a heard of elephants eating  alongside your car and it is extremely rewarding when you spot the hard to find leopard.

In the end we spent for an entire week, airfare, rental car, lodging for a safari around $1,000 and I would do it again in a heart beat.




Visiting Ecuador and the Galapagos

Hola mi amigos! I’m still mourning the end of our trip to this gorgeous country. This was my first time in South America and it did not disappoint.

We arrived in Quito late at night and headed to our hotel in the historic center of downtown Boutique Plaza Sucre and went straight to bed. The next morning we hit the ground running. We started by walking around the historic center seeing the beautiful old buildings and churches. We stopped inside and really enjoyed Compañía de Jesús which is covered in gold on the inside but you can’t take any photos. We ate snacks from street vendors throughout the day including delicious candied nuts, fresh mango and passionfruit juice.


When we were done seeing the historic center we caught a cab to Basílica del Voto Nacional. This turned out to be quite the treat! We climbed to the top of the clock tower and looked out over the city we then walked to the back of the basilica on a wooden plank and climbed a steep ladder to the top on the north side. It was quite frightening but worth it for the views. We heard from several locals to be careful while doing this since most foreigners are not used to the elevation. Make sure you go at a slow pace and don’t out do yourself!


That evening we grabbed dinner on the busy street of La Ronda and while our food was nothing to write home about the view of El Panecillo was gorgeous. After dinner we grabbed a taxi and went up to El Panecillo and looked over Quito in the darkness with all the lights gleaming back at us. Quito has no lack of stunning views.

The followings day we had to get up early and meet our driver, Victor Alban. He picked us up from our hotel and we headed south to Banos. Along the way Victor pointed out all the different volcanos, let us stop at view points, took us to a local food street cart and even bought us some local ice cream!

When we arrived in Banos we were all pretty exhausted but we powered through and took a cab up to The Swing at the End of the World. This was something I had seen photos of and had been dying to go to no matter how much of a “tourist trap” it seemed to be. We were so glad we went. It was gorgeous and absolutely worth it.


After getting our fill of swings in we headed back to our hotel where Victor picked us back up and took us on a little tour. We first stopped at a waterfall that was across a valley, we thought we were just looking and taking pictures but Victor told us to go on the cable car and we thought, why not? So we paid $1.50 each and rode this fast, seemingly unstable cable car across the valley. It was such a thrill and absolutely beautiful.


We then went to Pailon de Diablo, a stunning waterfall. We walked down to the falls and crossed some swinging bridges to get up close and personal to this gorgeous spot. On our way back we watched the sun set over the the mountains and the beautiful colors of the sky change to darkness.


We left Banos the following day heading to our jungle lodge, Itamandi, we first made a stop at a zip line and paid $10 a person to do the most thrilling zipline I have ever done. No one spoke english and they just strapped us in a harness and pushed us over the valley to the other side over a waterfall. It was fast, beautiful and terrifying.


Victor dropped us off on the Arujuno river and our english jungle guide, Octavio, was there to greet us. We hopped on our canoe and zoomed away to our lodge. It was an incredible feeling to be in the amazon and we were excited when we reached the lodge and were served guyusa and empanadas.

That evening Octavio took us on a night jungle walk and we were terrified of the creepy crawlies we might see. While it was really cool we were creeped out by the scorpion spider, wolf spiders and other big bugs we came across. It was quite the learning experience but I can’t say it helped me sleep that night.

The next morning we awoke early to go and watch the parrots at the clay lick. We took a canoe over to the spot and quietly hiked a short ways and then say and watched. After 30 minutes or so hundreds of parrots made their way over and started eating at the clay. It was a blur of bright greens and yellows, a really cool experience over all.

We then went on a three hour trek through the jungle. Octavio told us all about the rainforest and what it meant to him as a native and the native communities. We learned all about the plants and the animals and the spiritual meaning of the jungle. It was an experience that will not be forgotten. While on the hike Octavio made us a swing from a vine and we had a lot of fun swinging around running in to trees and just having some good old fashion fun.


That afternoon we went and visited a Kichwa community. The children danced for us and the women shared food with us. We learned about their day to day life and got to see their school and other community buildings. It was a great experience. I wish we would have had more time to spend with the children, they were so fun!


The following day Octavio hooked us up with some inner-tubes and while we were a little nervous about floating down a river that has known to have anacondas, Octavio assured us he hasn’t seen one in several years. We had a blast floating the river and ended in a spot with a rope swing where the boys had a blast swinging into the river.

Our next stop was Amazoonico, an animal refuge. This was a cool experience but a sad one. Amazoonico saves animals from people who illegally try to domesticate them. They then try to prepare them to go back in to the wild but often it’s just not possible for the animals to be re-introduced in to the wild so Amazoonico tries to give them a good life in captivity.

After visiting the animals we tried our hand at a blow gun, fed some camen, and went to a butterfly farm.


It was a busy day and at the end we had to say goodbye to Octavio. In the little time we were with him we really came to enjoy his company. We missed him dearly after we dropped him off!


The next day was a travel day as we made our way all the way from the jungle back to Quito to catch a flight to the Galapagos.

Our first day in Galapagos we went on a dive with Academy Bay Diving. We dove at North Seymour Point and Mosquera. My main goal of this dive was seeing a hammerhead shark. If you’ve read my previous posts you know I love diving with sharks and hammerheads are one’s I had yet to see. We were lucky and my goal was achieved. We saw a good handful of hammerheads and we also saw Galapagos sharks, white tip, and black tip along with rays, turtles and so much more.


The following day we trekked out to turtle bay and did some snorkeling around there. The visibility was pretty bad but we managed to find a HUGE sea turtle. We then made our way to Los Grietas. Los Grietas did not disappoint. Bright blue water in between black rock cliffs. We swam through and climbed our way to the back pool and saw beautiful sunset fish. We had a blast just swimming and diving down in the clear blue water.


After a good nights rest we took a ferry to Isabella. The water was choppy so this ferry ride was pretty rough. We arrived in Isabella to find that the main town is teeny tiny. We walked around rested a bit and then went snorkeling at Concha de Perla. While snorkeling a sea-lion got curious and came right up to us. Dancing and swimming in the water and even booping my camera with it’s nose. This felt like a once in a life time experience and we enjoyed every second of playing with that sea lion. That evening we walked along the beach and saw locals running around in the sand grabbing things. We asked them what they were doing and it turns out they were catching little shrimp like things. The boys wanted to give it a shot so we hung out for awhile trying to help them catch these little animals.

The following day we had a tour to snorkel at the lava tunnels. We came across countless turtles, white tip sharks and rays. It got to the point where seeing a sea turtle was no big deal. We then walked across the hardened lava and looked in the different lava pools. When we got back to town we rented bikes and rode on the trails. It was pretty hot but we saw flamingos and beautiful views over the island.

The next day was our last day on Isabella and we only had the morning. We decided to go back to Conche de Perla to see if we could play with another sea-lion, and it was a good decision. When we got in the water we had three different sea-lions come play with us but then as we were leaving a sea-lion stole my snorkel off the deck and threw it in the water! It then played with it for awhile and finally, thankfully, brought it back to me. It was pretty funny.

After Isabela we made our way back home. We loved our adventure in Ecuador! I plan on going in to more detail on some of our adventures in the future. Please leave a comment with any questions. Happy travels!



South Africa


This has been a long time coming. My trip to South Africa was last November and it is now…. July. I got behind and the further behind I got the more I procrastinated and that’s how we wound up to today. Looking back South Africa was definitely one of the best trips I have been on. The animals and the scenery there are unbelievable. This is the summary of our trip and there is a LOT! I plan to go in to more detail on some of our adventures in the future but please if you have questions about any thing in particular leave a comment!

South Africa has been a priority on my list for a long time but I always thought it would be way to expensive just to get down there but with miles from credit card rewards we were able to make it affordable. My next budget concern was a safari, I mean who doesn’t want to go on a safari while in Africa? After doing a lot of research I found that it was manageable so with that new information we decided to go to South Africa.

We left Seattle and had to take a 1.5 hour flight down to Portland, from there we flew about 10 hours to Amsterdam and then about 12 hours down to Johannesburg. It was a LONG trip to get down there. On arrival I had planned of day of just relaxation since I knew the travel time would be rough. We landed late at night and booked a room at the Maslow hotel who arranged a driver to pick us up. Even though our body clock was way off from Johannesburg we were able to fall asleep pretty quickly. The next day we spent resting up in the beautiful hotel and checking out the Sandton Mall and that neighborhood. It is a very modern area and we felt completely safe and comfortable the whole time.

The next day we headed back to the airport and flew from Johannesburg to Nelspruit where we picked up our rental car and started driving to Kruger National Park. The drive over was only a few hours and went very smoothly once Ryan got used to driving on the opposite side of the road. We stopped for pizza along the way but mostly the drive was uneventful until we arrived at Kruger.

Kruger National Park is a national park dedicated to Africa’s wild animals. Safari animals roam the plains and live protected in this 7,500 sq mile park. You can either stay in a luxury resort just outside the park or stay in one of Kruger’s many camps within the park. We opted for the second to 1. save on budget and 2. have the full experience.

As we crossed the bridge to the park we were giddy and ready to see animals not knowing what to expect. Within seconds we noticed a hippo in the water! We were so excited for our first spotting of a Hippo, we probably spent way to long looking and taking photos. Right after the bridge we arrived at the check in station. Since we were staying 5 days in the park and also visiting some of South Africa’s other parks we got a Wild Card which is essentially a national park pass to all of SA’s national parks, it was definitely worth it and saved us a good amount of money.

After checking in we were off to our first camp with some animal searching on the way. The speed limit is about 30mph throughout the park so you drive slowly and you need to factor that in when trying to get somewhere. Even though you are driving slow the drive is fun since you always need to keep your eyes out for animals. We first encountered Giraffes, a momma and her baby, it was so surreal! They casually walked in front of our car and event stopped for a little snuggle. It was adorable to say the least. We spotted more hippos and some buffalos along the way to and finally arrived at Lower Sabie Rest Camp.


The first two nights we decided to stay here and they were out of bungalow’s so we stayed in a platform tent. It was pretty clean although I was always a little nervous of the creepy crawlies that might be in the bathroom. We found a lizard in there which I can handle but I was worried about spiders or other big bugs, luckily we never saw any.

Each camp opens it’s gates at 4:00am and closes them at 6:00pm. You MUST be back at your camp when gates are closed. So every night we would go to bed around 8pm and get up at 3:30am to be out the gate at 4:00am since the best animal sightings took place at dawn and dusk. We would then be out all day searching for animals.


Our nights at Lower Sabie were loud, filled with the noises of the nearby pond. The hippos, hyena’s and even Lion’s would make loud noises all through the night. Honestly I slept fine though. Anytime a loud animal would wake me up it was just a reminder of how cool of a place I was in. When we moved camps we stayed in bungalows the rest of the time which were similar to a typical hotel room and had thicker walls so we couldn’t hear the animals as well at night and the bathroom felt very safe.


Over the course of the next 5 days we saw up-close lions, hippos, crocodiles, rhinos, monkeys, a leopard(they are HARD to spot), impalas, boars, zebras, elephants, hyenas, buffalo, kudo, turtles, marmots, baboons, wildabeasts, ostriches and more. We stayed two nights at Lower Sabie, Two nights at Olifants and one night at Skukuza.

Lower Sabie was my favorite with its proximity to a pond that always had animal activity. Olifants was set on top a cliff and had a gorgeous view over a river. Skukuza is the biggest camp and had some great food options compared to the other locations. It was amazing to be able to drive your car on these roads and come across lions taking a rest or elephants eating away at the trees.

The animal that took us the longest to find was the leopard. You wouldn’t think they would blend very well with their spots but they blend right in with their surroundings. We knew to look for dead animals up in trees as that is a tell tail sign a leopard has been there. So on one of our final days we saw a boar up in a tree right night to the road. We stopped and got our binoculars out and started looking for a leopard. Meanwhile Ryan took a photo of the boar in the tree since it was a unique sight. A few minutes later I look at the tree and up stands this leopard who had been laying there the ENTIRE TIME. We even got him in that photo Ryan took. He casually stood up and walked away. Leaving Ryan and I in awe. Here is the photo when we didn’t know where he was. Can you spot him?


Here’s some help:


When our five days was up we were completely satisfied with our animal spotting and were ready for a change. We flew from Nelspruit down to Port Elizabeth where we rented a car and started our road trip on the garden route.

We stopped at Jefferey’s Bay to watch the surfers and walk along the beach and then continued on to Storms River Mouth. We were able to enter SRM using our Wild Card once again saving us money!

Storms River blew us away. We knew to expect the beautiful long suspension bridge but we didn’t know the scenery there would be so spectacular. The waves crash on black rocks and as you look down the coast green mountains jut out into the sea. It reminded me of the napali coast in Kauai. After hiking across the suspension bridge and back we had to keep moving on.


That evening we spent in Knynsa. We were able to grab a delicious dinner at 34 Degrees South and enjoy the beautiful quaint town.

The next day we drove from Knynsa to Oudtshoorn to see Cango Wildlife Ranch and learn about their animal conservation efforts. We even got to pet a cheetah here!


We then drove through the mountains and dessert to reach the coast again at L’Agulhas where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans mean. From there we moved on finally reaching our destination of the day, Gansbaai. We stayed in the most adorable guesthouse here White Shark Guesthouse. We then went to bed quite early since we had a great white shark dive the next morning.

We woke up early and headed over to Marine Dynamics to eat breakfast and get briefed before our shark encounters. We then all hopped on the boat and took off to the Shallows to find some great whites. We were lucky and encountered 5+ different great whites. The water was freezing but it was well worth the experience.

After getting back and warming up we started back on our way to Cape Town. We stopped in Hermanus and walked around a bit and then finally made it to the gorgeous city of Cape Town. We got a room at the beautiful Atlantic Gold Guesthouse in Camp’s Bay where our room over looked the ocean.


We then spent the next few days hiking, eating, relaxing, beaching and shopping and finally ended our trip flying out of Cape Town.

South Africa blew my expectations away. This country is stunning to say the least!