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Snorkelling in Samoa with Turtles

Snorkelling in Samoa gives you the opportunity to swim with turtles in amongst beautiful coral reefs and in warm crystal clear water. What more do you need?

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We love the water. Heck, it was the reason we decided to go Snorkelling in Samoa in the first place. We envisioned spending our mornings waking to the sounds of the surf pounding on the shallow reefs. Donning our hard bottomed reef-booties and heading out for a quick surf in Samoa before breakfast. Free-diving in the tranquil sea for hours as the hot summer sun beat down upon our backs.

Fortunately, we were not disappointed.

Our traditional Samoan accommodation – Beach Fale literally on the beach

Snorkelling in Samoa

One of the main reasons I wanted to go snorkelling in Samoa was to swim with turtles. Ever since we had first seen a turtle when I was just 7 years old at Plantation Island in Fiji, I have wanted to see them again.

In fact, even one of my bucket list items is to go volunteer to help with the turtles breeding somewhere like Greece.

So one blazing hot afternoon, the South Pacific Ocean embraced our skin with it’s warmth as we duck-waddled into the water off the beach in front of our Fale (there is no glamorous way to walk in flippers). The sand puffing up between our feet with each step as we eased our way in to the deeper water.

I tweaked the mask strap one last time so that it wouldn’t let in any water to disrupt my view and took the plunge face first.

The bubbles slowly evaporated around my lens to reveal the fish re-emerging from their hurried hiding places between the various outcrops once they realised this extremely pasty white body was no danger to them.

But the colours compared to my translucent body was amazing.

Oh, the colours! Reds, Blues, Yellows, Greens and every other imaginable colour of the rainbow were littered across the ocean floor.

With a few deep breaths and two swift kicks I let the current settle around me as I drifted calmly in to the main channel of the bay. Everywhere we looked the fish were carrying about their business. It always makes me wonder if the ocean life really is like Finding Nemo with every fish going about their daily rituals just as we do on dry land.

The sunlight filtered through the surface creating an eerie glow the deeper you swam. Fish parted before us like the Red Sea in front of Moses.

And then came a muffled cry. “Muuurrrtttllleeeeesss”. I lifted my head above the calm surface. Water ran from my ears, still blocked with the salt water from the last descent.

What?!”

“TURTLE’S!!!!”

In just our first snorkelling in Samoa adventure, we had spotted turtles. And it was them. Not just one lazy little turtle but three. All slowly stroking their way across the width of the channel totally ignoring our delighted girly squeals from the surface (not from me of course…)

A little bit shy hiding under the rock

Their mottled green and brown armour plated shells blended in perfectly with the surrounding rocks and reef. The little heads were on a constant swivel as they surveyed their habitat with wary eyes watching out for fishermen who are still allowed to catch them.

As a side note, these same fishermen have quickly realised that the money they can earn from turtles as a tourist attraction far outweighs the money they gain from catching them so fortunately this is a rapidly declining business.

The turtles four hinged flippers protruded from their shells and cut through the water effortlessly as they glided across the lagoon. We continued to float on the surface as they gracefully moved about below us before I decided to investigate getting closer. I took one last breath of fresh air and duck-dived below the surface to sneak up on them from behind. Moving like a stealth submarine I suddenly realised that I was getting closer and closer.

My arms stretched away in front of me as I approached. 30 feet, 20 feet, 10 feet.

POW!

It was like a fire-bolt had shot from their behinds.

With one swift stroke they were off. And even though I had been a competitive swimmer in my teens there was no way I could keep up with them when they realised my intentions. I retreated to the surface huffing and puffing from my brief moment of exertion as they disappeared into the gloom.

Fortunately for us it wouldn’t be our last encounter with the turtles while snorkelling in Samoa.

We spotted others at least once a day as we cruised the sea in front of our own Fale as well as in different locations around the Island of Upolu. It probably helps that we have been water babies our entire lives and are confident enough to venture out further and deeper than most other tourists are willing to go and that we would spend upwards of 3 hours at a time free-diving from the beach. But on many occasions we would only be metres from the shoreline when we would spot turtles lounging in the shallows.

With all the excitement and again with the girly squeals, the only two I managed to get decent photographs of were hiding under rocks on separate occasions. Only venturing out when they needed to head to the surface for a breath of fresh air like ourselves.

It took me back to that one day over 15 years ago on the beach in Fiji when I spotted my first turtle. That sheer joy of floating in the crystal clear water with just the sea, sun and sea-life easing all our worries.

Perfection.

Have you had any similar experiences with wildlife that you had been “just dying” to see and were lucky enough to fulfil those dreams? Leave us a comment because we want to hear about it below!

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Kate

    October 3, 2011 at 7:50 AM

    First of all, wow what an amazing experience! I’ve been lucky enough to swim with turtles in the Bahamas and off the Yucatan Peninsula, but your location is simply stunning.

    A similar “wow I’m really doing this moment” was when I jumped in with a school of about 1,000 common dolphin approximately a mile off the coast of Catalina Island (one of the California Channel Islands) when I was 14. The water was a deep blue color and as far as I could see down and to either side there were dolphins, swimming through the rays of sunlight. It was incredible.

    If you don’t mind my asking, where in New Zealand are you from? I spent last semester there for a study abroad program through my college and absolutely fell in love with the country. What a spectacular place it is =)

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      October 3, 2011 at 9:53 AM

      You definitely have to get over to Samoa Kate. Was fantastic. Hopefully we will have the chance to return or at least find some other amazing spots too.

      I love snorkelling with dolphins. Its amazing how quickly they swim past you just being curious. We used to see them a lot when we were off the Coromandel Peninsula in NZ if we were going out on our boat. Awesome experiences.

      Don’t mind you asking at all. I am from Mount Maunganui / Tauranga originally and Adela is from Wellington. Where did you study? Where are you now?

  2. Kate

    October 3, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    I was studying at the University of Auckland, so most of my time was spent around the city… I did manage to get down to Matamata and the Shire, Waitomo Caves, Raglan, and Rotorua though, as well as go from Queenstown to Christchurch via Stray bus. Did my bungee jumping at Kawarau Bridge =) Also spent 4 days out at Stewart Island, which was so relaxing and beautiful. Not that all of NZ isn’t… haha.

    I’m back at my home uni now, in Rhode Island. The whole experience feels a little surreal, which is probably a feeling you’re used to, traveling around as much as you do. It’s pretty awesome what you and Adela are doing – I’m jealous!

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      October 4, 2011 at 7:28 AM

      I love Lord of the Rings yet I have never done any of the tours. Its one of those things that if its in your own backyard then you never visit it.
      We love the States especially the East Coast area but never got to head out to Rhode Island during our 18,000 km road trip across Canada and USA. Will have to head back sometime.

  3. Kate

    October 5, 2011 at 10:52 AM

    Haha yeah know what you mean about the whole backyard thing. Did you make it into Michigan by any chance when you were in the US? I’m actually from the Upper Peninsula…only 5 hours away from Canada and yet I didn’t go there until the summer before my freshman year of college.

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      October 5, 2011 at 11:44 AM

      Not through Michigan unfortunately. We had so much to do and no where near enough time to do it. Will need to come back sometime to visit all the places we missed out on!

  4. Kate

    October 6, 2011 at 3:27 AM

    Sounds like a plan! I plan on going back to NZ when I have more time and a lot more money. Haha. And when I’ve gotten used to driving on the wrong side of the road! Lol.

  5. dtravelsround

    April 11, 2012 at 4:50 AM

    WOW! These are amazing!!

    • Cole Burmester

      April 11, 2012 at 9:21 AM

      Thanks! It was by far one of the coolest experiences ever.

  6. The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen)

    April 11, 2012 at 5:14 AM

    What an incredible experience! I can think of quite a few reasons I’d enjoy being in Samoa, but this pretty much tops them all! Thank you — this gives me extra motivation to get that waterproof digital camera I’ve been wanting 😉

    • Cole Burmester

      April 11, 2012 at 9:21 AM

      I was lucky we managed to salvage these photos after my waterproof camera leaked on the last day! Extremely lucky. Hope you visit soon Ellen 😉

  7. Bobbi Lee Hitchon

    April 12, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    This sounds amazing. I love sea turtles. They look like cute old men. Really trying to visit Samoa as soon as possible!

    • Cole Burmester

      April 13, 2012 at 1:42 PM

      We would love to go back to Samoa! The warm and clear waters were fantastic. Plus they had excellent surfing nearby too.

  8. Ali

    April 26, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    I love snorkeling! Those turtles look so cute!

    • Cole Burmester

      April 27, 2012 at 9:46 AM

      We were really lucky to see them nearly every day Ali. They were amazing.

  9. Amanda

    May 6, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    That sounds so awesome! I’ve always wanted to snorkel with sea turtles. I tried in Hawaii, but didn’t see any. Was still very cool though!

    • Cole Burmester

      May 7, 2012 at 9:33 AM

      We were just really lucky in Samoa that they seemed to be everywhere! Every time we went for a snorkel we would see some. Maybe you need a trip down there Amanda 🙂

      • Louise hannagan

        March 5, 2013 at 9:24 AM

        Hi is there a particular beach we should go to to see these amazing turtles? We are hoping to head to savai’i,Samoa in july

        • Cole Burmester

          March 5, 2013 at 10:28 AM

          Hey Louise.
          Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment! We stayed at the bottom of Upolu Island near the village of Maninoa and this is where we did most of our snorkelling. However, my parents have stayed on Savai’i in the past and seen turtles there when they were snorkelling so I am sure your chances will be great!
          Enjoy your travels and please let us know how it goes 🙂
          Cheers,
          Cole

  10. Mary @ Green Global Travel

    May 19, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    There are several creatures I’d love to swim with turtles being included. Another is a whale shark…

    • Cole Burmester

      May 20, 2012 at 4:42 PM

      Oh man I would love to swim with a whale shark Mary! My parents are off to Tonga this year to do it and I am so jealous!

  11. Tom @ Waegook Tom

    August 16, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    This is super cool, you guys! I haven’t had any “oh my god” moments with wildlife yet (although I’m always excited whenever I see squirrels…does that count?) but I plan to next year on safari in Africa. I love turtles – they’re like modern day dinosaurs to me, plus Finding Nemo has taught us that they’re all super cool-slash-huggable.

    • Cole Burmester

      August 17, 2012 at 10:38 AM

      Haha we were stoked to see squirrels the first time in Canada as well. After seeing them everywhere you kinda get over them. Although it is nice to see them run through the park in Edinburgh. Where on the safari are you going and who with? We want to plan one as well.

      • Tom @ Waegook Tom

        August 18, 2012 at 6:04 AM

        Planning on going to Zambia next August/September with Jackalberry Safaris. Check them out, Zambia isn’t as big as, say, Kenya/Tanzania/Botswana as a safari destination – remains fairly undiscovered and that means cheap prices & lots of animals! Maybe worth looking into.

        • Cole Burmester

          August 19, 2012 at 9:56 AM

          That sounds exactly what we want to do. Thanks for the recommendation Tom.

  12. Glenn

    January 26, 2016 at 9:33 AM

    Hi Cole
    Did have to go out past the reef or were they shore side. We are in Samoa now on the south coast and snorkelling every day in hope of spotting one

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Adventure Travel

Tips for Planning Your Uluru Tour

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Located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the magnificent sandstone of Ayers Rock or Uluru stands tall at 1,142 feet above ground. The natural formation is widely known for being one of the most sacred places to the indigineous peoples in Australia. At the same time, it is also popular for attracting tourists from all over the world to the land down under.

If you want to visit Uluru in order to pay tribute to this wonder of nature, then doing so through the right tour is in your best interest. It’s not only because Uluru is located at least a few hours from civilization, but it also because such a tour allows you to enjoy the picturesque sights that come along the way within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

So what sights are there to see along the way and what other general tours suggestions you should keep in mind while visiting Uluru? To help you answer these and some other important questions, here are 5 top tips to keep in mind while visiting Uluru.

Don’t Climb the Monolith

First things first, while it is legal to climb atop Uluru, it is recommended that you do not attempt such an action in order to show your respect to the indigenous peoples.

It is a pretty easy rule to follow when you pay attention to the emotions of the indigenous tribes who have recommended time and again for people to not climb Uluru.

But that doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the natural beauty that Uluru has to offer. In fact, you are encouraged to visit the sandstone and take in its natural glory by standing right beside the formation. That’s why 4WD tour is highly recommended. The tour guides would be able to tell you what you can and can not do.

Visit During Sunset

Ask anyone who has visited Uluru about the best time to see the formation, and you will instantly get the answer as “sunset.”

It’s because Uluru is not an ordinary monolith, but one that is formed through arkosic sandstone. This allows the rock to actually change its color according to the position of the sun. As a result, you can expect the formation to sport a different color depending upon what time of day you reach it.

At sunset, Uluru projects an amber glow that is surreal to take in, especially when you are seeing the formation in person for the very first time. That’s why, it is recommended that you time your trip in a way that allows you to experience this magnificent sight.

3. Take Your Time to Plan the Trip

Perhaps the best way to visit Uluru is through the nearby town of Alice Springs, which has various amenities and accommodation options for tourists who are making their way to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The drive from Alice Springs to Uluru can take around 5 hours, which is why it is recommended that you arrive at least a day before you are planning to tour Uluru.

This way, you can reach the national park while feeling fresh and rested. This also gives you time to plan longer trips to the park in order to enjoy all that it has to offer.

4. Take in the Sight of the Rock Art

Uluru is not just a wonder to look at by itself, but it also holds several little pieces of wonderful art within it.

The caves at the bottom of the formation hold several pieces of rock art that can only be found at Uluru. If you love learning about other cultures through their art, then this will be a must visit.

Just make sure that you take the time to learn about this art through a local tour guide or via the information provided within these exhibits. This ensures that you have an immersive and informative experience which you can remember for a long time.

5. Don’t Forget the Natural Attractions Around the Rock

Enjoying the breathtaking sight of Uluru sounds rewarding enough for a trip to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. But it’s not all that you can do during a tour of Uluru.

From seeing the red kangaroos and other marsupials to spending some time with the camels, and from seeing the one of a kind formations of Kata Tjuta to taking a walk by the Valley of the Winds, there’s so much to see and do around Uluru.

That is why, it is recommended that you take your time at the park and put aside at least two days to enjoy all of the unique activities that the area has to offer. It would give you a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of daily life while also allowing you to make the most out of your long journey to the sandstone.

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Adventure Travel

Best Time to Visit Panama and Costa Rica

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The fact that Costa Rica and Panama are close makes both countries perfect for visiting. During your holiday there, it’s easy to travel back and forth between the two countries and enjoy all the wonders they have to offer. Keep in mind that the timing of your holiday will influence what sorts of sites you can visit and what activities you can make part of your plans. By understanding a little about what to expect, it’s easy to determine the best time of year to visit both countries, based on what you would like to do.

Learning More About the Dry and Rainy Seasons

If you’re the type who prefers the hustle and bustle that comes with holidays during the tourist season, plan on being in Costa Rica and Panama during what’s known as the dry season. Expect plenty of sunshine and warm weather during this part of the year. Many of your activities will be outdoors, although you will find a number of indoor sites that you will want to include in your plans.

The dry seasons in both countries overlap. The dry weather for both typically arrives during the first to the middle part of December. In Costa Rica, the dry season usually lingers until sometime in April. Panama enjoys a slightly shorter dry season, with it usually ending sometime in March.

Keep in mind that since this dry period is the height of the tourist season, the cost of visiting from December to April will be higher than at other times of the year. Even so, if your plans include spending a lot of time exploring the rain forests or soaking in the rays on one or more of the beautiful beaches, the dry season is the only time to consider.

Making the Most of the Dry Seasons

During the dry season in both nations, do expect the weather to be more humid and the day temperatures to be a little higher. There is some variance depending on which regions you plan on visiting. As a general rule, locations nearer the coast will include warmer weather and higher levels of humidity. By contrast, the more mountainous areas will offer slightly cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels.

During this time, do plan on enjoying the lush greenery found in the rain forests. During much of the dry season, the abundance of rain from what’s known as the rainy or green season ensures that the forests are at their best. Consider adding some variety to your holiday by spending time at the beach, soaking in the nightlife along the coast, and doing some shopping at many of the open air districts. This is also the perfect timing to enjoy some of the local cuisine while dining outside.

There are special events to celebrate during the dry season. President’s Day in Costa Rica occurs during this period. Along with locals, you can enjoy a number of celebrations, open-air festivals, and just about any type of entertainment that one can imagine.

Since the dry season does attract more tourists, it pays to book your lodgings in advance. Along with President’s Day, there’s also spring break and the Easter Season to consider. While you could look at different hotels and other properties near beaches, there are also hostels that make perfect places to sleep. After all, how much time do you plan on spending indoors when there’s so much to do?

Things to Do During the Rainy Seasons

In spite of the name, it isn’t always raining during the rainy or green season. Most days, there will be brief periods of sunshine that do allow you to spend some time at the beach and other outdoor venues. Do expect the evenings to be cooler. At times, the temperature may make wearing long sleeves or possibly a sweater a good idea.

Even if you’re out and about while it’s raining, there are plenty of things to see. Towns and cities in both nations offer indoor concerts, a number of restaurants catering to all sorts of tastes, and clubs and other settings for entertainment. You will find museums that will tell you more about the history of indigenous peoples and the complexity of their cultures.

What are some of the activities you can enjoy during this time of year? Both Costa Rica and Panama offer options to go horseback riding. Generally, this will happen during the morning when the sun is most likely to be out. Walking tours are also a great way to learn more about the culture and possibly find some interesting places that you will want to return to a little later. Don’t overlook the opportunity to get in some fishing when there’s a sunny morning coming your way. There are changes to engage in freshwater fishing as well as charter boats that will take you to some of the better places to enjoy salt-water fishing.

Coffee and rum tours are also something to consider during the rainy season. These tours allow you the opportunity to see different facilities and how they produce their products. As a bonus, you get to enjoy some taste-testing at many of the places that you visit along the tour. Some of the sites will also have bistros or restaurants included, allowing you to enjoy a nice meal or snack with your coffee or rum.

In terms of museums to visit, San Jose offers some of the most interesting museums in Costa Rica. Many of them are located in or adjacent to what’s known as the Central Market. It’s a great way to enjoy time indoors during the rainy afternoons and early evenings.

In Panama, check out the Panama Canal Museum in Casco Viejo. You can make use of headphones that offer the guided tour in multiple languages. If you happen to be proficient in Spanish, feel free to check out each exhibit on your own. You can also check out the Biodiversity Museum, which features exhibits on the over 1,000 species of animals and plants that are found in the country. Make the most of the discounts offered on Sundays. Retirees also get to enjoy discounts when visiting these museums.

Which season is the best time to visit Costa Rica and Panama? It’s really up to you. For those who prefer a slower pace and don’t mind rain during the afternoons and evenings, the raining season is ideal. Those who thrive on activity, sunshine, and plenty of tourist activities will enjoy going during the dry season. Whatever your choice, plan on coming back a second time. It’s rare for anyone to see everything they want to see during a single holiday.

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Adventure Travel

Most Underrated Travel Destinations

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Everyone knows about Paris and Rome and London but there are so many other beautiful travel destinations that are amazingly underrated. The fact that so many beautiful countries go unexplored by travelers is a tragedy. Not only because so many people are missing out on rich cultures and picturesque views, but also because a lot of these destinations tend to be a lot cheaper to travel to than popular cities. 

A majority of Americans, when asked about traveling abroad, will likely shake their head and say they can’t afford such trips. Many people deal with multiple monthly bills, such as mortgage or rent, student loans, and title loans, which are all stress inducing. 

But what a lot of people don’t know is that there are gorgeous, underrated foreign cities one can visit for a fraction of the price of touristy European cities. Forbes recently published a collection of the ten most underrated destinations you should consider visiting. 

Here are a few of them:

Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is known for its magnificent sights of Mount Ararat, historical monasteries, and its many striking temple ruins. Armenian cuisine is other worldly with classic dishes like rabbit stew, sautéed eggplant rolls, and lamb tartare. 

Telč, Czechia

Telč is a colorful town with Italian influences in Czechia. It boasts of Baroque-Renaissance architecture and has a castle of its own with exciting tunnels and passageways that you can explore underneath the town.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago is the capital of Chile and features gorgeous architecture from the neoclassical era. There are towering cathedrals and, of course, plenty of quality Chilean wine. Plus, the city of Santiago is a great place to kick off your exploration of Chile’s wine country. 

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Rotterdam is often ignored due to the popular neighboring city of Amsterdam, but it is a bastion of underground music and street art. The architecture is strikingly modern since the city was heavily bombed during World War II and thus had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The city is filled to the brim with amazing cuisine and museums.

Lagos, Nigeria

If you are looking for a big city destination, Lagos is a metropolis that has plenty to see and do so that you’ll never be bored. And whenever you need a break from the urban marketplaces, private beaches are just a short drive away.

Con Dao, Vietnam

Con Dao is a Southeast Asian island that makes an excellent beach destination with two resorts and tons of fascinating history. Once host to a brutal French prison, the island is also home to the tomb of the Vietnamese martyr Vo Thi Sau. 

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

This is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay dating back to the 17th century. The city has a vibrantly decorated historic quarter and a three-century-old convent. It’s also only a short trip away from the bigger city of Montevideo.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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