Beach Time In the Phillipines

What an amazing life this is.  Seriously, every day I look around me and think, “How lucky are we?”.  This crazy life we are leading at the moment has its downsides, don’t get me wrong- pollution, frustrating language barriers, being away from family and friends at home.  But the adventure that is our everyday life, and then all of the other experiences when we travel, they are so worth the hard parts.  Right now I am thinking about how lucky we are to be able to travel to so many fantastic places- so many that I can’t seem to keep up with blog posts about them!  I’m currently sitting poolside in Phuket, writing about last month’s trip to another gorgeous and warm location, and who knows if I’ll ever get a chance to write about this trip, seeing as we’ve only managed to post a few photos from when we were here last year! In case I don’t ever catch up, at least we have this cool video that Eli made of our first day here in Phuket:

Phuket from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Anyway, picking up where I left off, the boys and I, together with Grammy and Blue, left Singapore after a few fun filled days and took a flight to Cebu.  After a little bit of trouble in immigration (first time I’ve ever been questioned as to why Oliver doesn’t share my last name.  PRO TIP: always travel with your child’s birth certificate) we were en route to our home for the next week and a half, the Shangri-La Mactan.  We had originally decided on the hotel because Oliver had heard from several friends at school that had stayed there and loved it, so he asked if we might look into it.  It was easy to see why Oliver’s classmates were so impressed- the place is a kid paradise.  There was a gorgeous beach, with a marine sanctuary right there, allowing for fantastic snorkeling and diving without having to leave the resort.  The pool area was also large and had a nice slide and kid’s play area.  There was a mini golf course, par 3 course, badminton, an arcade, a HUGE Adventure Zone (like at the Pudong Kerry Center for those familiar with Shanghai).  There were loads of activities scheduled every day- yoga, water aerobics, snorkeling and sailing trips.  I admit that prior to booking the trip I was a little worried about our decision to spend all 10 days at one resort- we’ve usually booked more active vacations- mixing a few days of adventure with no more than a few days of beach/resort time.  But it turned out to be a fantastic decision- we had a blast and were never bored!

Shortly after our arrival, we were reunited with Ryan, who came in on a slightly later flight from Shanghai via Hong Kong.  The next day was Christmas Eve, and we enjoyed our first full day on the resort, snorkeling, swimming, relaxing, and hanging out together.  Santa managed to find us, despite being in a totally different place for the third year in a row, and his elves left PJs for the boys on Christmas Eve per the usual routine.  We celebrated Christmas dinner at one of the resort restaurants, and were treated to a festive parade as the roast pig was brought in.

Jammies from Santa

Jammies from Santa

Snorkeling

Snorkeling

Christmas Buffet

Christmas Dinner Buffet- Sushi

Christmas Buffet

Christmas Dinner Buffet- More sushi!

Christmas Buffet

Fantastic Gingerbread House at the Christmas Dinner

Christmas Roast Pig from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

The rest of our days were filled with pretty much the same.  There was a lot of relaxing on the beach time, but we also got involved in all sorts of activities- I took Eli to try out his first ever SCUBA dive, Eli and Blue also did a helmet dive where they went under in huge old school diving helmets and looked like characters from a Jules Verne novel.  We played golf and mini golf, and badminton and giant Jenga.  We jogged around the resort, went ziplining, did water aerobics, and the kids spent a lot of time and money in the arcade, and also went to the Adventure Zone. We went sailing, and on a daytrip to a nearby marine sanctuary for some AMAZING snorkeling.  Eli and Blue went parasailing.   We all even went into Cebu City to catch a 3D IMAX showing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. On New Year’s Eve the hotel put on a huge “Havana” themed party, with a live band, which was a lot of fun, and at midnight the fireworks display on the beach was AMAZING!   And we ate.  Oh! Did we eat…..  Aside from the amazing Christmas Dinner buffet, we also attended (twice! because we loved it so much!) a Hawaiian/Pacific Islands themed buffet and dinner show where we were entertained by performers doing traditional dances from around the Pacific Islands, and doing crazy things with fire.  I’m not sure how authentic it actually was, but it was entertaining, the food was delicious, and the kids will never get tired of seeing people breathe fire.  There was also a special children’s New Year’s Day party where Oliver got put inside a bubble.  It doesn’t get much more exciting than that.  (in truth, the party was meant to be for small kids, Oliver was just about at max age and Eli was waaaay too old for that scene.  It was also meant for kids to be dropped off and parents to enjoy some free time, but we didn’t realize that, so the whole family attended.  Despite that, it turned out to be totally fun, with a magic show, the bubbles, games, a movie and so many party favors we almost didn’t have room to bring them all back).  On our last afternoon we enjoyed a fantastic afternoon tea set in the lobby.  So much eating!

 

It was an amazing trip, and despite being so long, it still felt like it was over too soon.  But it was time to head back to Shanghai, see if Santa had visited there as well, and to prepare to return to the real world of work and school…..

 

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Beautiful Cebu

Beautiful Cebu

Sailing

Sailing

Snorkel Selfie

Snorkel Selfie

Minigolf

Minigolf

En Route to Snorkel Trip

En Route to Snorkel Trip

SCUBA!

SCUBA!

So much snorkeling

So much snorkeling

so, so much

so, so much

Hammock Time

Hammock Time

Minigolf Master

Minigolf Master

Fierce game of Badminton

Fierce game of Badminton

Par 3

Par 3

Oliver at Par 3

Oliver at Par 3

Par 3

Par 3

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Oliver in a Bubble

Oliver in a Bubble

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

New Year's Eve Fireworks

New Year’s Eve Fireworks

Fire!

Fire!

 

 

Star Wars Showing in Cebu City

Star Wars Showing in Cebu City

Parasailing

Parasailing

Clownfish from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Helmet Dive from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Pacific Islands Fire Show from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Cebu Snorkeling from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Giant Jenga Defeat :( from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Giant Jenga from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Bye Bye Borneo, Hello Singapore!

Borneo 2015 from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

 

We loved our time in Borneo so very much, and all too soon it was time to leave.  We enjoyed one last breakfast at that amazing buffet, and then packed up and headed to the airport.  After a week in the wilds of Borneo and the laid back beaches of Kota Kinabalu, our next stop was an entirely different sort of place….SINGAPORE!

For our stay in Singapore, I decided to look for accommodation through airbnb, which we have used previously in the States and in Japan, with much success.  I was able to find an amazing place that fit all five of us easily, had a fantastic location, and as a bonus, had it’s own private pool for the kids to relax in at the end of the day. The apartment was fantastic, and I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Singapore.

 

 

Yep, this place worked out just fine!

Yep, this place worked out just fine!

 

View from the apartment

View from the apartment- photo credit paul g wiegman

Night View- photo by paul g wiegman

Night View- photo by paul g wiegman

Our first night in Singapore was mostly just finding and checking into the apartment, letting the boys test out the pool (of course! it had been almost 24 hours since they’d been in one!) and then heading out in search for dinner.  We walked over to Maxwell Food Center, as Ryan and the kids and I had been there last October and I was craving some old favorites.  We dined on black carrot cake, wonton soup, grilled chicken skewers, and of course the famous fried sweet potato dumplings from Ri Xing Jiang Ji. We washed it all down with some fresh squeezed juices (some combinations were better received than others) and then finished it off with one of those Singaporean shaved ice concoctions.

Maxwell Food Centre- photo credit paul g wiegman

Maxwell Food Centre- photo credit paul g wiegman

Gram and Blue enjoy their hawker specialities

Gram and Blue enjoy their hawker specialities.

 

The next day we walked to the Marina area to visit the Gardens by the Bay, which we had missed on our last trip to Singapore and I really wanted to see.  I’m so glad we got to go this time, because it really is an amazing place.  It was also, as a bonus, decorated for Christmas, so quite festive!  As we were there midday, we mostly stuck to the indoor facilities, the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest.  Both were spectacular, and it’s a tough call which the kids enjoyed more, the Mediterranean gardens in the Flower Dome that were fully decorated for Christmas or the amazing Cloud Forest, which contains a 35 meter mountain, covered in vegetation, and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.  We also came across a family of otters frolicking in the outdoor gardens, and they were super cute.   After spending several hours exploring the gardens, we walked across the skywalk to the Marina Bay Sands hotel and over to the attached shops to enjoy a late lunch. Perhaps because we were there at an odd time, we had no trouble getting a table without a reservation at Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Street Kitchen, where we enjoyed a nice meal before walking over to the Singapore Flyer, another item on my Singapore wish list that we hadn’t gotten to on our last trip.  We also picked a great time for that visit, and were able to buy a ticket and walk right on board without a wait!  The views from the 165m ferris wheel were unbelievable!

On the walk to Gardens by the Bay- by paul g wiegman

On the walk to Gardens by the Bay- by paul g wiegman

Cloud Forest, paul g wiegman

Cloud Forest, paul g wiegman

Flower Dome- paul g wiegman

Flower Dome- paul g wiegman

by paul g wiegman

by paul g wiegman

Cool lego carnivorous flora among the real plants at the Cloud Forest

Cool Lego carnivorous flora among the real plants at the Cloud Forest

 

 

 

Aboard the Flyer

Aboard the Flyer

 

Top of the Flyer- paul g wiegman

Top of the Flyer- paul g wiegman

The following day was Oliver’s birthday, so we headed to the Singapore Zoo per his request.  I had thought he might be interested in their Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife program that we had learned about on our last visit, but instead he asked to visit the Night Safari. I had contacted the zoo to see if we might sign up for their Gourmet Safari Express, which looked like a ton of fun, but unfortunately you needed a minimum of 15 people to sign up for it.  Anyone heading to the Night Safari with a large group should totally check it out!  Since we planned to stay late for the Night Safari, we took our time getting to the zoo, stopping again at the Marina Bay Sands Shoppes, where I was able to pick up some cupcakes for Oliver’s birthday.  Cupcakes in tow, we hopped in a taxi and arrived at the zoo right around noon.  Once there, we grabbed some lunch, ate the birthday cupcakes, and headed into the zoo.  We spent several hours at the main zoo, visiting with old favorites like the giant tortoises, naked mole rats, orangutans and pygmy hippos and enjoying the Fragile Forest and Australian Zone.  Next we headed to the River Safari, which we had not done on our last visit.  It was a fantastic experience, and I’m so glad we went.  In addition to the amazing flooded Amazon and Rivers exhibits, this is also where the Singapore Zoo keeps its red and giant pandas, so you need to go to River Safari if you’d like to see them.  Keep in mind that the panda exhibit closes before the rest of the River Safari area, so make sure you get there early enough.  We took the River Safari Cruise, but ran out of time and weren’t able to do the Amazon River Quest and Squirrel Monkey Forest visit. Oh well, I guess we’ll have to just go back!

Cotton Top Tamarin, by paul g wiegman

Cotton Top Tamarin, by paul g wiegman

Siamang, by paul g wiegman

Siamang, by paul g wiegman

False Gavial, paul g wiegman

False Gavial, paul g wiegman

White Tiger, by paul g wiegman

White Tiger, by paul g wiegman

Orangutan, by paul g wiegman

Orangutan, by paul g wiegman

Proboscis Monkey, by paul g wiegman

Proboscis Monkey, by paul g wiegman

Meerkat, by paul g wiegman

Meerkat, by paul g wiegman

River Safari, by paul g wiegman

River Safari, by paul g wiegman

After finishing our whirlwind tour of River Safari (seriously, folks, plan to arrive at 4:00 PM latest to River Safari, earlier if you can!), we had time for dinner before the Night Safari opened.  We headed over to the Night Safari area and grabbed a table at the Bongo Burgers restaurant.  This was not my first choice, but Oliver the birthday boy wanted to go there and it turned out to be a fantastic decision, because as we finished our meal, the Thumbuakar fire performance started, and we had a perfect seat.  We had no idea that the show was going to happen, so it was quite a lucky coincidence that we ended up sitting and having dinner where we did.

As we ate our dinner, and watched the show, the line to get into the park got bigger and bigger and bigger.  I hoped that once the gate opened the line would move quickly, but unfortunately we did end up waiting about 1/2 hour in the line to get inside.  Once inside, there was another quite long wait to get onto the tram for the Night Safari tram tour.  If we were to do it again, I’d get in line earlier so as to get a better spot in the tram line, or if we wanted to sit and eat and watch the fire show again, I’d plan head for the animal show first and watch that while letting the line for the tram ride die down.  If going with the second option, though, you would definitely need to plan for a long night…we only did the tram ride, no animal show or any of the walks, and we didn’t leave until around 9:30 or 10:00 PM.

It would have been nice after our long day and night at the zoo to sleep in, but it wasn’t possible, as we once again needed to pack up and head for the airport.  It was time to head to Cebu for our long awaited reunion with Ryan and begin the vacation part of vacation- 10 days on the beach with nothing planned!

Back to Kota Kinabalu

We awoke the next morning to discover our monkey friends from the previous day had returned.  There were a good 10-15 monkeys out in front of the chalet where we were staying, tromping once again all over the laundry and swimsuits I had hung out to dry.  There were monkeys around the back as well, and as I peered out of the window into the rainforest that surrounded the room, a monkey in the tree right outside the window peered right back at me! They were quite mischievous, but no lasting harm was done to the clothes, which I packed up as soon as I chased our friends away.

After a lovely breakfast at the main lodge, we piled back into the boat and headed back up the river.  We again stopped halfway at the Abai Jungle Lodge for a brief break, then continued to the jetty in Sandakan.  After arriving in town, we had a chance to wander around the main market, then visited the Sabah Hotel for lunch before heading off to the airport.

Goodbye Jungle Lodge!

Goodbye Jungle Lodge!

Once again, it was a quick 45 minute flight, and then we were back to Kota Kinabalu.  This time, the plane was larger.

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Once in Kota Kinabalu, we checked into the Shangri-la Rasa Ria, where we would spend the remainder of our stay in Borneo.  The gorgeous grounds and well appointed rooms were a welcome change after the rustic accommodations of the previous days, and the boys were thrilled to spend some time in the pool with its waterslide and in the ocean after not being able to swim while we were on the river (have I mentioned the big, big crocodiles?).  There was also, as there always is at the Shangri-la, a fantastic breakfast buffet, as well as several great options for dinners.  We had teppanyaki one night, Indian another, and lastly enjoyed a Malaysian food stall buffet with a cultural show. Eli got a chance to participate in the show, and gave the tricky foot and stick dance a go, with moderate success.

Breakfast View

Breakfast View

Reviewing slo-mo waterslide videos over breakfast

Reviewing slo-mo waterslide videos over breakfast

Breakfast

Breakfast

Eli joins the dance

Eli joins the dance

Borneo Cultural Dance from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Eli Tries the Dance from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

 

While we certainly didn’t keep up the frenetic pace of previous days, we did manage to get in a few activities while staying in Kota Kinabalu.  The day after we arrived we headed back into the city of KK to get a boat out to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.  We arrived first to Sapi island, where we spent the morning snorkeling before enjoying a BBQ lunch on the beach.  After lunch we hopped on a boat for nearby Manukan island.  We spent some time snorkeling there, but as we were about to head to the jetty and catch the boat back, the skies opened and we were caught in the most ridiculous rainstorm.  The boat was a few minutes late to pick us up, having to deal with extremely low visibility, high winds, and crazy rain, but eventually we hopped aboard for the wettest, longest 20 minute boat ride of our lives.  The rain came from the sides, above, the front…everywhere! All five of us were completely soaked to the bone by the time we arrived back to the harbor, but at least it was still quite warm, so no one was cold despite the drenching.

When we were dry- we had no idea what was about to happen.

When we were dry

The next day the boys took part in the Junior Ranger program at the Shangri-la’s nature resort.  They helped to prepare food for the resident orangutans, and fed some of the fish, ducks and other animals.  Oliver enjoyed his time in the nature resort so much that he requested we return the next night for a nocturnal hike, which was led by one of the rangers.  It seems no one else was crazy enough to want to walk through the dark jungle with just a flashlight, as Oliver and I were the only ones there so we enjoyed a private tour.  We didn’t see any large animals (thank goodness!) but did see lots of insects (tarantulas, scorpions, crickets, giant ants) and quite a few frogs and birds.

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Mostly, though, we sat around and enjoyed the pools and the beach. And what a beach it was!

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Sandakan Day Two- Orangutans, Sun Bears, and SO MANY MONKEYS

When I look back through the photos from our second day in Sandakan, I am totally blown away at how much we packed in.  The day started early with breakfast at the lodge on Selingan Island, part of the Turtle Islands Park.  After breakfast, we got back on the boat and headed for Sandakan.

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We arrived in Sandakan and hopped in our van to make the drive out to Sepilok, where we planned to visit the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. We arrived just before the reserve opened so had a quick look at their visitor’s center before heading into the sanctuary.  Because the orangutans there are free ranging, we were not allowed to bring any bags, food, sunscreen, etc in with us, as many tourists have had their belongings taken by the orangutans, and this can be dangerous for both the tourists and for the apes themselves (they are great mimics, and so if they see someone using spray sunscreen, for instance, they may steal it and try to use it on themselves and get it in their eyes, etc).  We were able to take cameras in, but were warned not to get too close while taking photos.  Our guide Zali told us a cautionary tale of a previous client that had lost his brand new iPhone to a curious orangutan, and when he finally got it back it was not in usable condition.  Apparently, however, he was quite impressed with the damage the animal had managed to inflict in such a short period of time, and he brought the broken phone home with him and had it framed as a souvenir and hung in his living room.

Once inside the reserve, which rehabilitates orphaned orangutans, we were able to spend some time observing several young ones in the nursery play area.  Afterwards we watched as food was set out on a feeding platform, and several of the older orangutans came to check it out.

 

Feeding Time at Sabah Orangutan Reserve from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Orangutan, Sabah, Borneo from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

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After our visit with the orangutans, we had a short 50 meter walk to our next destination, the newly opened Sunbear Conservation Center.  I admit to knowing pretty much next to nothing about the Sun Bear before our visit, having only seen one previously at the Singapore Zoo. They really are quite fascinating creatures and super cute also.  Oliver was immediately smitten and spent most of our visit looking through the book that listed all of the bears at the conservation center, reading their stories and looking at their pictures.  Of course we saw a few of the real bears as well, and future visitors will be able to see even more, as they are currently working to build a new viewing platform that will allow visitors to view bears that are currently out of sight.  The photo below shows Ah Bui, Oliver’s favorite sun bear.

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After our time with the sun bears, it was time to get back to the jetty and back on board the boat, as we needed to head to that night’s accommodations, which were about a 2 1/2 hour journey up the Kinabatangan River. The first portion of the trip took about an hour, after which we stopped for lunch at the Abai Jungle Lodge.  The staff at the lodge were super welcoming and friendly, and the food was great.  The boys enjoyed having a break from the boat, and lounging on the hammock chairs on the riverside deck.

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After our respite, we got back in the boat to complete the rest of the journey to the Kinabatangan River Lodge.  On our way up the river, we spotted several large salt water crocodiles.  Like, really, really, big.  I was glad we were in a big and fast boat, but they were cool to see!  After arriving at the lodge, we settled into our treetop chalet where we would spend the night.  We had some free time, so I decided to do a little bit of laundry, washing clothes in the sink and hanging them out on our balcony to dry.  Before too long I noticed a racket coming from just outside, and peered out the window to discover that a troop of monkeys had come to check out the laundry I’d set out.  They were extremely curious about the new items and spent a long time walking all over them, rifling through the various pieces of clothing.  Luckily, they eventually left and did not take any clothes with them.

After our break, we headed up to the main lodge for a snack (freshly made doughnuts, I think Eli ate about 10) and then got on a new, smaller boat for a trip up the Menanggul River, one of the nearby tributaries running into the Kinabatangan River.  This trip was a bonus- I hadn’t even realized we would be doing a river cruise, but it turned out to be one of the coolest things we did on the whole Borneo adventure.  We saw so many amazing animals- troops of monkeys- long tail and pig tail macaques right down at the river’s edge and proboscis monkeys high in the trees.  There were interesting birds as well, and some species of bee that built a HUGE nest.  We also saw warning signs about a “King Crocodile” that lived in that section of the river, but luckily we did not meet him.  Our guide Zali was again amazing…he and the boat driver were super talented at spotting the animals, and Zali again provided lots of information about each species as we encountered them.

Rainforest River Trip, Borneo from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Pigtail Macaque Family, Kinabatangan River, Borneo from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Longtail Macaques, Borneo from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Proboscis Monkey Troop, Borneo from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

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We finished our river trip just as dusk was creeping in, and again I was glad to have not met that crocodile.  We enjoyed a buffet dinner at the lodge (which was decorated for Christmas) and then retired to our chalet in the treetops for a well deserved rest after an extremely busy day!

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Turtle Time!!!

After our afternoon of beach, lizards and rest, we headed to the main lodge for a tour of the small museum that the rangers of the Turtle Islands Park had put together.  Our guide, Zali, was with us and showed us around the displays, adding his own information and answering our questions.  We learned that the islands are visited by two species of sea turtle, the Greens and Hawksbills.  There has been a conversation program and hatchery on Selingan island since the 1960s.  The museum explained the life cycle of the the turtles- mother sea turtles crawl ashore (mostly at nighttime) to dig a nest in the sand and lay their eggs.  The baby turtles that hatch from those eggs may range very far (some turtles with a GPS unit attached have been tracked as far as Australia), however they will return to their birthplace to mate and to lay eggs.  At the Turtle Islands park, the rangers watch carefully each night to spot the mother turtles as they come ashore.  After the mother turtle lays her eggs, she is measured and checked for an ID tag.  If no tag is found, she is tagged.  As the turtle digs her nest and lays her eggs, she is in a nearly trancelike state, so despite being fussed with by the rangers, she is not bothered and remains quite calm.  As soon as she has finished laying, the eggs are collected (a few nests are left untouched as the eggs and baby turtles are an important food for other animals on the island), and transported to the hatchery.  At the hatchery, the eggs are returned to a nest dug by the rangers, and surrounded by a protective fence to keep predators out and baby turtles in.  An interesting fact that we learned at the ranger’s museum was that the turtle embryos are extremely sensitive to temperature variation- a difference in sand temperature of only 4 degrees celsius will result a nest of only males (27 degrees) or only females (31 degrees).  After the eggs hatch (all at once, usually at night), the baby turtles are collected by the rangers and released on the beach.

Mrs. Green Turtle

Mrs. Green Turtle

 

After our visit to the museum we watched a film about the sea turtles and the conservation efforts at the Turtle Islands Parks.  Then we enjoyed a dinner buffet of local Malaysian food, and waited for the sun to set.  Although the turtles come to the islands year round to lay their eggs, there are some seasons that are busier than others.  When we visited, they were getting about 5-8 landings a night, and 2-4 nestings.  These can occur anytime between sundown and dawn, so we had no idea how long of a wait it would be before the first turtle landed.  We waited, and waited, and worried that we’d come all that way and would never see a turtle, but then, around 10:00 PM, the call came in that it was TURTLE TIME!  Because they don’t want the turtles to be disturbed too much, the rangers wait while the mother lands, drags herself to the nesting site, digs the nest and begins to lay before they allow the park visitors to approach.  So the mother green turtle that we observed had first been spotted around 8:30 PM, but they didn’t let us know until 10:00.  At that point we needed to hustle along the island trail and to the place on the beach where she was, so that we didn’t miss out.  As we arrived, she finished laying her eggs and then we watched as she was measured and her tag was checked (she was a turtle that was new to the island this year, but had been on the beach to lay another nest a month or two previously). After spending a few moments with the mother turtle, who was still in her nesting trance and quite oblivious to our presence, it was time to head to the hatchery.

Oliver observes

Oliver observes

 

At the hatchery, the eggs that had just been collected from the turtle were reburied in a new nest.  A tag was prepared for the nest, noting the number of eggs, the date and the species.  The eggs needed to be reburied quickly, as they are sensitive to light and too much exposure can damage the growing embryos (flash photography is strictly prohibited during the entire experience).  After watching the rangers carefully pack the eggs into the hole they had dug and then cover them with loose sand, it was time for the most adorable portion of the night…the release of the baby turtles.  Down at the beach, the rangers had a basket of recently hatched baby turtles that they released near the water’s edge.  Although we weren’t allowed to handle the turtles just for the sake of touching them, we did have permission to gently pick up and reorient any babies that were headed the wrong direction after their release.  Eli was lucky enough to get to turn two babies around!

Goodbye baby turtles!  Good luck!

Goodbye baby turtles! Good luck!

 

Releasing the babies was the last portion of the program and afterwards we returned to our rooms for some sleep, we needed to rest up for the next exciting part of our trip…a visit with orangutans, sun bears, and a river trip into the rainforest!

 

Borneo December 2015

We were super excited to welcome Grammy and Blue back for their second visit to Shanghai this December.  They were with us in the city for about a week, and then as soon as the boys finished up with school on the 11th of December, we were ready to head out for an adventure!  Sadly, Ryan still had to work and wasn’t able to join us, but we took lots of photos and videos to share with him when we all met up again later in the month.

The trip started with an overnight flight from Shanghai to Singapore.  We chose to go that route rather than fly to Kota Kinabalu directly because we wanted to spend some time in Singapore after our Borneo adventures, and purchasing the round trip tickets was more reasonable than a bunch of one way tickets.  So we arrived early to Singapore, had a short layover and than continued on with a flight to Kota Kinabalu.  Due to an early flight the next day, we stayed at a hotel in the city center.  We all enjoyed our first beautiful Malaysian sunset and had dinner on the roof of our hotel where the boys got in their first of many many swims on the trip.

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The next day was a ridiculously early 5 AM pickup.  The hotel very kindly prepared some breakfast to go for us, since the restaurant wouldn’t be open for another hour and a half.  After a quick trip back to the airport, we were on our way to Sandakan, on a very small plane.

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We were picked up at the airport by our guide, Zali, who would accompany us for the duration of our trip.  He was a native to the area, and was an all around fantastic guy.  As we would come to find out, he was also super knowledgable about the Sabah rainforest, which was a bonus for Blue, who enjoyed having a living guidebook to answer questions about local plant and animal life.  After our pickup, we wandered briefly around the town of Sandakan before heading to the jetty to board a boat for Selingan Island, part of the Turtle Islands Marine Sanctuary.  The boat ride was about an hour from Sandakan. After arriving, we had the afternoon to spend swimming and relaxing, as the real fun doesn’t begin until after dinner, when the sea turtles land on the island to lay their eggs. We enjoyed ourselves in the water, met several of the coolest residents of the island, the monitor lizzards, and even snuck in a nap so we’d have energy for the night’s activities.  The turtles arrive on their own schedule, so it’s impossible to say if you’ll be staying up into the early hours to catch a glimpse of one.

Arriving via Boat to Turtle Island, Sabah, Borneo from Parke Wiegman on Vimeo.

Kyoto!

Made it to Kyoto, one of the most amazing cities  we have traveled to.  The first hotel in Okayama provided eye warmers which heated up for about 10 minutes after they were opened.

    
    
    
    
 

Ohiopyle Visitors Center and Meadow Run

Yesterday we stopped by the new Visitors Center at Ohiopyle State Park.  The boys and I had been earlier in the summer but this was the first time for Ryan.  The park did a really did a great job with the building and surrounding area.  Yesterday was quite a hot day, and it was nice to detour inside for a few minutes to get some water, cool off, and check out the exhibits and gorgeous view of the falls.  After the Visitor’s Center, we walked over to Meadow Run and hiked up the stream.  The water was fairly low, so this time boys opted to skip on sliding down the natural waterslides.  Instead we opted to keep hiking, alternating between boulder scrambling along the edges of the stream and hiking on the path through the woods.  It was a gorgeous walk and we had a such a great time that we didn’t get home until evening.  Despite the late hour, Ryan started up the grill to make a batch of his famous Double Smoked Chili.  We finally ate around 9:30, and it was worth the wait!

 

 

Swallow Falls, Maryland

Last Sunday we had a family outing to Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland.  All the kids had a great time hiking around the woods on a trail that took us first to the Muddy Creek waterfall, then along Muddy Creek to where it meets theYoughiogheny River,  and finally up the Yough to Swallow Falls.  The kids enjoyed swimming in the hole at the base of the waterfall, and even ducking under the water to explore the room behind the falls.  After our hike, we drove north,  following the Youghiogheny to Friendsville, Maryland to eat dinner at the fabulous Riverside Hotel.  The ingredients for their delicious salads are grown right in the backyard of the hotel, and we all ate massive amounts of it, along with their delicious bread, soup and desserts.  Ryan had a fresh out of the oven molasses cookie that was absolutely amazing!