Christopher Patrick’s Trip to the Galapagos Islands

Christopher Patrick enjoying some quality time with a local resident.

Christopher Patrick, the CEO and owner of CKIM Group, was open minded about his upcoming trip to the Galapagos islands. He knew that the cold Humbolt Current coming up from Antarctica created a unique ecosystem around these islands. That ecosystem included giant tortoises hundreds of years old, seals and marine iguanas. 

The view from Christopher’s hotel room.

He also looked forward to learning more about the people that lived there and their culture.  

Upon arrival in Guayaquil, a port city in Ecuador, Chris was impressed with how modern of an airport it was. There was a little bit of congestion going through customs and immigration, but altogether, it was not a bad experience. 

A blue-footed booby.

Chris stayed at the local Courtyard by Marriott. The shuttle driver was waiting for him at the airport. While the driver was waiting for another passenger, Chris took the opportunity to buy a SIM card for his phone for $15. This would allow him to make calls and send texts in the Galapagos as well since the islands are part of Ecuador.  

Giant tortoises relaxing.

Chris received a warm welcome at the hotel and the woman working the front desk recommended that he take the 8am airport shuttle for his flight to San Cristobal.  

When Chris got to the airport, his flight was cancelled due to the protests occurring throughout the country against austerity measures put in place by President Lenín Moreno. 

A delicious lobster meal onboard.

Chris managed to rebook his flights. He flew with Avianca, a Colombian airline. The crew were pleasant and from Ecuador.  

Passing through San Cristobal Airport was simple and easy. All visitors are levied with the Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee ($100 USD) when entering the country.  

Upon arriving at the villa, Chris was stunned by the surrounding beauty The beach was filled with sea lions. The sound of the ocean, cool breeze and welcoming staff made the place very inviting 

Delicous Ecuadorian ice cream.

Lunch was huge. Chris follows a vegan /plant-based diet, and there were more than enough food options for him, including Andean Bean Ceviche (it was delightful), vegetarian sushi rolls, an incredible salad, fruits and more. And lots of plantain! A staple in the Galapagos diet.  

Soursop, a fruit native to the Americas and the Caribbean, was widely used as a fruit drink.  

The water is beautifully clear in the Galapagos, but quite cold!

After lunch, Chris and his fellow colleagues hiked for 35 minutes to Cerro Tijeretas Cove for snorkeling. The water was super cold!  Chris forgot his swim cap, which would have been ideal for the cooler waters. The group stopped at two beaches on the way back and got to see a bunch of sea lions 

Dinner at the villa that night was huge and filling. For Chris, there were incredible salads, vegetables, and more.  

After dinner, Chris retired to his Master Villa, leaving the sliding door open and the shutters down. Chris thought Karin, his wife, would have loved it there. He felt that he could easily have stayed for a few more days there.  

The next day, Chris enjoyed a huge breakfast and the group departed at 10:30 AM for an excursion to El Junco Lagoon, a lake in the highlands of San Cristóbal. The group was lucky. They had clear skies, cool temperatures and there weren’t that many people there.   

After taking in the lagoon, the group went to the giant tortoise sanctuary. It was 15 minutes from El Junco. The group spent an hour exploring the sanctuary.  

After leaving the sanctuary, the group drove to the port where they met the crew of Grand Majestic, a 127-foot motor yacht. Two tenders took the group to the yacht which was anchored in the bay.  

Chris was pleasantly surprised at the Grand Majestic. It offered 8 staterooms including a master on the main deck, four double bedrooms below with each converting to twins. All rooms were en-suite. The yacht had a crew of 10 including the captain and a chef in the galley.  

The main deck had outdoor dining on the aft and a large saloon with a dining area. Large windows allowed natural light to enter the saloon and dining area. The master suite also had large windows.  

The group enjoyed a delightfully large dinner complimented with strawberry Paila ice cream for dessert. Paila ice cream is a traditional, Ecuadorian-style sorbet made in a bronze bowl.  

Another healthy meal onboard Grand Majestic.

While the guests slept, the yacht sailed for Post Office Bay, on the island of Floreana, arriving in the early morning.  

Chris woke at 5:45 AM to a beautiful morning with the moon still high in the sky and the sun starting to rise. What paradise! 

They enjoyed breakfast on the aft deck then set out at 8:00AM to explore the lava cave and to snorkel in Post Office Bay.  

The Lava Cave was amazing. The group descended into the cave via stairs.

After the cave they went to the mailbox barrel on the island to search for postcards that they could deliver close to where we live. The barrel was originally used by homesick sailors to drop off letters for their loved ones in the hopes that sailors returning home would deliver them, or at least mail them once they arrived home.  

The tradition has continued and Chris dropped off his post cards as well as looked to see if there were any cards that he or someone else from the group could deliver.  

After, the group went snorkeling in the bay. They were blown away by the sea lions that played with them as well as the large turtles and loads of fish and coral. 

The group returned to the yacht to recover, had lunch, rest and get ready for the next excursion: Devil’s Crown.  

There, the current was strong, said Chris.  There were lots of fish, a few turtles, and one of the other members of the group saw two white tip sharks. According to Chris, it was “not as beautiful as Post Office Bay.” 

Our next excursion was Cormorant Point at 4:00 PM to see the Flamingoes, then hike over to Green Beach and Four Sand Beach,” said Chris.  

Edison, the group’s guide, offered an educational talk at each location. I know more now about the Galapagos, turtles, flamingos and bluefooted boobies. Our guides were amazing,” said Chris.  

Chris said he ate more than he normally does since the food was so good, but also because of the snorkeling in cold water, hiking and cooler temperatures, it was needed to keep him energized!

The Grand Majestic sailed overnight to Española. The group went ashore at 6am in order to be the first group ashore to do a two-hour hike around the island. Española is uninhabited (by humans) and is home to many Albatrosses, Blue-footed Boobies, and many other bird species.  

Sea Lions and loads of marine iguanas lined the beach near the jetty where we landed,” said Chris.  

We had to be careful since the path was very rocky. It was incredible viewing the blowholes, Albatrosses, boobies and other species so close,” he went on to say. These animals were not afraid of humans. 

Chris said that particular excursion was one of the top three experiences of the whole trip.  

“There is nothing like an early more hike with the sun rising, a cool breeze, majestic scenery and a good group of people,” he said. “I loved it,” he continued.  

They returned to the yacht after to enjoy a well-earned breakfast and then went for another snorkeling excursion.  

After lunch, the group explored a nearby beach, followed by a memorable last supper onboard Grand Majestic. 

After an early breakfast, the group disembarked by tender on the island of Santa Cruz. They boarded a bus and went to the giant tortoise sanctuary for one last experience with these ancient giants.  

They then boarded the ferry for the island of Baltra, where they would depart these majestic islands and continue the tradition of delivering postcards throughout the world.

 

Nevis: What’s New and What Has Stayed Exactly the Same

Hamilton Estate is an old plantation in Nevis located right above Charlestown, the capital of Nevis.

Nevis isn’t known for being particularly fast paced, which most visitors quite enjoy. However, from time to time, new things happen. So here is a mix of some of the new things happening on the island, as well as a few goldie oldies that are worth the experience.

New: A Pier Designated For St. Kitts – Nevis Water Taxis

Due to the infrequency of flights into Nevis, residents and tourists alike usually arrive via the Robert L. Bradshaw International airport in St. Kitts. There is a fairly well-oiled machine in place that runs passengers to Reggae Beach where several water taxi companies ferry passengers and their luggage to Nevis. Many of the taxi drivers are in business with the captains and owners of the water taxis, so they are able to keep each other perfectly informed as to when clients are arriving, which significantly reduces wait times.

The drive across the peninsula has incredible views of both islands, the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. At night time taxi drivers will wait with you until the boats have pulled along side the pier on the St. Kitts side, which is great since it can be pretty desolate on that side of the island at night.

Paradise Beach overlooks the St. Kitts peninsula and is a beautiful stop for a dip.

For awhile, on the Nevis side these water taxis docked at a couple of different piers along the coast, which would sometimes cause some discontent for other boats and/or hotels sharing those docks. This, in part, led to the construction of a cement taxi pier located just to the right of Oualie Beach Resort and the Nevis Yacht Club. The pier is gated and well lit at night.

Villas on Paradise Beach.

Relatively New: Great Self-Contained Villas on the Beach

Paradise Beach Nevis constructed new villas right on the beach that offer an experience on the island unlike any other. There are five, two-bedroom beach houses that offer private plunge pools, a fully-equipped gourmet kitchen and drawbridge stairs for complete privacy. Guest has access to concierge services including a private chef.

These villas certainly seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but they might be short lived. Rumor has it that they were built outside of property lines and might have to be moved. I am not privy to the ins and outs of the legal proceedings with this, so who knows what the outcome will be, and/or if anything will happen at all.

Four Seasons Resort Nevis is undergoing some renovations as well which includes a new infinity pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea, and a new beach restaurant concept offering farm-to-table menus. The resort is scheduled to finish renovations by October 2019 (so long as there is no hurricane damage) which, knowing the Nevis and the Caribbean as whole, could be a bit of a stretch. However, no matter when the renovations are done, they are sure to impress.

What Hasn’t Changed:

The Hermitage still offers its West Indian pig roast every Wednesday night. For vegetarians, vegans or anyone who doesn’t like seeing a spit roasted pig, the experience might not be for you. Even so, there are plenty of other dishes to choose from including tania fritters, johnny cakes and plenty of veggie dishes.

The Hermitage is a hotel built around one of the oldest wooden houses in the Caribbean (built circa 1670) and has charming cottages scattered throughout the property. The Lupinacci family have owned and operated the hotel for decades. They are also some of the most hospitable people that you will ever meet.

The building that houses the Alexander Hamilton Museum is in fact where Alexander Hamilton was born. You would think that with the incredible rise of the popular Hamilton musical there would be more people visiting. Yet, it is just as sleepy as it used to be. The building was originally constructed around 1680 and was later destroyed in an earthquake in 1840. The building was restored in 1983. The museum also has general information on Nevis history and culture. It is not by any standards a state-of-the-art multimedia museum, but even just to stop by and admire the building and to take in the interconnects between Caribbean and U.S. history, makes it worth the visit.

There are a few new things going on, but Nevis remains a sleepy island. It is ideal for relaxing and getting one of the best night sleeps of your life. The Queen of the Caribees is most definitely worth a visit.

Personalized Scuba Trips Offered By Aqua Safari Adventures

David Ochs, owner of Aqua Safari Adventures in Boynton Beach, Florida, grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City, which is not really known as a great scuba diving spot. “As a kid I was always a little bit afraid of the water,” he said as we spoke on the phone, him in sunny Florida and me in rainy Newport, Rhode Island.

He later went on to have a career in the corporate world in Chicago, but in 1993, he changed his mind. “I’ve got very supportive parents,” he said with a laugh. He was telling me about when he told them that he had decided to become a scuba instructor. He said, they were supportive, however a little surprised at his new career choice.

Before his dramatic career change, Ochs had taken a trip to Australia and although he didn’t dive there, he saw how much fun his friends had doing it. He became intrigued. When he returned to Chicago, he started to train in a pool. As soon a he put that regulator on for the first time and submerged himself, “a whole new world opened up.”

Once Ochs was certified, it didn’t take him long to start his own dive business in beautiful Boynton Beach. “I’m really blessed to have a job that I love,” he said. “The diving in Palm Beach is absolutely incredible,” Ochs said. He said that during turtle mating season, he once saw 23 turtles on just one dive and that virtually every type of tropical fish can be seen in the area. The proximity of the Gulf Stream provides an important nutrient source to sea life. This means that visibility can sometimes be reduces due to the abundance of nutrients, but it also means there are plenty of things to see.

Ochs not only offers diving in the Palm Beach area. He offers personalized diving tutelage and guidance wherever you may be vacationing in the world. “People hire us to go on vacations with them,” he said, almost incredulous that this is in fact his job.

Some of Ochs favorite dive spots are in The Cayman Islands, Cozumel, Bonaire, Saba, and the British and U.S. Vigin Isands. Ochs offers his expertise to those who have been diving for years, and the complete novice.

He will often meet his customers wherever they live to do their pool training with them and then will meet them at the charter boat or destination that they have chosen to do their scuba trip. The great thing with going to the client is that they often get to see dive spots that few people get to experience.

“It’s not just the uber wealthy,” said Ochs about the clients that hire him. It’s a wide array of clients who just really enjoy the concierge style of service. According to Ochs, Aqua Safari Adventures has a “very loyal” customer base who keep hiring him and his crew to come assist on dives.

Currently, Ochs has a total of four scuba instructors and guides. He ensures that all of them are fully capable to handle any situation that might arise. “I have to trust them with my loved ones,” he said. That is the rule. And, “you have to be a fun person,” as well, because, after all, you are on vacation with these people and it has to be fun.

Ochs not only ensures that his employees are fully capable of taking care of people both above and below the water, he also trains them to go on to on to start their own business. He said that two out of every three instructors goes on to start their own business. “That was fundamental to my business model,” he said.

Ochs felt that by motivating his employees to start their own companies, they would be more motivated to do the best job that they possibly could do for him. And this part of his model hasn’t hurt his business. “We just continue to grow at an impressive rate,” he added.

For more information on Ochs and his team go to www.aquasafari.net.

Why Your Next Flight Should be to Croatia

The town of Dubrovnik.

Croatia is a country not to be missed. The clear, turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea are comparable to anything you would experience along the Côte d’Azur of France. The generous, proud people throughout the country are inspiring, especially since many of them were witnesses to a war that wreaked havoc to their economy and country not that long ago. Then there is the food. Oh the food. A delicious mix of fresh produce, olive oil, seafood and pasta. What’s not to like?

In recent years, the country has seen an increase in tourism. In part, thanks to both Dubrovnik and Split playing an important backdrop to many scenes in the hit series “Game of Thrones.” Yet, it still remains somewhat unknown as a must-see destination, especially for North Americans. Perhaps it is the long flight(s) that puts people off, but that is changing with more frequent and easier ways to get there. Especially now with direct flights from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik. So, even for Americans, there is really no excuse not to go.

A Little Bit About the History of Croatia

Geographically, Croatia has always been an important country ever since us humans decided trading and conquering lands was a thing. With its miles of coastline nestled between Italy, Turkey and Greece, what is now known as Croatia has always been important to those seeking access to trading routes and power in Europe and the Middle East.

Croatia’s history is long and filled with conquering forces. After Croatia was settled by ancient tribes the Greeks moved in, quickly realizing the area’s geographical importance for their expansion.

The Roman Empire spread to the area after that. Byzantine rule took over after, then the Ottoman Empire. Hungary and Austria laid claim to the region, then the Venetians. It later became part of Yugoslavia. The Croatian war for independence started in 1991 and ended in 1995.  In 2013, she became part of the European Union.

Cuisine

Needless to say, all this mixing of cultures created an incredible gastronomic experience. Delicious pasta and seafood dishes are found in most parts of Croatia, but especially along the coast.

Before describing just a few of the delicious Croatian dishes that I was lucky enough to try, let me talk about olive oil. Honestly, it is the best olive oil that I have ever tried. It is rich and hits you in the back of the throat. I would be quite happy finishing out my days just eating bread dipped Croatian olive oil, perhaps with some of their balsamic vinegar mixed in too from time to time.

Crni Rizot

One of the most famous Croatian dishes is a black risotto called Crni Rizot in Croatian. The risotto is colored by the squid ink that it is cooked in. It is rich and quite fishy, so you have to really like seafood to eat this one. Make sure not to smile too much after eating this dish unless you brush your teeth!

Soparnik, a typical Croatian flatbread.

Soparnik is a typical Croatian flatbread that is filled with Swiss chard or onions and topped with chopped garlic and olive oil. It is absolutely delicious. What I said earlier about just eating bread and olive oil? Well, I think I would be pretty happy just eating Soparnik for the rest of my life.

Typical Croatian cuisine.

Due to it’s geographical proximity to Italy, a lot of the desserts are similar to what we think are typical Italian ones, like cannolis, cured fruits and custard dishes.

Arancini, otherwise know as sugared orange or lemon peel, is very popular dessert and/or a pick-me-up snack.

For dessert,  try rozata,  a dessert native to the Dubrovnik area, which is similar to a custard or flan.

Geography

Croatia’s geography is diverse. Near the Bosnian and Herzegovina border, some of the mountains in the Dinaric Alps reach elevations of up to 6,000 feet (over 1800 metres). The flat lands of Slavonia are where the Danube, Drava, Kupa and Sava rivers cross the country. The coastline offers thousands of islands and inlets, perfect for cruising in and out of. Many parts of the shoreline rise dramatically from the vivid blue waters, where thousands of stone walls criss cross the landscape. It is incredible to look at those walls and think that they have been there for hundreds, and perhaps some cases, thousands of years.

Biodiversity

Zaton, near Dubrovnik.

Croatia has a wealth of flora and fauna, with new species discovered in recent years. The climate along the coast is mild and usually with plenty of sunshine. Unfortunately, when I was there, there was unusually high rainfall that lasted several days, but even in the rain, it was still beautiful. The waters along the coast offer tons of scuba and snorkeling spots. There are also many forests inland and thousands of caves to explore. In the winter, there are mountain ranges to ski, although from what I heard, many Croatians prefer to travel to Bosnia or Switzerland for ski trips.

The ancient wall surrounding Dubrovnik’s old city.

Economy

Croatia’s economy is considered a “high income economy” by the United Nations, although it is a relatively cheap country to visit for westerners. Tourism is an important sector of the economy, and has been since the end of the war in 1995. In recent years with the added fame of the Game of Thrones Series being filmed in Dubrovnik.

Tourism

Marine tourism, meaning boat charters and cruises, are especially popular. There are many beautiful islands to explore including Hvar, Vis and Bisevo, which has a famous, partially underwater cave that glows blue known as the blue grotto.

Hvar is an island that provides a little bit of everything. There are beautiful beaches, a vibrant nightlife, vineyards, olives and a history dating back to the ancient Greeks.

The town of Hvar is a popular holiday destination and offers great nightlife, beach clubs and shops. Stari Grad, on the other side of the island, offers a more historical experience as it is one of the oldest towns in Europe. Founded by the ancient Greeks in 384 BC, the town is located in at the head of a very protected bay. There are numerous restaurants to choose and a stroll around the harbor is an absolute must.

The town of Starigrad on the island of Hvar.

Korčula is the sixth largest island in Croatia and, it is alleged that the famous explorer, Marco Polo, was born on this island.

Its town is known as “Little Dubrovnik” because of its medieval buildings. A walk up a very narrow staircase in the city’s church will provide you with breathtaking views of the city surrounds and the channel between the island and the mainland.

Looking out from the bell tower of the old town of Korçula’s main church.

There are numerous restaurants and bars, especially along the waterfront.

Currency

The Croatian Kuna is the official Croatian currency. Although Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, there hasn’t been much movement toward switching to euros. There are .15USD to 1 Croatian Kunas and .13Euros to 1 Kuna.

Vivid blues and greens are typical of the waters along the Dalmatian coast.

Needless to say Croatia is a pretty cool place to visit with incredible places to visit, meals to eat and history to learn. Make the journey.

 

The Beach Capital of the Caribbean

Where do you suppose the beach capital of the Caribbean is? This is the most perfect Caribbean Island with the some of the best beaches in the world….The Beach Capital of the Caribbean

Beach at Cap Juluca. Island of Anguilla.

Anguilla Island

Contact CKIM Group Inc at 321-777-1707