Saturday, November 30, 2013

Andros to Miami

This morning we flew from Andros Island to Nassau and then to Miami. One of the longest segments was the hike from the arrival gate to the baggage pickup to the rental car center.

The only minor annoyance was Budget Rent a Car giving us a Ford hybrid instead of the Prius that we booked. Their defense is that the fine print says they can substitute. Seems like misleading advertising when the choice on the web site says "Toyota Prius", shows a picture of a Prius, and the booking confirmation says Prius. I just re-read the booking confirmation and I don't see anything about substituting. It's not a big deal, but these kinds of moves piss me off. If they don't rent specific cars, then they shouldn't pretend they do.

Some from-the-airplane photos taken with the RX100m2. Of course, now that we're leaving the Bahamas the weather is improving!




downtown Miami
downtown Miami, hotel Urbano was at the bottom left near the causeway

a Miami marina
a Miami marina

Friday, November 29, 2013

Small Hope Bay

From Riding Rock on San Salvador island we went to Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros island for more diving. We got in one day of diving and then the weather turned bad - too windy for diving. We went for a walk in the morning, but otherwise just hung out and relaxed for a change :-) The next day was still windy but not as bad and we went out diving. Tuesday was still rainy but the wind has dropped so we dove again. It was pouring rain in between our two morning dives so we got a little chilled. On the positive side, that must have scared away the 13 other divers and Shelley and I were the only ones to go out for an afternoon dive. It was still raining a little but we didn't go far and with only one dive we could come back right after so it wasn't as bad. It was nice to have just the two of us plus the dive master (instead of the gong show of 15 divers). I didn't take my camera on all the dives but I got a few decent shots when I did.

It's too bad lionfish are a bad invasive species - they are definitely fancy fish!


four-eye butterflyfish

Four-eye butterflyfish are normally found in pairs like these two.

Thursday the wind was back and conditions were pretty rough. Six of us still went out for a single dive in the morning. Some of the waves were getting pretty big, maybe 10 feet, but once you're under water it's fine. Considering the rough water, the visibility was reasonably good. We saw a fair sized turtle. But the highlight of the dive was towards the end. I turned back to check on Shelley and there was a big black shape. It took me a few seconds to figure out what I was seeing. White spots, fins, huge size - OMG it's a whale shark! I frantically signaled Shelley and the dive master that was with us. By the time the dive master had made a noise to signal the rest of the group the whale shark had glided past and disappeared into the blue. Only the three of us saw it. It hardly seem to be moving its fins or tail, but it was still making a good speed. Whale sharks get up to 40 feet long - I'd guess this one was "only" 20 or 25 feet, but that's still a big thing to go cruising by! Whale sharks are not common here - apparently this is the only sighting for several years. (Note: whale sharks eat plankton - they aren't dangerous.)

We also wandered down the beach and in the mangroves, but there wasn't a lot to see - a couple of herons, some egrets in the distance, and a few turkey vultures overhead.



Unfortunately, the weather stayed rainy and windy for the rest of the week. We got in one more rough dive and that was it. It's still relatively warm (especially compared to Saskatchewan!) but hardly a hot sunny Caribbean experience. Luckily we still have one more week in the Florida keys - hopefully the weather will improve a little before we have to return to winter!

See the 31 photos in this set as a slideshow or overview

Sunday, November 24, 2013

San Salvador to Andros

To reduce my environmental impact, I joined the Infrequent Flyer Club and I've flown very little for the last three years - only a few short flights between Florida and the Bahamas. (Of course, car, bus, and train also have an impact, but less, and they have the potential to be sustainable, unlike flying.) The less I fly, the more I hate airports. Waiting in lines and "lounges", crappy food, security antics, and throughout being treated like you're in kindergarten. When we went through Nassau, we checked in and were told our next flight would board in an hour and a half. So we went and got a snack and coffee before going through security. We made the mistake of sitting near the check-in counter to eat it. The attendant came over and asked if we were lost. I said no. "So why didn't you go through security like I told you?" she said. When we said we had lots of time she just said "you should go through security like I said." In other words, do as you're told. I restrained myself from making a smart ass reply.

Nevertheless, I love the actual flying part. I love looking down at the earth from above, and seeing the clouds below.

I must admit the waiting in San Salvador couldn't be beat. We went over to the airport, checked in and dropped off our luggage, and then went back to the resort to wait till flight time.


It's very cool to look down on the islands of the Bahamas.


The colors of the water are amazing.


From Nassau to Andros it's a very short flight. (From where we're staying on Andros you can see the lights of Nassau across the water.) We're staying at Small Hope Bay Lodge where we stayed a couple of years ago. It's a nice spot on the beach with a small number of cabins among the palm trees. It's a family run place that's been here a long time. And it's even quite eco-friendly. I like that they charge extra to use the air conditioning since you don't need it this time of year, yet people would use it just out of habit.

See all 9 photos as a slideshow or overview

See also Shelley's recent posts: San Salvador and Riding Rock Resort and Dixon Hill Lighthouse

Saturday, November 23, 2013

San Salvador 3

That's it for diving in San Salvador. We fly out Saturday morning so Friday morning's two dives were our last. The weather is changing and there's a bit more swell and the visibility is not quite as good, but still great diving. On our last dive we spotted a small sea turtle at the beginning of the dive. We got quite close and I took some photos and then we continued on our dive. Partway through the dive we saw it again. And then on the way back to the boat we saw it a third time. Most other times when we've seen turtles they take off once they see us. But here they don't seem too worried about people. This one did seem a little nervous about the sharks, especially the bigger ones. It would head for the bottom and keep a low profile when they went by. I don't think sharks normally hunt turtles but they could.


rock beauty

We had Friday afternoon free since we weren't diving, so we rented a car and drove around the island (55km). The main point of interest is the lighthouse at the north end of the island. There are lots of nice beaches but not a lot else. The population of the island is about 1200. San Salvador's main claim to fame is that it's where Columbus first landed in the Americas in 1492. (The island is one of the East-most of the Bahamas.)


Shelley and Andrew, sunset at Long Beach


From here we head over to Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros island, closer to Nassau and the mainland.

See all 34 photos as a slideshow or overview

See all Shelley's San Salvador Sunsets post

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

San Salvador 2

The diving has been great so far. Lots of fish, reef sharks, coral, sponges, lobsters, and more. We've been lucky to get great, calm weather. A few days before we arrived it was too windy to dive. The temperature is warm but not insufferably hot. Shelley's dive gear showed up the next day so she only had to use rental gear for one morning. My only complaint is that the bugs are eating me alive and I look like I have the measles. Unfortunately I seem to have got much more sensitive to insect bites in the last few years. Oh well, a small price to pay.

reef shark

friendly grouper

Shelley and a Nassau grouper

queen angelfish

southern stingray


View all 58 photos as a slideshow or overview

Sunday, November 17, 2013

San Salvador 1

Our flights from Miami to Nassau to San Salvador went smoothly, other than Shelley's bag containing all her diving gear got bumped from our flight because the plane was too full.

We're staying at Riding Rock - a small dive oriented place. We lucked out and there are only two other guests this week. If we'd come last week there were 37 people here! Diving with a small group is a lot more pleasant.

The weather is pleasantly warm but not too hot. Riding Rock is simple but nice. And they have the essential wifi :-)


We're facing west so we get the sunsets.



I have a new underwater photography setup - a housing for the RX100 and a strobe (flash). The RX100 almost has too many settings for underwater. On the first dive I pressed the wrong button and ended up taking three duplicates of every shot. By the second and third dives I was getting a little better at it. I always hate spending too much time fiddling with the camera when I could be looking at everything, but I also love getting good photos.

reef sharks

flamingo tongue

blue tang

See all 22 photos as a slideshow or as thumbnails

Saturday, November 16, 2013


We spent two nights in Miami, partly to have a cushion in case we missed a train connection. We've never stayed in Miami before so we picked a hotel by location (close to the aquarium), size (small), and character (art theme). When we arrived at Hotel Urbano a painting class had taken over the restaurant. The hotel isn't really near anything, but it's a nice small hotel - we liked it.

We knew in advance that the Miami Seaquarium was more of a "theme park" but we still figured we'd check it out. We had a bit of a struggle figuring out how to catch the bus, but eventually managed it.

Not for the first time, I had fun taking photos of some of the birds and lizards that were unofficial residents. There were herons, ibis, and egrets hanging around scrounging.

egret stealing dolphin's food



green heron

See all 15 photos as a slideshow or overview

See also Shelley's blog post

Friday, November 15, 2013

Glimpses of Savannah

Between the train and the rain I haven't taken many photographs yet on this trip. So it was good to wander around Savannah and take a few. Our train was 3 1/2 hours late getting in but we weren't on a schedule so it was no big deal.

I like the historic part of Savannah with its many squares, old buildings and houses, and trees with their spanish moss. We arrived along with colder weather but it was still a lot better than up north and there were even a few flowers hanging on. My big camera was still packed so these were taken with the RX100.



We like to think of ourselves as expert travellers but we still mess up on occasion. We had been busy organizing what to do during our extra day in Savannah and had booked a rental car so we could explore the area. Then when we checked into the hotel they only had us booked for one night. I was in the middle of arranging a second night when we realized that our train was booked for the next day. So we cancelled the second night at the hotel and the rental car. And went back and checked the rest of our bookings. We're not sure how we both ended up thinking we had an extra day. At least we caught it before we missed a connection!


We stayed at The Planters Inn again, had lunch at Goose Feathers, coffee at Gallery Espresso, and supper at The Saphire Grill - all good choices if you find yourself in Savannah.

Next stop, Miami and then San Salvador island in the Bahamas for scuba diving.

See all 12 photos as a slideshow or overview

Sunday, November 10, 2013


We stopped for a couple of nights in Montreal to break up our journey, staying again at Auberge du Vieux Port. We went to the Biodome in the morning and then to Notre Dame in the afternoon. It was raining off and on so we didn't wander around as much as we might have, but it's still nice to be in the old port. Tomorrow we continue our journey, heading south on Amtrak to Schenectady, NY.

Montreal Biodome

Notre Dame, Montreal

View all 14 photos as slideshow or overview

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Toronto old & new

On our way to Montreal we had a brief stopover to change trains in Toronto. Walking back to the station from a nearby Starbucks, I was struck by the contrast between this old stone church amongst all the gleaming glass skyscrapers.

Toronto old & new

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Another Winter Morning

More iPhone photos from walking to work. It felt bitterly cold this morning.  -15c will feel balmy after -30c, but after the summer is another story. Once more I was freezing the hand holding the iPhone, which made me a little nervous because it would be easy to drop it with numb fingers. As usual, it does a pretty good job for a phone.



frost covered larch

frosty autumn leaf

I've seen the rabbits around and they are turning color to match the snow. But they haven't been sitting still long enough to be photographed.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Winter Wonderland

We're heading to the Bahamas in a few days to scuba dive and I was hoping we'd escape before the snow arrived. No such luck! All the trees and bushes were stacked with snow and I was the first one down the path along the river since the snow so I had to take a few photos. My iPhone was closer to the top of my pack than my camera so I figured I'd use it for a change.




No more lunch by the pond for a while!




Saturday, November 02, 2013