New Zealand Bucket List

New Zealand is at the top of my list of places to go.  I don't know about you but I just love visiting islands.  If you are like me, you have been dreaming about what to do when you visit New Zealand.  So I compiled a list of what would be my top 10 activities.

(Courtesy of Conde Nast)

  1. Hike a glacier.  You can hike Franz Josef and Fox Glacier on the west coast of the South Island.  You won't be disappointed exploring ice caves and crevasses.  There is also Tasman Glacier, in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, that is available for hiking; this is New Zealand's longest glacier.  Whichever you choose to hike, you won't be disappointed.
  2. Visit any of the geothermal parks between Rotorua and Taupo.  These geothermal parks, located on the North Island, have multi-colored pools, bubbling mud, and geysers.  They are truly a sight to behold.
  3. Learn about the Maori culture by attending a traditional Hangi dinner.  These are most prevalent in Rotorua.
  4. Go bungee jumping.  This is only fitting, after all bungee jumping was invented in New Zealand.
  5. Go on a hike.  This is the best way to experience New Zealand's breathtaking scenery.
  6. Explore Milford Sound.  Many people describe this as the most beautiful place in New Zealand.  Ways to see Milford Sound include kayaking, taking a cruise, hiking, scuba diving, or taking a scenic flight.
  7. See a Kiwi.  The best chance to see these is in one of the many conservation Kiwi houses around New Zealand; but if you happen to see one of these elusive nocturnal creatures in the wild, count yourself lucky.
  8. Visit The Hobbit site in Matamata.
  9. Gaze at the stars in a dark sky reserve.  Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve on the South Island is well known for its star-gazing opportunities because the southern hemisphere stars are most vivid.  (And did you know that the South Island is where you can see Aurora Australis--commonly referred to as the Southern Lights.  Aurora Australis is best seen at midnight on a clear night between March and September.)
  10. Enjoy coastal activities.  These include surfing, paddleboarding, snorkeling, scuba diving, and sunbathing on the beach.  Just remember, summer in the northern hemisphere is their winter.

If you see the Aurora Australis, or anything else exciting, while visiting New Zealand--drop a comment and let me know.

Top Ten Things to do in Belize

If you're like me Belize is a place you have dreamed of going to for a while.  The ocean, the beaches, the warm weather...it all sounds so nice.  So what should you do while you are there?  Read on to find out what is on my bucket list.

(Courtesy of Lonely Planet)

  1. Visit any one of the numerous ruins.  There are several to choose from, so you can take your pick.  Caracol is part of the Mayan Ruins with none of the crowds like Tikal, in bordering Guatemala.  You can climb the highest pyramid of Caracol and see far into the distance, even seeing into Guatemala.  Lamanai are other ruins that are more off the beaten path but worth seeing.  You can also explore Altun Ha, Xunantunich, or Cahal Pech.
  2. Enjoy seeing marine life.  You can snorkel or sail with sharks and rays, snorkel with manatees at Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary--just remember no touching, or swim with turtles.
  3. Catch a nice sunset.  This is actually harder than it sounds with the coast on the east side--but if you head to Caye Caulker you will see an amazing sunset.  A prime sunset spot can be found in under 5 minutes here, vs Ambergris Caye.
  4. Speaking of Caye Caulker, spend a day here at the Split.  There is a makeshift beach where the water is deeper and more blue than usual.  The Split is perfect for swimming and diving.
  5. Go caving in Actun Tunichil Muknal, voted #1 by National Geographic multiple times.
  6. Take a helicopter tour over the Blue Hole.  This allows for a better view of this iconic landmark than diving into it from a boat.
  7. If you are scuba certified go scuba diving in any one of the many reefs.  Please use reef-safe sunscreen and I highly recommend a travel insurance plan that covers scuba diving accidents.  World Nomads' Explorer Plan is an excellent addition to a top tier Allianz Plan.
  8. Catch an amazing sunrise at Ambergris Caye.
  9. Spend time at the semi-secluded Ranguana.  Here you can snorkel, kayak, paddleboard, or sunbathe on one of the most pristine beaches in Belize.
  10. Head to Cockscomb Basin to see the wildlife.  Here you can see jaguarundi, ocelot, or if you're lucky a jaguar.

If you make it on a helicopter tour over the Blue Hotel leave a comment and let me know!

British Virgin Islands vs US Virgin Islands

(Courtesy of Lonely Planet)

You want to visit the Virgin Islands but you aren't sure where to go between BVI and USVI.  How do you decide.  Read about the differences to help you decide/

First, if you are an American citizen, visiting USVI is easier; likely the same goes for British citizens traveling to BVI.  And the two differ in characteristics in relation to travelers.

USVI islands, except for St. John, offer more commercial benefits.  But with that comes more hustle-and-bustle.  BVI islands are relatively more calm. There are far fewer deluxe hotels on BVI islands, most of those being on Virgin Gorda.  For USVI islands, only St. John matches the tranquility of BVI where it protected by the US Forest Service.  You could always travel between the islands to experience all their vibes.

If you are wanting to travel between islands, just know that there are only frequent ferry connections between St. Thomas and St. John.  To visit other islands a private boat or an airplane flight are often required for now.  So if you plan on traveling between islands, don't plan on a ferry.

Top Five Things to do on Christmas Island

Christmas Island is a beautiful island.  This single island is an Australian territory, located in the Indian Ocean.  Nearly 2/3 of the island is a national park.  The island is made up of diverse mix of cultures.  Malaysian Chinese, Mainland European Australians, and Malay Australians make up most of the residents of the island.  So the island is often referred to as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean.  Wet season, for the island's tropical equatorial climate, is between December and April; the island is in the path of northwest monsoons.  The island has a unique population of wildlife due to the island's isolation and climate.  The official language of the island is English but you will often hear other languages.

  • Watch the annual red crab migration.  The migration occurs between October and December.  Adult red crabs migrate from the forest to the coast to breed.  The eggs are released at the turn of the high tide and hatch as soon as they hit the water.  After a month in the sea, the young crabs make the dangerous trek back to the forest to spend the first three years of their lives.

(Courtesy of Christmas Island Tourism)

  • Enjoy the amazing scuba diving.  Christmas Island has some of the world's largest drop-offs.  The island is surrounded by narrow tropical reef that is home to beautiful types of hard and soft coral.  Butterfly fish, eels, and so many other types of fish can be seen.  The northern coast has the best unspoiled corals in the world, as well as docile whale sharks that visit between November and April.
  • The island is a year round nesting ground for green and hawksbill turtles, especially Dolly and Greta beaches.
  • Christmas Island is known for bird watching.  80,000 sea birds, of 23 different species, visit annually.  The birds are very unique and very approachable.  Bird 'n' Nature Week is also a great time to attend workshops and take part in seminars that discuss current research.
  • Celebrate any of the numerous holidays that are celebrated on the island.  Australia Day, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Haji, and Month of the Hungry Ghost are just some of the holidays celebrated on the island.  During some of these holidays authentic Thai, Chinese, Malay, or modern Australian food is enjoyed.