Monday, March 31, 2014

Discovering Art In Tobago

Snorkeling, fishing and diving are some of the favored activities in Tobago. But I went for the art. Yes, you heard me correctly. High above ever popular Mt. Irvine Beach, The Castle, as it's known, aka the Kimme Sculpture Museum, is a treasure trove of works by German-born Luise Kimme, a highly prolific and abundantly passionate sculptor and painter who died last year at the age of 74.

I prowled the galleries and nooks and crannies of the multi-story whitewashed mansion that served as her house, atelier and museum, admiring the multitude of her creations. The life-size or larger pieces carved from masses oak, cedar, mahogany and other trees -- in her 70s, she was still able to heft a chain saw -- embody so much of energy that if you stare long enough at any of 'em, you might believe they could actually become animated.

Kimme took inspiration from Tobagonian culture as well as that of Cuba -- a country she frequently visited -- and Africa, portraying Cuban musicians, Harlem Renaissance dancers as well as pieces reflecting native African religious (Orisha) art. Working in a multitude of media, including charcoal, oils, watercolors, and even embroidery, she was particularly inspired by folk themes as well as mythology.

The house is itself a work of art with cobalt blue bird sculptures perched on the roof, a mermaid lounging beside the pool, murals on the front facade, and fretwork all about. Curiously, I spent an hour on the property and didn't run into another visitor until I was about to leave. And I was told that locals rarely, if ever, visit the museum.

continue reading "Discovering Art In Tobago"

Sunday, March 30, 2014

It's All About Nature in the Dominican Republic

Floating in a calm waters, the color of a turquoise gem stone, waters that are huddled by a jungle of foliage, it's easy to forget that you are just minutes from your air-conditioned hotel room. The Reserva Ecologica Ojos Indigenas (Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve) is the only private forest reserve in Punta Cana and it sits smack on the property of the Puntacana Resort and Club in the Dominican Republic. Tasked with protecting the area's natural resources, the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation seeks to conserve the region's biodiversity by preserving this park.

Hundreds of different plants, including mahogany, mesquite, red mangrove as well as feather, coconut and sabal palms make up the dense foliage of this reserve that's home to numerous bird species found only in the Dominican Republic.While you're enjoying the refreshing pools, you'll spot tilapia and other freshwater fish as well as mud turtles.

On the 1,200 protected acres, 12 fresh-water lagoons are fed from the underground Yauya River that flows into the sea. Most of the lagoons bear names, such as Inriri, Corcote, Buren and Guacara that reflect words from the Tainos Indians, the island's first inhabitants who were wiped out because of European colonization. (The Tainos would refer to these pools as ojos or eyes because of their shape.) Each lagoon has a different depth and color but only three of the dozen lagoons are regularly open for swimming plus one additional that rotates. Yauya is shallow, a mere three-feet deep, with a wide wooden deck where benches are inset. At Casinbajagua, you can leave your gear on two wooden planks and climb down a ladder into the cool lagoon.

As I walked a shaded ribbon of a path lined with limestone rocks that links the lagoons, I heard shouts of glee in the distance. These were coming from Guama, a lagoon that you can dive into. Here I found a family from Germany with their three teenagers. The teens were diving in over and over again while the parents took the more tame route by climbing down into the water.

It's easy to spend hours in this reserve, bird watching, lounging, swimming, exploring the plant life. And, when you decide you've had your fill of the sub-tropical paradise, you can head back to the trail head, and wait for the shuttle bus to take you back to your air conditioned room. And, if you can't get enough of this little Eden, you can always return tomorrow.

continue reading "It's All About Nature in the Dominican Republic"

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Protecting The Peruvian Amazon

The only thing coming between the mahogany and cedar trees and other bountiful natural resources in the Amazon and the devious poachers who are anxious to pillage them is a man in a boat. Well, actually a few men, each in a canoe.

The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon is a wealth of plant and animal species. And, a small cadre of rangers in canoes is tasked with protecting this more than five million-acre expanse bordered by the MaraƱon River and the Puinahua Channel that branches off the Ucayali River.

Some of the creatures are quite unusual, including the 100-some-pound capybara, the world's largest rodent, the walking catfish that can breath air for up to 24 hours, are quite unusual, and the pink dolphins which are believed to bear this hue because of blood vessels that are close to the surface of the skin.

Find out more about the treasures these rangers are protecting in the article I just wrote for National Geographic Travel Intelligent Travel.

continue reading "Protecting The Peruvian Amazon"

Friday, March 14, 2014

Safety and Security During Spring Break

I was born a geek. When I was 14, I was reading the American Journal of Cardiology and teaching myself how to read ECGs. Yes, geek, for sure. So, when I went on spring break, I was my usual overly cautious self, to the dismay of my peers who, of course, threw caution to the wind.

We're now in the spring break season which often means accidents, injuries, illnesses and overall risky behavior. There's the binge drinking, all night partying, sizzling on the sand sans sunscreen, chowing down on fatty foods, forgoing condoms, operating motor vehicles in a less than optimal mental state. The list goes on.

I could give you a list of all the do's and don'ts to assure that you come back in one piece. But instead I'll simply suggest bringing two simple, inexpensive products with you. One I produce and another is an app that I highly recommend.

LifeLine Response is a personal security app that I reviewed on my blog. This is a must for anyone traveling in North America. You never know when you'll find yourself in a dangerous situation, such as on the beach at night, outside a club, on campus, or in a hotel.

Then there's my travel first-aid kit organizer, Doc-in-a-Bag, that provides the most complete list of everything you need to pack to keep you healthy during spring break. It tells you exactly what sunscreen gives you the most protection, what items every woman should carry, and what prescription meds you should ask your doctor to give you before you leave on your trip.

Here's what some people are saying about Doc-in-a-Bag:

Dominick Gervasi of Made in Brooklyn Tours:

"I've been to many countries myself and with each trip, carry less and less. It's paramount to be prepared with the essentials. Doc-in-a-Bag is a fun, practical and nifty way to organize what's important. The series of durable zip-lock clear pouches are labeled with images that obviously reflect what's inside. I plan to use this organizing tool for my trip to Colombia. No doubt, Doc-in-a-Bag will give me some good orderly direction."

You can read a longer review from Dom here:

Jeff Titelius of EuroTravelogue:

"What a convenient solution to a problem we all suffer through when traveling. How do we keep all the meds, vitamins, bandaids, etc. organized? These little packs are fun way to maintain order with all those countless little bottles that always seem to end up where they shouldn't be in our travel bags. Thank you Doc In A Bag!!"

Meryl Perlstein of MDP Publicity. Here she review my kit for her site, Travel and Food Notes

"As I pack for my next out-of-the-country trip, I find myself spending considerable time trying to anticipate every medical item I would need should I be stuck on a desert island with no access to doctors, food, or a phone. I just discovered something that can help make your travels easier..."

Read the rest of Meryl's review here:

Vera Marie Badertscher of A Traveler's Library selected Doc-in-a-Bag as one of her 10 perfect gifts for travelers. Find out what she said about it here:
continue reading "Safety and Security During Spring Break"