Behan Gifford

Top Ten Snorkeling Spots- Part 3

5 Jul

Maybe we should subtitle the blog “a family snorkelizing around the world.” We love getting underwater, and  it shows! Our favorite five are epic; the next five are pretty spectacular too. Yet it was so hard to just share ten favorites, I can’t resist sharing the other places that loom large in our memory. They didn’t rate top ten, but they were each incredible, and worth seeking out if you’re cruising in these regions or planning a trip.

Enjoying the view
Morning hike in Agua Verde; Roca Solitaria visible in the distance


Instead of attempting any kind of priority order- which really is ...

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Welcome to Malaysia!

3 Jul

Sailing into the beautiful islands in the bay off Kuching, we talk about what seems new and different in Malaysia compared to Indonesia. It’s impossible to resist making comparisons like this when we arrive in a new country. The transition from Papua New Guinea to Indonesia was particularly stark. The shift as we travel Indonesia to Malaysia is more subtle, but still markedly different considering we’ve only just moved a little way around the same big island.

The immediately obvious observation is how much cleaner the water is. There’s hardly any plastic floating around. It’s shifted back to a pretty ...

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You know you’re in a rolly anchorage when…

1 Jul

We dropped the hook in a roadstead anchorage, somewhere along the coast of Sarawak. This part of Borneo has been littered with oil rigs and little fishing boats, so we take coastal day hops instead direct passages to work northward.

Totem at sunset
They can’t all be this flat! Photo from Nalukai.

Hoping to pick up a decent signal from a cell tower on shore, I sat up in the cockpit with the iPad in my lap for a skim of email- when the screen started to auto-rotate, flipping back and forth, thanks to our increased roll as Totem moved and the swell ...

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Top Ten Snorkeling Spots- Part 2

26 Jun

What are the top ten snorkeling spots we’ve visited? The last post covered our top five all time favorites; this is the next in line. They are also amazing underwater experiences, but didn’t hit on quite as many dimensions. Still, each one is a spectacular and unique destination that provided extremely memorable snorkeling. They’re all places we feel privileged to have visited.

playing in the shallows
Stunning clear water in Fiji

6. Northern Raja Ampat, West Papua Province, Indonesia
Raja Ampat covers a large area, and while we counted the southern portion among our top five, the northern islands we visited were spectacular as ...

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Top Ten Snorkeling Spots

24 Jun

What are the top ten snorkeling spots we’ve visited? Sitting in the cockpit as we left our anchorage at sunrise this morning, Jamie and I talked through our favorites. Remembering each one is like talking about an old friend: recalling good times, personalities, and what occupied our lives at the time.

Totem on a resort mooring
The reefs off Misool in Raja Ampat are unforgettable

What makes a spot great is extremely subjective, of course. Some may prefer being surrounded by schools of colorful fish, some are all about the echinoderms, others geek out over pelagics or corals (I squeal over nudibranchs). In any given ...

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Our brothers of the sea: the Indonesian Navy

22 Jun

Navy phone pic
This is a story about a remarkable man, and an unforgettable experience we had as part of our clearance process from Indonesia. It is a reminder that human kindness is alive and well, and often waiting to surprise you from the most unexpected corners of your life. It is the point, and the counterpoint, to our last post about navigating clearance bureaucracy. It is the story our departure from Indonesia, wrapped in the embrace of kinship and friendship.

Totem arrived in Singkawang, West Kalimantan, to clear out of Indonesia. A short trip to the immigration office educated us that it ...

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Summer Sailstice: celebrating twice on Totem!

21 Jun

Happy solstice- now, go sailing!

This Saturday, June 22, is Summer Sailstice– a worldwide celebration of sailing held on the weekend closest to solstice each June. On Totem, we observe solstice and are passionate about sailing, so what serendipity to bring them together as we return from our 3 year foray to the southern hemisphere!

The event was started in 2001 by John Arndt in the SF Bay Area. John is passionate about sailing, and just wanted to share his passion with others while bringing the diverse factions of sailing together. Ultimately, Summer Sailstice is all about getting out ...

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Demystifying international clearance for cruisers

20 Jun

I have a new appreciation for how easily most international travelers are able to pass the gauntlets to enter a foreign country. A little form on the plane, a stamp in your passport, and you’re off to your hotel. Sometimes we are lucky to have a very simple clearance (record: 13 minutes, Cook Islands)… and sometimes, we’re not (record: 3 days, Indonesia).

This is the next installment as I tick (slowly, yes) through questions that came in response to my query post, What do you want to know about? from a few weeks ago. Cidnie asked first, but it turns ...

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Unexpected Kumai: a sweet side of Kalimantan

18 Jun

To our surprise, Kumai was delightful. Yes, it is a funny, dusty frontier town with absolutely nothing to recommend it aesthetically, but it was incredibly friendly. After our weeks in Bali, it was also really nice to be able to walk down the street without having 10 people try to sell us something. Here, nobody tried to sell us anything at all! It was something of a study in contradictions, with the massive shipping traffic and relatively modern vessels and structures next to very traditional boats like this one (he’s waving, of course).
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Before we went up the river, we ...

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Up the river in Borneo, part 2: the drama

15 Jun
DSC_4865
A reminder that we’re related

We knew our trip up the river from Kumai would be a privileged experience, to see wild, exotic and endangered animals- the Borneo orangutan in particular. What we didn’t expect is how tangibly we’d find the evidence of threats against these creatures and their habitat.

What’s happening

Orangutans in the wild are now limited to Sumatra, and Borneo (an island shared by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei). Their habitat is rapidly being lost, primarily as a result of pressure from logging for timber, and to develop palm oil plantations. In addition to the obvious habitat destruction, ...

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