Africa

2017 – A Review of Our Year of Travel

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A view of the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.  It is one of the most amazing places we have ever been.

2017 was an incredible year of travel for us.  We got to see some amazing places that we have always dreamed of seeing.  We have been incredibly blessed and fortunate to have been able to travel to and see so many amazing places.  For that, we are thankful.

Travel can teach you so much about the world, but also about yourself.  We feel like we have learned a lot about both this past year, and we want to share our experiences with you.  So please, enjoy our travel highlights and let us know about where you traveled this past year.

Tanzania and Rwanda

We started off the year with a bang by visiting Tanzania and Rwanda.  In Tanzania, we got to go on safari in the Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manya National Park, and Tarangire National Park.  Being able to see so many amazing animals in their natural habitat was so fulfilling.  We got to see and record some spectacular animal behavior that we have started to share with you.

Tanzania

If you haven’t already, check out some of our videos and stories on our adventures on safari in Tanzania.  We should have many more to come in the following weeks and months.

Rhino-1733 Rhino Chasing Hyenas in Ngorongoro Crater
Serengeti-1733 Camping in the Serengeti National Park
Serengeti-18 Getting Stuck in the Serengeti

In addition to going on Safari, we got to see so many other amazing things in Tanzania.  We got to go swimming in the beautiful Kikuletwa Hotsprings, which seemed like it was right out of a movie it was so gorgeous.  We also got to interact with the people of Tanzania a great deal.  We loved going to the markets and the grocery store and just interacting with other people.

We saw a live polo match at the Nduruma Polo and Country Club, toured a coffee plantation just outside of Arusha, visited a number of different schools to meet with and read to school children, toured a Masaai village near the Ngorongoro Crater, and shopped at the market in Zanzibar.  We have included some photos of the just some of the highlights of our time in Tanzania below.

Rwanda

There are few things more gratifying and rewarding than seeing mountain gorillas in their native habitat.  It’s not easy to trek up the mountains and into the forest to find them, but once you do you never want to leave.  There are only around 7 groups of mountain gorillas left in Rwanda, so they need our help more than ever.

They are such majestic, yet gentle creatures, who have strong family bonds.  If you haven’t done so already, please check out our video of two junvenille mountain gorillas wrestling.

Rwanda-1733 Mountain Gorillas Wrestling in Rwanda

We were so fortunate to have been setup with such a good tour company and guides.  It is clear that Rwanda has grown to treasure the gorillas and eco-tourism has become such a big part of the local economy.  We felt welcomed from the moment we arrived and we are grateful for the warm hospitality we received.

Golf at Bandon Dunes Golf Course in Oregon

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Last year also included a trip to one of our favorite golf courses in the United States.  In the Spring of 2017 we took a trip to Oregon to play at Bandon Dunes in Oregon, and it did not disappoint.  It is one of the most scenic and challenging courses in the country, and is very reasonably priced for a course of its caliber.

While we were in Oregon, we also had an opportunity to drive down the coast and enjoy the breathtaking views.  If you haven’t had a chance to do this in your life, you really should put it on your bucket list.  Some of the most beautiful coastline we have seen in this country is on the Oregon coast.

Keep an eye out for our upcoming review of Bandon Dunes as a great golf getaway!

La Jolla, California

One of our more memorable trips of the year was to La Jolla, California to learn about marine mammal rescue. It was a very rewarding experience, and something we plan on getting more involved with moving forward. If you haven’t noticed already, we really love wildlife, and we love getting involved with wildlife conservation.

If you haven’t done so already, check out our video of a baby seal looking for its mother. Baby seals are left alone on the beach for hours a day as their mothers hunt fish in the ocean. This video is both adorable, and heartbreaking. Even though this particular baby seal found its mother, some mothers don’t come back. That is why the work that Seaworld Rescue and other wildlife rescue organizations do is so important. We hope to have more great stories and videos like this for you in the future.

Seal-1733 Baby Harbor Seal Searches for Its Mother

Sonoma Wine Country and San Francisco

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Sonoma Valley was beautiful and the wine was fantastic.

In the fall, we decided to venture back to California to visit the Sonoma Valley and San Francisco. We spent our time in Sonoma Valley touring vineyards and Breweries, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Sonoma Valley is absolutely gorgeous and the wine from the region is excellent. We hoped to take a hot air balloon ride over the valley, but unfortunately the weather (the fog specifically) did not cooperate.

We also spent some time touring San Francisco. It’s a city that we have been to many times before, but we still managed to see some things for the first time. One of our favorite places we visited that we hadn’t been to before was the Muir Woods. We’ve been to Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California, but the Redwood trees in Muir Woods seemed even larger than the ones we saw at Redwood. They were awe-inspiring. And the most amazing part about this is that the Muir Woods sits just north of San Francisco. Overall, it was a memorable trip and we hope to go back in the near future.

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The redwood trees in the Muir Woods were awe-inspiring.

National Parks Trip in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona

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Big Bend National Park in Texas.  The diversity in landscape within the park was amazing.

Our final trip of the year was a national parks trip that we had been planning for quite some time. We travelled to Texas to visit Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. Big Bend National Park was everything that we heard it would be, plus more. The diversity in landscape within the park is remarkable. From mountains, to canyons, to forest, to desert landscape, Big Bend National Park has it all. It was especially neat to see the Rio Grande River, which forms the border between the United States and Mexico. It was a pretty neat experience.

Our visit to Guadalupe Mountains National Park wasn’t as long as we hoped it would be because of time, but we still enjoyed visiting the park and seeing the beautiful Guadalupe Mountain range. If we had more time, we would have liked to have done more hiking. Much of the park is only accessible by hiking, so it really is a park you need to schedule at least a full day at. Our goal is to return and do the Guadalupe Peak summit hike. It definitely deserves its place on our list of best hikes in the national parks system.

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park was beautiful, but you really need to spend more time there.  Most of the park is only accessible by hiking.

After touring the parks in Texas, we headed north to New Mexico to visit White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. White Sands has quickly become one of our favorite pieces of public land in the United States. It is breathtakingly beautiful. The pure white sand dunes are stunning, especially in the early morning or evening light. We spent an entire evening taking pictures at White Sands and we got some amazing pictures. If you like photography, White Sands should be high on your list of places to visit. If you haven’t done so already, please check out our traveler’s guide to White Sands National Park linked below.

WhiteSands-1733 White Sands National Monument Travel Guide

Carlsbad Caverns National Park was really fascinating. It is one of the largest cave systems in the world, and features over 100 caves in the cave complex. There are two different ways you can get down into the caverns. The natural entrance, which is the same entrance used by the bats that inhabit the caves, requires a walk thru the cave complex to get to the main cavern. Using this entrance allows you to see much more of the cave, and takes you past a large sheet of ice, named the iceberg, within the cave.

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park was incredible.  It is one of the largest cave systems in the world.

For those less adventurous, there is also an elevator that will take you straight down 750 feet into the main cavern of the cave. Be aware that the elevator can only fit so many people, and if you visit during a busy time, you could wait a while to get down and again to get back up. We would recommend using the natural entrance to enter the cave, and then return to the surface using the elevator, as it will allow you to see more of the caverns in the most efficient way.

Our last stop on the trip was to Saguaro National Park in Arizona. Located on both the east and west sides of Tucson, Saguaro National Park is an iconic park that gets its name from the majestic Saguaro cactus that are found in abundance within the park. We really enjoyed our visit to Saguaro. The Saguaro cactus, which can grow up to 40 feet tall, were amazing to see in person. It’s hard to truly understand just how big these cactus are until you stand next to one. We got some really nice desert landscape shots with the Saguaros.

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We really enjoyed our visit to Saguaro National Park.  It is amazing to see how big the Saguaro cactus can get.

2017 was an amazing travel year for us, and we hope 2018 will best just as good. Look out for an article in the coming days on our travel plans for 2018, as well as an article on our top bucket list items in the week ahead.

 

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