TRAVEL NEWS, TIPS & STORIES
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TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR 4/17/2003
Web Cam's of the Week * Website of the Week * Bonus Mile Offers * Special Offers * Where's Johnny Jet? * Reader Tip of the Week * SkyGirls ?'s * SkyGuys ?'s * Jet Captain ?'s * Celeb Q&A * Chicago Tribune * LA Times * NY Times * Washington Post * USAToday * Other News * Yahoo * ABC News * CNN * MSNBC * Good to Know!
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The Travel Insurance Comparison Site
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We parted ways last week from one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, WhiteHaven Beach. The moment we returned from there and stepped back on Hamilton island we went straight to one of their six pools. We hung out, relaxed and then had a fine dinner. How nice is that view? It's a special feeling being so far away from home yet so close. It's hard to describe but it's almost like an achievement, being here. Maybe it's because I used to be afraid to fly and now I am just that more appreciative and amazed with air travel.
The following day we woke up early and Frank, as you probably guessed, suggested we take a walk in the woods. Shocker, huh? There are a few trails to choose from on Hamilton Island, but of course we had to take the more rigorous Passage Peak Trail. The trail started out like a piece of cake, so I couldn't understand why the older gentlemen we ran into at the start, was sweating bullet's, huffing and puffing. He claimed that it was too tough for him to make it to the peak. As we walked silently through the trail, listening to the ridiculously loud crickets, I thought to myself "I know it's hot and humid but come on? This trail is not that tough! Right?" Wrong! I am sure I jinxed myself, because right when I had that thought, the hills gradually got steeper and steeper. The 3-mile round-trip trail took two hours. As we walked further and further, I started thinking I was sitting by the pool sipping a cool drink. But no! All I could hear is my brother yell "faster, faster". After a while I could've sworn the crickets were saying the same.
It turned out to be a great workout and reaching the top was a definitely rewarding. The views of the Whitsunday's from up there were simply amazing! Breathtaking, in fact. No pun intended. On our way down Frank yelled, "look a baby crocodile" and he dashed into the bushes after it. "You are such a liar,” I said. I mean we did see a lot of lizards, butterflies, and other wild animals, but crocs? No way! Then I heard wrestling in the woods, branches breaking and Frank screaming, "I got you sucker !" Holy Croc, I mean crocodile, I thought! Then with a smile Amber Airplane said, “Frank you are the new Croc Hunter! Then I said, "Where there's a baby croc, there's a big, pissed off Mama Croc and probably hungry, too! Let's get out of here!" Then we ran screaming down the woods with a 20-foot angry croc chasing us! Well, Okay, I was delirious from the heat and made the whole Croc story up. We were really down at the Koala cafe having cool drinks and taking photos with wild animals for a fee, of course.
The next morning we were off to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Barrier Reef. Do you have any idea how long the Great Barrier Reef is? Take a guess. Well, it’s 1,243 miles long. Yeah, that's right, it is the same distance from New York City to Miami, Florida. In square miles, it's 135,993, which is bigger than the United Kingdom. Pretty impressive wouldn't you say? Here's more info that will be sure to knock your socks off: The Great Barrier Reef is the most extensive coral reef system in the world and is the largest structure made completely by living organisms. Your socks are still on? Well, how about it's the only living structure on earth visible from the moon. That's what I thought; now go put your socks back on your feet!
The Great Barrier Reef is not a single reef; in fact it has more than 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands. There are over 1,500 kinds of fish, 400 species of corals, 4,000 kinds of clams and snails, and countless amount of sponges, starfish, and sea urchins. It's also home to many green and loggerhead turtles and it has one of the largest manatee, sharks, giant manta rays, and sea snakes populations in the world. Sharks and sea snakes, two species I could live without seeing! BTW: if you are here during the Australian winter (June-Aug) then you would likely see humpback whales.
The "Outer Reef" is what most people really mean when they say they went to the Great Barrier Reef. The Outer Reef is a network of platform and ribbon reefs that are about 40 miles off the Whitsunday coast. When we inquired about going to the Outer Reef, our concierge gave us a few of choices. This time, before she could even begin her sales pitch I said, "All I want to know is what size is the boat?" "Ahh... good question," she said. Our options were to take a smaller private charter boat, which will take us to a remote part of the reef which is much clearer and natural, or take the 400-passenger catamaran which takes us out to a pontoon full of amenities. No brainer, right? Right! For your information, we could've taken a helicopter or a sea plane, but not only are those much more expensive, they are also much more rough on the body. Especially when it's very windy out, and after our Alaska sea plane experience, no thank you! Besides, I liked the idea of docking out in the middle of the Coral Sea.
I have been fortunate enough to be here once before, and on that trip we took the private charter. That was fine because the weather was sunny and the water was calm. Not this time. The agent warned us that the seas were going to be rough. She said, "The first forty minutes between the islands will be fairly smooth, but the following 55 minutes of open seas will be quite choppy and the top deck will be closed and no standing will be allowed anywhere on the boat". ...Gulp. "Then, once you get to the Reef you will have calm waters and it will take another 20 minutes to reach the floating platforms."
I am sure the agent scared most of the people away because our boat wasn't even half full. When we boarded, the crew offered everyone free motion sickness pills (herbal and regular). Frank and I didn't take one, but Amber Airplane took two. FYI: Frank couldn't get sea sick if he was lying on a rubber ball in 30-foot seas. I on the other hand, have to be outdoors on a boat in rough seas, because once I go indoors I begin to feel nauseous. My body made the situation a bit more comical for the fellow passengers. It just so happened to be pouring on the way out, and I refused to get off of the back outdoor deck. I was allowed to be there, but just not allowed to move, and there were a couple other people who must've felt the same way I did. I knew if I went inside and I got sea sick it would just ruin the rest of the day. Instead, I just stayed and toughed it out.
It was ugly, because it was not only pouring rain on me, but also the splash from the waves were smacking me in the face and I had so much salt water in my eyes and mouth that I could barely breathe. If that wasn't bad enough, the exhaust from the engines were blowing constantly in my direction. Just thinking about it again makes me feel ill. You should've seen Frank's face when he walked by when we reached the channel to the outer reef. He said, "Are you crazy? You could've been down stairs with me where it was smooth, cool, dry and clean air." I just shook my head with my squinted red eyes, and shook my head like you are right. I am crazy.
For your information, the pills must've worked because 90% of the passengers took them and I only saw one little kid look sick.
When we reached Reefworld they only needed to use one platform because of the small amount of people. The other platform was about 300 yards away and looked identical to the one we were on. The platforms have the capacity for up to 600 people and are great because they allow you to get off of a boat in the middle of the sea. Therefore you don't feel the constant rocking. Not only that, but they had cool amenities like the two semi submersible coral viewers, a large
underwater observatory, changing rooms, fresh water showers, large open sun decks, extensive shaded areas, and a children’s swimming area. You might also like that they have space for up to six people to spend the night. Frank wanted to but we nixed that idea right away. "Ah, NO thank Aqua Dude!"
Safety is a big concern and they have lifeguards on duty at all times. If you don't know how to snorkel, no worries, they give a snorkel demonstration on the ride out to everyone. I liked the fact that they had these huge bins full of snorkel gear and individually sealed mouthpieces. They also had life vests available for less confident swimmers, and for those of you who are non-swimmers, don't worry, I would still go because you don't even have to touch the water to enjoy the sites.
Right when we reached Reefworld we jumped in one of their two submarines. It was a good way to get familiar with the area, but Amber Airplane didn't like that ride too much. Her belly started to turn. Again, no worries! I knew the perfect cure. It doesn't matter where the girl goes, even in the middle of the sea, she will find shopping. Trust me!
We couldn't wait any longer to jump in to the warm fish filled water. The coolest fish I saw just happened to be the biggest. He was a grouper nick-named " Wally" by the crew. He lives below the platform and he's not shy, in fact I got to pet him, that's how bold he is.
After about an hour in the water, we got out and had a great buffet that's included in the price of the tour (AUD$150.00). What we wanted to do, but couldn't, because we didn't make a reservation in advance, was to take a 10 minute $80 helicopter ride for a birds-eye view of Heart Reef. The guide says this naturally formed heart shaped reef is Mother Nature’s way of saying 'from the reef, with love".
For more information about the Reef, try these websites:
OTHER TIDBITS ABOUT HAMILTON ISLAND:
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|QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK:|
|READER TIP OF THE WEEK|
The Barbary Coast Hotel in Las Vegas. |
We found it to be comfortable and quiet, have a fabulous view and be exactly where you want to be on the strip. We booked the hotel because of the moderate prices and the availability of a restaurant that we had been to previously. When we had stayed at Harrah's on a previous trip we trekked over to the Barbary Coast every morning for breakfast because it was so good! Then in making further plans I looked at the prices there since this was where we were going to eat anyway. Their Victorian Room breakfast is unequaled on the strip - the choices are many and bill is always reasonable. There is always someone at your table every few minutes to warm your coffee or ask about your comfort or needs. We travel to Vegas so my husband can attend lectures at a large conference - held at the Venetian and the large convention center. We just refuse to pay Venetian prices when places like the Barbary Coast offer such privacy and large rooms. We were across the street from the Bellagio water shows and could watch from our room! Our shower had an actual window (stained glass!) that opened out! From within the shower you can peer down on the busy street. The fact that they have a smallish casino is moot. You are right in the middle of the strip - across from Caesar's also, so a larger casino or grander decor is only steps away. And at the Barbary Coast, there are so few rooms that checking-in is only a 5 minute affair rather than an all day procedure. After seven at night there is a guard posted near the elevator to the rooms who only let guests with a key pass on through. I feel safe there because help, if ever needed, would only be steps away. I like not having to walk a mile to get to my room! It's right there. Just a quick ride away from the street, anytime.
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THE FACTS ON S.A.R.S.
NEWS FROM THE WHO (World Health Organization)
Reported Probable Cases
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Chinese premier: SARS situation 'grave'
Panic has bigger impact than illness
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COUNTRY STATE DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASES ON SARS
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THE SMOKING GUN: Hong Kong Ad
-The World Health Organization's urges travelers to postpone all but essential trips to Hong Kong and adjoining Guangdong Province in China.
-Wash hands regularly with soap, never touch the face except after washing hands, eat a well balanced diet, get plenty of rest, avoid crowded places with poor ventilation and keep windows down for fresh air when in taxis.
-It is not clear if wearing a mask provides a significant benefit. The W.H.O. says that it appears the virus can also be transmitted through handshakes or by having droplets from coughs or sneezes come in contact with the eyes.
SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IF YOU HAVE:
-High fever (100.4 F or 38 C)
-One or more respiratory symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
-Close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with SARS
-Recent history of travel to areas reporting cases of SARS.
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