My First Experience Plus Review On Airbnb Properties –

Staying At Airbnb Properties

For my recent ski trip to BC, it was a solo trip for me.  With no other people coming, I suddenly had the flexibility to make some changes to my trip beforehand.  I had the opportunity to save some money on both my accommodations and meals.

I had only previously heard a bit about Airbnb but never really considered using that system where private individuals offer rooms and sometimes entire properties to others for rental. Then a few members of my Meetup groups talked me into trying the system out after they raved about their past experiences with Airbnb.

Since many Airbnb properties include the use of a kitchen to cook my own meals, I would be able to save money by not having to go out to restaurants during my trip.  Since I was travelling alone, this made even more sense.

So for the food element of my trip, I decided to bring some non-perishables like pasta, canned meats, sachets of hot cereal and granola bars in my luggage.  I even brought a bag of apples and oranges that survived the flight to Calgary.  When I arrived in Calgary and got my rental car, I simply went to a local grocer to purchase bread, fresh vegetables and other food items I did not bring.  With this plan, I figure I could make all my meals to cover breakfasts, lunches and dinners for my entire trip which would result in cost savings.

I booked to stay in four different Airbnb properties since this was a ski trip involving touring three different ski resorts and required staying in different towns.  The costs for staying at each place ranged from about $50 per night down to $36 for my final night in Calgary.  These figures included the per night cost plus any service fee and cleaning charge each property host charged.

So by cancelling all my previous hotel reservations and switching over to these four Airbnbs, I ended up saving about $200 in accommodations expenses.  With the added savings of making my 0wn meals, my actual total savings would obviously be even more.

Airbnb added some additional measures after the initial horror stories where guests trashed properties.  Now there is a review system where after each stay, each host as well as each guest is reviewed by each other.  So when searching for potential Airbnb properties, I could view past reviews from other guests.

Hosts also have the option to accept my reservation or not based on past reviews of me as a guest as well as my profile.  Since I did not have any prior stays and therefore review, hosts used just my profile to determine whether to accept me or not as a guest.

My Review Of My First Airbnb Stays

I’ll do a short summary review of the Airbnb properties I stayed in for this trip to give a good idea of what they are like.

Property #1

My first stay was in a house in Fernie, BC.  The host and I, like the other hosts, had already communicated via the Airbnb message system for address details and approximate check in times.  We also communicated on text message as well.

This was a two storey house in a quiet residential neighbourhood and when I arrived, I was greeted by one of the hosts and got the house tour.  The second floor had three bedrooms and a bathroom but I would end up getting pretty well that entire floor to myself since the host family stayed in a back section of the house on the main floor.  So one of the bedrooms upstairs was mine and the bathroom would end up being my private one for my use only.

Some Airbnb listings offer a private bathroom while some are shared bathrooms with the host.  I did not want to use a shared bathroom especially since I will likely be taking extended soaks in the rub after each ski day.  So one of the main criteria that I was looking for when reserving Airbnb properties was the inclusion of a private bathroom.

The host supplied a mini fridge stocked with free drinks, yogurts and muffins as well as a coffee machine in my room.  So I didn’t even have to make breakfast for two mornings since it was already supplied which was unexpected!

In addition to the private bathroom issue, I also had initial uncomfortable feelings about sharing a kitchen.  The only time one would usually get entire kitchens to oneself on Airbnb would be the listings where an entire apartment or house was offered where the host did not live there.  These were priced higher and I did not see many of these in the towns I planned to stay at. But I decided to give it a go as all of the properties I stayed in for this trip featured shared kitchens, ie, the main kitchen of the property.

It turned out that the only times I ever used the kitchen was to make my dinners since breakfast and lunch were easily prepared right in my own room.  I did not know what it would be like using somebody else’s kitchen especially while they were there.   But it turned out that for both nights at this first property, the hosts were not even in the kitchen while I was using it.

In fact, I hardly ever saw the hosts at all.  When I got up each morning for skiing, they were still in their bedroom.  When I got back from skiing, they were either still at work or again, in their rooms.  At nighttime, I was in my room most of the time watching videos on my computer.

For this property, the main floor where the kitchen, living and dining areas were, did look a bit messy as a typical family would leave it.  But since I hardly spent any time there, it really did not bother me.  The second floor where my bedroom and bathroom were located, were pretty clean and tidy.

I did go down to socialize with the hosts a bit during my final night since I would be departing early the next morning when they would likely be still sleeping.  So this first property as my first Airbnb experience worked quite well for me.

Property #2

The second property I stayed at was a bungalow in a residential area in Cranbrook.  The host there greeted me when I arrived and although she was at the property the whole time I was there, it was only a one night stay for me.  Again, I had my own private room and bathroom.

Although a much smaller property and everything was on a single floor, I did not have any problems at all.  I got enough privacy whenever I wanted it and came out to socialize with the host at other times.

I cooked breakfast and dinner plus made my ski lunch in the kitchen without any issues.  Even when the host was there in the kitchen, I actually did not feel uncomfortable using her kitchen as we were chatting the whole time I was preparing my meal.  So property #2 worked well for me as well as everything went pretty smooth.

Property #3

My third place was a nice townhouse in Radium Hot Springs and this was a two night stay.  Interestingly enough, the host there invited me to arrive and check in before she even got back from work.  She simply gave me directions where to find the house key so I basically checked myself in.

Again, I had a private room with a private bathroom next to it on the main floor.  This host was part of a family but they all pretty well stayed upstairs.  This particular property was spotless and was the most tidy one out of the three so far.

Although I did not have a mini fridge like in property #1, they did invite me to put my groceries in their shared kitchen fridge much like with property #2.  For this place, whenever I used the kitchen, there was nobody else on the main floor at the time.

This stay was interesting as I met their entire family later during my first evening and they told me that they were leaving for a short vacation of their own in the morning.  They said a friend of their’s would be coming in later to look after the house at night and I could just leave the key with her when I check out.

So for much of the time, I was the only person at this townhouse.  I guess they must have trusted my profile to leave me all alone in their home.   Needless to say, this stay worked out really nice for me as well.

Property #4

I chose to stay in Calgary for my final night of my trip so I could be closer to my day trip to Drumheller to see the dinosaur museum before I caught my flight back home in the afternoon.  Again like all other hosts, advance communications with this host was really easy.

His house was again in a nice residential neighbourhood in northwest Calgary not far from the airport.  For this property, they created an entire basement suite with a bedroom, bathroom and living room.

Unlike the other properties, this listing did not automatically include the use of the kitchen but I really did not need it since for my final evening, I did go out to dinner before arriving.  And when I did arrive and get the orientation of the basement suite with the host, I was pleasantly surprised to see counter with complimentary breakfast materials all set up.  Much like the first property, there was a mini fridge full of drinks, yogurts plus a coffee machine stocked with coffees and teas.

So I was treated to yet another unexpected free breakfast along with some food/drink items for my road trip the next morning.  I saw the host only upon check in and check out the next morning since I stayed downstairs the entire night enjoying the last videos I had in my computer as well as use the free wifi (which was included in all properties I stayed in).

The entire basement suite was like a really upscale hotel suite – only that you did not get charged extra for the food items in the fridge!  And I got all this for $36!!

So the last Airbnb stay also worked out for me and all the financials were already done in advance through my credit card on the Airbnb system.  No financial payments had to be done directly with any of the hosts whatsoever.

Would I Use Airbnb Again?

So that’s the question — would I use Airbnb again?  The answer is yes but I would perhaps look for certain things in future listings.  If I was with a group of fellow travellers, staying at Airbnb might not work since everyone probably wants to go out for dinner rather than cook individually in their own Airbnb places.

Of course, a group can also take advantage of enormous cost savings by booking an entire property which some of my friends have done with their families.  But in these cases, everyone would have to share the bathroom and for me personally, this is not something I like to do.

So for future solo trips, Airbnb would definitely be an option but I would check listings to make sure that I would get a private bathroom as not all listings have that.   I would also make sure there was a kitchen available and a shared one would be okay.

The other thing I would look for which I learned from this trip, is that hosts with families (kids and babies) will not be quiet stays when they are around.  Fortunately for me, I brought earphones which I used each night when watching videos on my computer.  Whenever I took the earphones off, I could still hear the kids and babies (until they went to bed).  So for future stays, I may elect to book only with hosts who do not have children and this is usually specified in the host profiles.

As yet another benefit in addition to cost savings, sometimes there are listings of very unique and interesting properties including boats and cottages.  These are types of stays that you would otherwise not normally get if just staying at hotels.

Overall, I’m glad that I got introduced to Airbnb as this system will definitely be considered for my future trips.  If you are not yet a member of Airbnb (need to register to book listings but free to sign up) and would like to do so with a chance to get some discount credits for your first stay, use this discount credits for new members link.

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End Of Ski Season, Start Of Spring Hiking Fitness –

fernie bc ski season spring fitness

End Of My Ski Season

After spending a week out in BC skiing five days at Fernie, Kimberley and Panorama, I was hoping to get in one last local ski day at Blue Mountain.  However, I took off my snow tires prematurely and the day I was to go up to Collingwood ended up with me turning back home due to bad roads from the sudden snow.  So my ski season came to an abrupt end but I still managed to get in a respectable 70 ski days season.

Not only did my ski group grow in terms of numbers of ski students coming out this winter, my own skiing continued to improve since I pushed up the number of training days I had with my own coaches.  Here is the last video from one of my final training days with my coaches and you can hear one of them talk about my ski performance.

In addition to local skiing, I also went out of Ontario to ski as well.  I was among six from my ski group to Owl’s Head in Quebec and Jay Peak in Vermont in February where I ran a two day ski camp for my ski students.  For most of them, this was their first time skiing outside of Ontario.

Then at the end of the season, I went alone to BC to ski five days to end my season.  Here is video footage I took while up high in the mountains of Fernie and Panorama to show my ski students what it’s like out there including the huge mountain ‘bowls’ they have there.  I also captured some paraskiers too.

Spring Hiking Season

The end of my ski season means the start of my spring hiking season.  All of my hiking includes bringing my two Lhasa Apso dogs Chester and Roxie.  We do longer hikes on the weekend and shorter ones during the middle of the week as a midweek break.  Most of our hikes include my small dogs outings group where other little dogs and their owners come out with us.  Last fall season was very successful and although our dog group is pretty dormant during the colder winter season, we hope to pick up again this spring.  So we will be hiking all spring long until it gets too hot during the summer during the daytime hours when we do more cooler evening hikes.

Spring Fitness Program

With no more skiing, my spring fitness program will look very different compared to my winter schedule that involved 4-5 ski days each week.  What’s different with this new spring program for 2017 compared to previous spring seasons is the inclusion of swimming.

Before, I only swam during the summers when my townhouse complex pool was open.  But I realized just how effective these pool sessions are for my own fitness so I will be including them this spring as well.  Instead of swimming in my outdoor pool which isn’t ready until later in June, I’ll just go to one of my local community centres instead.

Mondays – martial arts forms/kickboxing, stretching

Tuesdays – strength training with weights, super stretch

Wednesdays – pool swim, evening short hike

Thursdays – martial arts weapons/kickboxing, stretching

Fridays – pool swim

Saturdays – morning hike

Sundays – strength training with weights, super stretch

So the above spring fitness program has some nice variety that not only keeps me in shape in terms of both cardiovascular and muscle tone, but also for high flexibility as well as maintain my martial arts skills.   These elements make my personal fitness program very different from general fitness ones.

With the hikes, I’m also able to include my dogs Chester and Roxie for both their physical fitness but also social time with their doggie friends too.  We also do 30 minute walks on our own on other days too although these are not mentioned in the above schedule.

My spring fitness program is scheduled into my calendar with the appropriate daily activity that I’ll be doing from now through to June when my outdoor pool opens up.  At that time, I’ll modify this program into my summer one.

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What Happens To Intermediate Level Skiers –

intermediate skiing skiers






Many of our ski students who started skiing as Beginners or even ‘never-evers’ with us over the years in our ski program have now achieved Intermediate level, which is awesome. It shows that our training program as well as the work they have put in really works. They made huge gains in the skiing and can now ski down the majority of slopes at resorts, including steeper black diamond runs. So what happens to these Intermediate level skiers in terms of their futures in skiing?

The reality is that Intermediates WILL reach a stage where significant improvements in their ski technique will be MUCH harder to achieve. Changes become more subtle and require a LOT of ski miles. In fact, 80% of the recreational ski population will fit into this category as they plateau out in their ski technique improvement. NO significant further improvements are usually achieved season after season. I call these skiers ‘Perpetual Intermediates’ since they will remain as Intermediates for the rest of their skiing lives.

There are a few possible outcomes for Intermediates depending on the decisions these skiers make and I’ll outline them below.

Keep Skiing But With No More Ski Lessons

After a few seasons taking ski lessons, these Intermediates will abandon anymore organized ski training. They can now ski pretty well all slopes including black diamonds but when snow conditions get difficult and icy, they will find steeper runs more challenging — but they can probably still get down.

The reality for these skiers is that even if they can go down black diamonds, they will NOT be skiing them the same way as Advanced skiers or instructors. It will be quite noticeable when observing them from the chairlift that these are still Intermediate level skiers who will not look the same as more advanced skiers. These skiers will look stiff and actual ski performance will be minimal (not efficient utilization of their skis).

If you are an Intermediate skier in this category and you are quite satisfied to accept the fact that you will remain a Perpetual Intermediate, then that’s okay. You can still enjoy the sport but within limitations of course.

Take 1-2 Lessons Per Season But Free Ski Most Of The Time

We have some Intermediates who still ski quite a bit on their own and take only 1-2 ski lessons per season. These skiers will get some benefit from the lessons as they are reminded of what they have to work on to get better. The reality here with this group is whenever we see these ski students each season, we will be seeing the same issues with them each year. There won’t be anything new. The reminders they get from the 1-2 lessons may help jog their memories on what they need to work on.

Some skills will be relatively easy to fix but it is up to the skier to maintain those skills so that they become automatic, especially when they are free skiing. HOWEVER, other skills will be much harder to achieve and 1-2 lessons will NOT turn these skiers into Advanced level. So the 1-2 lessons will still help in reminding Intermediate skiers what skills they need to develop but this group will likely NOT progress much further in terms of ski level.

Continue With A Full Ski Training Program

Very few Intermediates will ever progress pass this level and make it into Advanced. However, it is possible but it involves skiing at least 15+ ski days each season AND with continued organized training with instructors. Ski lessons will help follow up on a regular basis on skills development and take ski students on a feasible training path towards Advanced levels. One major goal for Advanced ski students is to be able to ski ANY slope with efficiency plus high performance under ANY snow conditions including icy, ungroomed and powder days.

We have been successful in moving a few people into Advanced levels and even towards Level 1 ski instructor certification but it involves a major attitude change in the way people ski. Instead of skiing casually, especially on easier slopes, those who are serious in ski training approach each run, no matter how easy or challenging the slope is, with a training mindset. Each run is taken to work on a particular skill, even if on flat terrain.

In my own skiing, I use EACH run to work on something specific. When I have this mentality during skiing, I do not get bored, even if I ski on the SAME slope over and over again (I’ve skied on the same slope for ten consecutive runs just to work on different skills).

When you see Advanced skiers and instructors out there, you can bet that they spent a LOT of time on their skiing. This means MANY ski days per season AND lots of training sessions with coaches to help them. It’s no surprise why these folks are the skiers that make it into advanced levels in skiing.

Your Choice

So those are the three possible outcomes or routes that you can take as an Intermediate level skier. Again, there’s nothing wrong with not taking ski lessons but just be very aware of the realities I described above. Skiing is something that can be enjoyed at any level. But each of the different levels ARE very noticeable out there when we observe skiers on the slopes. You have to be happy with the level you are in. If you ever want to progress to Advanced or even instructor levels someday, the last route described is the ONLY one that will get you there.

By the way, even as a Level 2 ski instructor with 14 years of teaching experience and 40 years on the slopes, I still take a full training program for myself to further develop my own skiing.

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How To Eat Cheap In Baja Plus Other Places In Mexico –

eat cheap food baja mexico

How To Eat Cheap In Baja Mexico

The Baja region, especially Cabo San Lucas, is an expensive destination unlike other parts of Mexico.   It is very commercialized and geared towards North American mass tourism with pricey resort hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops galore.  There are also many bars and ‘booze cruises’ that cater to the big time partiers whom are not really concerned about getting an authentic Mexican cultural experience during their vacations.

And of course, the businesses catering to all of these North American mass tourists all gouge them with high prices since many of these tourists feel more comfortable in a service as well as cuisine atmosphere that is similar to home.

Baja is not the only place in Latin America or other parts of the world that does this.  Many foreign markets know that North Americans and many Europeans are willing to pay more in order to vacation with similar comforts of home.

But for many of us who would like to vacation without paying unnecessary premiums and get superior cultural experiences, there are many options available.

Authentic Mexican Cultural Experience

First of all, if travelling to the Baja region, don’t stay in Cabo San Lucas where the majority of tourists will end up.  I did my research reading articles and viewing travel videos and decided that instead of staying in Cabo San Lucas for my recent trip, I would stay in La Paz and San Jose del Cabo.  There were towns that were simply more Mexican than Cabo San Lucas which is now very overcommercialized in my opinion.

La Paz and San Jose del Cabo had much fewer tourists and more Mexican locals residing there resulting in less busy areas.  These towns were much more pleasant walking around in compared to Cabo San Lucas.  I spent a total of only two hours walking around Cabo San Lucas and had enough.

san jose del cabo baja eating cheap food mexican







After walking around the quaint Malecon boardwalk of La Paz and quiet little streets of the town square of San Jose del Cabo as pictured above, the booming music and MC from the booze cruise catamaran in the Cabo San Lucas marina was just annoying.  Cabo San Lucas did not even deserve a single photo to be taken by me there.

Hotel rooms in both La Paz and San Jose del Cabo will be much lower priced too along with quieter evenings for sleeping.  Another huge plus for staying in these towns is unlike in Cabo San Lucas, there are no annoying vendors constantly approaching you to sell all sorts of junk.

Eat At Local Mexican Food Venues

Where you can really save money is in food.  Although Baja is an expensive travel spot, it is possible to eat cheap there if you are willing to avoid the mass tourist restaurants and venture into the more local areas.

When I was in Mexico, I did not eat at any hotel or resort restaurant nor any North American chain type of restaurant.  I also did not bother with any restaurants that had obvious English language names since they would most likely be catering to the mass tourists.  Instead, I went to eateries usually along quieter streets that had Spanish names and few tourists as these were places that served the locals.

Quite often, these local restaurants were open air with much more basic decor than the fancy tourist restaurants.  Some of these local places had English language menus but many did not.  So it is very helpful to arm yourself with a sheet of useful Spanish phrases but usually there will be at least one Spanish staff member who would be able to understand enough English to take your order if the place is located in a town tourists would at least visit.

The main advantage of eating at these little local hole in the walls is that you get the real authentic Mexican cuisine instead of North American fare.  This ain’t no Taco Bell being served at these places.  And the prices are usually a fraction of the prices at the tourist restaurants which know that most tourists will pay more just for convenience and familiarity.

cheap mexican food







For example, I had the whole red snapper fish dinner shown above for the equivalent of about $10.  On another occasion, I had two very large authentic Mexican burritos plus side fixings (shown below) and beverage for about $8.  Try getting these at such low prices at the tourist restaurants.

authentic mexico food dinner burritos







In addition to restaurants, some Mexican towns like La Paz (and Tijuana on another past trip) have food stalls right on the streets usually serving freshly made Mexican tacos for about $2. These are way better than any tacos you would get outside of Mexico. Another place filled with authentic local food at really cheap prices are food eateries set up within local Mexican markets. These would be the equivalent of food courts at malls and markets you see in North America. I’ve found good cheap eating at such markets as well.

With an overdeveloped tourist market like Baja, you can easily eat cuisine much like at home for your entire stay down there and you will be gouged at inflated tourist prices. But why not experience local authentic culture and try food that you cannot get back home and at the fraction of the touristy costs?

Here is a short video clip I shot while in one of these tiny local Mexican places and in this case, it was in La Paz.

Plus the local scenes whether inside a market or on a local street (or along the ocean front Malecon as in the case of La Paz) filled with locals doing their day to day business are usually much more interesting to watch while dining than being stuck among hundreds of other tourists.

If you are worrying about getting sick from food that you are not familiar with, just make sure that any food that you order is cooked. And even the street food stalls will fully cook their food items right in front of you.

On each of my trips to Mexico and other Latin American countries, I’ve come home well under my budget mainly because I was able to find cheap local places to eat. And I experienced authentic culture which is very difficult to do if staying just within resorts or strictly tourist areas. Be a little bit brave and adventurous and you will be rewarded with not only a more fulfilling travel experience but also save on your travel dollars.

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My Winter Ski + Fitness Program –

winter fitness program skiing ski exercise

Winter Ski Fitness Program

So looks like my fall season fitness program took a bit of a detour from the plan.  Not that I became a slouch or anything.  It’s just that the new Meadowvale community centre near me opened up and they put on a promotion that involved free ten visits to their swimming pool.  So even though I found out about it about half way into their month long promotion, I still got eight swimming workouts in for free but I had to squeeze this into a period of just over two weeks.

For me, that’s a lot of swimming within two weeks. My original fitness plan was to get into the swimming pool only once per week so I basically increased my workouts in the pool by four times!

During this intensive swimming period, my non-pool days were left for strength training and hiking with my social and small dogs outings groups.  I cut out martial arts for this last part of my fall fitness program.

First Ski Day Soon

So now that the weather is colder, the local ski resorts are starting to blow snow.  My first day of skiing can happen very soon as a result which will result in switching over from what’s left of my fall season fitness program over to my winter ski fitness schedule.

Like my original fall season fitness program, I have decided that I want to retain swimming once a week for the entire winter.  The overall cardio and toning benefits of swimming are just too good to ignore until next summer.  So this is what my winter ski fitness program will look like.

Mondays – ski training

Tuesdays – swimming

Wednesdays – ski training/teaching

Thursdays – strength training + super stretch

Fridays – ski training

Saturdays – ski training/teaching

Sundays – ski training/teaching or martial arts


So this program is still very much ski intensive but at least I’ll still get in some swimming and strength training as supplementary fitness.  Also, doing martial arts once per week will help me maintain my martial arts forms so that I don’t completely forget them over the winter.  I’ll just have to make sure that I pack a hair dryer to the swimming pool so my hair doesn’t end up freezing on my way home!

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My First Whale Shark Encounter In La Paz Mexico –

Whale Shark Encounter

I have been a scuba diver since 1999 and throughout many dive trips since then, I have never been able to see a whale shark in the water.  Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world.  Although many mammal air breathing whales are larger, whale sharks are fish since they have gills and are sharks.  However, they are not predators like many other species of sharks.  Instead, whale sharks feed mostly on plankton and are fairly docile.

As a scuba diver, one would have to go to the areas around the world where whale sharks are commonly found.  Also, it is very seasonal as whale sharks seem to migrate depending on the time of the year.  One area known for whale sharks is near Utila in Honduras.  I went there during April this year since it was suppose to be the season when whale sharks are commonly found in the waters around Utila.

I was really hoping that after all these years of scuba diving, I would finally get to see a whale shark during my trip to Utila.  But much to my disappointment, we searched the waters for three days and did not see a single whale shark.  I did end up with a decent nurse shark encounter captured on video though as well as another incident with a psycho moral eel.

La Paz Mexico Scuba Diving

My next tropical scuba diving trip after my Utila and Roatan combo one was to be La Paz in the Baja region of Mexico.  I chose La Paz mainly to get the opportunity to scuba dive with sea lions as that area was reported to have very reliable opportunities for encounters with them since there are sea lion colonies there all year round.  As you can see from the photos and video (at the last link) of my sea lion dives, I was very successful with this objective during my recent La Paz trip.

One of the bonuses of travelling to La Paz during the fall was not only would I get the opportunity to scuba dive with sea lions but the whale shark season in the Sea of Cortez had begun.   So there was a chance that I would get to see whale sharks on this same trip as well.  It would be another opportunity within the same year of 2016.

I had three days of scuba diving in La Paz before moving south to San Jose del Cabo to do a day of dives there.  My divemaster Trevor Brown of Baja Connections suggested that we look for whale sharks after doing our two tanks of scuba diving on day one.  I had already had my first sea lions experience that morning so any whale sharks on the same day would indeed be a nice bonus.

Swimming With Whale Sharks In La Paz

The way it works in La Paz is the boat trolls around a channel near town for any whale sharks.  We cannot scuba dive with whale sharks but we can swim with them with snorkel gear.  The whale sharks would be too fast anyway for sluggish scuba divers so snorkelling would actually be the better way to see them.

Soon after we started trolling, Trevor spotted a whale shark and the boat quickly went after it.  As we approached, we were to get ready to jump into the ocean with our snorkel gear already on so we could get in a position where we might intercept the whale shark as it feeds near the surface of the ocean.

If a whale shark is swimming horizontal, we were to intercept it on its path and then try to swim along side of it as long as we could before it outswims us.   This is what happened during my first whale shark encounter.

Obviously, my eyes were not as well trained as Trevor or the boat captain in spotting whale sharks.  They pointed towards the whale shark spotted and I just swam towards that direction.  The water in the channel was quite murky with poor visibility so I really could not see where the whale shark was at first.  Then all of a sudden, it was almost right beside me!

As soon as I saw it, I did my best to swim along side of it before it became too fast for me.  This was a young whale shark about 15 to 20 feet in length.

We climbed back on board and trolled again.  Things were happening so fast I don’t even remember what the next sighting was like but it was probably the same whale shark again and with a similar encounter.  However, the third encounter was the best as it was the longest and most memorable.

This time, the whale shark was feeding in a vertical position in the ocean.  Whenever a whale shark is vertical, it would remain in the same position in the ocean for an extended time so we would not have to chase after it.  Also this time, we caught a bit of this final whale shark encounter on video!

It’s not a great video, especially compared to my sea lions dive video but it did show a bit from my first ever whale shark encounter day.  You will see very briefly in this video how this same young whale shark looked like from the surface of the water when it was first spotted.   It’s not easy to see it and you might have to look at the video a few times to see a fin sticking out of the water as it’s dark body is slightly visible moving across the screen from the right to the left of the screen.

The video footage underwater is also very brief too but it does show the whale shark in the vertical feeding position.  My actual encounter with it was significantly longer than what the video shows as our group was basically just in the water in a semi circle around the whale shark as it was happily feeding on plankton without a care in the world.  Here is the video below.

We were not able to get any still photographs on this whale shark encounter but the visibility was so poor, any images probably would not have come out that great anyway. I’m grateful for the brief video I got out of this trip but even if I did not get it, I would have been pretty happy just to finally get in my first ever whale shark encounter.

We tried to look for more whale sharks the next day but after two hours of trolling in the same area, we were not successful in sighting anymore. Another boat captain reported seeing six whale sharks when he went out with another group so it really depends on luck and nature.

I would like to pursue more whale shark encounters in future dive trips especially in better visibility waters. Plus the encounters I had with what appeared to be the same whale shark over three separate jumps into the ocean as special as they were, they were just too brief.  My past encounters with dolphins (Bahamas), stingrays (Cayman Islands), sharks (Bahamas), manta rays (Hawaii) and even the sea lions at La Paz were all at least 30 to 45 minutes in length each time. The whale sharks are really nice to see so it would be great to have more extended time in the water with them in the future.

You too can have this type of inspirational experience and even without being a certified scuba diver since most organized whale shark encounters are with snorkel gear anyway.  You just need to travel to destinations where whale sharks are known to be in season so research on your part will be required.  I know that in addition to La Paz, there are other areas like Isla Mujares and Holbox in the Yucatan region of Mexico, Belize and Utila all known to have whale sharks at some point in the year.

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Scuba Diving US Navy Shipwreck –

scuba diving mexico la paz us navy shipwreck

Scuba Diving US Navy Shipwreck

My last blog post showed the video of the sea lions scuba dive which was the main attraction for me during my recent trip to La Paz, Mexico.  But there were other dives which were quite interesting too including scuba diving a world war 2 US Navy shipwreck.

This was the USS Diploma which was used during world war 2 as a minesweeper.  After decommissioned, it was subsequently sold to the Mexican government who had it sunk in the waters near La Paz as an artificial reef for scuba diving.

As you will see in the video of this dive, it was like going on a mission or expedition to the shipwreck.   Not only did we get to go around the wreck, but we penetrated the inside of it too at one point.

Shipwrecks are another element of scuba diving and like natural coral reefs, they can often attract a lot of marine life as well.  In this case, this wreck was a metal one so unlike wooden shipwrecks in salt water, the ship is still in really good shape.

Being able to experience what I did during this shipwreck scuba dive is something that many other people can also have as well.  One just needs to become a decent swimmer and then take the scuba diving certification course to become a certified diver.   It is truely quite inspirational just to see such as shipwreck in the ocean up close along with the marine life on it.

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La Paz Sea Lions Scuba Dive Is World Class –

la paz sea lions scuba dive diving isla islotes

La Paz Sea Lions Scuba Dive

My last post showed a video on the pretty healthy fish life of La Paz during scuba diving in the Baja region of Mexico.  Specifically, these dives were in the Sea of Cortez.

The main reason why I chose to travel to La Paz in the first place was for the sea lions.  There are not many places in the world where you can scuba dive with sea lions in the wild and they were next on my list after the awesome experiences I had scuba diving with manta rays last year in Hawaii.

I knew that the travel to La Paz was going to be rough and the cost of scuba diving would be at a premium compared to many other dive destinations around the world.  But I was willing to put up with the three flights from Toronto to La Paz and spending about 50% more on scuba diving compared to your average dive destination just for this unique opportunity.  And I was not disappointed!

There are two sea lion colonies near La Paz with the main one of about 300 sea lions at Isla Islotes, an isolated island about an hour boat ride from La Paz.  I did two dives here.  The other sea lion colony is smaller at about 100 sea lions at San Rafaelito, a even smaller island about 30 minutes from La Paz.  I did one dive at San Rafaelito and it is small enough to actually circumvent the entire island during a dive.

The colony at Isla Islotes is the main attraction in the area for sea lion observers.  Boats go out there to watch the sea lions with snorkelling and scuba diving options.  It’s usually the younger sea lions who are the most curious with divers as the older ones usually stay in the background just to oversee things.

We were told in advance that the younger sea lions would not hesitate to get right you our faces and maybe even start nibbling at our fins, masks, and anything else that sticks out.  Fortunately, I arranged with the scuba diving operator, Trevor Brown of Baja Connections, that we get my dives with the sea lions on video.

Here are the best moments we captured from the Isla Islotes dives and as you can see, the sea lions are like puppies.

We start our dives at Isla Islotes checking out the marine life in the deeper areas before venturing back towards where the sea lions hang out which is only about 15 to 20 feet in depth. As a result, we were able to stay down in the water for about an hour at a time.

After the first dive, we were able to spend additional time snorkelling as our surface interval in between dives. This got us even more time watching the sea lions.

On my final day of diving La Paz, we did the dive around San Rafaelito to check out the smaller sea lion colony. Here, the ones who came around to check us out in the water seemed to be older sea lions and therefore a bit larger than the ones we saw at Isla Islotes. But the encounters we had at Isla Islotes were a bit better as the younger ones came up closer to us. Maybe it was just timing and there were less younger sea lions at San Rafaelito but it was still worthwhile diving there.

Overall, the scuba diving with sea lions at La Paz is definitely world class. I know that there are other places in the world to dive with sea lions like the Galapagos Islands but you have to spend a fortune for those dive trips. I don’t know if the sea lions down there get as close to us as the ones at La Paz do. So definitely for any scuba divers (or snorkelers) who want to get sea lion encounters, I would recommend going to La Paz for sure.

By the way, I saw a new line of 2017 calendars featuring ocean marine life themes which all fans of the underwater world will find interesting.

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Why Not Scuba Dive If You Can Swim? –

scuba dive swim scuba diving marine life mexico

Scuba Dive If You Can Swim

In my last post, I showed you a very inspirational moment I had while scuba diving in La Paz, Mexico.  It was a video showing you my best ever sea turtle encounter.   In this post, I will show you another video I produced from that trip.  This one will show you some of the typical marine life fish I saw in the water during my dives in the area.

As you will be able to see from the video as well as the photo above which is from the clip, the marine life is very healthy down in the La Paz waters since it is a protected marine park.  Lots of fish as well as other marine animals.

As I was reviewing the video footage and then watching the finished, edited clip, what came to my mind was asking why would anyone who can swim, not want to do this?   If you can swim, why would you not want to scuba dive so you can see and experience a similar ocean scene like I did.

Many people who saw this video and the photos from my trip were in awe of my experience in the ocean.  They saw it as something like they would see in National Geographic or some ocean documentary.  But the fact is, if they can swim, all of these experiences are actually accessible to them.

They just have to learn how to scuba dive.   Before I get into more details of what is involved, enjoy the video itself here first.

Scuba Diving Certification

To many people out there, scuba diving with all of its equipment, seems to be an extreme sport or activity. The fact is that recreational scuba diving is not extreme. It does however require professional training in new skills used in the water as well as knowledge about physics and physiology related to the body and the ocean. There is also a lot of safety factors and skills that need to be learned.

All of this is learned through the scuba diving certification courses provided through training agencies such as PADI, SSI and NAUI. These courses can be either a very intensive weekend or over a few weeks, one night per week. Time in the classroom as well as sessions in the swimming pool will take up most of the scuba diving certification.

To finish off the complete certification, one will need to demonstrate the skills learned in the pool but in an open water scenario which means in a lake, river or ocean. A written test is also required to be passed to demonstrate the knowledge learned in the classroom.

The only prerequisites for taking the scuba diving certification course is being able to swim and not have any medical conditions that will disallow an individual from scuba diving. All details would be available at your local scuba diving shop.

So as I enjoy this video again and eagerly plan my next scuba diving adventure trip, I once again ask, why would anyone who can swim, not want to do this?

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Inspirational Scuba Dive With Sea Turtle In La Paz –

inspirational sea turtle scuba dive la paz diving

Inspirational Scuba Dive

I went on a trip to La Paz located in the Baja region of Mexico recently and my main objective was to scuba dive with the sea lions. This was a long planned trip to a rather pricey destination but it did not disappoint.

But in addition to the sea lions, I ended up with several very inspirational moments including one very special one during my final dive day in La Paz. This was a dive where I had my best sea turtle encounter ever.

I have seen sea turtle before on previous scuba dives elsewhere but they are usually at a distance and they don’t stay around for too long. On this particular dive, one of the other divers in my group caught my attention after spotting a sea turtle that was almost right underneath us as most of the divers in our group initially missed it.

I immediately grabbed our divemaster’s fin to alert him since he missed the turtle as well. Then I approached the turtle and laid on the ocean bottom. To our surprise, this turtle did not swim away upon our approach. Instead, it just stayed in place watching us for a few minutes.

Afterwards, it did finally swim up to the ocean surface probably to get a breath of fresh air as our divemaster caught everything on video as shown below.

Need Commitment For Inspirational Experiences Like This

This sea turtles encounter was very inspirational for me since it was a close up experience with nature at its best. I felt honoured to be there and it reminded me that not very many people in this world will ever get to experience what our group just did in real life.

However, inspirational experiences such as this sea turtle encounter is accessible for many more people out there. One must make certain commitments to get there.

If one is not a scuba diver yet, then a certification course is required in order to become a certified scuba diver. Then one must make the commitment to go on scuba diving trips to dive waters where such beautiful creatures live, irregardless of whether any of your friends or family members are interested in diving or not.

And if you cannot swim, then obviously a big commitment is required in order to learn how to swim which is a definite prerequisite to taking the scuba diving certification course. So it’s really a matter of whether you are willing to make such commitments or not. If you want inspirational experiences like this which most people in this world will never get, you have to do what is necessary in the form of big commitments in order to get there.

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