Turtle Spotting Do’s and Dont’s

So I thought I would start a series on the do’s and dont’s that are associated with wildlife. For the first one I thought I would go with turtles. Now as you may know, I am a marine biologist with a huge love and passion for conservation. This has led me to take multiple trips around the world with focus on conservation and eco tourism. One thing that I noticed a lot was animal eco tourism trips and specifically those with the focus on sea turtles.

So over the years I have been on multiple trips where turtle spotting has been part of it. Whether it was working on a turtle conservation project with Archelon in Zakynthos or turtle spotting in Tobago. I have picked up certain behaviours from tourists that inspired me to write this.

So lets start with the Dont’s:

  1. If you are fortunate enough to see one in the ocean whilst on a boat…do NOT go near it with the boat…keep a safe distance and don’t drive over them!
  2. If you see one whilst swimming/snorkelling/diving…again keep a safe distance. Turtles can be very quick swimmers so if they get stressed by you, they will swim away but always give them space. DO NOT touch them!
  3. If you encounter an adult on the beach, give her space as it will most likely be an adult female who is getting ready to lay her nest. This will occur at night (or very rarely at sunrise) so do not shine your torches as that stresses them out and again give them plenty of space. Do not use any light at all, this includes phone lights, flashes from cameras and normal torches.
  4. If you are lucky enough to see hatchlings coming out of the nest. No matter how tempting it may be. DO NOT pick them up. They use their journey from the nest to the ocean to ‘learn’ where to come back to to lay their own nests.
  5. Don’t litter…This is an easy one. Even if you aren’t seeing any turtles, the litter you drop on a beach will inevitably affect a turtle at some stage. Whether its an adult or a hatchling, they all are effected by litter on the beaches and in the ocean.
  6. Do not buy turtleshell products when travelling. They are normally caught by poachers and are always illegally and inhumanely sourced.

Now for the do’s:

  1. If you are fortunate enough to see them…enjoy the moment! Do it responsibly but enjoy it none the less! They are beautiful creatures and I will never get bored of seeing them.
  2. If you spot a hatchling going the wrong way…pick them up and turn them around. If it is during the day…try and shade them so that the sun doesn’t roast them. And if it is at night, try and block out the lights that are disorientating them.
  3. Do a beach clean every time you go to the beach. Even if you only pick up 5 pieces of litter each time it will make a huge difference.
  4. If you decide to go on a turtle spotting boat…make sure you go with a reputable company that is known for its eco tourism. If you aren’t sure which company to chose, there are companies in most countries that are there for the sole purpose for turtle conservation, such as Archelon in Greece and Save our Turtles in Tobago, they will be able to tell you companies that they recommend.
  5. Use recyclable straws or reusable straws. Straws are some of the biggest culprits of turtles dying. Making a small change to reusable straws or no straws at all will make a huge difference.
  6. Eat locally sourced sustainable seafood. Companies that are locally sourced tend to use better fishing techniques so less turtles get caught in fishing lines. The sustainable companies will use more turtle friendly fishing gear.
  7. Last but not least. Donate to local turtle conservation projects. Most are NGO’s and need the money to keep running. If you can’t give money, maybe you can give some time and volunteer with them. I can’t recommend that enough. My time volunteering with Archelon in Zakynthos was one of the best summers I’ve had. The information I learnt then have stuck by me and have changed my daily habits.

Overall, enjoy them! They are truly beautiful creatures, so lets protect them so that we and the future generations can still enjoy them!

Camera 14MP-9PC
Camera 14MP-9PC

Chunky Veggie Chilli

One of our favourite recipes is chunky veggie chilli and we wanted to share the recipe with you!

Ingredients (for 4-6 people):

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 onions
  • 3 or 4 carrots
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tspchilli powder (we use mild)
  • 2x tins red kidney beans in chilli sauce
  • 1x tin mixed taco beans in chilli or tomato sauce
  • 1x 500g passata
  • 1x tin of sweetcorn
  • Tortilla chips to serve
  • Guacamole
  • Soured Cream

Method:

  • Roughly chop all the veggies
  • Cook in oil until fork tender
  • Add the spices and cook for a further minute
  • Add the beans and passata and cook till hot
  • Serve with tortilla chips, guacamole and sourced cream
  • Add some grated cheese if you fancy

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UK Roadtrip

As I sit here in the sunshine, am pondering the last couple days. Moving was stressful… what to throw, what to bring, what do we now have double… etc.. another thing that worried me was a car.. as I had moved to the US for a year we sold my little convertible.. and now the pressure was building to buy a little 2nd hand car.

I knew what I wanted, and although it took a little convincing for the rest of the family. They know I like shopping and it’s the smallest car ever… but I now had a little blue smart car waiting for me…

We took it out on sabbath, driving to London where Geert had to speak at an afternoon service…. I can make the car work…. yes, it’s tiny… but we will be fine…

Sunday morning Mel and I packed the car for a couple days camping in Wales.. the car is small!!! But we made it and are now sitting on a garden sofa, having a drink, and enjoying the sunshine… what will tomorrow bring? Destination Anglesey!!! My favourite area in Wales, and something I missed a lot… sea and tea with scones. Yum!

Exploring Cornwall

So as I mentioned in one of my previous blogs (Taking Time for Yourself), dad and I went on a little minibreak to Cornwall. The reason for this trip was that dad had been asked to play the drums at Live in a Field in Chapel Porth (a camp filled with worship and activities) and of course I would join. Who wouldn’t want to escape their everyday life to be beside the ocean for a couple days??

Thursday afternoon came and it was time to drive down…we were expecting awful traffic and a long journey, however, we had managed to beat the bank holiday traffic!! Before we knew it (and after a quick stop off at Mcdonalds) we had arrived in Cornwall. We had decided to rent an Airbnb near the campsite and found a cute flat in Porthtowan. The one downside was that we arrived in the dark and there is no phone signal in Porthtowan. So finding the flat was an adventure…but we managed to find it (a stone’s throw from the beach!) and we settled in and got an early night.

The next morning we woke to dense fog and thick cloud cover…not the weather you hope for when you’re going to the beach…however, I put my wellies on and dad put his trainers on and off we went for a morning walk on the beach. Porthtowan beach is gorgeous, if you ever find yourself in Cornwall, definitely go!! And if the weather is nice…treat yourself to some Cornish icecream from Moomaid of Zennor!! We went looking for shells and found none but did a quick beach clean whilst we were there. After a little exploration, we decided to head over to Trevaunance Cove which had been a favourite spot of ours for the last couple years. However, the beach cafe had been changed and didn’t have the same cosy feel that it had had over the last couple years. So after a quick coffee and a seal or two spotted, we went for another walk on the beach and explored some of the caves.

It soon became time for us to head over to Chapel Porth campsite for dad to drop off his drums and a quick catch up with some friends before heading over to St Ives for a spot of lunch and a quick wander around the beautiful town, and of course another ice cream! We then headed back to the camp for the evening worship and headed off for an early night.

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Saturday morning, dad headed back off for a pretty full day at the campsite. I had decided to take the day for myself and explored the coastal paths between Porthtowan and Chapel Porth. Dad met me halfway and we continued on exploring some of the ruins that Cornwall has to offer! That evening we had a lovely concert filled with Lily-Jo, Speak, Brother and Volney Morgan & New Ye. So no early night for us!

The next morning we were promised sunshine and it definitely came through!!! Blue sky and glorious sunshine! Nothing could beat that! So off we went for ice cream (that I mentioned above) and a quick walk up the coastal path to a viewpoint. After an hour of not spotting anything, we decided to have a quick bite to eat. Whilst eating, we saw the fog coming in and before we knew it…the view was gone! The fog was so thick that you couldn’t see far in front of you at all! So off to Starbucks for a coffee and then back to the camp.

That evening we had the last concert filled with Daughters of Davis and Philippa Hanna. Once that was done, we packed up dads drum kit and headed back to our normal lives. It was a whirlwind of a trip but one that was much needed.

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What do you like about minibreaks?  What do you like to do relax?

Also, check out or Cornwall 2018 Vlog for a more detailed look at what we got up to!!

Taking Time for Yourself

It’s important to, once in a while, take some time for yourself…I did just that this last weekend. After dad being away for 2 1/2 weeks last month…my anxiety picked up…it hit me out of nowhere and for those of you who also have anxiety…you know that it isn’t something that you can just stop…

Anxiety can be crippling, it can make you scared to leave your house, talk to new people, try something new…but you also know that it is a completely illogical fear. I’m known as an over thinker…I over think pretty much everything in my life and so my brain is a constant bundle of things I need to do and scenarios that would never happen. I have yet to find a permanent solution where I can battle my anxiety and overthinking. For right now though a few hobbies keep my mind distracted and this last week and weekend I really focused on myself and pressed the ‘reset’ button in my brain.

So last week, Dad and I took a trip down to Cornwall…dad had an event that he was playing the drums at and I used the time to just relax. We rented an airbnb in Porthtowan just minutes walk from the beach. Now for those of you who know me know that there is something about the ocean and the beach…I feel like I’m at home. My love for marine biology intensifies whenever I’m near the beach and I always feel like the ocean is calling me…my mood instantly changes when I see the ocean, no matter the weather…I cheer up…I relax…I breathe more deeply and think more clearly.

I had so many things planned for that weekend, however there were 2 factors that hindered those plans and could have ruined it all for me. The weather is not something you can control and bank holidays in the UK are notorious for having poor weather. Well, the weather in Cornwall lived up to that…I received pictures from several important people in my life showing the blue sky and talking about how hot it was…I looked out my window and all I had was dense fog, the sun wasn’t anywhere in sight…But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from being on the beach! Now the second factor was a little more annoying…2 weeks before I had managed to dislocate my right shoulder (yes I am right handed) and was still in significant pain and arm still in a sling. So suddenly things like picking up trash on the beach, or trying to take a picture with my camera, became a lot harder to do. Yes we had the dense fog for 2 out of the 3 days we were there, but the last day the fog finally lifted and I remembered why I love the ocean and the beach. The colours of the sand and the blue hues of the water…there is just nothing quite like it for me.

Now getting back to what I did to press the ‘reset’ button, I went for numerous walks on the beach and along the coastal path along the cliffs and spent time staring out to sea, anxiously looking to see if I could spot any wildlife (some seals but that was it), I explored some of the numerous ruins that Cornwall has to offer. Spent time reconnecting with old friends, building connections with new ones and drinking multiple iced lattes and peach green tea lemonades. Oh and who can forget the ice creams!!

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Unfortunately, time always flies and before I knew it we were home and the instant lull in my mood was noticeable. I knew I had to do something to stop myself from slipping back into my anxiety driven state. I ended up looking through my yarn stash and decided to crochet something again. Recently I had been knitting a wrap for myself but I really wanted to crochet something. So I picked a pattern and off I went…There is just something about crocheting and knitting that keeps my mind preoccupied and allows me to relax.

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Some people might say that it is selfish to take time for yourself. But if you don’t, then when do you get the time to be yourself…allow yourself to grow and to relax. Sometimes that means a mini break away to your ‘happy place’ and sometimes it means just picking up an old hobby. All I know is that since my mini break…my anxiety has lessened and my mood has improved.

What about you…what is your happy place? Do you have anxiety? What helps calm you down? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!!

Have a great weekend!

~ A cloudy day at the beach, is still a day at the beach – Unknown ~

What Can We Do In Our Everyday Life To Help

If you have been watching the news recently, or listen to the radio…then I’m sure that you have heard about the ‘plastics’ issue. We have become dependent on plastics and forget that we can’t recycle the majority of them. Whether it’s buying fruit in bags, or using plastic bags to transport goods. We use plastics in our lives daily. The question is…how can we stop it?

Over the last couple weeks, my facebook has been covered in posts about the ‘Plastic Island’ that is double the size of the state Texas that is drifting in the ocean. My heart sunk the first time I saw that because to me it’s not just the issue about plastic floating in the ocean…but more what it means to the animals that live in the ocean!

Turtles are some of the most well-known creatures that are being affected by the plastics issue. They love to eat jellyfish and a plastic bag floating in the ocean looks identical! But not only are they ingesting the plastics, they are also getting caught in it. But it isn’t just turtles. Many animals that have been washed ashore have been found to either be surrounded by plastic or having ingested plastic.

So the question is…what can we do in our day to day life to change this?

Simple…instead of drinking bottled water, buy a reusable bottle! In one year, on average per person, that would decrease the number of plastic bottles by 167. When you go and get a coffee, bring a reusable cup or when you go shopping, bring a reusable bag! These little things make a huge difference! You might not directly see the effects, but the environment definitely does!

We as a family have stopped using plastic water bottles, bring reusable shopping bags and reusable cups for our coffee. We also try and buy loose produce in the grocery store to minimise the amount of plastic we buy and when possible we buy food in glass jars rather than plastic containers. Yes, this might mean you pay more, but in the end what is money if the environment suffers?

So we’ve made the change…have you? What do you do to minimise the amount of plastic you use in your day to day life? Let us know in the comments!

Also if you want to support a great cause go to:

https://jettiesbracelets.grsm.io/MelodyTap

They sell super cute bracelets, clothing, towels, etc and 10% of every sale goes back to turtle conservation! Check them out!! They make awesome presents for yourself or loved ones and support a great cause!!

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Favourite Things About Autumn…

Autumn is a time of year where some get depressed with the falling leaves and the temperatures dropping. I, however, love it! And here are some of the reasons why!!

As a photographer, autumn is one of the most inspiring times of year to take pictures…the changing colours, the coats, the scarves, the hats! So many possibilities without being too hot or too cold!

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The smells!!!! Apple orchards are in full swing and the smell of a fresh apple is unbeatable in my opinion! All the variety of pies that are being made, the smell of rain, the smell of crisp fresh air! Autumn really does have the best smells!! This time of year also brings around my favourite drink of the year! Hot apple cider!! The smell of apple, cinnamon and star anise really warms me from the inside out!!! It is also a time of year where teas come out more and more from our cupboard. I start drinking tea on a daily basis, not English breakfast though! More fruit and herbal teas! The perfect way to warm up after a day outside in the cold crisp air!

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Of course, there is also Thanksgiving, a day where we can reflect on what we have been most thankful for that year! Now I am living in England where it isn’t normal to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I love the thought of acknowledging what you are thankful for that year and what you are looking forward to (plus the good food!!!!!).

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The layers…So I’m a girl that whatever the time of year, I will be wearing multiple layers, 2 strap tops plus a t-shirt. But at this time of year, it starts becoming socially acceptable to wear these multiple layers and I suddenly become fashionable!

Autumn also means that it’ll soon be winter and that means Christmas! A time of year we can reflect on the birth of Jesus and what that means in your personal lives!

So what is your favourite thing(s) about autumn? Let me know in the comments!

~ Autumn shows how beautiful it is to let go! – Anonymous ~

Feels like Holiday

There are some of those days that just lift you up and fill you with peace. It does not necessarily need to be associated with church. Fellowship can happen in many different forms and shapes.

Yesterday truly was one of those days. Melody and I got up at 4.45am to leave the hotel at 5am (luckily they served coffee that early in the morning!). We drove to a little place in the mountains where we had a cup of coffee (brewed the Costa Rica way with a sock) before heading out for a day of fun and adventures. The Costa Rica roads are a little different than in the US and a 140km journey will take 3 hours. Our destination was the National park Manuel Antonio. We had heard so much about it and were very eager to go there! Those that know me know I don’t really like driving in either the rain or the dark, so I was very grateful Melissa and Tomasz where coming with us and they drove.

After about an hour we stopped at an alligator bridge… we assumed so called because you could occasionally see alligators there… how wrong we were! Mel counted 31 beasts in the wild.. huge! Quite different from what we saw last year in a park in Florida. These were just hanging out under the bridge….

The next stop: the park. Foreigners pay a lot more than Ticos, but still, we got in and looked forward to it. By now the sun was shining brightly on us, at about 10am in the morning. Hard to breath, but sunblock was quite needed. We decided to not use a guide, but trust Mel’s eyesight. She usually does not disappoint spotting things we struggle to see.

Dozens of howler monkeys and capuchin monkeys playing over our heads. Red colourful crabs below the walkway. 2 sloths in typical sloth position hugging the tree. Deer, raccoon, coati.. we really were blessed to be able to see all that… but it was super hot and we were drenched in sweat!

A quick drive and walk to a secret beach promised a dip in the water to cool off. Unfortunately the water was a little murky, so not quite as refreshing.. but still a pleasant couple hours were spent there, with the thunder rolling in over the sea.

After a lovely meal in a restaurant overlooking the vista we were ready to go back. 
It truly felt like a one day holiday! A super pleasant Sabbath day!

Costa Rica Part 2

So I know this is waaaaaaay overdue. But the second we got back from Costa Rica, it has just been full speed ahead with my masters and before you know it, it is several weeks later!

Anyway, I honestly didn’t think it could get any better after the first week in Costa Rica (Read my other blog post if you don’t know what happened!!!) . But after another full working week of masters and watching the various storms roll past, it was time for the next part of the adventure to begin.

Friday evening, some of mums colleagues took us out for dinner in downtown San Jose followed by the most amazing dessert, hazelnut brownie!!! The food was incredible and the company was even better!!! Saturday was a chilled day for us, just relaxing by the pool and just taking a day to recover from a hectic week, and getting us ready for the big adventure that would occur the next day! Sunday was going to be epic!!

The alarm went off at 4:30am, and reluctantly we got out of bed! We got dressed and made our way to the hotel entrance, of course all the hallways were deserted! We were picked up again by mums colleagues (who organised the whole trip for us!!) and we were on our way! About 30 minutes later, we swapped cars and I met another one of mums colleagues and her partner (their car was bigger) and then we were off again. I was convinced I was going to nap in the car until we got to the destination. Boy I was wrong! Conversation flowed from one topic to the next, and before we knew it we were facing Arenal Volcano. Little did we know that the sight that was before us was extremely rare, we were able to see the full volcano in all its glory! And the view did not disappoint!!!

After a quick stop over for breakfast in the village (3 hours in car later!) we finally made it to the destination! Mistico Hanging Bridges!!!!! Now a lot of you will know that I am PETRIFIED of heights!! But this has been on my bucket list since I knew what bucket lists were! So no backing out for me!! The walk to the first bridge was one of the longest walks of my life!!! Each step took me closer to one of my fears! And all of a sudden, there we were….a hanging bridge 45m above the forest floor and 75m long!! I reluctantly took one step onto the bridge, and then another…not looking down and holding on for dear life on anything I could grab. But when I got to the other side I realised that it actually wasn’t that bad….the same, however, cannot be said for my mum. I have NEVER seen her so scared before in my life!!! The next 5 hanging bridges were a breeze for me and I loved every second of it, looking down to the forest floor and up to the tree tops was incredible!! The longest and highest bridge was the waterfall bridge which was 45m heigh and 92m (only the last bridge was longer by 5m but a lot lower!). This was definitely an experience that I want to repeat though!!! The views were just too incredible and the wildlife too spectacular, not to go again!!!

Once the hanging bridges were done (to mums relief!!) we then went on to the second part of the adventure. We first tried some of the local delicacies that can be found everywhere in Costa Rica…Pipa…You will hear that being shouted everywhere! It means Coconut water…now I’m not a fan of coconut water that you can buy in the supermarkets, but this was incredible!!! Did not taste like coconut at all!!! Once you have finished the water, they can break it open for you and then you can eat the flesh, again did not taste like the coconut we know in Europe! Once our taste adventure was done, we then went on a boat ride, and we literally had the boat to ourselves (there were only 6 of us!) and we had a relaxing cruise on Lake Arenal. By this time, the volcano had completely disappeared in the clouds, but the views of the landscapes surrounding us were still amazing! Along with the wildlife that we spotted, like egrets and kingfishers! Before we knew it though, it was time to head back and we had to say goodbye to Arenal. On the way back we stopped off in Zarcero and looked at all the cool shaped hedges before getting some ice cream to cool down before arriving back in the hotel!

The week was the same as the previous week, lots of masters work on the balcony with more storms passing by and before I knew it it was one of our last evenings in Costa Rica 🙁 but to make it special, mums colleagues took us out for traditional Costa Rican food (lots of plantain) and it was AMAZING!! Sweet plantain baked with cheese is just amazing!!

It then came to our last full day in Costa Rica and what better than to go into the rainforest and go on the aerial tram. The drive through Braulio Carrillo National Park was just breathtaking, with mountains appearing from the mist. The aerial tram was also amazing, going from the forest floor, to mid tree level, to pretty much the tree tops, gave us a whole new perspective on the fauna and flora of Costa Rica. Our guide was super friendly and informed us of all kinds of features that we would never have known! After a super relaxing hour and fifteen minutes, it was time to go for the walking tour. Not long after getting off the tram, the guide saw a super venomous snake (it was tiny!!!). He showed us all kinds of wildlife that inhabited Costa Rica. However no sloths and no tapirs! 🙁

Arriving back at the car we were determined to keep driving till we saw a sloth!! But that idea stopped very quickly when we realised that the battery of the car was dead!!! (Lights were left on with no warning…) So after some batting of the eyelashes, two of the gentleman that worked there were able to charge our car battery and off we went in search for sloths.

Our driving adventure took us all over! Dirt roads to driving next to a huge banana plantation to driving in little villages. In one of those villages I happened to look up into a tree in on of the gardens and saw something light coloured and scraggly, at first I thought no way is that a sloth, but the closer we got the more excited I got! I screamed at the top of my lungs to stop the car and that there was a sloth right above our heads!!! We quickly jumped out the car and took pictures (much to the locals entertainment) and the smile on my face was beaming! So with task completed, it was back to the hotel we go!

The next morning it was up again at a very early hour before heading to the airport, and to my disappointment, away from Costa Rica! Back to Minnesota we went and on to our next adventure!!!!

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