Swimming with sharks in Australia
As I climb into the steel cage, “my breath quickens,” said Carrie Miller in National Geographic Traveler. I am out on the ocean off South Australia, and a 17-foot-long great white shark is circling. I want to get in the water with her, of course; doing so was the whole purpose of my booking a four-day excursion with Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions. But while I’ve seen sharks in my dreams since childhood, I’ve never done anything like this. I’m not even a diver; I’m simply a fan of these “dragons” of the deep: “To me, sharks are everything that is wild, untamed, and unpredictable about the world.” I yearn to see one eye to eye.
Moments later, I am 7 feet underwater, and the shark is nowhere in sight. I hear only my own breathing as I draw air from a regulator attached to the Princess II. “Then the back of my neck begins to prickle,” and “I slowly turn.” Six inches from my stomach looms the nose of a 1.5-ton great white. I shoot backward to the other side of the cage as she drops a fin and banks away. I’m on my knees trembling by the time she circles back. This time, “our eyes meet, and I feel a thrill of awe and terror.” Her eye “is not the dead matte black from the movies but brown, with a lively blue ring around the outside.”
Should tourists be experiencing such thrills? The practices of research boats like Rodney Fox’s are “a particularly touchy subject” in Port Lincoln, the excursion’s departure point and a city greatly enriched by the lucrative bluefin tuna industry. Many locals know at least one person killed by a shark. They worry that research boats that use ground-up fish as bait get sharks accustomed to approaching boats, increasing hazards for both species. But the research helps scientists fend off threats to the sharks and to the critical role they play as the ocean’s alpha predators. “Life would be pale indeed without our dragons.”A brief sabbatical in Oxford, England
Oxford, England, has inspired countless novels and films, and “it’s easy to see why,” said Jennifer Moses in The New York Times. The home of the University of Oxford is a “ridiculously pretty” town, a “many-layered confection of history, aspiration, ambition, class, elegance, yearning, wealth, trade, and all things poetic.” While my husband spent a sabbatical there last fall, I took the opportunity to explore—renting a sturdy three-speed bicycle to get around and learning not to be slowed by a little rain. “A note for those inclined to fashionable footwear: Don’t even think about it.” Oxford is for Wellies and lots of walking—“through the winding streets, over cobblestones, up battlements, and along all kinds of footpaths.”
“Perhaps the best way to get a handle on the whole megillah is atop the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin right smack in the middle of the action, at Radcliffe Square.” From the 14th-century spire, “you can take it all in: the town’s location in the Thames Valley, the silky river itself, the gardens and meadows, the canals,” and, “of course,” the 38 colleges that compose the university. Founded around 900, Oxford was a trading hub in medieval times, a crossroads in central-south England located about 60 miles northwest of London. To try to imagine what Oxford looked like then, I pedaled to the district known as Iffley Village, where a 12th-century church proved to be “the kind of place that stuns you into reverent silence,” and the “typically English mix of thatched-roof and halftimbered houses” shares space with fields, geese, and centuries-old stone walls.
I liked Cowley for its ethnic restaurants and Osney for its pretty Victorian-era workers’ cottages. Still, nothing beat “the glories of Oxford central.” From the wide-ranging collection at the Ashmolean Museum to the intoxicating Botanic Garden, this city barely left me any time for its pubs. But I did find time on my last day to romp around Christ Church Meadow. Cows grazed to my right while bicyclists passed on my left, “and on the tantalizing far side of the walls, the college, with its spires, towers, gates, and cathedral, glowed in the pale afternoon light.”Dominica’s wild allure
At least one island in the Caribbean has so far escaped large-scale development, said Eric Vohr in The Dallas Morning News. “Still savagely wild and naturally beautiful,” Dominica might owe its luck to a relative shortage of white sand beaches, but the tiny island nation’s raging rivers, volcanic fissures, lush rain forest, and steep mountains make it “an eco-tourism paradise.” It’s no wonder why Dominica (pronounced dahm-uh-NEE-ka) is known as the Nature Island. There are “almost too many natural wonders” on this island to list them all.
A day’s hike through Morne Trois Pitons National Park
rates as a must. Our party chose aptly named Boiling Lake as our destination, and the three-hour trek across numerous steep ridges and deep valleys took us into a landscape where the ground itself felt young. In the Valley of Desolation, “superheated steam hisses and sputters through multicolored pools of oxidized sulfur, iron, copper, lead, calcium, and carbon.” In truth, “nowhere else have I been so close to the earth’s fiery fury. There are no fences, barriers, or park rangers here, just raw nature.” Boiling Lake, a 200-foot-wide flooded fumarole, proved to be as impressive as we’d hoped, its waters violently rolling and bubbling at temperatures, we were told, that reach 300 degrees. More temperate waters soothed our tired muscles on the return hike when we stopped to swim in a warm pool of one of Dominica’s many hot-spring-fed rivers.
The beaches we did find on Dominica offered more than we could have asked for. Portsmouth Bay is the largest, and just north of it lies Toucari Bay, “a pristine and secluded picture-postcard cove that will make you pinch yourself.” The coral reef offshore is so impressive that it’s due to become a protected marine park. In the waters off rocky Champagne Beach, underwater fumaroles produce towers of rising bubbles that sparkle in the sunlight like Dom P?rignon fizz in a crystal flute. If that’s not enough to get you to Dominica, know that a pi?a colada is never far out of reach. Trust me, though: “They taste better here.”Roughing it in Chilean Patagonia
You can never predict what the rewards will be when you set off on a long mountain trek, said Erin Williams in The Washington Post. The peaks of South America had been calling to my husband and me long before we reached them. “Wild areas are our escape,” and when we’re not dreaming of our next distant adventure, we’re using our weekends to train for them. For our trip to Patagonia, we had our imaginations trained on the Torres del Paine, three towering mountain peaks in southern Chile that are “arguably Patagonia’s most iconic sight.” On a clear day, they “scrape the sky hundreds of feet above a snowfield and a meltwater lake.”
The bus ride to the trailhead offered instant rewards. Throughout our two-hour drive through national parkland, I pressed my face against the bus window, “mesmerized by the sprawling landscape and the surprising abundance of wildlife: guanacos that resembled petite llamas, massive Andean condors, incongruous flamingos, and ostrich-like rheas.” A catamaran transported us across Lake Peho? to a lodge that would be our base. We chose to sleep in our own tent like many other hikers but enjoyed the lodge’s showers and warming up with cups of tea. We had a five-day hike ahead of us.
The beginning of the trail wandered alongside a windblown lake that was “bedazzled with blue icebergs broken off a glacier.” Between nights curled tightly in our sleeping bags, “we dawdled along the trail, admiring aquamarine lakes, forests, and wildflowers.” We also drank from meltwater streams and ate lunch beneath Cerro Paine Grande
, the park’s highest peak. On the day we hoped to reach the Torres, “sheeting precipitation and relentless wind slowed our pace,” unfortunately, and it was a challenge to push through forest and across a glacial moraine field. Snow lashed our faces as we huddled under a boulder, waiting in vain for the dense fog to lift. “Are you disappointed?” my husband asked, taking my hand. “No,” I said, as we sat shivering together. “Let’s stay for a while.”Finding serenity in Kyoto
For a city of 1.5 million, Kyoto can be surprisingly calming, said Robin Pogrebin in The New York Times. Known as the City of Ten Thousand Shrines, Japan’s wellpreserved former imperial capital was the destination my husband and I chose for a family trip “that would catapult us all out of our comfort zones.” It did, but mostly to lure us into the contemplative mind-set encouraged by its Zen Buddhist temples and sacred gardens. Our teenagers surprised me: Not only did they adjust quickly to the 14-hour time difference, but they also proved “curious and open to exploring a new part of the world.”
With so much to see, we set out early the first day for Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion
, a reconstructed 14th-century temple whose upper floors “shimmer in gold leaf.” At the site’s Sekka-tei Tea House, Ethan and Maya gamely knelt and sampled “silty” green tea as a guide led us through the rituals of a tea ceremony. Later, we strolled through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, “an otherworldly forest of tall green stalks and winding paths,” before grabbing lunch at Wakadori, a restaurant known for its Japanese fried chicken, or karaage. At Ryoan-ji, home to one of Japan’s finest rock gardens, we happily sat while studying 15 stones arranged in a sea of raked white gravel. “It is a memory that calms me even now.”
A walk through the Nishiki Market—a “must-see half-mile assault on the senses”—snapped us out of our reverie. As I snacked on kiritanpo (toasted rice on a stick), I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the “teeming” stalls of pickles, sugared fruit, grilled squid, and folding paper fans. It was the day before the new year, so we splurged that night on an osechi-ryori dinner at Kinmata. I passed on the elaborate menu’s candied sardines and marinated herring roe, but Ethan and Maya proved more daring. Near midnight, a light rain began to fall, and as we approached Kennin-ji, the oldest temple in Kyoto, we were greeted by the sounds of monks chanting and bells tolling.TOP 10 MOST BEAUTIFUL CITIES IN ASIA 2019
TOP 10 BEST AIRPORTS IN THE WORLD
TOP 10 MOST VISITED CITIES IN THE WORLD
TOP 10 MOST BEAUTIFUL CAPITALS IN THE WORLD
TOP 10 BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN SINGAPORE
10 AMAZING PLACES AROUND THE WORLD
TOP 10 CHEAPEAST COUNTRIES TO LIVE IN EUROPE 2019
7 BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN THE WORLD THAT YOU NEED TO SEE IN REAL LIFE
TOP 10 BEST BEACHES TO VISIT IN THE WORLD
THE MOST RARE AND BEAUTIFUL NATURAL PHENOMENA
TOP 10 CRAZIEST NATURAL PHENOMENA AROUND THE WORLD
TOP 10 MOST HORRIFYINGLY MYSTERIOUS LAKES IN THE WORLD
30 WEIRD AND WONDERFUL NATURAL PHENOMENA FROM AROUND THE WORLD