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World Wildlife Fund Good Nature Travel

filtered by category: South Pacific tours

  • Date: 04 November 2013
  • Author: Cassie O'Connor, WWF

Wood is the source of life, according to Asmat tradition. Their creation story begins with a figure named Fumeripits, the first Asmat wood carver. His story begins as loneliness creeps over Fumeripits, who spends his days dancing alone. To overcome this feeling, he decides to chop down wood and methodically carve out human figures to keep him company; he also carves a drum after realizing that the inanimate carvings aren’t enough to fulfill his desire for company. Fumeripits begins to rhythmically beat the drum and slowly the figures creak to life.

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  • Date: 22 October 2013
  • Author: Tania Segura, WWF Travel

Go on a visual tour of Papua New Guinea with us! On the Voyage Around the Remote Islands of Papua New Guinea, travelers move from the low seas to the rims of volcanoes. You’ll get a peek at daily village life, cultural demonstrations and reefs that boast a staggering amount of coral. Within the Coral Triangle, there are more than 600 species of coral and 2,000 species of reef fish.

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  • Date: 24 July 2012
  • Author: Rich Lovell, WWF Travel Guest Blogger

After thousands of scuba diving expeditions throughout the world’s oceans, marine biologist Ron Leidich thought he had seen it all. But nothing prepared him for the first time he plunged into Blue Corner, a popular diving spot nestled in the surrounding waters of the island republic of Palau in the western Pacific.

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  • Date: 11 August 2011
  • Author: Elissa Leibowitz Poma, WWF Travel Manager

Preparing for one of WWF’s highly sought-after snorkeling tours? Take a look at our packing list to make sure you’ve got everything you need before taking to the waters.

1. Mask
Taking the time to find a mask that fits your face well is critical. If you suction the mask to your face, without using the strap, it should stay put by itself. Any air leakage means it’s not a good fit.

2. Mask defogger
Goggle defogger can help prevent your mask from fogging up. Be sure to choose one that’s non-toxic, biodegradable and alcohol free, for your protection and for the safety of the reefs and their inhabitants. A simpler option is to spit into the mask and rub the saliva around before washing it out.

3. Snorkel
A critical factor in choosing the right snorkel is the mouthpiece—you want to make sure it feels comfortable. A “purge valve” is a nice feature on many snorkels that lets water out but not in. And you want to choose a snorkel that comes close to your head, which will prevent drag.

4. Swim cap or bandana
Not only will a swim cap or bandana keep hair out of your snorkel, but it will also prevent your scalp from burning on a sunny day. The surgical caps that doctors wear are an ideal type of bandana because the ties prevent them from slipping off. Pick one up from a medical supply company for cheap.

5. Float Vest
For the less confident swimmer, renting or purchasing a float vest is a great way to keep you buoyant and relieve any nervousness.

6. Wetsuit
Besides keeping you warm in cooler water, wetsuits also help prevent sunburns, offer protection from stingy particles in the ocean and provide buoyancy. Shorty wetsuits—ones with short sleeves and leggings that stop right before the knee—are perfect for water that’s just a little cooler than you could swim in comfortably, plus they’re easier to pull on and take up less room in your suitcase.

7. Rash guard
When the water is too warm for a wetsuit, a rash guard will provide the same protection from the sun and ocean stinging bits.

8. Biodegradable sunscreen
Choose a reef-friendly sunscreen, which biodegrades in water. That way you won’t be damaging the reefs you’re there to see.

9. Fins
For snorkeling, shorter fins are often desired—you can change direction easier and they’re not as heavy, making it easier to kick. If you’d like to try free diving, go for longer fins that will help you swim deeper faster.

10. Neoprene socks
Even fins that fit well can cause blisters on your feet, especially on the backs of your ankles. Neoprene socks provide comfort and can also help keep your feet warm.

For travel clothes and items featuring WWF’s logo, check out online apparel retailer New Headings.

Join a WWF snorkeling trip.

  • Date: 24 February 2011
  • Author: Elissa Leibowitz Poma and Marsea Nelson, WWF Travel

In our latest School of Thought installment, WWF’s Elissa Poma and Marsea Nelson tell us what they learned after visiting the southern Pacific paradise of Micronesia.

1. The red-stained lips and teeth of many locals is not the result of chugging too much cherry Kool-Aid. It comes from chewing betel nut, a common practice in many countries throughout Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. The betel nut has a mild stimulant effect and allegedly reduces appetite and stress (and it’s also thought to cause cancer). The practice was fascinating—though hard to get used to seeing so many men and women spitting gooey red blobs openly in the streets. And, much like smoking a cigarette for the first time, it didn’t taste so great.

2. To enter a village in Yap, you must break off a small piece of a leafy branch and carry it in your hands. That indicates to the villagers – who tend to shy away from foreign travelers anywaythat you come in peace.

3. Traditional stone money called rai is still exchanged during ceremonies (like weddings) or whentransferring land titles. This is even though the U.S. dollar is the standard currency used in Yap. It would take 20 men to lift the largest “coin” on the island.

4. Ceremonial dances could very well be the most important part of Yapese culture. In fact, children begin learning the art form of “churu” even before they can speak, and some dancers rehearse for up to a year before an important performance. The dances tell the stories of Yap’s history – the importance of the development of the canoe, for example, or a vital conquest over the years.

5. It’s highly dangerous to go more than 50 feet deep in Palau’s Jellyfish Lake. This is because the bottom portion of the lake is a giant layer of hydrogen sulfide. For that reason, scuba diving is prohibited.

-E.P.

6. It’s important to test equipment before a big trip. A couple weeks before the tour, I went to my local pool and tried out my new mask, snorkel and fins. The mask didn’t fit, and I was able to replace it in time. Sure, I felt silly snorkeling in an indoor pool, but I would have felt even sillier going all the way to Micronesia with an unusable mask.

7. You can’t buy a tourist T-shirt on Yap. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. We went to at least three stores looking for shirts and had no luck. Even though it was disappointing, there’s something amazing about being in a place that remote. The island also has no traffic lights.

8. Peleliu was one of the deadliest battles of World War II. Considering this, I was surprised that I’d never heard of it before. We spent an emotional day visiting the island’s historical sites.

9. I love manta rays. I didn’t realize how amazing this species was until I snorkeled above a 15-foot female for at least 20 minutes. The ray was at a “cleaning station,” circling around and around just above the sea floor while cleaner wrasse removed small parasites from its skin. Afterward, I knew nothing could top the experience.

10. Actually … there is something that can top seeing a 15-foot manta ray. When we first entered the water at Jellyfish Lake, everyone was hesitant to swim further into the body of water where the main concentration of jellyfish was, even though we knew they couldn’t sting us. Finally, with our guide’s encouragement, we all swam further. As soon as I felt the jellyfish globes lightly bouncing off of me from every direction, I started to laugh. I couldn’t stop. It was such a strange and otherworldly experience and definitely the highlight of an unforgettable trip.

-M.N.

Join a WWf snorkeling adventure.

  • Date: 31 August 2010
  • Author: Elissa Leibowitz Poma, WWF Travel Manager

Snorkeling gives travelers the best of all worlds: The chance to see brilliant and vibrant seascapes without the expense and special training that scuba diving requires. In fact, many of our snorkeling guides no longer strap on their air tanks and descend deep below the surface in scuba gear, because there’s so much to see just below the surface

If you’re considering one of WWF’s highly sought-after snorkeling tours, the following tips are ideal to help beginners and advanced aficionados alike:

10. Suiting up: Most people think wetsuits are only for use in chilly water. But they serve multiple purposes: They’re great at warding off dangerous sunburns, they keep most of your skin shielded from stingy particles in the ocean and they provide buoyancy.

Shorty wetsuits are suitable for nearly all of WWF’s snorkeling tours. One important tip: Don’t forget to put sun block on the backs of your calves, which seems to be the No. 1 spot to burn when you’re snorkeling. (And choose a reef-friendly product.)

9. Floating around: If you aren’t a strong swimmer, don’t have the stamina to stay in the water for a long time or don’t plan to free dive, consider using a float vest (either one that goes around your waist or one that straps across your shoulders). They’re also very helpful in snorkeling spots where currents can be swift.

8. Take the waters: Most of WWF’s snorkeling trips take place near the equator or in other tropical destinations. That means the sun is strong and dehydration is common. Even if you’re immersed in water, its salt content will sap your skin of moisture. Make sure to hydrate with water, juice or other non-alcoholic beverages.

7. Flood insurance: If your mask floods with water while snorkeling, beginners can go above the surface to let the water out. An effective advanced technique, however, doesn’t require that you surface.

Merely hold the top center portion of the mask’s faceplate tight to your face—use the back of your hand to hold it steady. Then blow air out of your mouth. The air should force the water out of the looser bottom portion of your mask.

6. Keep your distance: Give marine life space and don’t approach too closely. Even if an animal approaches you—maintain a safe distance, and do not touch them.

This especially applies to corals. Some are toxic and can cause nasty cuts or even massive infections—not to mention that even an unintended kick to a coral head can damage decades’ worth of growth. During some of our snorkeling outings, the water over reefs is so shallow that you cannot even wear fins—follow your guide’s instructions when visiting these spots.

5. Test swim: Everyone should test out a new snorkel before going on a trip, but no one more so than a snorkeler with a prescription mask. It is common for small holes or tears to be created when a snorkel mask is being fitted with specialty lenses. Be sure to test it out with time to get it fixed if needed.

4. Cranium care: Wearing a swim cap or bandana around your head not only keeps hair out of your snorkel but also helps to keep your scalp from burning on a sunny day. An especially good style of bandana to wear is the one that surgeons don in the operating room—the ties prevent them from slipping off. Pick one up from a medical supply company for cheap.

3. Steamy moments: Like the inside of a car during a winter day, a snorkeling masks fogs up because you are generating heat. Prior to hopping in the water, wet the inside of your mask and dump out the water. Then spit into the mask and rub the saliva around before washing it out. This will prevent some degree of fogginess.

Special anti-fog gels are available on the market that work rather well; be sure to choose one that’s non-toxic, biodegradable and alcohol free, for your protection and for the safety of the reefs and their inhabitants.

2. Dive into it: Diving underwater and descending 10 to 30 feet is an advanced snorkeling technique that can add tremendously to the experience. Not only do you get a closer look at things below the sea, but you’ll also get yourself into a better position to snap photographs of supersized coral tables or take a closer look at a sea fan.

Diving while snorkeling requires that you learn to force your ears to “pop” to equalize pressure and swim below the surface more comfortable. You also need to practice expelling water from your snorkel by forcing a strong burst of air through the tube as you clear the water’s surface. Special “purge snorkels” are available on the market for those who want an extra line of protection against getting water in your mouth.

1. Don’t be touchy: Resist the temptation to pocket a pretty souvenir shell or seemingly dead sea star—it’s not ecologically sound, and it could even be illegal.

Join a WWF snorkeling tour.

 

 

  • Date: 10 March 2010
  • Author: Elissa Leibowitz Poma, WWF Travel Manager

Hungry for power food—Komodo dragons dominate the Indonesian islands they inhabit, prowling the tropical islands with a commanding ferocity.  It’s no wonder the Komodo dragon has inspired some of the most fear-inducing monsters in Hollywood history.

Classified as a vulnerable species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List, there are an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 Komodo dragons in the wild.

10. The Komodo dragon is the world’s largest living lizard species; it can grow to nearly 10 feet long and average 150 pounds (though researchers have discovered some weighing in excess of 300 pounds). Because the islands they inhabit have no other carnivorous wildlife, they dominate that wedge of the food chain, thus leading to their “island gigantism.”

9. Komodo dragons are suspected to have thrived for millions of years, yet they were only discovered less than 100 years ago.

8. Komodo National Park was established in 1980 to protect the vulnerable species from poaching and human encroachment, among other threats.

7. Female dragons lay their eggs in the abandoned dug-out nests of the chicken-like megapode. Numbering up to 30, the eggs incubate for around nine months.

6. Possessing moderately poor vision and hearing, a monitor lizard uses the sense of smell as its main food detector. It has a forked tongue that “samples” the air, processing the scent through specialized organs on the roof of its mouth—much the same way a snake does.

5. A Komodo dragon can swallow whole prey the size of a goat. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to do so. Sometimes a dragon will ram the carcass against a tree to help push it down its throat—the force it uses to do so is so powerful that the tree sometimes falls down.

4. Because of an immensely slow metabolism, the monitor lizard can subsist on as few as 12 meals a year.

3. Researchers debate whether the venom in a dragon’s mouth contributes all that much to a prey’s death. More significant, some scientists say, is the shock and blood loss that results from the bite. The Komodo dragon has 60 curved, serrated teeth that pack a punch.

2. Baby Komodo dragons are vulnerable to cannibalism by adults, which comprises 10 percent of its diet from comsuming its species' young ones. As a result, juveniles spend the beginning of their lives living in trees. Their claws make them ideal climbers, but only when young—they become too heavy to climb trees as adults.

1. Animals that escape the jaws of a dragon attack never end up lucky: A Komodo dragon’s mouth is stewing with an estimated 60 different strains of bacteria that infect a prey after a bite. Sepsis sets in within hours and death usually occurs within a day, with the dragon stalking the dying prey closely.

Travel to Asia & the Pacific with WWF.

  • Date: 06 October 2009
  • Author: Elissa Leibowitz Poma, WWF Travel Manager

The third in an occasional series about nature and wildlife photography.

Of the wide-ranging variety of subjects you could photograph on a nature tour, marine life may be the most daunting. In fact, only 10 percent of all travelers take photos underwater on snorkeling and scuba diving tours, according to expedition leader and underwater photographer Thomas Baechtold.

“You need quite good diving skills before you can take really good pics,” says Baechtold, a dive master who often helps lead WWF voyages. “For snorkelers, using ‘snappy cams,’ as I like to call point-and-shoot digital cameras, is slightly more challenging because you’re on top [of the water’s surface] looking down.”

Still, underwater enthusiasts shouldn’t be dissuaded from purchasing a waterproof camera casing and trying their hand at underwater photography. Baechtold shared his five best tips for capturing stellar photos below the sea:

Turn off the flash. The reason many non-professional underwater photos often look hazy is because the flash illuminates particles and nutrient material in the water in front of your subject, rather than lighting up the subject itself.

Professional underwater photographers often use a highly specialized underwater strobe on an extendable arm to shoot, for instance, the pastel hues of huge gorgonian fans clinging to underwater canyon walls off Roatan, Honduras. While they’re mandatory for professional underwater photographers, the strobes are pricey and not travel friendly for the layman photographer.

For photographers with simple equipment, Baechtold suggests changing your ISO setting to 400 or 800 and shooting without a flash on a sunny day.

Use the macro setting on point-and-shoot cameras. Whereas professional photographs will opt for wide-angle lens for their SLR cameras when shooting underwater, the macro setting is best for layman photographers. You won’t be able to get a stellar shot of a gam of patrolling juvenile blacktip reef sharks, but for subjects that you shoot close up—jewel-toned mandarinfish in Palau, or perhaps a coral pinnacle off the island of Tuvalu in the South Pacific, for example—the close up will lead to a vibrant and clear photo.

Shoot slightly upward. If you take photos with your camera pointed downward, you’ll have a very dark background that looks like a hole. Shoot upward, and you’ll likely capture sunlight sparking above the reefs.

For snorkelers, this can be tough, because you’re already at the water’s surface. Those who are comfortable holding their breath should free dive below the surface to get slightly lower and shoot upward, Baechtold advises.

Anticipate what the marine life is going to do before you take a photo of it. Otherwise, you’ll risk getting a shot of just a turtle flipper or a whale fluke. Baechtold says he will swim in a wide circle around a marine creature to get ahead of it before attempting a photo.

Try to hold your breath once you’re ready to snap the photo. This applies to both snorkelers and scuba divers. Your camera will stay steadier and you won’t scare away the animal with your air bubbles.

Go on a WWF snorkeling or diving expedition.

See Thomas Baechtold’s nature photography.

  • Date: 01 October 2009
  • Author: Elissa Leibowitz Poma, WWF Travel Manager

How many travel experiences can honestly, truly be defined as “surreal?” Few come close to the extraordinary experience of slipping into a quiet, dark lake with millions of marmalade-colored jellyfish on the rock island of Eil Malk in Palau.

Known locally as Ongeim'l Tketau, the isolated saltwater lake was once connected to the ocean by a tunnel or another outlet that naturally became closed off from the sea. Losing all natural predators, the jellyfish population grew to an estimated 10 million.

WWF’s Elissa Poma told us about her experience in the lake during a WWF’s trip to Micronesia.

WWF Travel: How do you get to the lake?
Elissa Poma:
We motored by boat to the island and checked in at the ranger station. From there you have to hike along a trail. It takes around 15 minutes to go up and another 10 minutes or so to get down to the lake.

I wouldn’t classify the walk as easy—definitely a moderate hike, but very short and not too difficult, thanks to the stairs that the national park service carved into the limestone island. Limestone can get a little slippery, and some of the steps are steep, but there are ropes to hold onto. We did just fine wearing rubber-soled sandals, which we left on a lakeside dock.

WWF: What was your first perception of the lake?
EP:
Upon approaching the lake, I was immediately taken by how quiet it was. Besides our group of 16, there was another small group of Japanese tourists, but everyone was eerily silent. And swimming so gently that you barely heard a splash.

About two-thirds of the lake was shaded – the rest was lit by a gorgeous, golden sunlight that envelopes the Palauan islands in the late afternoon. The whole lake was sheltered by tall trees, so it had a sunken-in feeling, too.

WWF: So then you got into the water?
EP:
Yes, I climbed down the small ladder from the dock. I swam toward the rest of our group. Or doggy-paddled, more like it. You’re not allowed to wear fins, because the lake is so packed with fragile jellyfish – a fin blade would slice a jellyfish in two with little effort.

At first I didn’t see a single jellyfish – just a few sardine-sized silvery fish, which are the only other inhabitants of the lake besides the jellyfish.

Then, an orange orb appeared. Then another. And another. Suddenly, it was like swimming in a lava lamp—all these gelatinous blobs undulating around me, bouncing off my arms and my head and my feet. It reminded me of those films you watched in science class as a kid showing what gas molecules look like—bouncing off one another, moving at different speeds and in different directions.

I think we spent 45 minutes in the water. I lost all sense of time and place because it was an experience unlike anything I’ve ever had in my life.

WWF: What was the water like?
EP:
Like a slightly murky, emerald-colored bath. The water was warm—slightly chillier in the shaded parts of the lake, where the jellyfish like to congregate, but still tropical. The color is a rich blue-green color, glistening with nutrient bits picking up sunlight. It all made for a nice contrast for the marmalade-colored jellyfish.

Interesting enough, it’s highly dangerous to go more than 50 feet deep, because the bottom portion of the lake is a giant layer of hydrogen sulfide. For that reason, scuba diving is prohibited.

WWF: Are the jellyfish really stingless?
EP:
Technically, these jellyfish do possess stinging cells, called nematocysts. But the cells are so small that human tissue can’t perceive any stinginess—perhaps just a little tingle on thin layers of skin, like when a jellyfish brushed one WWF snorkeler’s lips.

Having spent every summer on the Jersey shore and thus encountered my fair share of the stingy kinds, I was definitely skeptical of this before I got into the water. But trust me: The only thing you’ll feel is that you’re experiencing one of the most astounding moments of your life.

Join a WWF snorkeling tour

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