The Best Caribbean Beaches For 2019: The Ultimate List

One of my favorite destinations in the world is the Caribbean with its warm waters, sandy shores, and great cocktails. With so much destruction during Hurricane’s Irma and Maria over a year ago, I am thrilled to report most of the best beaches and waterfront hotels are back in action with quite a few of them better than before. The perfect retreat for millions of tourists worldwide, the Caribbean not only offers up an amazing escape from cold winter climates but also creates memories to last for a lifetime. Some of my finest memories include floating in the bathtub-warm waters of Aruba, sailing in the British Virgin Islands, deep sea fishing in Nicaragua and countless others. I have included several destinations like Bermuda, Turks & Caicos and the Bahamas that are not in the Caribbean but are an important part of the area, and also feature stunning beaches.  I have become a bit of a beach aficionado having personally visited most of these beaches and am excited to present my favorites for 2019.  Anguilla This two-mile sandy beach with soft, powdery white sand also offers up several great bars, restaurants and some amazing resorts. Busier than other beaches in the area but on Anguilla nothing feels crowded. Runners-up include; Maundays Bay, Meads Bay, Rendezvous Bay, Merrywing Bay, and Savannah Bay. UNICEF Is Fighting To End Violence Against Women What’s great about Darkwood Beach is that there’s not a single building on it. It feels like an escape from reality. It’s undeveloped but still easily accessible. Runners-up include; Valley Church Beach, Dickenson Bay, Runaway Bay, Ffrye’s Bay, Crab Hill Bay, and Half Moon Bay. I have visited this beach for over 15 years, and while it can often be crowded with a mix of East Coast beach lovers and Venezuelans, the sand and water keep me coming back for more. This is a special place that has become the ultimate getaway for so many people. Come as yourself and never be judged. While not in the Caribbean I had to include this stunning island, owned by a fabulous couple David Hew and his husband Michael King and features one of the most spectacular beaches in the Bahamas. Completely secluded for privacy, this is one of the best retreats in the world with a barrier reef for snorkeling. Runners-up include; Stocking Island, Exumas with the swimming pigs, Old Bight Beach, Cat Island, Old Fort Bay, Nassau, Treasure Cay Beach, Abaco, Sand Dollar Beach, Great Harbour Cay, and Cabbage Beach, Paradise Island. This is the most famous beach in Barbados and is surrounded by cliffs and lots of soft sand. Runners-up include Bathsheba Beach, Dover Beach, Mullins Beach, and St Peter. Enjoy the feeling of seclusion on your own patch of perfect beach, while being close to all the happenings of the local village. Take a kayak out to see the sunset over Victoria’s Peak, one of the highest mountains in Belize. Not in the CaribbRead More…

24 of the world’s most amazing bridges

(CNN) — The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco took four years to build, costing $35 million and finally opened in 1937. It has remained one of the engineering world’s most famous poster boys since. But it’s not the only bridge that merits celebration. Here are 23 others (plus San Fran’s Golden Gate) that are worth a look. 1. Golden Gate Bridge: San Francisco, United States A-list celebrity in the bridge world.Now over 75 years old, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is arguably the most recognizable bridge in the world. While some may not be inspired by the industrial age suspension bridge design, it is undeniable that the San Francisco we know today would not be the same without its skyline being graced by this beauty. 2. Sydney Harbour Bridge: Sydney, Australia Good to look at, better to climb.Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty ImagesNicknamed “The Coat Hanger” by Sydney locals because of its arch-based design, the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in 1932 and is a focal point of Aussie pride and celebrations.For aspiring bridge climbers, BridgeClimb offers people just that. Every year for New Year’s Eve the bridge itself is used to complement fireworks displays creating various effects like smiley faces and a disco ball. 3. Ponte Vecchio: Florence, Italy A slice of ancient Italy in modern-day Italy.GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/AFP/Getty ImagesA Medieval bridge over the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio is mainly known for its shops of jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers and for being Europe’s oldest stone, closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge.Regardless, the Ponte Vecchio Brige is gorgeous and has a rich history dating back to the time of the Romans. During World War II the bridge was not destroyed by the Nazis — unlike many other bridges in Europe — under an express order from Adolf Hitler. 4. Brooklyn Bridge: New York City, United States Bagels, bars and Brooklyn Bridge: a New York trifecta.STAN HONDA/AFP/AFP/Getty ImagesCompleted in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. A National Historic Landmark, the Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic feature of New York. 5. Gateshead Millennium Bridge: Gateshead, England Trying to make up for North England’s weather.ANDREW YATES/AFP/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Gateshead Millennium Bridge is the world’s first and currently only tilting bridge. But the most amazing thing about this pedestrian and biker crossing of the Tyne River is that it appears as if an eye is winking whenever it is raised and lowered.Its innovative and unique design has won loads of awards since Queen Elizabeth officially opened it in 2002. It was lowered into place by Europe’s largest floating crane — Asian Hercules II. 6. Tsing Ma Bridge: Hong Kong, China Shortcut to a dim sum lunch.Courtesy Johnny Lai/Creative Commons/FlickrHong Kong’s Tsing Ma Bridge is the largest suspension bridge in the world to feature two decks and carry Read More…

Stop Sitting There and Start Boating: Daylight is Burning

I’m sure a lot of you Bay Area folk remember when the BART workers threatened a strike in August 2013. The walkout was avoided, but for an entire day the state of public rail transit across San Francisco was shaky at best. In that dark hour it was Uber who came to the rescue…well, halfway to the rescue. They actually partnered with a local San Francisco startup called Boatbound to send people off to work on boats across the bay. Uber never would have been able to orchestrate this singlehandedly: Boatbound was the crucial element that made it all work. Here we are now, almost two years later, and Boatbound is both still kicking and thriving. In short, Boatbound is the Airbnb for boats. It’s an idea that founder Aaron Hall cooked up thanks to a life spent boating with family and friends. “We were always out boating, and when we traveled it was something we’d do on vacation too. It was always an integral part of my growing up,” says Hall. On one of those vacations, in 2012, they tried to rent a boat for the weekend. They walked into an old, clunky marina in North Dallas that was so desolate it didn’t even have a website. The drive was to get there was long and arduous, and when they finally arrived the last available boat had already been rented out. However, Hall saw hundreds of owned boats just floating in the marina, not being used and not available for rent. Surely there was a service out there that let people rent these owned boats. Well, long story short, there wasn’t, so Hall built Boatbound. They initially launched in 2013 and only serviced San Francisco, which highlights the strategic prowess Boatbound showed by teaming up with Uber in 2013. That, paired with the hard work of a dedicated team took Boatbound to South Florida, and ultimately across the rest of the US in 2014. Hall would say they’ve “exploded”, and I have to agree. I pressed him about what contributed to this massive spike in growth: “Think about it: nobody goes out on a boat themselves unless they’re a lonely fisherman,” Hall explains. “When one person books on our platform a lot of other people find out about Boatbound while on the actual, rented boat. The opportunity for it to spread like wildfire is unprecedented.” Currently, Hall and his crew are spending a lot of time with boating events and dry land fun to keep the hype fueled. It’s fascinating: they still haven’t turned on the marketing magic, so to speak, but have over 10,000 boats registered for rental on the platform. Not only that, the list of people waiting to sign up seems to get bigger every day. There was even one man who rented his boat out eight times in the first week it was listed on Boatbound. “We can’t activate boats quickly enough. It does take some time to get the boats ready, which is why we’re still picky on markets we launch in,” Hall says. “Though, it’s mainly because there areRead More…

10 Places in Thailand That Backpackers Rarely Visit

Thailand is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations on the planet receiving an estinated 15.9 million tourists in 2010. Perfect marketed images of tuk-tuks, long-tail boats, glimmering temples and glamorous Thai dancers are what the mind conjures up when someone says Thailand. Living here for two years, I have had the immense pleasure of seeing many different sides of this fascinating country, the hugely celebrated and the unassuming, the popular and the forgotten. Each place has its unique surprises and my experience makes me cringe when I hear some stuck up backpackers say that Thailand has nothing for them in way of adventure anymore. As someone once said, “only boring people get bored.” Especially in Thailand. 10 Unique Places in Thailand 1. MaeKlong Market, Samut Songkram MaeKlong Market in the province of Samut Songkram is an unbelievable example of Thailand’s ability to thrive in regardless of circumstances. The market is situated on the train tracks of MaeKlong Railway and eight times a day, seven days a week, the train passes in and out happily. The train literally goes directly through the middle of the market stalls and over the goods on sale. Rather than relocate a market which had been running for decades in this area, locals adapted superbly so that daily life was not interrupted. The vendors simply pull back any awning that sticks out too far within centimeters of where the train will pass and usher shoppers to step back. Locals know the exact time each day the train arrives and once it has passed through, the awnings are recoiled and they are back on the tracks laying out their fruit, meat and seafood as if nothing happened. 2. The Forensic Museum, Bangkok Have you always wanted to see a scrotum with elephantiasis? Er… no, us neither! Bangkok’s forensic museum holds a bizarre collection of everything that is weird, outrageous and just downright freaky about Thailand. For anyone looking to investigate a very different side of Thailand, look no further… though be warned this place is not for the squeamish or faint of heart! With macabre interest in death and illness, the museum displays a collection of gruesome photographs of decapitations, deformed feotus’s in glass jars, an exhibition of skulls with bullet wounds through the head and the star attraction, the embalmed body of 1950’s Chinese cannibal, Si Quey. Next to the cabinet read the handwritten words “because he loves to eat human’s organ not because of starving”. 3. Phuket Town Most people head to Phuket strictly for beaches and all night parties, however, what most people fail to appreciate is Phuket town itself. Dating back to the 16th century, colonial powers had an interest in Phuket’s natural resources, namely its booming tin mining industry. As a result, the architecture of the town is a mix of Sino-Portuguese shop-house and Sino-Colonial mansion style. DRead More…

What you need for an Alpine adventure – written by expert guide Kathy Murphy

Kathy Murphy, IFMGA Guide (she was the second British woman to achieve this status), runs our mountaineering and glacier trekking holidays in the Alps. She guides many of these trips herself and her particular brand of leadership, described variously by clients as ‘highly professional’, ‘fun’ and ‘kick-ass’, makes her a very popular choice. Here she gives a no-nonsense guide to her Alpine essentials for trips which involve carrying your equipment throughout. 1). Comfy boots – stiff enough to hold a crampon well, comfortable enough for long descents back to the valley and warm enough for early starts from high huts. My favourite boot is the La Sportiva Trango Alp GTX. It’s a B2 boot, so it’s got a bit of flex in the front half, as well as good support around the ankle. Worn in a bit to avoid blisters – it does the job well. 2). Ankle gaiters/mini-gaiters – these keep the snow out of my boots and are not as heavy, bulky, hot or as expensive as full-size gaiters. Grasmere DRY Gaiters by Trekmates are my mini-gaiters of choice. 3). Crampons – I use Grivel G10’s with anti-balling plates already fitted. They have the ‘new-matic’ system – a plastic cup at the heel and toe which means they fit any boot – even my ski-mountaineering boots in winter. Plus, the flexible central bar means they’re more comfortable than a rigid crampon and don’t pull on your heel and cause blisters. You will notice that the first three essentials are all to do with my feet – if my feet aren’t happy then neither am I! 4). Travel sized bits and pieces – these are easily found in the UK and at the airport shops – so a travel-sized toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, sun cream etc. And to go with this – a pack towel – these dry quickly and pack up really small. 5). Drinking water – It’s always important to stay hydrated when in the mountains. Make sure you take a reusable bottle you can fill up along the way! 6). Pack of cards – great for passing the downtime in the huts. It’s sociable and I have a whole selection of card games that anyone can quickly learn and a few tricks up my sleeve! Obviously, 1 pack per group is enough! 7). Rucksack – my new pack for this season is a Millet Prolighter 32 in the shorter back length womans version. It fits well to my back, close, no fancy frames – when I’m carrying a pack I want the load to be stable against my back, not wobbling several inches away from it. Importantly, it has 2 compression straps on each side which effectively make the pack smaller when it’s not full and are also useful for stashing walking poles or ice axe. It’s also light at around 1kg. Avoid packs with gimmicky features such as back systems which add weight. Why else did I choose it? It’s blue – my favourite colour! 8). Waterproof overtrousers –the clue to these is in the name – they should fit over everything you are already wearing,Read More…

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

SRAM has clearly been busy. Less than two months after launching the new RED eTap AXS group to the world, they’re already onto the next. That of course being the new SRAM Force eTap AXS group. As is often the case, the group is extremely similar to RED, but with some key differences that will be significant to many consumers – particularly when it comes to price. The newest member of the AXS (access) wireless family, SRAM Force eTap AXS is an electronic drivetrain with wireless shifting and options for either hydraulic disc or mechanical rim brakes. Other than a few very small details, Force is nearly identical in performance to the new RED AXS, with the main differences being materials, construction, and therefore weight. That means that the batteries are the same between the two groups (and older eTap groups as well) which is good news for teams or individuals with multiple bikes. Even the motors and chipsets are the same meaning the shift speed is identical between the two groups. Ultimately, Force ends up about 300g heavier than RED, but it’s also over $1000 less expensive which seems like a worthy trade off. Force also has a completely different look which comes down to a difference in finishes. While forged aluminum parts can be polished to a beautiful shine, cast pieces can’t be polished – which requires a coat of paint. Overall, the finish on Force is less sophisticated which is where SRAM was able to drop some of the price. AXS App Like RED, Force is able to take advantage of the AXS app and component integration system which allows you to monitor and customize the performance of individual components. From checking each battery’s power level to customizing your shift patterns, updating firmware, and more, Force is joining the way of the app-based world. Also like RED, this is a completely new group, so other than the mechanical rim brakes, none of the new parts will be compatible with older SRAM components – except of course the new SRAM RED eTap AXS. These two groups are completely interchangeable – which is good news for those who were upset by SRAM’s choice to integrate the power meter and chain ring on RED (but for a good reason, more on that below). New gearing options just like RED… mostly Following right along, gearing is also one of the biggest changes for SRAM Force. Yeah, they’ve gone to 12 speed in the rear, but as usual, it’s about more than just adding another gear. The new X-Range gearing ends up wider on both ends while the added cog results in better gear progression. The addition of the 10t cog allows for an increase in gear range without an increase in overall size of the drivetrain package with SRAM pointing out that smaller drivetrains will be lighter, less costly, and simpler overall. In terms of chainring options, Force will see 48/35 and 46/33t double combinations with the largest 50/37t combination only available in REDRead More…

Cloud seeding: Making rain in desert by a naturalised process

It’s tempting to call them rainmakers, the people who whoosh up into the skies, inject salts into fluffy clouds and fly back down to the ground. Except they’re not rainmakers. In 2014, there were 193 flights that carried out ‘rain enhancing operations’. And so far in 2015, there have been 20 flights — all out of the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain region. Cloud seeding in the UAE began in the 1990s. Back then these operations were done at random and it was only in 2001 when some scientific studies began on the subject. The National Centre for Metrology and Seismology (NCMS) in 2004 started implementing solo projects, as NCMS puts it, “with our own facilities”. Cost of these operations? They won’t say. But if there’s one thing Ali Al Musallam, Head of the Cloud Seeding Operations Section at NCMS, does empahsise, it is this: “We do not cause rain, we simply enhance it.” One of the six cloudseed pilots for the six aircrafts deployed for this purpose, Mike — Michael Anstis — says, of the most repetitive, frequent questions people ask is: “Do you really make it rain”? No. Nobody makes it rain. They do though make it rain (more). Cloud seeding or rain enhancement is one kind of weather modification. (There other kinds: fog dispersal, decrease of lightning, hail suspension) The other misconceptions that annoy Musallam are layman conspiracy theories. Cloud seeding has nothing to do with climate change, he says. “And no, dust storms are not caused when cloud seeding happens — those are simply variables in the weather”.  Raindrops keep falling One cloud contains up to 270 million gallons of water — without being seeded. When they are seeded successfully, there is a 30 per cent increase in rain — whenever it does rain. And that rain then creates water worth $300,000.   That 30 per cent extra is when the air is free of pollutants, that is a ‘non-turbid atmosphere’. Haze is no good. Because when the air is turbid and polluted, there is a 10-15 per cent chance of success. There’s much cost-effectiveness to think about. This keenness to increase rain, given the desert realities, cannot be underestimated. In early 2015, a $5 million dollar programme was launched by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs (MoPA) mainly to expand global water security. They’re looking for ways to “enhancing precipitation to increase rainfall in the UAE, as well as other arid and semi-arid areas in the region”.  How it’s done? Cloud seeding is done when a cocktail of potassium chloride and sodium chloride is injected in cumulus clouds. Once these are injected with salts, they further fluff up, become heavy and cause some bonus droplets. The principle is the same as when salt spills on your kitchen counter, and overnight it turns into beads of moisture. According to Sufian Farrah, a senior forecaster at NCMS: “The success rate of cloud seeding, when Read More…

Forests west of the Cascades will see more fires, bigger fires with climate change

BEACON ROCK STATE PARK, Skamania County — As night fell last Monday in the Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon slopes burned as if carpet-bombed from above. Winds acted like bellows in a hearth to supercharge the flames spread by embers flying from ridge to ridge. Stands of trees that matured over decades — sometimes centuries — were engulfed within minutes. This Eagle Creek blaze is a dramatic reminder that the forests of Western Oregon and Washington, so often cloaked in snow or drenched by rain, have a cycle of fire and renewal. When conditions are right, they can burn in spectacular fashion just like the more arid landscapes east of the Cascades. The fires are less frequent than in drier forests, but the burn cycles are not etched in stone. They reflect a climate that scientists forecast to undergo big changes in the decades ahead as global combustion of fossil fuels warms the Earth. In the Pacific Northwest, climate models indicate that average summer temperatures will warm later in this century by 4.7 degrees to 6.5 degrees compared with the last half of the 20th century. This warming is likely to shorten the burn cycles in the Puget Sound region as well as other parts of Western Washington and Western Oregon. Those risks likely will include more smoke hanging around Western Washington and Oregon, and more fire threats to west-side communities, where many homeowners have yet to consider removing close-by trees and brush to create defensible spaces should flames threaten their land. This year, the smoke is the result of fires that have burned around the Pacific Northwest, including more than 732,000 acres in Washington and Oregon. Significant fires have flared west of the Cascades, including the Eagle Creek fire that has burned more than 32,000 acres, and threatened small communities outside of Portland.
ADVERTISING If the models analyzed by the University of Washington are accurate, this Pacific Northwest summer could be a mild preview for the kind of heat we are likely to routinely experience later in the century. The three months that ended in August ranked as the third-hottest Pacific Northwest summer on record. Yet, they fall on the low end of what is forecast in the last half of this century, according to Snover. That additional heat would make the forests more vulnerable to fire. Two studies cited by the Climate Impacts Group estimate that the average acreage burned in a year west of the Cascades at the end of this century would be double the average burned during the last half of the 20th century. Big fires in the past Fire ecologists who study the history of our region note earlier periods of intense fire activity in the west-side forests. The Olympic Peninsula, for example, had a series of mega-fires that burned more than 1 million acres during a 33-year period in the 1700s, according to research that looked at tree rings and fire scars. More recently, the SeRead More…

China claims world’s biggest man-made waterfall

A province in southern China known for its stunning natural beauty can now also boast the world’s largest man-made waterfall – but it doesn’t come cheap. Flowing 108 metres (350 feet) down the glass exterior of the Liebian International Building in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province, the waterfall is about 3 metres longer than the previous record holder at the Solar City Tower in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.Chinese tourists accused of pinching ‘crown jewels’ from Vladivostok’s glass beach Built by Ludi Industry Group, the feature uses recycled water from basement storage tanks, which is pushed to the top of the 121-metre-high building by four giant pumps before re-emerging as a cascade from a massive opening on one side. Once fully occupied, the multi-purpose building will comprise offices, shops and a luxury hotel, company director Cheng Xiaomao said, though the latter has to be completed. The idea for the waterfall came from company president Zhou Songtao, who said he wanted to promote the city’s green image.SUBSCRIBE TO US China Trade WarGet updates direct to your inboxBy registering for these newsletters you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy “Guiyang is a city of mountains, and with many trees, just like a forest. He wanted to create a feeling of water and greenery, even when you are surrounded by skyscrapers,” Cheng said.From Africa to Europe, dragon boat races are spreading across the world Although the waterfall was completed about two years ago, it has only been turned on six times, with the latest occasion being for half an hour on Sunday to mark the Guiyang International Marathon. Nevertheless, people had already begun to consider the building a local landmark and were using it as a place to go for a walk or to socialise, Cheng said. Once fully occupied, the multi-purpose building will comprise offices, shops and a luxury hotel. Photo: ImaginechinaShare: One of the reasons the waterfall does not appear more often is the operating cost. While the water comes free, the price of powering the pumps is about 800 yuan (US$117) an hour, Cheng said. While some internet users questioned whether the extravagant design was a waste of money, others were full of compliments. “The scene is very impressive. You seldom see a waterfall in a city,” said a woman in a video published on the Pear Video website this week. “It looks very soothing on a hot summer day. The idea is very creative,” said another. One social media user was undecided, however. “A price must be paid for an artificial spectacle, especially a large one like this. Whether it’s a waste of money or worth more than the 800 yuan an hour is for the company to calculate.”
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North Coast Night Lights: Houda Beach Cave

The Milky Way rises from the horizon near the glow of the setting crescent moon outside of this hidden Houda Beach cave. Camel Rock’s silhouette is large on the horizon beside the glow of the setting crescent moon. Humboldt County, California. September 13, 2018. It was a low tide, a low moon, the cave and the Milky Way — long had I waited for this combination to come together. And when it did, somehow, I was there. All summer I’d watched the tides, waiting for a tide low enough for me to get to the cave safely sometime before midnight (hey, I get tired). But the idea had slipped from the forefront for a time and I hadn’t been watching the tides when the bug to go out hit me and I called my brother Seth for company on a photographic outing. Near the cave’s entrance, Mars peeks over the edge as two rocks frame the Milky Way. Checking the tide, I saw that it would be fairly low right after the crescent moon set. I decided on Houda Beach, anticipating that some interesting rocks would be exposed. I hadn’t realized that the tide would be low enough to reach the cave until we arrived, but it was. Not only that, the Milky Way was lined up outside of it, framed in the entrance, along with the silhouette of Camel Rock near the setting moon. I’d wanted this photo for months but only when I forgot to plan it did it come about. It’s interesting how that works. And I realized then that even if low tides had allowed me nighttime access to the cave during the summer months, the Milky Way would have been out of view to the left. It had to be this night. And I was there. I’m grateful for these opportunities. My brother and I watched the crescent moon set before taking the Milky Way photos. In gathering enough light to illuminate the interior and see the stars this well, the moon’s crescent shape became blown out in the highlights. Leaving the cave, we were alerted by sirens behind us and turning found a large fire burning farther north up Scenic Drive, illuminating the entire area and throwing a great smoke plume across the waters. According to reports I read later, it was a vegetation fire. We watched the lights of first responders approaching it and it seemed to us by the diminished glow that they quickly had it under control. At one point while photographing, my brother and I played with our light beams beneath the cosmos, careful not to cross the streams. We tried one take on this, and by luck our beams formed a little house over the setting moon and Camel Rock. Read More…