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Returning to Love City Post-Irma: Part One

Back on August 28, 2017, my sister and I finalized our plans for a week-long trip to St. John in June 2018 by putting a deposit down on a beautiful two-bedroom Coral Bay villa. I was thrilled that I would finally get to show my beach-loving sister and brother-in-law one of my favorite little island spots in the world! We all had a wonderful time on Vieques together and it was high time we took another trip.

Two days after our booking, a tropical storm started to form that would later evolve into Category 5 Hurricane Irma on track to bring catastrophic devastation to several of the Virgin Islands. We watched helplessly from our homes on the mainland as satellite images and news footage showed Irma pummeling down on one of my favorite spots in paradise.

After the storm settled and details of the destruction began to spread across our news sources, my sister and I wondered if we might not be able to keep our travel plans to visit St. John, even as far out as our trip was scheduled. Ideally we still wanted to visit, especially if it helped in any way by putting tourism dollars back into St. John’s economy, but we also wondered if the island’s infrastructure would be ready for tourists and/or if we would be a burden at that point.

We decided to wait and see, and as it turned out we received news in October that our rental villa was completely unscathed and as the trip approached, our flight itineraries stayed the same even though many travelers even up through late spring were facing canceled flights. With everything luckily in place for us, off to Love City we went!

As per usual, a rental Jeep provided our transportation around the island for the week. First things first, we headed to our villa to get settled. We didn’t encounter any issues at all driving around the island. Roads were clear, even on the quieter Coral Bay side, and we only noticed a pile of cable in the street closer to the villa. Downed trees and debris have been completely cleared. Of course, that’s not to say we didn’t see other signs of destruction, but a little more on that in the next post.

You can see a small sample of Irma’s aftermath in the photo below. The foliage surrounding the villa and on the hillside is quite bare. Some trees fared well, but a large percentage on the island were completely stripped during the high winds of the storm. It buoyed my spirits, though, to see new leaves growing and baby trees here and there already popping up. Nature has been hard at work over the last several months healing itself.

Somehow this villa managed to come out of the hurricane untouched by Irma. We noticed the home next door undergoing some repairs, but our villa didn’t seem to have even a shutter out of place. The beautiful landscaping looked healthy, and we even spotted a critter or two scurrying around outside. (And a spider or two inside, but thankfully I had three other people to help remove them when needed.)

The villa is named All About the View, and you can see why. This side of the island provides an unparalleled view of Caribbean islands (including the BVIs!) as far as the eye can see.

Somehow I completely missed taking any images of the villa’s interior, so the four images below are courtesy of the listing on vrbo.com. The perfect size for two couples, this villa has two master bedrooms and two bathrooms – one of each on the main level and the lower level. The kitchen provided everything we needed (well, except a can opener so no huevos rancheros for us, womp womp) to prepare a few meals at home and sandwiches for the beach. The cozy living room area was a good hang-out spot for the four of us even though we didn’t have use of the TV. This house is not hooked up for cable or satellite yet, but we were perfectly happy without it.

So that’s where we stayed for the week! If you’re a couple, two couples, or small family looking for a place to stay on St. John, I definitely recommend All About the View. It’s not always easy to find a smaller villa that also has a pool, so thankfully this fit the bill for us. And I think they’ve probably replaced the can opener by now.

In the next post, we explore the island, head to the beaches, and eat/drink at as many restaurants as possible. Stay tuned!

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Honduras Snapshot

It’s time (or well past the time) for a Honduras snapshot post! Here I’ve rounded up a few nuggets of info about our trip, and some of our favorite moments and photos.

Trip Details

Chris and I traveled to Roatan, Honduras and stayed on the east end of the island in Camp Bay. We flew round-trip from IAD to RTB with a layover in MIA. Our Saturday-to-Saturday itinerary from April 7-14 included a week-long stay at the Living Waters villa which we reached by rental car.

Best Moment

I don’t know if it gets any better than snuggling a sloth, but I also had an amazing time kayaking around the water behind the villa.

Worst Moment

The power at the villa went out for a little while one day, and I did get a couple of itchy bug bites, but that’s all just part of island life. I’m reeeeeeally not complaining. The trip pretty much went as smooth as we could hope for! I’d happily accept a couple of bites and a temporary lack of electricity if it meant I could return to that magical spot on the island right now.

Funniest Moment

Seeing Chris play jungle gym to a couple of capuchin monkeys was certainly worthy of a few giggles!

Best Meal

This one is a straight-up tie: we absolutely loved our home-cooked lunch at Geraline’s (part of our Jade Beach tour guide’s family – I wish she could cook for us after every time we go snorkeling!) and our giant crab feast at Gio’s in the French Harbour area. I’ve never had so much fun making a mess while eating.

Something We Learned

This was our second time doing a mangroves tour (we also saw a mangroves forest on Grand Cayman), but this was the first time we had an opportunity to get really close to the tropical trees and to learn about them from a born-and-raised Roatan local. Mangroves are salt-tolerant trees that have adapted to harsh conditions that would normally kill other plants, and they provide a rich environment for all kinds of fish, birds, and insects.

We’re Thankful We Packed

I’m always happy to embrace my inner-nerd and work on a jigsaw puzzle during our beach trips. I pack a 1000-piece one every time. It’s perfect for a rainy day (although this time we didn’t have any rain at all), and it gives me a break from the sun whenever my fair skin has reached its UV-limits. I also like to work on it in the early morning while I eat my breakfast, and this puzzle happened to be breakfast-themed! So meta.

We Didn’t Need To Bring

Scuba gear. I originally planned this trip around completing our open water diver certification, but I simply didn’t end up falling in love with scuba diving like I was hoping and decided not to continue the training for now. More on that later, but I didn’t end up needing the wetsuit I brought for our open water checkout dives.

Trip Regrets

We spent the week watching kite surfers on the water behind our house and it looked like so much fun. But it also looked like a steep learning curve, and that week was really just carved out for pure and utter relaxation, so we decided not to put the effort into much of anything beyond floating in the pool, eating, and drinking. I wish we had at least attempted it though! We’ve decided we would love to go back to this exact spot and stay a week or longer, so next time we will definitely sign up for some lessons.

Reasons To Go Back

See above re: kite surfing and…I would like to stay at that amazing house again!

Favorite Photos

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Moving Pictures: Honduras

Speaking of flying a drone in Honduras, I also took some video with the DJI Mavic Pro! (And also the GoPro and my point-and-shoot.) Granted, I’m still learning about video filming and editing, and I’m definitely still learning to shoot video with a drone, but I’m pretty excited about how this little video turned out.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of my links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much for reading and for your support!

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Flying a Drone in Honduras

Our trip to Honduras in April was my first opportunity to travel with the DJI Mavic Pro since I purchased it, so I thought I’d write a little bit about the process of traveling with a drone and share some of the images I took with it. (All photos in this post are from my trusty little Mavic.)

I actually bought the drone before we left for our trip to Peru last summer, but I didn’t yet feel confident about flying it at home let alone in another country, so I decided not to bring it despite all of the amazing photo opportunities we would have had with it. And then our next trip after that was to New York, where my understanding is that drones are pretty much a no-no in the entire city. The whole reason I settled on the DJI Mavic Pro, though, was for its highly portable design, so I’ve been itching to take it somewhere scenic. Enter Roatan, Honduras!

So my first order of business before packing the drone was to research the country-specific guidelines and laws for entering the country with a drone and for flying an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV. I have no interest in breaking any rules and ending up starring in an episode of Locked Up Abroad. I’m a very law-abiding traveler.

Simply doing a search on “drone laws Honduras” provided enough sources to verify their general drone laws, such as not flying over people or large crowds, respecting people’s privacy, and stay out of areas like airports and military facilities. We follow their same guidelines here in the United States plus some additional laws, so after some thorough reading I felt comfortable packing the Mavic in my carry-on camera bag and heading off to Honduras.

Law review, check. Next up: general safety. The Mavic operates on Lithium-ion Polymer batteries and since they can (very rarely!) be hazardous, I purchased a LiPo safety bag and port covers for extra safe transport of the batteries. For anyone wanting to travel with a drone, keep in mind that LiPo batteries are not allowed to be packed in your checked baggage, so you’ll need to plan to carry them on with you. The fire resistant safety bag keeps the batteries contained if they should short-circuit and spark. I also read that the batteries travel best if they’re partially or mostly discharged, so I let them drain before the trip.

Going through security at our airport, Dulles International, was a breeze, or at least as much as it can be these days. I took my Mavic out of my bag along with my other electronics that are larger than a cell phone, and everything cleared the security process with no issues. And just a quick note on going through security, Chris and I have been using CLEAR for almost two years and we absolutely love it. We’ve never had to wait in line, and that gives me plenty of extra time to unload my electronics for the x-ray and re-pack afterward. If you sign up through my link, you’ll receive two months free (and I will, too)!

When we arrived on Roatan, we didn’t have to do any paperwork or processing on the drone like I’ve heard some other countries require. For instance, in Peru you need to apply in advance to receive approval and there is a tax assessed and charged that gets refunded as you exit the country. Bringing the Mavic to Roatan was easy breezy! But since drone laws are constantly evolving, we’ll check the laws again if/when we return to Honduras someday in case anything has changed.

Our rental villa in Camp Bay was the perfect spot to practice flying without disturbing a soul. The last thing I want (besides breaking laws) is to make anyone feel like I’m being a creepy spy, or to bother people with the noise. Once the Mavic is up in the air you can’t hear it, but the take-off is a little loud.

We even had plenty of time and resources to get a little creative with the aerial photos. I had a version of the image below in my head ever since we planned this trip and I had a blast executing my vision! Now I just need to learn how to take images with the Mavic on a self timer so I don’t have to be holding the controls.

This area just down the beach from our rental home was also a fantastic spot to fly. We had the beach all to ourselves one afternoon! I’ll never get over how gorgeous it was from all angles – on the ground and from the air up above, Camp Bay is simply stunning.

I’m really looking forward to traveling with the Mavic more in the future! I also brought it with me on a recent trip to St. John, USVI, with no issues at all and those posts are coming soon. If you are a drone pilot and have any good travel tips or recommendations, please let me know in the comments or send me an email!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of my links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much for reading and for your support!

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  • Jaimye - Glad to hear I can bring my Mavic to Roatan in October.  I’ll also be in St. John next May also.  I hope you saw great recovery happening.
    The drone shots are such a great new perspective for vacation photos. I just had my first trip with it in Italy on Amalfi coast and had a blast. 
    Happy Flying.ReplyCancel

    • Susan - Yes! You’ll get some amazing shots on Roatan! St. John is steadily recovering. I’m behind on blogging about it, but we had a wonderful time. And how cool re: Italy. I’d love to fly there!

Monkeys and Parrots and Sloths…Oh, My!

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m verrrrrrry picky about animal encounters, and as I learn more and more, I’m becoming increasingly critical. With the availability of information and reviews online, there is just no reason to frequent an exploitative inhumane tourist trap. I’m especially skeptical of attractions with animals in captivity or experiences in which the animals are made to perform or interact with humans, and you should be skeptical, too. Please do your research!

All of that said, I have only great things to report back about Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout in Roatan, Honduras! As soon as I heard about the opportunity to hold a sloth, I instantly started doing research to see what I could find out about this rescue sanctuary in French Harbour. I was pleasantly surprised to read good reviews, so Chris and I decided to check it out on our trip.

We specifically chose a day in which no cruise ships would be in port. (To get the cruise ship schedule information, just search the port name and “port schedule” and you can usually find a calendar online.) Only a couple of other guests were visiting the same time we were there, so we were treated to immediate entry with no wait, and we met a sloth named Patricia first thing!

The animals in the sanctuary are all rescue animals that were previously kept as pets, with the exception of some animals that were born in the sanctuary. Patricia seemed happy and relaxed, and our guide explained that the staff monitors and rotates the animals to ensure that they are never agitated or stressed out from being handled. Additionally, if none of the animals are in the mood to be held, then none of the animals will be forced to interact, so this does mean that it’s possible that a guest won’t be able to hold a sloth on any given day. I wholeheartedly approve of this policy!

We lucked out with super sweet Patricia, who didn’t seem to mind a quick snuggle. Our guide instructed us to remain still like a tree, and he very gently placed Patricia in our arms. She willingly hung on and chilled with both of us. It was such a cool experience!

This is Syd, who we found at ground-level one moment (they have some freedom to roam)…

…and then spotted again overhead not too long after! I learned that sloths are quicker than I previously thought.

After observing a raccoon and a coati too high up to photograph, we headed over to the monkey enclosures. We waited patiently as the guests ahead of us visited with a couple of capuchin monkeys, since only a couple of people are allowed inside at once. When it was our turn, I politely declined to enter since we were planning to go out to lunch afterward (and I don’t know if it happens often, but with my luck I would have been peed on). Chris bravely took the risk and met a playful monkey named Pauly D. I took photos and video from the other side of the wires, and I’m happy to report that Chris was not a pee victim.

Lastly, we visited some incredibly gorgeous Scarlet Macaws and parrots. While I don’t know much about sloths or monkeys, I do know a bit about birds and I can attest that they all seemed perfectly healthy and happy. Their aviary was clean and spacious, like all of the other enclosures in the sanctuary. The parrots were brightly colored with smooth feathers, relaxed and friendly, and free from signs of distress.

Based on what I could gather from research and my own visit, this sanctuary definitely gets my stamp of approval. The establishment seemed humane and ethical, impeccably clean, and the animals are well cared-for by knowledgeable, devoted staff. I’m curious about how the place feels on a busy cruise ship day in high season, but I suspect the caring staff are able to manage the crowds and keep the animals’ best interests at heart. I’m comfortable recommending a visit to this unique experience! We drove ourselves from the east end and purchased tickets at the entrance for $10 each, but this excursion is often included in various tour packages on the island and through the cruise ships.

After our tour through the Hangout, Chris and I headed to a nearby restaurant in the French Harbour for lunch. I hope it’s not totally weird that I got a little soapbox-y about my concern for animal ethics and now I’m showing you that we went to town on some ceviche, King Crab, and coconut shrimp. Our lunch at Gio’s was so fantastic, albeit a bit pricey. We ate fairly modestly throughout the week, so this was our last-day-of-vacation splurge. This was actually my first time trying King Crab and it did not disappoint!

Up next on the blog: tales of my first time bringing a drone into another country!

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  • Bethany Meyer - Thank you so much for this in-depth review! We are visiting Roatan via cruise ship in January and I too am very picky when it comes to animal attractions and was SO hoping Daniel Johnson’s wasn’t too good to be true. Looking forward to holding a sloth for my 30th birthday! 😀ReplyCancel

    • Susan - You’ll have such a great time there, Bethany! Sloth snuggles are a perfect way to celebrate a birthday!

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