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Category Archives: Underwater

Holbox – Mexico

The small island of Holbox (pronounced Hole-Bosh) is a barefoot paradise off Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Though not far from Cancun and the Riviera Maya, it is a World apart from those resorts, more cut-off jeans than designer chic. The ambiance is laid-back and the surrounding turquoise waters inviting. Only accessible by private yacht or the ferry from Chiquila, it is never overwhelmed with visitors. It is best to arrange transport in advance; some hotels will arrange pick-ups from the airport. Once you are there you can get most places by foot or hire a golf buggy taxi. The island is a lozenge 26 miles long by one mile wide. Traffic is not a problem, but after a rain shower the dirt roads can get a bit muddy.

Hammocks are de-rigour but the more active can try snorkelling, stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking. At the right time of year (June – September) take day trips by boat to see the whale-sharks that migrate off the north-eastern Yucatan Peninsula’s coast. These are the largest fish in the World, but harmless gentle giants that feed on plankton. You can see flamingos wading offshore, by walking to the north west of the island near the mangroves.

Holbox is an ideal place to get off-grid, communications are a bit hit-and-miss but that is part of the charm. Street art is popular here, murals abound depicting marine themes, or just pure fantasy. The northern shore is shallow and warm, ideal for kids. There is a sand bar just offshore which adults can walk too. Some hotels arrange romantic meals on tables above the water.

There are no big chain hotels, just small guest houses and boutique hotels. Eating out is not gourmet affair, as there are only a few restaurants, but it is easy to get tasty seafood and a cold beer at one of the beach bars. For home-made ice-cream try Angeles y Diablitos on the main square. For boutique hotels we recommend Las Nubes or Villas Flamingos. Enjoy amazing sunsets from any of the beachfront properties. A true place to relax and unwind.

All images copyright David Horwell 2019

Scientists Find Mystery Killer Whales off Cape Horn, Chile

A rare photo of Type D killer whales showing their blunt heads and tiny eyepatches. Credit: J.P. Sylvestre, South Georgia, 2011.

In January 2019, scientists working off southern Chile saw apparently a new species of Orca or killer whale. The whales, called Type D, were previously known only from a stranding 60 years ago, and fishermen’s tales. Genetic samples which will determine whether this animal is indeed new to science. “We are very excited about the genetic analyses to come. Type D killer whales could be the largest undescribed animal left on the planet and a clear indication of how little we know about life in our oceans,” said Bob Pitman, a researcher from NOAA US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Science Centre in La Jolla, California. The team’s encounter came after they spent more than a week enduring storms off Cape Horn, southern Chile. It was here that the scientists collected biopsies. The scientists will now analyse DNA from the skin samples. Compared to other killer whales, they have more rounded heads, and a more pointed dorsal fin, and a tiny white eyepatch.

A French scientist in 2005, took photographs of similar animals in the southern Indian Ocean. So the whales might be widespread. Tourists in Antarctica have produced abundant photographs. Among thousands of images were the unique whales. In 2010, Pitman and colleagues published a paper describing the Type D killer whales, with photos and a map of the sighting locations. The sightings indicated a distribution within sub-Antarctic waters, avoiding the coldest waters, perhaps “sub-antarctic killer whale” is a better name. From the few sightings it seems they live in some of the most inhospitable latitudes on the planet, known for their strong winds.

Chilean fishermen complained of killer whales taking valuable toothfish off their lines, south of Cape Horn. Most of the fish-stealing killer whales were “regular” killer whales, but, among them were also some groups of Type D whales. In January, the group of scientists set sail from Ushuaia, Argentina, to search for the elusive whale. After a tough week, battered by 40 to 60 knot winds, the team’s fortune changed. They finally found the animals sought for 14 years. The boat spent three hours among a group of about 30 whales, which approached the vessel many times. They obtained underwater images of their unique colour patterning and body shape and recorded their sounds. DNA samples should finally reveal just how different the Type D is from other killer whales.

Related: Bucketlist Worthy Things to do in Antarctica


The nights are long, cold grey skies loom and the scarves and hats are been pulled out. Winter is here. But the cold weather in the northern hemisphere, means warmth in the south. It’s summer in Latin America and one of the best times to discover the continent’s mountains, beaches, culture and food. Here’s our 7 picks for the best spots to get some winter sun in Latin America


The northern state of Bahia in Brazil is blessed with some of the best weather in Latin America. Year-round temperatures between 25°C and 30°C and over 250 hours of sunshine every month create the perfect winter getaway. But it’s not just the weather that makes this region such a great place to travel. Wild national parks, hundreds of miles of white sandy beaches fringed with palms trees, sleepy fishing villages, beautiful pastel-coloured colony architecture and UNESCO World Heritage sites and tasty cuisine that perfectly blends the Afro-Brazilian culture. Try visiting Salvador, the capital of Bahia, in February for a unique alternative to Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival. Flying time 12 hrs via Lisbon.


The colourful city of Cartagena lies on the northern coast of Colombia overlooking the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Between December and March, the city sees almost no rain and bright sunny days. There’s a wealth of boutique hotels. Many are within old colonial palaces. The city has its fair share of museums, galleries, music venues and restaurants to keep your entertained. For those who prefer to spend their holidays away from cities, there are miles and miles of coastline. Off the beaten track is the Tayrona National Park. Hikers can head inland to walk the challenging trails to the Lost City. The sun-drenched islands of Baru and Rosario are only a short boat trip from the city.


Bahia Vik, Jose Ignacio (copyright David Horwell)

Uruguay doesn’t spring to mind for your typical summer holiday. Yet the country is less crowded and has better beaches than neighbouring Argentina. On the coast lies the small fishing village of Jose Ignacio. The town grew around a 19th century lighthouse. Now favoured by jet-setters, the area has become an escape for the super-rich and celebrities. Ultra-modern hotels abound. During the summer months the area booms with pop up bars, concerts and parties. Spend lazy days sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the refreshing Atlantic. At night dine in one of the restaurants or beach-shack bars. Further down the coast there are some even less developed spots. At Cabo Polonio isolated wooden cabins fringe the edge of deserted beaches, the only sound being the crashing of waves.


Cliffside Mayan Ruins at Tulum ca. 2002 Tulum, Mexico

Tulum lies along the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula south of Cancun. Comfortable temperatures hover around 28°C and enjoy a light sea breeze during December to February. An excellent choice for a winter getaway. The area is best known for its Mayan temple overlooking the ocean. This idyllic region has vast stretches of white sandy ocean and boutique accommodation. Snorkellers and scuba divers can enjoy exotic marine life. Nearby waters offer swimming with whale sharks, the big gentle giants.


Copyright David Horwell

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of lush islands. They lie off the northern coast of Panama, near Costa Rica. Winter is the sunniest time. The islands have a distinct laid-back Caribbean vibe. Secluded wooden over-the-water bungalows sit off the coast from the tiny islands. The islands are excellent for hiking and bird-watching. The turquoise waters are great for diving, snorkelling, kayaking, surfing and swimming. Dolphins often jump above the sea and huge shoals of exotic fish inhabit the underwater world. Chill-out on a hammock, relax on one of the deserted beaches and gorge on fresh lobsters.

8 Amazing Things To Do in Puerto Vallarta And The Riviera Nayarit

Our product manager has just returned from the city of Puerto Vallarta located on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Below he reports on the best things to do in the region.

Visit the Ocean grill

Ocean Grill

Head just south of Puerto Vallarta and you’ll find the Ocean Grill Restaurant. Not only is the seafood excellent, but this wooden structure is built on a cliff side overlooking a wonderful little bay. To reach the Ocean Grill drive thirty minutes south to the village of Boca de Tomatlan where they will take you by boat around the bay to the restaurant. Alternatively if you have the energy you can hike from Boca de Tomatlan through thick jungle for around an hour.

Go surfing in Sayulita

SurfFlickr: Villa Amor

The small town of Sayulita on the Riveria Nayarit offers great all year round surf. There are plenty of places to hire boards and if you are new to the sport there are some excellent schools. The surf breaks in two different places making it an excellent place to learn.

Eat oysters on Los Muertos Beach

OystersFlickr: Sharon Hahn Darlin

In Puerto Vallarta oysters are eaten in abundance. However, the best place to get them is down on Los Muertos Beach where three to four vendors compete for trade under the shade of the concrete pier. A dozen fresh oysters will set you back around 150 pesos (£6).

Swim with wild dolphins

Puerto VallartaFlickr: Ben Miller

Take a boat out to swim and snorkel with pods of wild dolphins. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Deep sea fishing in Banderas Bay

FishingFlickr: Harvey Barrison

The fishing around Banderas Bay is world-class. There’s a wide selection of fully-crewed fishing boats to choose, Likely catches including Pacific sailfish, marlin, dorado, tuna and red snapper. Afterwards you can take your catch back for a beach barbeque or to a local restaurant.

Whale watching

Whale watchingFlickr: Bruce Irschick

It’s well worth timing your holiday during the winter and spring months when you’ll have the opportunity to go whale watching. The warm ocean make it the perfect breeding ground for magnificent humpback whales and orcas.

Snorkel off the Marieta Islands

ScubaFlickr: ChrisDag

Famed for its hidden beach, this group of uninhabited Islands were used for military tests during the early 20th century. After an international outcry in the 1960s the islands were designated as a national park. Your likely to encounter thousands of tropical fish, octopus, manta rays, turtles and even whales when snorkelling or scuba diving.

Eating churros in Puerto Vallarta

There’s only one place you should be eating churros in Puerto Vallarta. Drop by the corner of Lazaro Cardenas and Aguacate after five in the afternoon and you won’t regret it. Churros is just 1 peso (4 pence) each.

RELATED: This traveler captured all 147 underground stations in Mexico City

Eleven Amazing Experiences You Can Have In Latin America [VID]

1. Snorkel with whale sharks on Mexico’s Holbox Island

2. Track wild jaguars in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands

3. Hike in the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park in Chile

4. Watch huge blocks of ice carve off the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina

5. Hand glide over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil

6. View orcas in the Valdes Peninsula in Argentina

7. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru

8. Drive across the Uyuni Salts Flats in Bolivia

9. Get up close to the Iguazu Falls

10. Get up early to see the Tatio Geysers in Chile

11. Watch the mating dance of the blue-footed booby on the Galapagos Islands

To book any of these adventures get in touch with us here.

RELATED: A typical day in the Galapagos Islands

Whale watching in the Yellow Submarine


Ever fancied whale watching from below the surface of the water but anxious about being in the water? We might have the perfect thing for you. The Yellow Submarine is a semi-submersible vessel with leading technology for underwater whale observation located in Chubut on the Valdes Peninsula. Although they offer a more conventional whale watching tour by viewing these gentle giants from the upper deck, the exciting part of this is the 40 submerged viewing windows which give you up close front row seats to some of the most exciting wildlife watching on the planet.  English speaking guides will give you real insight into the Southern right whales as well the other wildlife you may typically see – sea lions and Patagonian sea birds.

The whales come so close to shore it only takes a few minutes to locate them at which point the hour and a half magic begins. You are free to roam the upper and lower decks to enjoy different perspectives of these creatures. During the cruise, the whale watching guide will comment on the behaviour and interpret the activity that the whales may be performing. The whale watching season runs between early September and mid-December.

To find out more information on the cruise on to book the submarine tour as part of your trip to Argentina please get in touch with us here.

RELATED: Our picks for the 2018 hotspots in Latin America



Thousands of Flying Rays filmed off Mexico

This incredible footage by National Geographic shows one of the largest ever schools of mobula ‘flying’ rays off the coast of Baja California in Mexico. The creatures can breach up to two metres which is particularly surprising as they can reach a width of over 5 metres and have been known to weigh over the ton.

RELATED: Whale watching in Costa Rica starts in July

10 irresistible photos of Brazil

1. Sunset over the Bahian coast


2. Hiking in Chapada Diamantes


3. Scuba diving off Fernando de Noronha


4. Dolphin watching off the south coast


5. Bird-watching in the Pantanal


6. Cruising down the Amazon River


7. Staying at a beautiful pousada


8. Helicopter over the Iguaçu Falls


9. Walking down through the Pelourinho in Salvador


10. Taking a schooner cruise along the Costa Verde


RELATED: Top 5 holidays in Brazil

What animals will I see in the Galapagos?

The Galapagos Islands are probably the best place to get up close to wildlife in the world. It’s isolation from human contact from the mainland have created a range of habitats where fearless endemic wildlife has flourished. Here’s a rundown of some of the best animals you will see in the Galapagos.

Boobies looking

Blue-footed boobies
The blue-footed booby is not just the most famous bird on the archipelago, it’s also one of the most amusing. Watching them dive bomb in synchrony over a school of fish is an extraordinary experience and if you are lucky you will also witness the famous dance where they point they bill, tail and wings towards the sky to impress a mate. On some islands you may also see their cousins – the red-footed booby and the Nazca booby.


There are five different species of frigatebird worldwide. These birds have a fearsome reputation as pirates of the skies.  Their ability to manoeuvre through the sky with ease and steal food from others has earned them the name man o’ war birds. Two species exist on the islands, the magnificent and great frigatebirds. The males are recognisable by the inflated, bright red pouch under the bill. Again, they are hard to miss in the Galapagos.


Waved Albatross
The waved albatross is endemic to the Galapagos and can only be seen on Española Island between the months of April and December. If you are visiting at that time it is well worth checking to make sure your cruise visits Española. When courting, potential pairs put on a wonderful show of bill clapping , bill circling and sky pointing which can be watched from a close distance. A highlight of any trip to the islands.


Sea lions
There are over thirty three species of sea lion around the world, and the Galapagos has two endemic species with around sixteen thousand individuals inhabited the islands. Male sea lions create territories pushing unsuccessful bulls out of the area into bachelor colonies. Both the Galapagos sea lion and Galapagos fur seal can be seen on many islands and it’s highly likely you will see both on any cruise. They can be playful in the water when snorkelling and swimming.


Sally lightfoot crabs
Sally lightfoot crabs can be found on almost every island in abundance. They are easily recognisable by their brightly coloured orange and red body and legs. They have an amazing ability to jump from rock to rock and eat almost anything including their own kind.


Hammerhead sharks
There are many types of sharks in the Galapagos but the hammerheads are probably the most interesting. They are mainly found in schools around the northern islands of Pinta and Marchena and are recognisable by their hammer like nose. If you want to see these extraordinary creatures then a specialist scuba diving cruise is probably best.  Other sharks include the black-tip shark, Galapagos shark, whale shark and white-tip reef shark.


Giant tortoises
The symbol of the islands and the creature which gives the Galapagos it’s name (meaning saddle-like shape in old Spanish). These creatures are undoubtedly the kings of the island. They can be found primarily in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island but can also be seen at the Charles Darwin Research Centre and in fewer numbers on a handful of other islands. The most notable of their kind was of course Lonesome George who was found alone on Pinta Island in the early ‘70s. He was thought to be over one hundred years old at the time of his death in 2012.


Land iguanas
There are two endemic species of land iguana the islands, one of which only lives on Santa Fe Island, the other on over six. When Darwin arrived on Santiago Island there were so many iguanas we complained about having nowhere to pitch his tent. They can reach over a metre in length and can live for more than 60 years. Depending on which species they are either yellow or orange in colour.


Marine iguanas
The marine iguana can be found on many of the islands. Like the land iguana their species is also endemic to the islands. It can grow to over one and a half metres in length and weigh up to thirteen kilos. They can also dive down ten metres where they cling to the rocks and feed. At night they tend to cluster in areas packing themselves together tightly sometimes a few deep.


Galapagos penguin
The Galapagos penguin is unique in that it’s the only penguin species to nest in the tropics. Compared to other species of penguin they are small measuring in at about thirty centimetres in height. They can mainly be found around Isabela and Fernandina island where the waters are cooler. Although they cannot fly they are extremely good swimmers reaching speeds of up to thirty five kilometres an hour underwater.

To start planning your cruise around the Galapagos get in touch.

RELATED: A Typical Day in the Galapagos