Wildlife Among the "Wild Life"

By Kathy Klofft

Photos: Kathy Klofft

I spend a few weeks each winter in Southwest Florida, on the Gulf Coast. This time of year, things can get a bit "wild" according to my relatives who live here...traffic backs up for miles to cross bridges that bring them to Estero or Sanibel Islands, people circle parking lots waiting for spots, restaurants have waiting lines out the door for dinner and that's at 4:30 PM! Yes, when snowbirds and spring breakers all arrive at the same time, it can be "wild"!  

Kayaking in the mangroves along the Calusa Blueway in Ft Myers.

Kayaking in the mangroves along the Calusa Blueway in Ft Myers.

But what about the REAL snowbirds? The feathered fauna who arrive from all over the East Coast to feed and stay out of the cold northern climes. They are the real "wildlife" of Florida, and you don't have to go very far to find it. Two years ago, I shared this post about how to find real Florida, http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2015/1/26/real-florida and while this little corner of Florida where I visit has only gotten busier, I still can find a quiet spot to dip my paddle or peddle a bike or walk where the wildlife lives and is usually pretty patient with me watching, so long as I am quiet and not a threat! 

During my 2 hour paddle through mangroves, lagoons and out to the beach on the bay; I saw a kingfisher, herons, egrets, tree crabs, skimmers, gulls and a flapping sea turtle on the surface of the bay, who spied me with his little eye, and took a deep dive down under the sea.  What I didn't see till I got to the beach and the good fishing areas, was another human being! (I've included some photos, which I hope you will excuse for being a little "foggy", I used my iPhone inside an Overboard water proof case, but it's tricky to prevent the inside of the bag from fogging up a little) 

Hope the next time you travel somewhere known for beaches, nightlife, or all you can eat buffets, you'll also get a chance to take a few minutes to meet the real life "wild residents" too!  

 

A heron sits in the mangroves, keeping an eye on me as I glide in its direction on my kayak.  

A heron sits in the mangroves, keeping an eye on me as I glide in its direction on my kayak.  

Kayaking in the mangroves  

Kayaking in the mangroves  

Dramatic Video of Polar Bears of Churchill

Posted by Kathy Klofft

Photographs by Jeffrey Klofft

Video by Cathy D

One of the most dramatic moments I have ever had watching wildlife occurred while I was in Churchill Manitoba in early November on a Natural Habitat trip, when a mother polar bear led her cubs fleeing, just feet away, past our polar rover. She was trying to put some distance between them and a huge male bear headed their way.  I've been blessed to see many animals in their wild, natural setting, but the drama of seeing polar bears interacting with and responding to each other on the tundra in Northern Canada was one of the most exciting wildlife trips we've been able to experience. So you can imagine the tiny bit of heartbreak I felt when I realized on my second full day of "safari", I had left my iphone with the video camera on the charger in my hotel room.  I'm sure any of you who have 'lost" photos on your phone or forgot to take your camera to an important event probably knows what this feels like...an opportunity lost, regret at not being able to capture the moment forever.

Our blog post with more photos about this encounter with the bears can be read here, if you have not seen it:

Polar Bear Mama Drama

Of course, seeing these amazing sights with my own eyes is an incredible privilege and I would never let the photography get in the way of the experience, but re-living the experience through photos and videos and sharing it with others is a large part of the joy of the experience.  So far, we have shared our polar bear adventures with all of Natural Habitat's Twitter followers, a local GFWC Woman's club and upcoming, we will present to a class of first graders and possibly the Woman Working for Oceans group.  So our photos, videos and stories not only spark our memories but also, hopefully, the curiosity and engagement of people young and old who can make a difference in protecting the environment that both we and the polar bears depend on for life. 

As I prepared for the first presentation, I emailed the others from our tour group with Natural Habitat and asked if anyone may have captured the dramatic mother and cubs moment on video.  We had already shared every one of my husbands images with our whole group...he had the biggest lens and the most experience with a camera, so each day on the tundra, our group affectionately referred to him as the "official photographer", and made sure he was positioned to get great photos to share with the whole group.  So I was delighted when Cathy D, a member on our tour from Michigan, immediately emailed me with video from the exact moment I had requested- that dramatic escape by the mother bear and young cubs. 

Words can't really describe the delight I felt when I saw her video and remembered the thrill of this encounter in the wild. As I share it here I am reminded of this about travel...good karma is good karma, sharing with fellow travelers and the locals we visit is it's own reward, but sometimes it rewards us back in ways we couldn't have anticipated! Thank you Cathy D for sharing this memorable encounter on the tundra with us, both in real life and by sharing this video with all of us!

Shanghai Photo Walk

Photos by J. Klofft

By Kathy Klofft

A recent trip to Shanghai allowed Jeff to capture the architecture and atmosphere in Shanghai in advance of the celebration of Chinese New Year on Jan 28th. Happy New Year!

Pearl Tower

Pearl Tower

Street Worker

Shanghai World Fiancial Center

Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai Tower (the world's 2nd tallest building) & Jin Mao Tower

Evening Walk

Puxi (the historic center of Shanghai) from Pudong

Shangai Tower (in rear)

Shanghai Pearl at Night

Shanghai Pearl at Night

Signs

Preparations for the New Year- Year of the Rooster

Don't Get Taken for Ride! How to Avoid Travel Scams

Don't Get Taken for a Ride! 

How to Avoid Travel Scams

By Kathy Klofft  Photos by Jeff Klofft

Unless you called for an Uber, you don't want to get taken for ride when traveling or planning travel. The internet has made travel planning easier and it's made it harder. Today there are many trustworthy sources of information on the internet, but there are also lots of cyber criminals trying to steal your information and money or operators promising more than they deliver.  I've collected a few here, let's play a little game: Scam or Not a Scam, to see which are legit offers and which you should avoid!

 

Get nights/miles for opening a new credit card!

Not a Scam- You'll get the points, but at what cost? I like to make sure the card fits my needs. Does it offer other benefits such a lounge access, free checked bags, and early boarding or check in? If paying for these things would cost less than the annual fee of the card, then it's not worth it. If I travel with a checked bag 4 times, then the $200 annual fee might be worth it. Another question I ask is will I use the nights or points? I find redeeming airline miles tiresome and expensive, it takes a really savvy person to use miles and pay the fees to redeem them and still get more value out of them than just buying a discounted fare for the same route. I like to male sure the card meets my needs and isn't costing me more than the value of the benefits before signing up. 

 

You've won a free trip!

We won a free flight to St Martin, where we stayed at La Plantation- on our own nickel!

Somewhat scammy to outright scammy- Some of these are outright scams, getting you to pay some up front costs or wiring a claim "fee" and being promised to be sent travel vouchers which you discover later are worthless or are never sent.

Sometimes legitimate companies offer free trips as part of a sweepstakes. Even these come with unexpected costs. I once won a "free" flight to one of 4 Caribbean islands at a travel show. The company and flight offered was legitimate, I won it in a drawing, but I had to book a hotel room and to pay airline taxes AND was responsible to report the prize as income (at the full fare) and pay income taxes on that income also. Between those two expenses, my "free" flight was still cheaper than a commercial flight, but it still wasn't a "free vacation".  Sometimes  "free" hotel rooms or cruises can cost MORE than paying a discounted fare on the same trip after you pay the taxes on the full fare (which almost no one pays)  Be sure to know what other expenses you'll incur redeeming a free trip and to talk to your tax accountant before redeeming a prize to make sure it would be worth it. 

 

Please take this travel survey! 

A request for a legitimate travel survey from the Department of Transportation, but beware of imposters phishing for your personal information. 

A request for a legitimate travel survey from the Department of Transportation, but beware of imposters phishing for your personal information. 

Not a Scam to Sort of Scammy- Most of the time the survey is a phishing expedition. Sometimes it's a legit company just doing a little market research so they can target their ads and mailings to you (and you might win a "free trip" - see above before taking it!) But it could also be a nefarious actor trying to get your sensitive information. The first surveys are mostly harmless and will help you learn about a travel companies products, but as always be careful not give sensitive information! 

 

Click this link because you need to reset your password!  (your cruise or flight is canceled! There's a problem with your account! etc.)

The scene of the crime!! Responding to a phishing email while in a train station resulted in scammers stealing our daughter's college account password!

The scene of the crime!! Responding to a phishing email while in a train station resulted in scammers stealing our daughter's college account password!

Scam! Beware of any email from a company with alarming information that requires you to click a link in the email.  This is a classic scam, a website is built to look so much like the legitimate one, you click on the link because you want to solve the problem immediately! Don't do it!

We've fallen for these twice ourselves, once my daughter clicked a link in an email she thought was from her college to reset her password to her online account. The hackers immediately began sending spam to other users in the system, and the college had to shut her out of the account until she could reset her account. She was lucky, the school was vigilant and aware of the scam and could take quick action, so she was back in business after a phone call to the school. She was in a Paris train station and taking an online summer class where missing a day of access to the class was like missing a weeks!

Another time, my husband who is very careful, clicked on a link from PayPal after reading a realistic email that a transaction he made recently hadn't gone through. After clicking the link and putting in his password, he immediately realized it was a mistake and went to the PayPal site to change the password, so no harm, no foul, but had he waited even an hour, bots could have done some serious financial damage to his account!

It's very easy when traveling to fall for an email scam because most times we are rushing around and seeing our communications on mobile devices where we have less time to check out their validity.  The lesson for ALL of us is never never NEVER click on a link within an email to access an account that requires a password. Most legitimate businesses won't even send a link to your account in their emails! Go to your browser and enter the address for the legit company. Look at the address bar, make sure it has the "secure" lock and the correct address for the business. Only then do I feel safe to enter account and PW information. 

 

Your nephew is in Nepal and emails you that they've been hurt in an accident and need you to wire money immediately!

Big scam! How awful! Playing on the fears of loved ones to extract cash from people. The problem is if you or a loved one travels a lot, it could seem more plausible! I worry that my elderly MIL will get an email like this when one of her travel-loving children or granddaughters is away. These are always scams!

If you are the traveler, you can protect your loved ones by taking these steps  

  • Register with the State Department STEP program when traveling out of the country. 
  • Have travel insurance, which will provide you with an emergency assistance number so you'll never need to rely on vulnerable family.
  • Have a competent well traveled person listed as your emergency contact, you can even arrange a password or to share a tidbit of something only you and they would know to tell them in the case of needing help in a real emergency. 
  • Give your loved ones a reliable way to contact you, and tell them to contact you first before sending money.
  • Also give them a detailed itinerary before you leave, which allows them to see where you are and realize you aren't actually being held by rebels in some country you didn't visit! 

Tell vulnerable family members that you will never email them for money and because of all the steps you took listed above, there will be no reason to wire money to you. If you need help, or there is an emergency you will place a real voice call to them. In almost every case of true emergency I've seen during travel, travel operators allow guests to make emergency phone calls. Once a woman died in Istanbul of natural causes and the hotel allowed her travel companion to make all the calls she needed. I was offered a similar courtesy by Royal Caribbean when the Boston Marathon bombing happened and I needed to check in with loved ones at home. 

Now, if one of your loved ones calls and asks for money to just to extend their fabulous vacation...I'm not a family therapist (and I don't play one on the internet) so I can't help with advice about that!!

Looking Ahead 2017

Looking Ahead 2017- Where to next!

by Kathy Klofft Photos by Jeff Klofft

20160909 - Airport Stock - 004.JPG

A new calendar is always full of promise, all those empty blocks or electronic lines to fill...what will end up on each day?  If you are anything like us, at the end of the year, every block on the wall calendar is filled with scrawled events and appointments, or if you scroll backwards, you don't find more than a day or two without an appointment.  I have an idea for a New Years resolution.  Take that new, empty calendar and before you put anything in it, block out some time to take vacation and travel someplace, even if it's only in your own backyard!  Whether it's your dream trip or seeing what makes people come to YOUR neck of the woods, we hope 2017 is filled with wonderful travel adventures!  Please let us know where you are headed in 2017!

New Year Staycation!

Without school age children tied to the academic calendar, we aren't limited to travel during the school vacations, so we sit out the busy holiday travel season, choosing to "staycation" in our "home base" city of Boston. We enjoy some of the same things people travel from all over the globe to see and do, and sleep in our own beds at the end of the day!

It's worth waiting in line with locals shopping for their holiday table to enjoy a Modern's lobster tail or cannoli in Boston's North End. 

Some years exciting things are happening in our own hometown, such as last year's NHL Winter Classic outdoor hockey game.  Most everyone's hometown has something interesting happening over the winter holidays!

Savannah, GA

Early in the new year, I have plans to visit Savannah Georgia with a friend.  More than 20 years ago, my friend Mary and I were tossed together as Girl Scout Leaders to a group of kindergartners. Little did we know then that more than 20 years later we would still be helping with Girl Scouts and still be great friends!  While taking advantage of a Jet Blue airfare sale, Savannah came up on the list of cheap, direct flights, and had the added bonus of being the home of Girl Scout Founder Juliette Gordon Low's Birthplace  Our plan is to spend a relaxing weekend at a bed and breakfast in the historic district, dining at some of the fine restaruants, walking around town and making a pilgrimage to Julliette Gordon Low Birthplace as a tribute to our long friendship and volunteer committment to the GSUSA  

Shanghai, China

Business will bring Jeff to Shanghai, and you can bet he will bring his camera!  Look for a photo essay of his time in Shanghai after the New year. 

Southeastern Florida

Kathy will make another trip to see relatives in Southwest.  I usually make an effort to uncover some unique places to share for those who would enjoy spending sometime in this area in the winter.  This year I hope to take in a tour of Jet Blue Stadium, the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox. 

A sand castle along our favorite beach in SW Florida

Rhapsody of the Seas Cruise Mexico and Central America

Late winter we will embark on a 7 day cruise aboard Rhapsody of the Seas.  We are looking forward visiting some ports we haven't seen before including Roatan Honduras and Belize City Belize, as well as favorites Cozumel and Costa Maya (Mahahual) Mexico.  We will be live blogging here, on Twitter, FaceBook and as FamilyGoBoston from the ship, as we always do for a large amount of Cruise Critic followers, sharing our port photos and experiences on board!

A Mayan ruin on Cozumel

During our trip to Honduras, we plan to participate in Pack for Purpose, carrying an extra suitcase filled with school supplies for Familias Saludables, a Roatan non profit that provides care for women and children affected by AIDS.  PfP curates lists of needed supplies from NOGO's, connecting generous travelers with a little extra space in their bags with projects in nearly every country and partnering with locals there who ensure items donated are needed and get into the hands of those who need them equitably! We've engaged a private guide, Channin Bodin, who will help us deliver the school supplies, collected from our friends and our local GFWC club members, to the Bananarama Dive and Beachfront Resort which supports the programs and local school and ensures donations are distributed fairly. We learned about this first hand when we were discussing the program with our guide in Antigua and she told us that her own daughter's preschool had benefited from donated items from PfP and support from the local resorts giving programs.  For more information on how to Pack for a Purpose click on the link for PfP and see our post about our experiences in St Lucia in 2015.  

Azamara Quest Cruise Adriatic and Italy

One of our larger trips towards the end of the year, we plan to sail Azamara Quest from Venice to Rome. Those who follow us know we always have a "folder" for planning a trip, chock full of magazine clippings, notes, and itineraries.  This cruise with stays in Venice and Rome, as well as ports of call in Kopor, Slovenia, Hvar and Dubrovnik Croatia, Kotor Montenegro, Corfu Greece, Valetta Malta and Sicily and the Amalfi Coast of Italy will require a lot travel planning leg work on my part!!  I'm getting some help from Active Travels, a boutique, membership based travel agency, and hope, with their help, to put together a unique and active itinerary for each port of call! We plan to post along the way and share photos and trip reports from all our ports of call!

Our last trip to Croatia was in the town of Vukovar, where the signs of a terrible war are still visible.  We are making good on our promise to the people we met in Vukovar Croatia to visit the beautiful coastline! 

Where Else?? 

Places we don't even know yet!!  Our travel plans often come together at the last minute, and we never know which places we may visit at the spur of the moment or need to visit for business...if you follow us on Twitter, we usually tweet out photos from places where we've traveled. If you are planning to go somewhere interesting, be sure to share it with us via email, Twitter, Face Book or in comments here.  We'd love to hear where you are going and maybe you'd like to be one of our next "Go See It People" interviews!

Opinions and advice presented here is our own based on our experiences and we have not accepted any free travel or financial considerations for our views. All of the products and services mentioned are those that we've used and had good personal experiences.