Monday, November 23, 2009

The Seven Wonders of the Caribbean

Kaieteur Falls, Guyana Kaieteur National Park is situated on the Guiana Shield, a plateau that is one of the world's oldest and remotest geological formations. The entire Kaieteur National Park area is located within one of the largest and most biodiverse rainforests in the world.

Kaieteur Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. It has a free fall height of more than 700 feet, making it about five times taller than Niagara Falls It is one of the few places in the world where endangered species are easily observed. Specially designed on-site nature walks place you face-to-face with the many and varied exotic plant and animal species. Kaieteur can be admired close-up or filmed at varying distances and from numerous camera angles; aerial views of the Falls are truly spectacular.

The Pitons, St Lucia St Lucia possesses a topography and ecology of stunning beauty, matched by no other location in the Caribbean. The island's pride in its natural resources is evident in the country's ongoing protection and conservation efforts. 
In the mountainous interior lies the enormous National Rain Forest and the island's protected coastal sights include the breathtaking, unforgettable spires of Les Pitons. Located near Soufriere, these primeval twin peaks, topping 2,000 feet, are St Lucia's most famous landmark. Only the most daring climbers have attempted an ascent on their summits, but they can be seen in all their glory from Mt Gimie or from the decks of a boat offshore.

Now dormant, the Sulphur Springs is the world's only drive-in volcano. A tour of its bubbly, steamy sulphur springs offers a direct and fascinating lesson in the violent geology of the Caribbean Rim.

The Pitch Lake, Trinidad The Pitch Lake or Asphalt Lake of Trinidad and Tobago is situated in the southwest peninsula of the island of Trinidad. It has fascinated explorers, scientists and the common folk since its discovery by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595. Raleigh himself found immediate use for the asphalt to caulk his ship. Since then, there have been numerous research investigations into the use and chemical composition of this material. Above all, there have been countless theories, postulations and conclusions as to the size, source and origin of the asphalt. The Asphalt Lake is at present an oval, lake-like outcrop composed of an oil, clay and water (mud) mixture. The asphalt from the Lake is of economic value to Trinidad and Tobago. Some 10 million tons have been mined since mining started in 1867. The refined product is used in the manufacturing and road surfacing industries.

Harrison Cave, Barbados Although historical references were made to Harrison's Cave from as early as the 18th century, no serious exploration of the cave was carried out until 1970, when speleologist, Ole Sorensen, was commissioned by the Barbados National Trust to make a survey and map the cave. Sorensen immediately recognised the potential of the cave and recommended that it be landscaped and developed. Four years later, work on the cave began, drawing on scientific, artistic, technological and geological resources.

The work involved digging tunnels, improving lighting and diverting of underground streams. A unique phenomenon of nature, Harrison's Cave is an amazing gallery of stalactites hanging from the roof of the cave, and stalagmites that emerge from the ground, with streams of crystal-clear running water that drop from breathtaking waterfalls to form deep emerald pools. The stalactites and stalagmites were formed over thousands of years and in some places the stalactites have reached down to the stalagmites and a spectacular pillar has been formed.

Stingray City, Grand Cayman Located in the shallow waters of the northwest corner of Grand Cayman's North Sound, the waters are filled with "friendly" stingrays, that can be fed by hand You'll find this anomaly just inside a natural channel that passes through the barrier, it consists of a string of sand bars that cross the North Sound from Morgan Harbour to Rum Point. Local legend has it that the stingrays began gathering in the area decades ago when fisherman would return from an excursion and go behind a reef into the sound and clean their fish in the calm water of the shallows and sand bar area. The fish guts were simply thrown overboard and the stingrays eventually congregated to feast on the discarded guts. Soon the stingrays began to associate the sound of a boat with a free meal. As this practice turned into a tradition, local divers realised that the stingrays could be fed by hand. There are three ways to experience these bottom-dwelling, prehistoric-looking creatures that feed primarily on molluscs and crustaceans and each involves a short boat ride to the sandbar area at the North Sound. Divers or snorkelers who dare to get into the water experience an adrenaline rush as the stingrays rub against you with their bodies and "wings".

The most popular is a snorkelling trip, which has been called the best snorkeling experience in the world. This trip normally occurs in the heart of the sandbar where the water is only three to five-feet deep.

The second way to experience Stingray City is as a scuba diver. Dive groups consist of 10 to 20 divers, wearing no fins as they may hurt the congregating stingrays. The divers are over-weighted, which keeps them on the bottom and the dive master swims from diver to diver dispersing diced squid and fish pieces. Stingrays quickly surround the divers. The third way to experience Stingray City is via a glass bottom boat, which is a good alternative if the weather is too windy for snorkeling.

Citadelle Henri Christophe Fortress, Haiti High above Haiti's once-fertile northern plains, like a stone ship jutting through the clouds, stands one of the engineering marvels of the New World, now largely abandoned to nature and the few tourists who climb the winding cobblestone track to visit the crumbling stone fortress.

The Citadelle, built by King Henri Christophe at the beginning of the 19th century to defend against invaders, atop a 3,000-foot mountain called Bonnet-a-l'Eveque, or the Bishop's Miter is the largest fortress in the Western Hemisphere. It is Haiti's most revered national symbol, of brilliance in its building but of cruelty in the forced labour that cost up to 20,000 lives.

Understanding the Citadelle is crucial to understanding Haiti's turbulent history as the only nation whose birth was the result of a successful slave rebellion. The fort is a symbol of the will to fight for one's freedom.

So impressive is the fortress, stretched across the mountain peak, with sheer cliffs on three sides and the only point of access subject to withering cannon fire, that the United Nations included the Citadelle in its list of cultural treasures, along with the Acropolis, the pyramids of Egypt and the temple of Borobudur in Indonesia.

While some reconstruction has been carried out, cannons and cannon balls litter the structure and parts of it are off-limits because they are in danger of tumbling down.
"The Citadelle reflects the dreams our fathers had for the country," said former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. "Their dreams of freedom and dignity. Unfortunately, it was carried out with slavery, and hopefully today we can continue their project, but without the roots of slavery."

Dunn's River Falls, Jamaica Jamaica's most famous visitor attraction is the stunning Dunn's River Falls and Beach.
Many visitors climb the waterfalls from the beach right to the top, stopping on the way to enjoy the cool plunge pools formed naturally in the river rocks and the waterfalls that are gentle in some places and positively thunder in others. When you get to the top, you will feel refreshed and invigorated.

Photographed millions of times, Dunn's River was prominently featured in the very first James Bond film, Dr No. Countless other film crews have followed that lead. Champagne underwater hot springs,Dominica

Approaching Dominica by sea, it is easy to see how Victorian writers could imagine remnant populations of dinosaurs surviving in the tropics, as described in novels like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. The island looks primeval and pristine, craggy and dense with rainforest; its rugged interior is almost uninhabited, leading to the nickname "Nature Island".

Dominica is one of the youngest islands in the volcanic Caribees and it is still being formed by volcanic activity, making it an ideal destination for the geologically minded traveller. One of the most famous sites called "Champagne" is actually within snorkelling distance. It is easy to see why it got its name: Underwater hot springs discharge carbon dioxide gas into a water column, which form bubbles, creating the illusion of a carbonated beverage or a giant Jacuzzi.

By Derrick Ormonde

How to Find the Best Last Minute Vacation Packages

Last minute vacation packages are in abundance because vacation package providers usually slash prices when the travel date is very close and there are still several un-booked packages left. If you can stand the suspense, waiting until the last minute to book can be very rewarding. There are also cancellations to think about so even if the packages are fully booked, you can come across a great bargain every now and then when someone cancels their trip. In that case, you may want to get on a waiting list to ensure that you are given priority when someone cancels.

In order to find out about the best last minute vacation packages, you will probably want to sign up for email alerts on websites that publish travel deals and last minute bargains. To avoid having your email inbox filled to the brim with travel deal emails, you may want to create a separate email account solely for the purpose of receiving travel deal alerts. Typically, the best last minute packages are found around three weeks before departure. However, you may be able to find really good deals at the very last minute, such as within 48 hours of departure. If your schedule is flexible, you can take advantage of such bargains. In order to stay on top of all the deals, email alerts are very helpful.

By searching on some of the major travel deal websites, you can get an idea of the median prices of last minute packages to your desired destination. If you're pretty flexible about where you want to go on vacation, simply enter your departure city on one of these travel deal sites and view all of the packages that are available.

In some cases, packages will allow you to take a vacation for a cost that is half of the trip's actual value. Airlines and hotels want to fill as many vacancies as possible so as the travel date approaches, prices tend to drop significantly. Rather than signing up for alerts and doing online research, you can also contact a travel agency and let them do the research for you.

You can find the best deals by being flexible about what time and date you travel. The best deals are usually found for trips that depart mid-week. It is more expensive to travel during the weekend. A Saturday night stay is usually required in order to take advantage of the lowest airfares. If you want to travel over the weekend, search now for vacation deals that depart the upcoming weekend. Low airfares are published on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for travel during the upcoming weekend.

Just remember that if you travel at the last minute, you have to be very flexible. You may not be able to stay in your hotel of choice. The key to finding the greatest bargains is being open to accepting whatever deals turn up. This kind of flexibility will enable you to grab great travel opportunities when they arise.

By Melissa Schwarz

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Top Destinations for Traveling Nurses

The great thing about being a traveling nurse boils down to one key component - it's about the travel! For those of us who love moving around and seeing the world, travel nursing is the profession of our dreams. There are many travel destinations available, based on weather, activities, cost of living, and salary. Therefore, I have gathered a list of my "Top Ten" destinations that nurses choose, based on the number of travelers who inquire about each location every month. Are you a travel RN scouting a new assignment? Then I'd like to suggest the following ten "Hot Spots":

HAWAII - It's no shock that Hawaii generates over 500 travel nursing inquiries per month. The wide range of outdoor activities from snow-capped mountains to snow-white sandy beaches elevates Hawaii to one of those meccas where you can build a snowman or a sand castle all in one day. Nurses tell me that you'll discover virtually every type of outdoor activity imaginable-hiking trails that wind through erupting volcanoes, secret beaches, and lush green ranchlands. Many travelers also hunt, mountain bike, go rafting, and golf on some of the world's most extravagant courses.

ALASKA - Travel nurses are intrigued by the possibilities of Alaska's rugged mystery. Alaska is a huge wilderness with beautiful scenery, and travel nursing assignments offer plenty of time to see and do everything you want, whether in winter's darkness under northern lights, or the glorious spring and summer where it's light most of the time. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy Alaska for its' wildlife, spectacular natural landscape, and fishing expeditions where the fish really are as big as the stories about which they're told. Countless day cruises and sightseeing expeditions abound, as well as opportunities to hike, kayak, canoe, ski... Need we say more?

MONTANA - Whether photographer, adventurer, or both, Montana is truly a state that beckons with open arms. River trips, fishing and camping, history, snowy mountain ranges, and waterfalls are what you'll encounter, along with plenty of open space to explore. Assignments in Montana appeal to those travel nurses who just need some time to break away from their city grind to enjoy marching to the beat of an entirely different drummer. The Big Sky Country boasts some of America's most famous mountains, canyons, river valleys, forests, grassy plains, badlands, and caverns, and many travelers find it just irresistible enough to keep coming back.

MAINE - Maine's splendor has inspired artists like Georgia O'Keefe and three generations of the Wyeth family, since the mid-nineteenth century. Travel nurses can't resist at least one adventure in this charming getaway. Whether you embark on outdoor adventures like skiing and snowmobiling, or if you prefer the cozy ambience of antiquing through charming villages or just strolling or riding horseback on miles of sandy beaches in the smell of salt air, Maine is legendary and offers some wonderful travel nursing experiences. Its' unique culture is outdoorsy and quaint, and of course you get to enjoy lobster as the locals do-fresh from the ocean!

CALIFORNIA - Warm weather and world-famous beaches make California a favorite choice for traveling nurses. Nine-hundred miles of coastline gives nurses in all locations the chance to spend many hours near the waves; and for nature lovers, California is home to many wildlife parks, remote wilderness areas, and safe-havens for endangered animals. If you're an excitement junkie, you can scout out a wide selection of theme parks; and no matter what your taste in music, concerts abound in every type of venue. Historic sites and museums invite, as do five-star restaurants and clubs in which to see and be seen. The shopping is unparalleled, whether it's trendy Melrose Place, La Jolla, or the strand in Venice Beach; and of course it's home to Hollywood, and, yes, movie stars. Whether northern, southern, or coastal locations, traveling nurses return to California time and again.

WASHINGTON - The Evergreen State boasts the gorgeous Pacific Ocean, the Cascade Mountains, desert experiences, rain forests, towering volcanoes, glaciers, and lush wine country. Washington State rates high on the list of many nurse travelers. Must-sees are the Space Needle and Coulee Dam. The culture here is incredibly diverse; sophisticated, outdoorsy, and loaded with resorts, history, parks, museums, and botanical gardens. Whether touring downtown Seattle for cozy antique and book stores, exploring ancient Indian grounds, or hiking and biking mountains or trails, Washington holds a strong allure for many nurse travelers.

SOUTH CAROLINA - Endless adventure, excitement, fun and exploration represent why South Carolina is always a favorite destination for travel nurses. America's oldest landscaped gardens frame mansions rife with historical heritage, in addition to pristine beaches and legendary marshy wetlands. For all you golfers, with over 330 golf courses, there's always a new place to swing your clubs. But what fascinates many traveling nurses is the rich heritage in which South Carolina has paved the roads of culture, art, and folklore in our past. You can visit several historical areas and discovery centers of American history, including the American Revolution and the Civil War.

COLORADO - World-class winter skiing and summer music festivals in the mountains are just two reasons that nurses love traveling to Colorado. Boasting four spectacular seasons, Colorado is where travel nurses get to explore the state's 18 million acres of state and national parks, forests, and monuments for biking, hiking, fishing, mountain climbing, and kayaking, to name a few. Colorado has many cultural treasures, including ancient Native American sites and dinosaur fossil exhibits, historic ghost towns, and even award-winning vineyards in Grand Junction. And for those who enjoy city life, amid all this natural beauty lie wonderful metropolitan areas like Denver and Boulder, full of shopping, performing arts, and professional sports.

TENNESSEE - From energetic nights of blues on Beale Street, to gorgeous rolling acres of Tennessee Walker horse country, to peaceful Smoky Mountain sunsets, Tennessee is a vacation that offers many world-renowned attractions. Nurse travelers who visit Tennessee will find that they're within a day's drive of 75-percent of the U.S. population via quality interstates and highways. Attractions in Tennessee include the Jack Daniels' distillery, Elvis's Graceland, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and lots of southern hospitality. And don't forget the crown jewel of the southern Appalachians, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. ARIZONA - If you adore the outdoors, then the Grand Canyon State might just be for you. The nurses who go there just rave about Arizona's landscape which takes in tall mountain ranges, swift rivers, grasslands, sand dunes, and cactus forests all set against a beautiful sky that glows pink in the sunset. The traveler nurses who enjoy history will find plenty of it here, including Old West reformations, Native American nations, and Spanish-influenced areas all in one state. Arizona is also home to the nation's greatest golf courses, resorts, spas, cabins, and ranches. As you can see, limitless possibilities exist for those nurses who want travel, fun, and adventure to be part of their daily lives. If you're a nurse who travels and it's time for you to move on to a new location, try one of these top travel nursing destinations and see what new experiences lie ahead.

By Josiah Walter

East Coast Beaches to West, Florida Beach locations in Sarasota County are Some of the Best!

Whether you are a winter visitor, vacationer or full-time resident, Florida's 1,200 miles of coastline is yours to enjoy and we're going to help you by giving you all of the details on the top west Florida beach locations including special amenities, recreational offerings, hours, pet regulations and more. Sarasota County is home to many well known towns including Sarasota, Venice, Englewood, Siesta Key and Longboat Key. Beautiful Sarasota Bay separates the county's barrier islands from the mainland. With its 40 miles of beaches, Sarasota County is one of America's most desirable places to live and to vacation.

Sarasota accommodations are varied and many, from Sarasota inns, to Sarasota resorts, to even Sarasota motels and the same is true throughout the County. You can find Sarasota vacations rentals in Siesta Key condos, Sarasota condominiums and Sarasota villas. Sarasota Restaurants throughout the County are many and palate pleasing! In Venice, Café Venice Restaurant & Wine Bar is the place to go. Cork on St. Armand's Circle in Sarasota was named "Best New Restaurant." It's a pretty exciting place with exciting food! Ophelia's on the Bay offers beautiful alfresco dining overlooking Sarasota Bay and Euphemia Haye on Longboat Key is legendary. Try them all!

On to the beaches!

Here are 6 of the 17 beaches in Sarasota County:

Blind Pass Beach Location: 6725 Manasota Key Road, one mile north of the Charlotte County line on Manasota Key Phone: 941-861-5000 Sarasota County Hours: sunrise to sunset Parking: free lot Amenities: ½ mile of beach and 66 acres gulf to bay, canoe launch, picnic shelter, nature trail, playground, restrooms, handicapped accessible Activities: swimming, fishing, sunbathing, surfing, walking canoeing, kayaking Pets: no Of Special Interest: In addition to enjoying this beautiful beach, canoeing, kayaking and fishing are popular in the coves and lagoon on the bayside.

Manasota Beach Location: 8570 Manasota Key Road, west end @ Manasota Beach Road. Phone: 941-861-5000 Sarasota County Hours: sunrise to sunset Parking: parking lots are free and plentiful Amenities: 1500 foot beach, 14 acres gulf to bay, lifeguards, boat ramps, boardwalk, docking facilities, dune walkovers, picnic shelters, restrooms, volleyball courts, handicapped accessible Activities: swimming, boating, fishing, shelling, walking, sunbathing Pets: no Of Special Interest: The beach is situated between the Gulf and the Intracoastal Waterway. On the Intracoastal side, a boat ramp and docking facilities are available allowing access to the Bay and Gulf. The 620 feet of dockage becomes a scenic boardwalk that meanders through the mangroves.

Casperson Beach Location: 4100 Harbor Drive, Venice, south of the airport Phone: 941-861-5000 Sarasota County Hours: sunrise to sunset Parking: free lots Amenities: 2 miles of beach, 177 acres, 1100 foot boardwalk, .34 mile nature trail, picnic area, restrooms Activities: swimming, shelling, walking, fishing, handicapped accessible Pets: no Of Special Interest: Caspersen is recognized as one of the most enjoyable shelling beaches in this area. This is an exceptionally good area to find prehistoric sharks' teeth. You can see freshwater and saltwater marshes, mangrove areas, and tidal flats. Enjoy a 20 minute walk through Caspersen's nature trail which has been developed through a coastal hammock. The southern two thirds of beachfront has been left in its natural state. A dune restoration system with walkovers has been implemented to preserve the shoreline.

Brohard Park Location: 1600 Harbor Drive on the Venice Airport property Phone: 941-861-5000 Sarasota County Hours: sunrise to sunset Parking: free lot Amenities: 84 acres, Venice municipal fishing pier, bait shop, Pelican Man Sanctuary, restrooms, food concession, restaurant nearby, Paw Park Activities: bird watching, swimming, fishing, sunbathing, walking, shelling Pets: yes, in Paw Park Of Special Interest: For dog lovers, at the south end of Brohard Beach is the Paw Park, with doggie drinking fountains, showers on decks for dogs only, fire hydrants and leash posts. Dog lovers have declared this park and beach to be the best doggy park in the state, where dogs are allowed to roam free.

Service Club Park Location: 1190 Harbor Drive, north of and adjacent to Brohard Beach, Venice Phone: 941-861-5000 Sarasota County Website: Hours: sunrise to sunset Parking: free lot Amenities: playground, picnic tables, restrooms and showers, handicapped access, playground, dune walkovers Activities: swimming, fishing, shelling, sunbathing, walking, fishing Pets: no

Venice Beach Location: 101 The Esplanade, west end of Venice Ave., Venice Phone: 941-861-5000 Sarasota County Hours: sunrise to sunset Parking: free lot Amenities: 2 miles of beach total, 7.5 acres, lifeguards, handicapped accessibility and handicapped wheelchairs, concessions, dune walkovers, pavilion, restrooms, volleyball courts Activities: scuba, snorkeling, swimming, sunbathing, volleyball, walking Pets: no Of Special Interest: A reef containing fossilized material is located a quarter mile offshore making it a favorite spot for local divers.

We hope you enjoy your stay on a west Florida beach, whether it's for the week, or for the rest of your life. Now what are you waiting for? Get swimming!

By Maria Norton