The Adventurer’s Grotto Blog



Thanks for stopping by The Adventurer’s Grotto Blog, this is where I update most often and where you can read about my adventures in the field, get the latest updates for the alligator documentary “Birth of a Predator” and get to know a little about me too. This page is the heart of the website but there is plenty to see and do while you’re here. Best place to start is my bio and home pages and then from there it’s up to you! Comments and suggestions are always welcome so feel free to drop me a line at Enjoy your stay here but watch out for the occasional gator crossing 

March 23, 2014


What it looked like when I arrived…

Located off U.S. Highway 27 in Florida sits the ruins of the old Everglades Gatorland, an old roadside attraction and tourist destination. Opened in 1959 by J.C. Bowen and his wife Mary Lou, it started as a gas station and then expanded to include a souvenir shop, food, and live alligators and other wildlife native to the area (and some that weren’t). Tourists would come by the busload to see the advertised live alligators and other animals. The first nail in the coffin was the enforcement of stricter regulations in 1967 regarding the care and maintenance of animals which in turn forced many of the small mom and pop roadside zoos out of the picture. The attraction stayed strong through the 1980′s until the theme parks and other Florida attractions became the must-see places to visit in Florida. By the 1990′s, with the alligators gone the Bowens, now in their seventies were looking to sell the establishment as business had dwindled to the occasional tourist stopping by…probably more interested in directions or using the restroom than buying souvenirs. Ten years later the Everglades Gatorland had fallen into ruins and still stands to this day although the land is now for sale. Sadly, this means that this piece of Florida history is probably on borrowed time and will end up being demolished like so many other historic sites that are becoming increasingly hard to find.


On location…

The first time I saw this place was three years ago on the way up to Gatorama to film some scenes for Birth of a Predator. I was immediately intrigued but filed it away in the back of my mind as an interesting place for a future photoshoot. I wasn’t sure how, when, or what form it would take. A few months ago I started getting interested in painting with light which involves taking several long exposures at night, painting a different section of a structure with a flashlight during each exposure, and then combining them together in photoshop. Everglades Gatorland popped back into my head as a perfect place to photograph using this technique. I decided to make the hour long trip to South Bay this weekend and my first concern was that it wouldn’t be there anymore as it was already a crumbling ruin when I first saw it a few years ago. My concern was well founded. When I got there I saw that the land had been partially cleared and a big “for sale sign” stood at the center of the property advertising commercially zoned property available. The building luckily, was still there.


Back in it’s hey day…taken around mid 1960′s.

Painting with light is a long, time consuming process which wasn’t made any easier by the mosquitos that inevitably showed up during this shoot. As you can see from the above photo taken in the 1960′s, what remains of the attraction is the section of the building that was the gift shop, and the large opening was the main entrance which had windows and glass doors. After taking a back-up shot in case I missed anything important during the shoot, I waited another hour until it got dark and started my work. One hour and 76 exposures later I was almost finished. One more extremely long exposure for the stars and the sky and I was done!


The first shot…


About a half hour into the process…

I love old, historic sites like this and I’ll be sad when it finally does come down. Knowing I made this place shine one last time makes me feel a little better, but I wish people would think twice before knocking down pieces of Florida’s history. I understand that many can’t be saved and are actually unsafe but many can be restored and preserved instead of knocking them down. Guess that’s progress though…


The final product! Making it shine one last time…

As a side note, nothing in this photograph was added in photoshop. The stars, sky, trees, and every last light stroke was shot live on location. Brightness and contrast adjustments, 2 1/2 total hours on the site (including time spent waiting for it to get dark), combining 76 exposures, and logging in the hours created this :) That’s all for this week…see you soon!



March 14, 2014


Well, there you are! It’s been a few weeks since I updated here and I apologize for the delay. I can’t promise that there won’t be gaps in the blog occasionally and I may not have time to post every single week, but going forward I will most definitely let you know if there is something going on in my life that needs my attention and how long it might be. The good news is that being absent for so many weeks has given me lots to talk about and many photos to share. From county fairs and beach sunrises to painting with light…it’s all heading your way in the coming weeks so please stay tuned. So let’s get started with today’s blog!


Last month a carnival came into town and since I haven’t yet had the opportunity to photograph that I figured I’d head on down and see what I could come up with. At first…not much. But following my own advice (that I’ve given here before) I decided to move around and change my perspective. Viola! (isn’t that a musical instrument?) The carnival was set up across a canal and I could see all the rides reflected beautifully in the calm water so I walked around to the other side and set up. What I wanted and ended up getting was a shot of all the rides in motion at the same time during a long exposure…easier said than done! When one ride would start another would slow down. This went on for about an hour and a half until finally the moment arrived and everything was moving at once resulting in the above shot. Patience always pays dividends! When patience doesn’t work there’s always photoshop. Kidding!  Actually that is something I want to talk about in a future blog…since there seems to be quite a bit of debate about altered photos recently. Me? I never do it…ever.


A couple of weeks later the South Florida Fair came to West Palm and a friend and I drove up to check it out. A beautiful crescent moon was in the sky and made for a great night out and I had a great time without riding a single ride. I always love photographing new things and I think it’s important to broaden your horizons and get out there and do something different…especially if you’re like me and tend to favor one kind of photography which in my case is wildlife and landscapes.



Photographing new things presents new challenges and that is what makes you grow as an artist. The photos from the fair now rank as some of my favorite works in my portfolio and I even had some of them printed. Aaah..printing. Now THAT is a learning experience on it’s own and will be discussed in next week’s blog. I’ve learned a few tips (the hard way) and it’s one of the reasons I’ve been absent from this blog. What you see on the computer screen isn’t always what you’re going to get for a number of reasons so check back next week for some tips on printing.

I heard back from the production company that is producing a show for National Geographic and I’m really excited that they’re using some of my footage! The show is called Florida Untamed: Gator Country and has a tentative air date in April. As soon as I know for sure I’ll pass it along. I don’t know for sure which clips they’re using yet but can tell you that the footage from the first 10 seconds of the above video will be used. Aside from that I’ll just have to wait like everyone else and be surprised!


The new and improved poster for Birth of a Predator is almost done and sometime in the next couple of months I’ll be starting an Indiegogo fundraiser to start raising funds for the post production of this film. Right now I’m working on incentives and am also planning on using the Gallery Store to raise funds as well. This way people can donate to the film but also get something tangible in return by purchasing a print, framed print, or canvas. Once the page is live I’ll post it here and even if you can’t donate or purchase a print, I hope you’ll at least share the link as getting this in front of as many people as possible is crucial to the film’s success.


Let’s see..what else? Oh yeah, I’m thinking of updating more than once a week in smaller “bites” instead of the big updates on Fridays. Attention spans are short these days which is understandable given the amount of media and information that is thrown at us every minute. More frequent, shorter updates will be more entertaining and make it more appealing for you guys instead of having to read several paragraphs at once. Ain’t nobody got time for that…


So instead of saying “see you next week”  I’ll say see you soon and if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook I’ll post an update whenever I post new stuff here. Cool? Good. Like you have a choice ;) See you soon!



January 24, 2014


Well you know what they say, the best laid plans of mice and men. I’d like to take a moment to consider what mice would actually be planning but there isn’t enough hours in the day. I’m referring to last week’s “online art show” which never happened due to car trouble but will happen this Sunday evening on Twitter from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. My apologies and for details on what it’s all about see last week’s blog below.


I’ve noticed an interesting phenomena when it comes to wildlife and nature photography…at least when it comes to my experience. While I do like to travel, I often find myself visiting the same wetlands areas several times a week. Because of time constraints and work it’s just convenient and I can’t resist the temptation…especially with all the great weather we’ve been experiencing here in South Florida this past week or so. Anyway, whenever I get what I feel is a great shot I’m never able to repeat it. Going to the same places I always see interesting things and sometimes an almost identical moment to one I’ve already captured will present itself. Problem is if I captured it once and got a great shot I can never seem to recapture the “magic” of the first photo. A perfect example of this is the photos I got of my favorite alligator “George” a few months ago. They were beautiful and what I consider to be the definitive portraits of him for my portfolio and some of the best photos I took of him in six years of visiting the Loxahatchee Refuge. A few weeks back he was in the same location, same lighting, same time of day. The photos were okay but didn’t come close to the ones I was able to get last year. It’s almost as if the universe is saying to me “you got your pictures already now move on” LOL.


A couple of weeks ago I promised to reprint and post my article that was published in the November issue of Wildlife Photographic magazine. In writing today’s blog I copied and pasted the text along with the pictures here and I decided that while it looks good, the limitations of wordpress didn’t come close to the presentation of the iPad format which is gorgeous. You can get a one month free subscription so follow the link above to read the article. While a guide to photographing alligators won’t be shooting to the top of the best seller lists anytime soon, it’s what they wanted and something I can feel comfortable talking about. Most of the photo tips I give in the article can be applied to any type of wildlife so even if alligators aren’t your thing you should check it out. Even if you don’t get that particular issue, the magazine itself is pretty cool and worth a look. If I can figure out a way to reprint my article here in a format that does it justice then you’ll be the first to know!


I’m really excited to announce a new feature for this website which will give other photographers and artists a chance to showcase their own portfolios, services, and websites. One of the things I love about the people I’ve met through photography is the network of support and camaraderie (get it?) I’ve encountered along the way. Starting next month I’ll be opening an “Artist of the Month” page which will feature other artist’s work for an entire month along with their services (if applicable), body of work, website, and contact info. The only requirement is that you have a website or at least some kind of a presence on the internet so that others can view your creations. And guess what? You don’t have to be a photographer to participate as “artist” means just that, it can be anything…photography, painting, pottery, jewelry, writings, etc. Anything that you created will be showcased so if you’re interested contact me at


Gotta keep it short today (hah), lots to do this weekend and I’m not sure I’ll even get a chance to snap a photo but I’m sure gonna try! One of the things I have on my schedule is the South Beach Dachshund Winterfest on Saurday. This year’s Winterfest will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on the grassy side of Ocean Drive between 11th and 12th Streets. A lot of fun and it’s a great cause too! I haven’t decided if I’ll be bringing mine as they can be a little rambunctious. That’s it, have a great weekend and if the weather is nice where you live then get outside and do something! Enjoy the weekend and see you next week!



January 17, 2014


Hi…hope you all had a great week and a great big Happy Friday to everybody! Last week I changed the theme of the website and blog and after some feedback from friends I’ve reverted to the original theme. Now that I’m looking at it I have to say I agree…I do like this theme and the music can always be turned off using the player on the sidebar. If you didn’t visit last week you won’t have seen any changes so disregard this paragraph and we’ll determine your punishment for not visiting my blog at some later date…but you do get to see my nifty new watermark and logo on the images here on the blog.


The first thing I want to talk about today is one of the very first things I learned as a photographer which also made a big difference in how my photos looked and gave me a new perspective on well…perspective. I want you to take a look at the two photos below:


Both of these photos are of same two ducks (thank you spellcheck for catching THAT one) photographed at the same time and in the same place. Want to know what the difference is? Aside from the fact that I zoomed in a little more on one than the other (we’re just looking at the backgrounds) the difference is about about three feet…literally. By shifting my position slightly I was able to incorporate a different background into the image and create an entirely new color scheme to showcase the ducks. I do have my favorite among the two but both are usable images and from there it’s just personal preference. Shows what a difference a few inches can make (and get your mind out of the gutter). Give yourself some options when you’re in the field and you’ll have more to choose from when you’re editing your photos at home. I talk about this in my article in Wildlife Photographic and I practice this all the time. It’s really cool to see what a difference changing your position can make in your photos. Now let’s look at the hummingbird shots below:


What I want to demonstrate in these photos is my second tip of the day which is the difference a little patience can make. Again both of these photos were taken at the same time, of the same hummingbird, and in the same place. The photo on the left is ok but rather drab and you can see the concrete walkway which is not something I want in my photo. It doesn’t pop and it lacks any interesting colors or background. For the photo on the right I noticed that the setting sun looked like it was about to emerge from behind the clouds and I waited to see what would happen. It took five minutes (and the photographer next to me gave up and moved on) but when the sun finally did come out it created a splash of light on the foliage behind the hummingbird and created a soft light on the hummingbird as well. I changed my position slightly as that other background still wasn’t doing it for me and positioned myself so I had the sunlit foliage in the background. HUGE difference. The photo now has a very colorful, glowing background which really makes this image standout for me as opposed to the other image. Whenever your about to take a photo take a few seconds and look at your surroundings, move around a bit and look for interesting colors and backgrounds and experiment to see the difference it makes each time you change your perspective. Also keep an eye out for those changing conditions and if you have a few extra minutes wait and see what happens. You’ll be amazed, I promise.


If you live in the state of Florida or are planning a visit, this coming week should offer some excellent photo opportunities no matter where you are in the state. The weather will be colder for at least a week and with mostly clear skies in the forecast it’s a great time to get out there and see all Florida has to offer. Since it’s a long weekend due to the holiday, now is a great time to get out and explore! If you can get away from from city lights it might also be a good time to do some night photography. Cold fronts usually clear the air so to speak resulting in better visibility of the night skies.  The moon is still pretty bright, however, so you may want to check the moonrise times and plan accordingly.


If you follow me on Twitter I’ll be doing a live event on Sunday from 8:00-10:00 p.m. I hate advertising and marketing online, I really do. I don’t want to become one of “those” people whose only updates on Twitter or Facebook is to try and sell you something. But it is a necessary evil to get by in this world and I think I’ve found an interesting and entertaining way to do it. Every Sunday I’ll be showcasing 10 works from my portfolio on Fine Art America in an “online art show” so to speak. Each week will have a unique theme and will present those images that fit that particular theme. In between I’ll be talking about the stories behind the photos (I remember every photo I’ve taken) and since I frequently have a video camera with me, I’ll be posting videos that were filmed at the same time as the photos bringing them to life in full HD. I also welcome any artists who would like their work featured on Sundays to join in as well. It doesn’t matter what the medium, photography, paint, arts and crafts, pottery, you name it. As long as you created it I’ll post a link directly to your art during the show and also give you an opportunity to talk about it if you choose. So that’s my answer to the marketing issue, I think I’ve found a way to make it interesting and fun and it’s only once a week so it’s a win-win. For the premiere event this Sunday I’ve chosen the theme “From the Dawn of Time” which will feature (naturally) our living dinosaur the American Alligator! Hope to see you there…


That’s it for this week’s blog, I hope you have a great holiday weekend and make sure to get out there and do something fun! Until next week…



January 10, 2014


Despite the snow on the ground temperatures were pretty mild this day…

Hey everyone! Happy New Year to you all and I hope you had a great holiday season and got to spend it with family and friends and the people you love.  You may have noticed the site has a brand new look, been streamlined a tad (what the hell does that REALLY mean anyway?), and some pages have disappeared. I felt it was time for a change and wanted to the focus of this page to be on the photos and text without the distraction of music playing constantly which is also a problem when you’re trying to watch a video. I love the way the photos look in this new theme…they really come to life in the larger format. As far as the music I did love it and it’s not gone for good, it will return on the gallery page I’m working on which will be up in a day or two.  The music actually works much better there and is way more suited for viewing photos or a slideshow instead of trying to read a blog. So I hope you like the update and feel free to send me some feedback. So let’s get started! Today we’re taking a break from the wetlands and heading out west to Colorado so instead of wetlands and sawgrass we’ll see some mountains and snow!


Taken at Red Rocks…

First off let me just say that while I love Florida and all it has to offer, there is something about seeing mountains rise up ahead of you that can’t be put into words. One of the unique things I learned about Colorado during this visit is that they can have snowfall on one day and then be in short sleeve shirts the next with the snow still on the ground. I’ve only seen snow once in my adult life so it was a thrill to not only see snow but see a snowfall the night before I left. This Florida boy actually handled the cold quite well and it actually feels colder here in Florida when we get the occasional cold front like the one moving in tonight (which will bring us into the 40′s). After this trip Colorado is definitely on the radar as a potential place to live one day although one of the downsides is that it’s expensive. Guess you’re paying for all those beautiful mountain views…


Where I stayed…

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much wildlife while I was out there as this was primarily a social visit with friends and I didn’t want to be rude. Most of the photos I was able to get were during our visit to Red Rocks and then a few shots of the Denver skyline thrown in for good measure. It’s all good though and there’s always next time. It’s good to see friends and sometimes you have to put the camera down and realize what’s important in life. I did get a few shots of geese (which I never see in Florida) and some other small birds but didn’t get a beautiful hawk that flew right past me my first morning there while I was outside having my coffee. Oh well…


When I went down to the lake to meet the stability ball trainer he was a little pissed I was late…

I finally had a chance to delve into Bill Gozansky’s FIELD GUIDE during some downtime on my trip and on the plane and have to say it’s a really cool app. Bill has partnered with Images For Conservation Fund in developing this app and it really shines. You can use it out in the field with no internet connection and also upload your own  photos to the gallery section of the app. Looking through Bill’s images he explains each shot and what technique was used to achieve the desired effect. Easy to navigate and understand I highly recommend it no matter what your experience level. Check out the above link to learn more about the app.


The beautiful Denver skyline…

The other thing I got to try out on this trip was my gift from “Santa” which is the Canon 10-22mm wide angle lens. I can’t think of a better place than Colorado to experiment with this one! It lived up to my expectations and some of the photos on today’s blog were taken with that lens. It brings a new dimension to landscapes and I may even use it for filming the last few scenes of Birth of a Predator. Images are sharp and while there is some distortion when using it at 10mm, that’s to be expected and I actually like the effect. And dammit I just realized I forgot to do a panorama…


That’s about all for this week, check back here next week for another blog and maybe some travel news. New Orleans and possibly Costa Rica may be happening in the coming months and I’m really excited about the possibilities of traveling to both places! I’ve been to New Orleans before but never Costa Rica. I’ve made it a goal  to travel more often this year and explore different parts of the country and the world as finances allow. Traveling is also education and gives you an opportunity to not only meet new people, but also to learn more about the world, it’s geography, and it’s people and customs. Our world is there for us to explore so do it! I’ll also be posting my article that was featured in Wildlife Photographic in it’s entirety next week in a brand new section of the website. See you soon and thanks for visiting!

Video Clip of the week:

P.S. For those of you who have registered on this site please drop me an email at so I can figure out which registrations are bots and which are “real” people. Sometimes it’s obvious but sometimes not so this will help me sort them out so I can send out the newsletter which is coming soon. Thanks!


December 20, 2013


Well the holidays are here and another year has almost gone by…where did the time go? It’s been a hectic few weeks and my blog posts have not been as frequent but there’s some exciting things on the horizon! First, while I love the look of my website I’m considering some changes for the upcoming year. The website will be streamlined and less cluttered as I eliminate some pages that aren’t necessary and focus more on photography (no pun intended) rather than video. I haven’t forgotten about film and video…it will always be a part of my life and when I make my production company Gator Creek Films official, it will have it’s own website. This will be especially important as Birth of a Predator gets nearer in order to give the film the attention it deserves rather than getting lost in the content of this website.


Another exciting development is my trip to Colorado at the end of next week. I’ve never been out west before and as much as I love Florida and all it has to offer, I’m really looking forward to a change of scenery (and weather!) and the opportunity to photograph things I never have before. A big update will be posted when I get back with some of the photos from that trip and I hope to have enough to create a gallery just for those images.


Since it’s that time of year I’ve allowed myself a couple of gifts from me to me. One of the things I’m can’t wait to try out is my new Canon 10-22 wide angle lens which just arrived today. I’ve been playing around with it all day and will get a chance to really use it this weekend in North Florida and again in Colorado next week. The other gift to myself is Bill Gozansky’s Field Guide available on the app store here. I have the pleasure of knowing Bill personally and he is always generous with his information and knowledge and happy to answer any questions I’ve had…and believe me there have been many. I also know from talking to Bill that a lot of time and effort went into this app and I’m confident it will be a great resource. Unfortunately with all the holiday craziness it’s been a challenge to sit down with it but I’m really looking forward to it.



If you haven’t read my article in WIldlife Photographic Magazine then check out the November issue here. You can get a promo code for a free issue but if you don’t have an iPad I’ll be posting the full article here on my website next month!


On a personal note I’d like to encourage everyone to make a resolution to adopt healthier habits in the coming year. It might sound like a cliche’ but it’s a perfect time to make positive changes in your life. Four years ago I was in fantastic shape with six pack abs and feeling great. A knee injury from running sidelined me for awhile and one thing led to another and I got out of shape. I started working with a trainer this past week and can already feel the the changes. Looking good was great but feeling good was even better. I won’t need the trainer very long since I remember what to do but it’s a great way to kickstart a fitness routine and I highly recommend it. Exercise is important and the health benefits are more than worth the small investment of time it takes out of your schedule. This becomes even more important as we get older.


I encourage each and every one of you to take up some form of exercise and do it regularly. It doesn’t have to be extreme and it doesn’t have to be in a gym either (although I tend to work harder in a gym setting). What works for me may not work for you. The important thing is that you do something you like..walking, running, biking, etc. If it’s an activity you enjoy you’ll be much more likely to stick with it and make it a part of your daily routine. Eat healthy, eat often, and give yourself a cheat day to indulge in your favorite foods and you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes in your life. I’ll keep posting my progress as I go along since my trainer has given me a challenge of 16 weeks to get back to where I was. Being a Leo, a challenge motivates me and makes me work twice as hard  ;)


That’s it for now, I hope all of you have a safe and happy holiday and I’ll see you two weeks from today. Happy Holidays!!

-Mark Andrew Thomas

November 30, 2013


Okay guys, I’m back! Had a few busy weeks and had to take care of some things so apologize for the lack of updates. While I can’t promise there won’t be a hiatus every now and then I can promise I’ll let you know when it will happen from here on out. The holidays are a busy time and these last few weeks have been crazy! So without further ado let’s get started…


First off I have some very exciting news to share. Wildlife Photographic magazine is featuring my work in the November issue which is available in the app store here. You can can get a one month free subscription to view the current issue and check out some of my gator shots as well as an article I wrote on my adventures photographing alligators. Way cool to be featured and it’s nice to know I’m on the right path.

While you’re browsing in the App Store check out my friend Bill Gozansky’s Field Guide now available on the app store. I may just purchase a copy this weekend as I Bill is a friend of mine and I value his tips and insight on various photography techniques and equipment. Somebody owes me a lunch if I do. Seriously though it’s a great app and one of the features that I really like is that you don’t need to be connected to the internet to use it if you’re out in the field making it a true field guide and very handy to have on your iPad.


Although I didn’t get a chance to film or photograph any gator nests hatching this year there have been several opportunities to photograph some hatchlings. The photo above is now one of my all time favorites and I didn’t even know I had the wasp in the frame until I saw it on the computer. There was a nest of wasps around the little guy/gal and it was constantly trying to catch one so I snapped a few frames hoping for the best and I got it!

Photography Prints

I’d like to take a quick moment and mention a fundraising piece I’m donating. The photograph above is called ‘Rue’s Rainbow’ and is available in my gallery at Fine Art America. This is a fundraiser and 100% of all profits go to Dachshund Rescue South Florida. This is an organization close to my heart as my three doxies were adopted from DRSF and are all rescues. ‘Rue’s Rainbow’ is available in several sizes as a print, framed print, canvas wrap, metal print, or as greeting cards.


Experimenting with different types of photography brought me back to the Hillsboro Lighthouse for another full moon rising above the ocean. This time I decided to trek up the beach and get closer to the lighthouse to see and photograph it from a different perspective. One of these days I’ll take the tour they offer one Saturday each month.


I also had the opportunity to photograph my friends Brian and Diana at sunrise on the beach a few weeks back. Diana is a dancer and is one of the nicest people I know. While I’m still getting my feet wet with lifestyle and “people” photography, I’m enjoying learning new techniques. Every time you step out of your comfort zone is another opportunity to learn. Knowledge is power and I try to learn and do new things as often as I can.


Birth of a Predator continues chugging along as I’m now in the long process of cataloging and organizing two years worth of video. Lesson learned…next time I do it as I go along! I’ll be filming in North Florida and maybe Louisiana in the coming weeks and then a couple of time lapse shots and I’m done. Then it’s off to the editor in the U.K. and hopefully the film will be ready next fall. An Indiegogo fundraising page is coming soon and I’ll keep you posted on that. Visit the Birth of a Predator page here and make sure you share share share! If you haven’t already check out the video clips on the page for a sneak peek at the film.

That’s about all for now, I hope you all are enjoying your holiday weekend and I’ll be back next Friday with a brand new blog. Wednesday’s travel blog will return after the first of the year with lots of great travel ideas and amazing destinations!


The Bucket List Travel Blog – October 8, 2013

Photo Credit:

Travel Tips

It’s alway astonishing what we forget when it comes to preparing for a “bucket list” trip or just a road trip across America.  I have compiled a few travel tips that I have personally used and recommend and have sprinkled in some tips from fellow clients. These can be used locally as well as internationally.  I would say the majority are for foreign travel.  But one can always use helpful pointers along the way.



  • when traveling with a companion, pack some of each others items in opposite luggage;  that way if one gets lost, you have a back up
  • if traveling internationally, enroll with the state department your destination and timeframe;; this way they can contact you if emergency situations arise while in that location
  • leave a copy of the itinerary and passport with friends and/or family back home; any travel documents that could get lost should be copied and left at home and also carry extra copy with you in your purse or luggage
  • when exchanging cash, use the ATM; leave the travelers cheques at home(pay to buy/pay to use); you get the best exchange rate through the banks ATM and the fees are nominal
  • leave the real jewelry at home; if you must wear it, bring the fake stuff
  • check with your cell phone carrier about roaming, text and calls from the country being travelled to; there are many apps that use WIFI to make free calls back to the US; i.e.  Magic Jack, Viber
  • pack a small first aid kit with you that includes band aids, ibuprofen, decongestant, tummy help and hydrocortisone just to name a few
  • if in a dicey area, where a money belt, time your site visits to avoid crowds and lines and never leave your drinks unattended
  • tip hotel housekeeping staff every day; about $2.00 USD per day
  • learn a couple of phrases in the local language; thank you, please, I’m sorry, where is…, how much…
  • call credit card company before traveling to alert them to your travel and that the card will be used while away; keep international number available
  • check on overseas medical coverage
  • check weather
  • download helpful travel apps; i.e. Packing Pro, Trip It, Weather Channel, Tip Calculator, Currency, Translator


I hope this helps in planning and securing a relaxed and comfortable trip.  YOLO!!! You Only Live Once.
Watch next weeks blog where Africa will be featured.
Happy and Safe Travels
Candace Andreozzi
Travel Designer
561 306-6798

The Bucket List Travel Blog – October 1, 2013

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Land of enchantment spanning many eco-systems in one tiny country.  Lush rainforests, cloud forests, mountains, and the beaches encounter a wealth of wildlife and fauna.  Curious howler monkeys, crocs, butterflies and hummingbirds all mingle together.  This country offers it all;  a splendid way to safari without the expense and distance of Africa.
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A journey to Central America is an easy ride from here in South Florida and a wonderful adventure into the cultures of the locals and the diverse plant and animal species that are prevalent in this beautiful part of the Americas. A flight out of Miami is about 2.5 – 3 hours long.  You can leave your home in the morning and be surfing or zip lining that afternoon.  You fly into San Jose and depending where you are going, you either connect to another flight to the Pacific coast resorts or to the cloud forests of Monteverde.  Many of the mountainous areas do not have domestic air carrier service but although the roads are rough, the 3-5 hour ride from San Jose will be reward you greatly with excellent hiking, birdwatching, waterfalls and the best that nature can offer.
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The Pacific coast of Costa Rica is world renown for surfing. Manuel Antonio is considered one of the best.  Tamarindo and Playa Grande are just a couple more names out of a long list of popular coastal resorts, both on the Pacific and the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.  And most of these are accessible by air carrier out of San Jose.
When planning a trip to Costa Rica, it is important to decide what exactly is important for your journey.  Do you want nightlife, access to conveniences such as a bank, restaurants, spas?  This all needs to be considered when planning your journey to Costa Rica, because some of the areas are not the easiest to get to. And once there, not easy to move around, so this is something to keep in mind.
Also, remember,  you will need a departure tax when leaving Costa Rica of approximately $29 per person.  I suggest using cash; good bills.  Using your credit card can run you into additional banking fees.   Plus just the whole fraud thing can make your $29 grow into much more.
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All in all, Costa Rica is a friendly, safe environment in which to travel.  Other than minor incidences,like pick pockets, the state department doesn’t report on anything to be aware of when traveling to Costa Rica. For a wonderful photo safari to Costa Rica or to just relax on the beach, contact me for more information.
Check out next week when I blog about travel tips; do’s and don’ts…


Happy traveling.
Candace Andreozzi
Travel Designer
561 306-6798

The Bucket List Travel Blog, September 17, 2013

Let’s Discover the Amazon River!

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Rivaled only by the Nile, the Amazon River is another of the world’s largest rivers and the earth’s most ecologically diverse rainforest.  Originating in Peru, the river’s twists and turns takes you to Pacaya Samiria Reserve, located deep in the Amazon rainforest and is one of Peru’s most preserved havens for wildlife, plants and birds.  This area can only be reached by water, which offers you to be one of only a handful of adventure travelers ever to have reached this remote, remarkable and beautiful area of the Amazon River.
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With an ideal stay of 3, 4 or 7 nights, you will hike at Belluda Cano, explore the El Dorado River, fish, have numerous expeditions and visit native communities where you will meet and interact with the locals. After your river adventure, you can choose to extend your stay or add on Picchu Machu and Cusco.  So often there are guest lecturers, photographers, biologists or other specialists in their specialized fields joining the event.
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Dry season runs July through December yet it features intense heat and humidity.  If hiking and fishing are on the agenda, this might be the time to do these activities.  The wet season from January to June provides better boat access to the wetlands and forests.  This makes it easier to cover greater distances on boat tours and see more wildlife but you will get wet.  The temperature is slightly cooler but still humid.
Contact me to set up your Amazon adventure or your next travel destination.  If there is a specific area of the world you would like information in this blog, please let me know.
Until next week; stay true to your dreams.
Candace Andreozzi
Travel Designer

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