Indonesia Was Amazing

So amazing that we have been blissed out for the past few weeks and haven’t even bothered to tell you about it! (We’ve also been pretty busy back in DC with a new project – more on that soon).

snorkel selfie

The entire trip was such a wonderful experience for Simon & I. I always wonder as we plan vacations if we’ll be able to match or top the last grand adventure, and somehow it manages to keep getting better. Perhaps as we age we become wiser about enjoying things more? The highlight of this trip was diving in Raja Ampat from Papua Paradise Eco Resort. We were constantly in awe of some of the finest coral reefs we had ever seen. The biodiversity, although we knew it was coming, was unbelievable to behold. Hundreds of species of fish could be found on a single reef in this hotspot, including big predators like giant trevally (ulua in Hawaii). Even more amazing for me were the incredible number of tiny, often cryptic creatures hidden in the corals, sponges, and sea fans. Many species of nudibranchs were spotted on nearly every dive, and throughout our week in paradise we found an assortment of miniature shrimps and pipefish blending in perfectly with their surroundings. My

Pontohi pygmy seahorse, with Simon's index finger for scale
Pontohi pygmy seahorse, with Simon’s index finger for scale

absolute favorite was the pygmy seahorse. We were lucky enough to spot all four species of pygmy seahorse found in Raja Ampat at one point or another. These tiny animals range in size from 0.25-0.75 inches, and match their surroundings impeccably. In addition to being a fun photographic challenge (buoyancy check, anyone?), we couldn’t help but marvel at this product of evolution. So unlikely, yet so perfect for its environment. I am still completely smitten. As you may have gathered from our previous post, we were here during manta season. We had a lucky private encounter with two oceanic mantas just in front of the resort on our first day, and an enjoyable hour of watching five mantas cycle through a cleaning station at Manta Sandy later on. The best time to see mantas in RA is December-January-February.

Lauren’s 29th birthday started underwater and ended with a warm & loving celebration at the resort.

We could wax rhetorical about the diving all day, but we’ll leave you with some photos and move on. We would highly recommend this destination to anyone, and we didn’t feel we could have done better than staying at Papua Paradise. We missed only a couple of dive sites that the live-aboards hit, but in exchange we got to experience the local sites, which we found to be equally phenomenal. The luxury of staying on land in a large, well appointed bungalow was evident, and we can’t say enough about the kind and helpful staff and management there. They even made me a yummy chocolate cheesecake for my birthday and had everyone sing to me at dinner – what a special surprise on a remote island, opposite the globe to my home! We decided to share photos via Picasa since there are so many. You can view our album here.

On Traveling Without Baby

We used to travel as a couple all the time - that's when we made the vacation deal in the first place.
We used to travel as a couple all the time – that’s when we made the vacation deal in the first place.

We told you about our ‘vacation deal‘ that we had made before Joey was born, and we recently tested it out. The deal was that every year when we had dependent kids, we would go on a vacation as a couple and on another with the kids. These had to be ‘real’ vacations, a bit of a vague term, but we both agreed that an overnight trip locally did not count.

When I say we tested it out, I don’t mean we went to stay at a B&B a couple of hours away for a few days. Simon & I left Joey in the excellent care of his grandparents for nearly two weeks while we traveled to the exact opposite side of the world to go scuba diving for a week. It took us four days to reach our destination (Raja Ampat, Indonesia) and three to get back.

Now we usually travel like this, which we also love.
Now we usually travel like this, which we also love.

We returned home safely and on schedule, well after Joey’s bedtime. The next morning we were eager to get up with him and spend as much time with him as possible. He was only mildly impressed that we had returned, showing more interest in his toys and the dog (possibly the best feature of the grandparents’ resort). After getting re-acquainted over the weekend, he was willing to return to Alexandria with us and get back into the groove of everyday life. Our previous nanny actually left for a full time teaching job (we got this information in Jakarta on the way home), so we got extra time with Joey last week working a split schedule. (We all like his new nanny very much!)

Now that you have the background, this is our executive summary:

The vacation deal is awesome. 

Going on an adventure as a two-some allowed Simon & I to enjoy our favorite activity together – scuba diving. This simply would not have been possible with a one-year old along. It felt very luxurious to transit through airports and go about air travel without a small child. We could talk at leisure, sleep when we wanted, eat at the same time, go to the bathroom when we wanted… More importantly, the vacation did exactly what it is supposed to – we both came home relaxed, happy, and strongly reminded of what is important to us (our family, the ocean, & exploring). The first few days were the hardest, partly because we were just sitting on airplanes. Once we realized that Joey was very happy with his grandparents, we were more relaxed about enjoying ourselves. It was a very special bonding time for the three of them too, and the grandparents’ were hesitant to relinquish him when it was time to go home.

What worked well:

  1. We had several days at the grandparents’ home with Joey before and after the trip to help him adjust. I think this helped everyone.
  2. Traveling over a holiday (New Year’s) meant that my dad had time off of work to help more with Joey and that we didn’t miss as much work.
  3. Lots of updates – my mom was amazing about sending us photos and updates every day.
  4. Do something you couldn’t do with a baby. Had we been lounging on a beach and swimming or hiking and camping I would have felt terrible, since these are activities that Joey really enjoys and participates in.

What I would have changed:

  1. Travel to a closer location. I realized as we were on day three of four getting to Raja Ampat that if Joey were in an emergency situation it would take us days to get to him. Next year we’ll go somewhere a wee bit closer to home

There you have it. As always, you have to do what is right for your family. But if a setup like this sounds fun, exciting, and relaxing to you – it probably will be. It is worth jumping over the initial hurdle to make it happen. All three members of our family are much happier as a result.