The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Rated one of the seven wonders of the world, and protected as a World Heritage site, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is imagined to be filled with colorful corals, an abundance of fish, and home to other marine mammals. Being an experience diver, and having dove all over the world, the Great Barrier Reefs were sure a disappointment when I traveled there back in July 2014. Everything I had come to imagine about diving in this once top diving site, was not what I experienced. Usually the hardest part about my dives include the struggle to fit into my wetsuit but not this time.

Descending down the water column, I look below me at the coral reef . Having studied issues in the marine environment for years, I immediately notice how bleached the corals look. For the newer divers in the group, it was exciting for them to see one parrot fish eating the reef or scaring the christmas tree worms back in their holes, but for me this was disheartening. The hardest part about this dive was accepting this reality, compared to my expectations. I see more colors, fish and life on the reef just in South Florida, and our reefs do not nearly have the same ‘prestigious’ reputation as the Great Barrier Reefs.

Now the crew upon this day trip dive vessel was extremely nice, educated, and helpful but the dive location was not ideal. I believe the reef is suffering because everyday these large vessels are taking out hundreds of people to scuba dive and snorkel in the same area. People will, subconsciously and conscientiously, hurt the reef by kicking it and exposing it to harmful chemicals from their bodies. For instance, people will put on sunscreen then jump into the ocean not knowing that the toxic chemicals are too harsh for the fragile corals, exposing the corals to ocean acidification. Ocean acidification can come from a number of different sources, but this is a crucial event that people need to be more aware of, because without coral reefs our lives as human beings are even at risk.

Now before I totally turn you away from diving at the Great Barrier Reefs, I was given the names of some worthy dive sites from some local Aussies. These included diving the famous wreck S.S. Yongala and Osprey Reef. The desirable diving resides way out in the reef, therefore one must go on a ‘live aboard’ ship for a few nights to get the best diving.

Another area for divers, or ocean enthusiast to visit include the Whitsunday Islands. It is off the coast of Australia’s northern state, Queensland. When you dive at the Whitsunday’s you are technically diving the outskirts of the Great Barrier Reef, but this is where I had one of my most memorable dives to date. When I was there in July it was whale season, and while I did not personally see any whales I could hear them underwater during my dive. The whales come to the warm, protected, calm waters of the Whitsunday Islands, typically between to months of June to September, to give birth to their calves. During this time, I stayed on a ‘live abroad’ and had the unique opportunity of seeing a threatened dugong (related to the manatee) in the wild. Standing on the island, I looked around at all the tropical forest, sanding in powder soft sand, and swimming in the crystal blue waters I realized this is the Australia I came to experience.

By Erica Allen, Diver and Ecologist


Top Family and Kids Free Vacations

Top Family and Kids Free Vacations


Best Kids Free

Costa Rica (for the action seekers)
– Playground for adults (between fishing, snorkeling, surfing & more.)
– Incredible tropical scenery, only a short distance away.

Napa Valley (for the romantics)
– Also known as the “wine country” boasts great food and some of the world’s best wines.
– Romantic, gorgeous setting.

Naples, Florida (for the relaxers)
– Quiet, removed yet elegant – little beach town of West Coast Florida.
– Beautiful sunsets, sandy beaches & Florida charm.

Best Family

San Diego
– San Diego offers 70 miles of sandy fun in outdoor sports.
– Great for kids are the San Diego Zoo or SeaWorld or museums of Balboa Park.

Washington DC
– The key to D.C.’s family appeal is the National Mall, which is surrounded by free, kid-friendly museums and renowned monuments.
– Families can visit The National Zoo (which also offers free entry) or snag a treat at one of Georgetown’s cupcake shops.

Myrtle Beach
– In terms of accessibility and cost, Myrtle Beach offers an excellent family getaway.
– Ripley’s Aquarium and Mount Atlantis Miniature Golf are welcome distractions from the shoreline.

Healthy Eating Habits From Around The World

In the USA over one third of Americans are overweight, and a good deal of it has to do with our lifestyle and culture. We can learn a lot about healthy eating habits from other countries around the world, in terms of what they eat and how they eat it.

FRANCEThe French tend to associate food with pleasure, rather than health, but that doesn’t mean to say they aren’t a healthy bunch of people! In fact, the country has lower rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease than the US. It’s mainly to do with portion size and quality over quantity; one freshly baked croissant (made with local natural ingredients) versus a box of Pillsbury sugary donuts.JAPAN

Emphasizes appearance, and as we all know, the more color on your plate, the healthier it is. Between the use of  seafood (omega-3s,) their small portions, seasonal vegetables (all of which make for a visually appealing — and healthy — plate) we can learn a lot. Portions may help to keep calories in check, while bright veggies provide a range of healthy vitamins and minerals.


Not all Chinese food is unhealthy, nor their habits. Chopsticks can help slow down your eating speed, which may ultimately decrease the amount of food eaten and help your digestive system know when to stop (when you are full.) It’s also been proven that being obese and having cardiovascular disease tend to be higher among people who eat faster.ITALY/GREECEA typical Mediterranean diet includes lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, cereals and cereal products, which in combination bring health benefits. The healthy fats present in their diet, like olive oil and polyunsaturated fats like nuts, seeds and oily fish may reduce our risk of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol. Researchers have also found that people who closely follow a Mediterranean diet may live a longer life and be less likely to put on weight.INDIALentils are a staple in India, and they just happen to be one of the healthiest foods out there. Lentils are rich in fiber and protein and are high in manganese, a mineral that is needed to absorb calcium and to maintain stable blood sugar levels. It is part of superoxide dismutase (SOD), a compound which protects healthy cells from free radical damage and which may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.ETHIOPIATraditional Ethiopian cuisine focuses on root vegetables, beans, and lentils and avoids dairy and animal products. A common condiment in Ethiopian cuisine is senafich, a delicious and spicy mustard dip. Mustard is rich in phytonutrients that are converted into isothiocyanates, compounds which may help prevent cancer.  Injera, a traditional Ethiopian flatbread made of teff flour, is high in fiber, vitamin C, and protein.