Join Me in Mexico for Swimming with Whale Sharks!

Beach Day; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; 2011 (2)
Beach Day; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; 2011 (2)

 

Theme: The Adventure Tour of Mexico    Country: Mexico   Languages: English & Spanish  Unit of Currency: Mexican Pesos  Locations:  Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum      Year: 2017  Bucket list: Swimming with whale sharks

 

Tulum Tour; Tulum, Mexico; 2011 (2)
Tulum Tour; Tulum, Mexico; 2011 (2)

Join Me in Mexico!

This adventure tour is starting in July! There is only 1 exclusive tour date!  After having an incredible time during my travels in Mexico, participating in a motorcycle side-car trip, venturing around Central America, and integrating with cultures and marine life all over the world, I am stoked to come back to Mexico!

Quetzal Hostel, Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (3)
Quetzal Hostel, Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (3)

 

Since this is a tour focused on adrenaline, education, and conservation, only biodegradable suntan lotion may be worn! I will have a supply myself and could easy provide when in need; however, there will be stores where biodegradable specified suntan lotion may be purchased. We want to continue the beauty of Mexico and its inhabitants, especially the whale sharks and sea turtles that we will encounter on these expeditions!

Exclusive Offers:

1st offer: Refer your friends/family and once they book with my tour company, International Travelingmarinebiologist, I will give you $50 USD for each person that has booked and paid for the tour! This compensation will be paid 5 days after that particular tour that is referred is finished.

2nd offer: The individual with the most referrals (8+) gets a free adventure tour of his/her choice!

Location of Mexico in Central America
Location of Mexico in Central America

Official Tour Dates:

July 10th-July 17th (8 days)

July 18th-July 25th (8 days)

July 26th-August 2nd (8 days)

 

The Adventure Tour of Mexico kicks off with its first tour on July 10th with 8 days packed of adrenaline, conservation, education, and loads of fun! For my personal world tour, “The Voyage of Discovery” it highlights all the above, and I am stoked to bring these elements into hosting my own group tour!

Route: Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, & Tulum!

 

Day 1

Everyone will arrive Monday in Cancun, Mexico, where we will meet at hostel Quetzal (or hostel of my choice). Hostel Quetzal does fill up quickly! If Hostel Quetzal is unavailable for our tour dates, we will be staying in another hostel and I will let you know which hostel that will be at the time of the booking.

After getting settled in, we will have a very chill and relaxed meet and greet session, with dinner and drinks.

Quetzal Hostel, Cancun, Mexico; 2011
Quetzal Hostel, Cancun, Mexico; 2011

 

Quetzal Hostel, Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (2)
Quetzal Hostel, Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (2)

 

Quetzal Hostel, Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (4)
Quetzal Hostel, Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (4)

 

Quetzal Hostel, Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (5)
Quetzal Hostel, Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (5)

 

Day 2

Whale sharks anyone?!? This is perhaps one of the coolest excursions that Mexico has to offer!  After breakfast at the hostel, we will head to the dock where our 0700 boats awaits. I cannot stress enough how amazing this whale shark expedition really is!

Whale Shark Expedition (Boat & Whale Shark); Cancun, Mexico; 2011
Whale Shark Expedition (Boat & Whale Shark); Cancun, Mexico; 2011

 

For the next few hours, we will be snorkeling and swimming with some of the biggest giants in the sea! Whale sharks! This happens to be migration season, so be prepared for incredible encounters! The best months to go on this expedition is from June-August! Lucky for us, we will be there when whale sharks populate the ocean!

Whale Shark Expedition (Snorkelers); Cancun, Mexico; 2011
Whale Shark Expedition (Snorkelers); Cancun, Mexico; 2011

 

Being a Marine Biologist, we will respect these creatures and certainly watch out for their tail when they are moving through the water! Abruptly, whale sharks are known to quickly maneuver to the left or right and swing their tail forcibly behind them! I will be making sure that NO ONE gets hurt!

Whale Shark Expedition (Saying Hello); Cancun, Mexico; 2011
Whale Shark Expedition (Saying Hello); Cancun, Mexico; 2011

 

Day 3

A tour to Mexico would not be complete with visiting Mayan ruins! We will be going to Tulum to spend a full-day tour exploring this magnificent landmark from both land and water! The Caribbean’s turquoise blue ocean welcomes our arrival!

Tulum Tour; Tulum, Mexico; 2011 (3)
Tulum Tour; Tulum, Mexico; 2011 (3)

 

After taking in Tulum’s views from shore, we will board a motorboat and snorkel the reefs nearby. These reefs are filled with colorful tropical fish, corals, rock formations, sea turtles, stingrays, and remarkable clear visibility! It is the Caribbean! ;)

Tulum Tour; Tulum, Mexico; 2011 (4)
Tulum Tour; Tulum, Mexico; 2011 (4)

 

To end this full-day tour, we will travel to the Yucatan and snorkel in a cenote, engulfed with thousands of stalagmites and stalactites!

Tulum Tour; Tulum, Mexico; 2011
Tulum Tour; Tulum, Mexico; 2011

 

Day 4

Cancun itself as a lot to offer! This day we will spend the day exploring Cancun and Isla Mujeres! Cancun has always been one of my favorite beach destinations – from the souvenirs, to the white sand beaches, to the ice cold beers, blue tranquil waters, etc.

Beach Day; Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (3)
Beach Day; Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (3)

 

Beach Day; Cancun, Mexico; 2011
Beach Day; Cancun, Mexico; 2011

 

We will get a Catamaran and check out Isla Mujeres! Do not be surprised if we see whale sharks on our way to the island! Also on the agenda: snorkeling!

Beach Day; Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (2)
Beach Day; Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (2)

 

Beach Day; Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (4)
Beach Day; Cancun, Mexico; 2011 (4)

 

Day 5

Most of you know that I am a Marine Biologist and Marine Mammal Scientist! Today’s excursion will give you an opportunity to walk in the shoes of a Marine Biologist and Marine Mammal Scientist! Here, we will snorkel, research, and discover 3 of the world’s 7 sea turtle species on the Sea Turtle Exploration tour!

Marine Mammal Scientist; Guinea, Africa; 2010
Marine Mammal Scientist; Guinea, Africa; 2010

 

Zippy the Loggerhead; Marathon Key, Florida; 2015
Zippy the Loggerhead; Marathon Key, Florida; 2015

 

Zippy the Loggerhead; Marathon Key, Florida; 2015 (2)
Zippy the Loggerhead; Marathon Key, Florida; 2015 (2)

 

Humpback Whale Research Project; Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa; 2012
Humpback Whale Research Project; Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa; 2012

Day 6

We will be headed to Playa del Carmen! There’s even a “surprise” event that I have planned and will be a fantastic wrap up to a very adrenaline-filled holiday!

Beach Day; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; 2011
Beach Day; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; 2011

 

Beach Day; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; 2011 (3)
Beach Day; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; 2011 (3)

 

Beach Day; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; 2011 (4)
Beach Day; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; 2011 (4)

 

Beach Day; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; 2011 (5)
Beach Day; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; 2011 (5)

Day 7

Our holiday has sadly come to an end, but I have a feeling that many of you will be back to explore more of what Mexico has to offer! Here we will depart from Cancun to catch our flights out of Cancun International Airport. For those of that want to stay longer or travel more in Central America, I can certainly help with any planning that you may need!

Artistic Expressions; Cancun, Mexico; 2011
Artistic Expressions; Cancun, Mexico; 2011

 

Downtown Cancun; Cancun, Mexico; 2011
Downtown Cancun; Cancun, Mexico; 2011

Included in the Tour:

      • All accommodations
      • All meals, breakfast and dinner – most lunches are included with excursions
      • Transportation costs – boat, bus, and shuttle
      • Whale shark expedition, cenote snorkeling, catamaran sailing trip to Isla Mujeres, Tulum full-day tour, and beach days

Not Included in the Tour:

      • Flights – I suggest going on cheapflights.com to find the best deals
      • Visas on arrival and fees for departure
      • Alcohol
      • Souvenirs
      • Travel Insurance – As mentioned below, this is part of the  requirements for these tours

Recommendations:

      • Mosquito repellent (DEET is best)
      • Suntan lotion – MUST be biodegradable!
      • Shower shoes
      • Dry towel (perfect for a bath towel)
      • Comfortable sneakers (for adrenaline activities and exploring Mayan ruins) and flip flops (to put on after snorkeling excursions)
      • Carry on-sized luggage (smaller luggage is better for modes of transportation)
      • Small flashlight (Always come in handy)
      • Sense of adventure

Requirements:

      • Travel insurance – I recommend World Nomads, they have great plans including an explorer package! You can even secure insurance on your personal belongings! Please provide proof of insurance on your arrival.

Tour Prices:

        • $1300 USD- Deposit of $650 USD is due to book a spot on tour, and an additional $650 USD is due 5 days before the tour starts. If you are part of my very own “World Adventurers” Facebook group and my mate’s Tommy’s “Backpacking Central America” Facebook group, you will get a discount of $100 off the tour. This service is through Paypal. Important: If you are unable to make the tour date, then we can discuss a partial refund, full refund, or other options. Please refer to the Q&A portion of this post.
        • Book through PayPal, select the payment and date of the tour, and then you will receive an invoice with your order.
        • Email my personal account – jrbenford0518@gmail.com (0518 are all numbers) and we can discuss further payment.
        • Leave a comment to this tour page, but please remember to email me so that I have your email address for my records.
        • Message any of my social media platforms – Facebook and Twitter are best.

 

Questions & Answers for the Tours:

  • Is this the right tour for me?

If you have a keen sense of adventure, adrenaline, conservation, education, and fun then this is the absolute best way to go! It is encouraged to be over 18, and is suitable for a first time traveler, a world traveler (like myself), or one that has completed a handful of trips.

  • Am I tour group material?

I will admit that I was part of my first group tour in March of 2015 traveling in El Salvador and Guatemala. I love meeting new people, sharing common interests with others, and above all else, exploring foods & cultures. I was nervous at first to join a group tour, but realized that on occasion, it is nice to travel with others and not plan my own itinerary. My experience after the tour is what has led me for the past year contemplating to run my own tour groups around the world. I love educating others and am a huge adrenaline junkie. I hope that my tours will persuade you in either trying your own first tour group out for size or adding another tour group to your CV.

  • The total amount of people in the tour?

The tour will consist of no more than 11 people, 12 including myself. All modes of transportation can hold up to this amount, with luggage, so I wanted to keep the groups personal and small enough to fit into a pub.

  • You mentioned adrenaline activities, what is the proper attire for this?

The best gear to wear for adrenaline activities are sneakers (able to hike in), non-tight fitting shorts, capris, or pants, and shirts (I recommend button down shirts that have mosquito repellent built into them). As an advocate for anything travel related that you can purchase, try REI for dry towels, mosquito repellent, clothes, shoes, flashlights, etc.

  • Is it best to carry credit cards, ATM card, or cash?

After traveling around the globe, I find myself carrying all 3 methods of payment. In Mexico, there are ATM’s, please remember to let your bank know that you are traveling outside the country, along with the dates, and the locations where you will be at. Some places will take American dollars, while others only want Mexican pesos. And other places will take cards.

  • What is the climate in Mexico?

The weather is going to be hot, sunny, and anxiously awaiting your favorite tank tops, board shorts & flip flops. Mexico is known for its quick rain showers throughout the spring and summer months.  At night, it is best to bring a long pair of pants and a long sleeved tee for cooler evenings.

  • What if I have an emergency and cannot make the tour?

As soon as you notify me of an emergency situation and/or that you cannot make the tour, then depending on the date you can get a partial or full refund.

  • What other tours are you planning this year?

As I just finished my first official tour last month in Costa Rica, I cannot tell you how stoked I am to host this adventure tour in Mexico! And, with my love for Central America, I am definitely in the process of planning more trips within this region. Spoiler alert: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize, Panama, and Costa Rica (more destinations for adrenaline)!

  • What qualifies you as an expert in Central American travels?

I have spent the last 7 years touring the world.  I always find myself submerging, plummeting, diving, abseiling, hiking, etc. into the vastness of Central America’s jungles, lakes, and oceans. In between my career as a Marine Mammal Scientist and my own world tour of driving my Jeep around the world, “The Voyage of Discovery,” I have made time to explore many of Central America’s countries and cultures. From the conservation projects I worked in Guatemala and Costa Rica, to the adrenaline activities all within this region, and the educational lessons that were taught to children in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, my love affair for Central America is deeper than I had ever envisioned. Central America is the perfect hub for sunshine, molding great friendships, eating local foods, breathing in the wildlife and beauty of each region, and overall just having a brilliant time exploring each country. I will admit, the only country that I have not visited is Panama. I hope to change that soon!

  • What to expect with the whale shark tour?

Having completed this excursion myself, I found it something like I have never done! As stated above, we do need to respect these gentle giants and keep a safe distance from them and their tails. You will have the opportunity to swim next to them safely and comfortably. Anytime you feel that you are getting to close, stop swimming – this will allow them to swim past you, which then you can head towards the boat or watch them from a more comfortable distance. This experience is unlike any other! With the tour in July, we are in their main migration month, which should include many whale sharks in the area! If you are too afraid to jump in the water with them, you can remain on the boat. In addition, if you want to get in the water slowly, I can help a handful of tour members each get in at their own pace. The most important thing is your safety!

Zika Virus Update:

It has been brought to my attention while I have been in Ghana, Africa that the Zika virus has been more active in South America, Caribbean, Africa, and even North America. I am providing documents and recommendations on how to prevent tour members from getting the virus while we are traveling in Central America, specifically Mexico. I do recommend to take precautionary measures (described in this Q&A section) and stay covered during sunrise and sunset times when mosquitos are most active. 
  • After all these years of traveling and not running a tour company, why are you doing so now?
My first adventure tour took place last March in Costa Rica. After traveling with the group, these individuals also became friends of mine. I want to show how incredible the world is and with an open-mind to partake in adventure, conservation, and cultures during travels, I can guarantee that you will find a part of yourself that you never knew existed! The main reason why I am running a tour company, is because I have first hands-on-experience being part of a tour group. I have been involved in day, multiple days, and several week long tours. It is common to jump into a day group tour when you are traveling in a larger city. There are always attractions to see, and most of these excursions run tours. I have been on my fair share of day and multiple day tours while traveling in Europe and Central America. I had the privilege to join my first group tour that lasted for almost 3 weeks last March. I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to travel with Kate from AdventurousKate and Leif, the Runaway Guide. Both travel bloggers were a lot of fun, and the continuation of swapping travel stories for those weeks sparked my interest into thinking that I would love to do something like this. That particular tour took me through El Salvador and Guatemala with 14 people, and a thirst for adventure, great food, down-to-earth cultures, and overall an amazing time. This tour really did open up a new way for me to continent hop and travel in a way that I have always dreamt about.
  • The Zika virus is obviously an issue, how are you equipped to handle this virus during your travels?

The Zika virus is the newest public health threat, especially to pregnant woman. I am advising women who want to be pregnant this year, or are already to pregnant to NOT join my tour. Central America is vast with jungles, lakes, streams, waterfalls, and cities. From my personal travels, I always get bitten – ask any of my good mates that have ever traveled with me! After working and trekking around Africa for several years, I was on a Malarone fix. The truth is that the symptoms are horrible, but getting malaria is not something that I particularly want. With that being said, I have never gotten malaria or any diseases from mosquito, because I have a few simple rules that I follow. The prevention methods, in my opinion, that works best:

A) Deet – it is very strong, but it fully does its purpose. My recommendation is 95-100%, and this works best. When applying deet or any kind of mosquito repellant, always place it over your clothing, squirt at the cuffs of your pant legs, and ALWAYS avoid eyes and mouth. This process takes if going slow, 10 minutes. It still amazes when I met travelers on jungle paths and/or next to waterfalls and they do not have any mosquito repellant on. It is better to be safe than sorry! Mosquito bites itch like crazy, believe me, before I was that traveler who did not put on mosquito repellant. After 500+ bites and days worth of headaches and itching, I soon realized that that I need to be more cautious (and travel savy).

B) Long-sleeved mosquito repellent clothing – I cannot tell you how many of these long-sleeve shirts and long pants I have stashed away in my drawers at home, but needless to say, there is an incredible variety, ranging from colors and thickness. There’s even long-sleeved shirts (I have a few) that come with mosquito repellent and SPF 50. These long-sleeved shirts and pants are perfect for hiking, adrenaline activities, night out, etc. I am a huge advocate for mosquito repellant clothing, because you never know when you’re going to be partying on an infested island of mosquitoes!

C) Avoiding being outside at dusk – Every entomologist will tell you that this is the worst time to be outside, when traveling in mosquito areas. Once the sun goes down and the breeze calms, then this is the time that the female mosquito is the most active. I avoid being outside at dusk like the plague, and always make sure that if I do want to be a rebel and head outside, that I deet up, grab a long-sleeved shirt, put on pants, deet one last time, put on sneakers with long socks, and venture out. I cannot promise that my tour members will not get the virus, but I can reassure you that the prevention methods that I have mentioned really do work! I have been all over the world and have never gotten a virus/disease from mosquitos!

  • Why should I join you in Mexico?

I could give you a million and one reasons why you should join me on this adventure tour; however, I believe that a photograph is worth a thousand words. Here are a handful of photographs for persuasion!

 

Here’s a look at your guide exploring the Best of Mexico:

Whale Shark Expedition (New Friend & I); Cancun, Mexico; 2011
Whale Shark Expedition (New Friend & I); Cancun, Mexico; 2011

 

Signature Jumpin' Photograph; Tulum, Mexico; 2011
Signature Jumpin’ Photograph; Tulum, Mexico; 2011

 

Whale Shark Expedition (Full Body Shot); Cancun, Mexico; 2011
Whale Shark Expedition (Full Body Shot); Cancun, Mexico; 2011

 

Motorcycle Sidecar Tour; Guerrero Negro - La Paz; 2012
Motorcycle Sidecar Tour; Guerrero Negro – La Paz; 2012

 

Quest for Mexican Jesus; Rosarito, Mexico; 2012
Quest for Mexican Jesus; Rosarito, Mexico; 2012

 

Perfect Day; Chichen Itza, Mexico; 2012
Perfect Day; Chichen Itza, Mexico; 2012

 

Motorcycle Sidecar Tour; Mexico; 2012
Motorcycle Sidecar Tour; Mexico; 2012

 

Mayan Ruins; Ek Balam, Mexico; 2011
Mayan Ruins; Ek Balam, Mexico; 2011

 

Caving; Cenote IK KIL, Mexico; 2011
Caving; Cenote IK KIL, Mexico; 2011

 

Coco Bongo; Cancun, Mexico; 2011
Coco Bongo; Cancun, Mexico; 2011

 

Revolution Building; Mexico City, Mexico; 2012
Revolution Building; Mexico City, Mexico; 2012

 

Grey Whales; Guerrero Negro, Mexico; 2012
Grey Whales; Guerrero Negro, Mexico; 2012

 

Beauty; Chichen Itza, Mexico; 2012
Beauty; Chichen Itza, Mexico; 2012

Driving the Trans-Labrador Highway

Roadmap of The Trans Labrador Highway
Roadmap of The Trans Labrador Highway

 

The Voyage of Discovery’s Part 1: Phase 5 Newfoundland & Labrador (Segment 1) and The Voyage of Discovery’s Part 1: Phase 5 Newfoundland & Labrador (Segment 2) wrapped up the main highlights before and during the trip up to Newfoundland and Labrador; however, the Trans-Labrador Highway added a whole new level of adventure! A unique and adventurous experience that will all be revealed here.

Trans-Labrador Highway, is often referred to as the “world’s loneliest road” or the “most dangerous road.” I had spent months meticulously planning this particular route and at the start of winter in the far North-Eastern part of Canada. I wanted to complete this last portion of my tour, since after this trip, I would have driven the entire Eastern Part of North America. This was an accomplishment that took me exactly a year to achieve while balancing a full-time career as a Marine Mammal Scientist and my own personal world tour.

This was it, this was my moment to shine, and in October I was going to tackle one of the most isolated routes in the world, the Trans-Labrador Highway!

Final Destination of Labrador City; Labrador; 2015
Final Destination of Labrador City; Labrador; 2015

Let’s rewind a moment.

August’s last segment of the world tour was absolutely brilliant – ice bergs, humpback whales, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, to name a few. I was able to discover new terrain in Newfoundland, off-road in some of the most remote places that I have been to with my Jeep, and spend a few days in Labrador exploring Labrador’s Coastal Highway. I had just left a project in Colombia and was scheduled to head back in September, a month later. I had already spent a few weeks in Newfoundland, and was pushed for time. I could not continue my world tour to Central Canada and not fully embrace this untouched part of the world. I decided that I would plan my tour for October, and continue my route of ferrying and driving through Newfoundland to reach Labrador with my trusty sidekick, my middle brother Josh.

The Voyage of Discovery’s Part 1: Phase 4 Newfoundland & Labrador edition had finished. I made enough time to quickly drive back down to Myrtle Beach, SC, unpack from that tour, re-pack for my upcoming project, and head to the airport for my September project in Colombia. While I was on the plane all I could think about was that I needed to drive back up there, pack more survival kits,  and complete my tour of Labrador. Most of my good friends and family will know that when I am at work, this gives me time to plan for my next joint around the world, really wherever my head is at that moment. Majority of the holidays are adventure-related in one way or other, and this particular time with the continuation of my driving my Jeep around the world, this most extreme adventure was going to be tackling the Trans-Labrador Highway.

I laid out all my routes, looked up the gas stations in between, emailed accommodations and RV parks, computed my mileage in between towns, and even went as far to research small convenient stores along the Trans-Labrador Highway. It took me 3 weeks, but before I received my flight tickets to the US, I was officially finished with my road map and had even had memorized the limited gas stations that were available in that region. I gave myself one day to catch up some much needed sleep, bouncing back and forth amongst airports for two days, and that next night I was on the road.

Here is the route that will take me on the Trans-Labrador Highway, broken down into 3 parts and types of terrain:

The Southern part of the Trans-Labrador Highway, runs 254 miles or 409km:

  • Quebec to Labrador boundary (Blanc Sablon) to Red Bay ->          53 miles or 86km  *asphalt surface
  • Red Bay to Lodge Bay -> 46 miles or 74km  *gravel surface
  • Lodge Bay to Mary’s Harbour -> 7.5 miles or 12km  *gravel surface
  • Mary’s Harbour to Port Hope Simpson -> 36 miles or 58km *gravel surface
  • Port Hope Simpson to Cartwright -> 111 miles or 179km  *gravel surface

The Northern part of the Trans-Labrador Highway:

  • Lake Melville/Hamilton Inlet/Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Cartwright Junction -> Intersection: 54 miles or 87km + Highway: 177 miles or 285km  *gravel surface, with some sections paved

The Central/Western part of the Trans-Labrador Highway runs 341 miles or 549km:

  • Churchill Falls to Happy Valley-Goose Bay -> 179 miles or 288km *asphalt surface
  • Labrador City/Wabush to Churchill Falls -> 148 miles or 238km *asphalt surface
  • Quebec to Labrador boundary to Labrador City/Wabash -> 14 miles or 23km  *asphalt surface

Southern Part of the Trans-Labrador Highway:

The Southern part of the Trans-Labrador Highway is the most scenic, as it intersects with the Coastal Labrador Highway and continues on towards Quebec. I had stopped by the radio station, CFBS, in Blanc Sablon, Quebec to tell the staff hello and update them on my latest conquest. The staff there is absolutely brilliant, their positivity was the perfect boost that we needed to continue our journey.  After dropping by at Dot’s Bakery, we photographed Point Amour Lighthouse, once again, and started towards the Trans-Labrador Highway.

As I filled up my gas tank in Red Bay, I looked around the small coastal town, glanced at the sunset,  and it finally sunk that the preparations for 6 months was now into full drive, and I am moments away from hitting the asphalt and gravel surfaced roads ahead of me! This was it, this was the moment that I have dreamed about for so long. I had spent 2 years turning my basic Jeep Wrangler Sport into a proper African safari vehicle, and now she was about to take on the ultimate test! One last deep breath as I secured the gas pump, tightened up the spare fuel containers on the back, and rubbed the thick dirt off my shoes before jumping in the Jeep. I was minutes away from starting a remote voyage into the unknown.

The roads were full of gravel, Josh and I cringed each time a rock bounced off my Jeep’s bumper. Darkness was getting closer and we literally were in awe of the terrain that we were driving on. I have done a lot of off-roading with the Jeep, and it was guaranteed that at least two of the three days was going to live up to every off-roader enthusiast’s dreams. Once I reached Port Hope Simpson, I had decided to stop and fill up, even though I still had a little over half a tank left of gas. I had promised myself on this journey that I would take full advantage of every gas station on this road, even if I was only stopping for a few minutes to fuel up.

First Fuel Up on Trans-Labrador Highway; Port Hope Simpson, Labrador; 2015
First Fuel Up on Trans-Labrador Highway; Port Hope Simpson, Labrador; 2015

 

A woman shop owner of P & K Sports & Automotive was really sweet. She greeted me with a huge grin and then asked if I needed any help. I bought a few souvenirs and a few bags of chips for the road, since we had an unlimited supply of water in the backseat. She had started talking about moose hunting and how the season was almost over in Labrador. I went on to tell her how surprisingly good moose burgers were, and she gave me a big grin. She explained earlier that her son had shot a moose, and brought it to the shop to skin it – she said that if I would have seen it after he was done skinning it, that it would have a good travel story.

A woman and her daughter came into the store, commented on my Jeep outside, and told me that she had heard of me through the grapevine of Labrador. Crazy as that was to believe, it turned out that it was true – I was featured in a newspaper article that someone wrote about me in Labrador, and I did not even know about it! And, all of a sudden the question came, “Are you that Marine Biologist and World Traveler that had her Jeep broken into last time you were in St. John’s, Newfoundland?” I was caught off a guard to her question, but I replied, “Yes, unfortunately that was me!”

Fans of "The Voyage of Discovery;" Port Hope Simpson, Labrador; 2015
Fans of “The Voyage of Discovery;” Port Hope Simpson, Labrador; 2015

 

The shop owner walked outside with the woman and daughter, they stood outside for a few minutes looking at my Jeep. And, all three cheerful faces came back into the store and smiled back at me. They thanked me for stopping by their small town, the local shop, and snapped a photograph, and chatted a bit longer until I got back in the Jeep. It was an experience that I will never forget, because this town symbolized the kindness that I would continue to receive during my time on the Trans-Labrador Highway.

Northern Part of the Trans-Labrador Highway:

The road to Cartwright led me into the world’s most well-known area for salmon fishing. One of my new friends at the shop told me that presidents will stay up there during the summer months to fish for salmon. Considering I was standing in two feet of snow, I took his word for it. It snowed right after leaving Port Hope Simpson and it kept dumping white flurries everywhere! Inches and inches were forming on the roads, the highway, and next to the gas stations.

Cartwright is the furthest Northern town that you can go, there are only woods, dirt, and no roads. If you walk for a long period of time you could reach the Torngat Mountains National Park (but you have to hike for a long time, in order to do so!). The only accessible way to the Torngat Mountains National Park is by helicopter, which will drop you off to camp for a few weeks in the mountains.

Before my departure, I knew that I had to fuel up not only my gas tank, but two of my spare containers on the back of the Jeep. This was going to be an expensive fill up in Cartwright, but I could not risk being stranded in the cold on a very isolated highway. Up until this town, I had not seen any vehicles on the highway yet!

As the climate got colder and it got darker, you could feel the nip in the air. Rumor has it when you own a Jeep soft top, the inside gets really cold, especially while driving in negative temperatures. Personally, my heater stayed mostly on low, my brother and I were bundled in cold water gear (mostly hoodies, hats, and jeans), and inside the Jeep was cozy and warm.  So, we will keep them rumors for now. Regardless, we were comfortable, but the roads on the other hand, were covered in sleet, ice, and snow! And, this is how the Trans-Labrador Highway venture continued!


 

Central/Western Part of the Trans-Labrador Highway:

The small intersection from Cartwright to the Trans-Labrador Highway was completely covered in ice and snow. There were a couple of snowshoe hares running across the road as I slowly drove towards the highway. The plow trucks were not in sight, well, actually no vehicles were. It was the first time on this journey where I felt completely alone and somewhat, vulnerable of not knowing what to expect. Were my 33 inch tires going to rough out this adventure with me, and not get a flat? Am I enabling myself to run out of fuel by driving slower than I had originally anticipated? Was I going to encounter any vehicles before getting to Happy Valley/ Goose-Bay or Labrador City? With my brother passed out in the passenger seat, I took a few minutes to reflect on this world tour and the accomplishments that I hoped to achieve in the future. I know that I am meant to travel the world, as this was all that I ever thought about from a very young age and into my adult life – I pushed myself to be here in this moment, and to conquer one of the loneliest roads in the world. It then hit me, I now know why the Trans-Labrador Highway was and is still called one of the loneliest roads in the world.

Reaching Quebec; Canada; 2015
Reaching Quebec; Canada; 2015
Distance from Churchill Falls to Quebec Border; Labrador; 2015
Distance from Churchill Falls to Quebec Border; Labrador; 2015
Onwards to Baie-Comeau; Canada; 2015
Onwards to Baie-Comeau; Canada; 2015

 

Top 10 Essentials for Driving the Trans-Labrador Highway:

Most of the regions of Labrador are connected by road, except for the north coast of Labrador. In addition, there are also a few isolated communities that do not have road connections on the south coast and to Mud Lake in central Labrador. These are useful tips to keep in mind for preparations of driving the Trans-Labrador Highway:

1) Slow down when you see large vehicles or transport trucks approaching as gravel may spray and crack a windshield. Please ensure you have emergency supplies and a spare tire on board as the gravel can be sharp.

2) Your vehicle should be serviced before the road trip, ensured that the windshield wiper blades are in good order, plenty of window washer fluid, and make sure that the oil change is up to date. Personally, I had gotten an oil change before I entered Newfoundland, which in return, reassured no oil issues in Labrador. For snow: winter tires are highly recommended between the months of October and May. Optional: metal studs placed on winter tires to remove the factors of slipping, sliding and less gripping on the road.

3) In winter months, snow clearing equipment ALWAYS has the right of way. Important: be cautious of ‘black ice!’ A shovel, blanket, matches, flares, extra windshield washer fluid, spare tire, snacks, and water are critical.

4) Check the road conditions and weather forecast before you depart. Also, make sure that you have spare fuel canisters in your vehicle, as gas or petrol stations are few and in between!

5) There is no cellular service on the highway. The government has created a safety program so you can borrow a satellite phone for your road trip. This service is completely FREE. Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador must provide their driver’s license, while others must provide a credit card number for replacement if the units are not returned. Satellite phones are programmed to dial directly to the police and are for emergency use only. Pick up points for satellite phones: Wabush (Wabush Hotel), Churchill Falls, Happy Valley (Midway Travel Inn & Hotel North Two), Goose Bay, Port Hope Simpson (Royal Inn/Suites), Charlottetown (Alexis Hotel), Mary’s Harbour (Town Office),  L’Anse au Clair (Riverlodge Hotel) and Forteau (Northern Light Inn).

6) If traveling in the winter months, it is recommended to have a ‘block heater’ in the engine that will help prevent the battery from draining and the engine fluids from freezing. A small electrical plug will be visible in the front grill. Using an extension cord, ‘plug in’ your block heater when your car is parked for long periods (mainly overnight). Don’t forget to unplug before you turn on the engine and drive away! When it is extremely cold, it is a good habit to let the car engine warm up for 3-5 minutes, letting it idle before driving. Block heaters can be purchased and installed in Labrador City and Goose Bay, if your vehicle doesn’t have one already.

I will admit that I did not hear that a ‘block heater’ would be essential, until I was already in Happy Valley. My Jeep worked fine without one, but it depends on your preferences.

7) A portable weather radio with a built-in flashlight and lantern to keep up to date daily on the weather conditions happening around you. Also, it is important to know the highway weather conditions as well.

8) In winter, hat, gloves, boots, thermals, winter jackets, and long pants is suggested. Then in summer, toe-closed shoes, shorts/pants, hats, sunglasses, and suntan lotion could definitely come in handy.

9) During the summer months, insectivores or bugs can be plentiful. It is best to wear DEET covered clothing, spray for ticks and mosquitos, and wear SPF sunscreen long sleeves.

10) Have fun, be safe, and enjoy the outdoors! Remember to respect the wilderness, animals, and the beautiful surroundings ahead of you!

 

Distance from Churchill Falls to Toronto; Labrador; 2015
Distance from Churchill Falls to Toronto; Labrador; 2015

 

Journey to the Unknown:

Josh and I’s main mission was to drive the Trans-Labrador Highway for 3 days, a mix of paved and dirt roads. And, of course packed with lots of off-roading! Pumped that we brought you videos, photographs, and more travel stories! To top it off, there were very few gas stations, so the extra fuel containers on the Jeep definitely came in handy.

See you on the road! ;)

GPS on Trans-Labrador Highway; Labrador; 2015
GPS on Trans-Labrador Highway; Labrador; 2015