Category Archives: Explore Qatar

Banana Island Resort, Doha by Anantara

Amid much hype of this new hideaway resort in Doha, I decided to give a little surprise and gift to my family. We celebrated a 15-year wedding anniversary this March. Wow! Such a journey it has been.

Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara opened its door since 2 Jan. Located just less than 3km northeast of Hamad International Airport, this man-made island offers 141 rooms, suites, pool villas and over water villas, 800-m beach and a range of island activities for those seeking hideaway in true Arabian luxury.

Our one-day stay in Two-Bedroom Sea View Villa with Private Pool started with booking the villa. Contrary to my belief it turned out that booking.com and the resort’s direct website reservation offered much higher price than booking through a travel agent. Later I found out that my company has an agreement with the resort that offers the same price. I booked through Regency Tour in Landmark. Non-refundable price for the above villa is QR2845.

On the day of check-in, we went to Al Shyoukh Terminal by the dhow harbor (opposite Souq Waqif) and close to Oyster statue in Corniche. We dropped our car to valet parking then had our names checked by the staff at valet parking counter. They had a list of all visitors to the island on that day. They gave us luggage slips and directed to check-in counter in terminal building.

Without much hassle we checked-in, in a four-desk check-in area. Bring your ID with you including your children. The check-in staff then gave us boarding passes. As the closest departure was within few minutes we’re in hurry going down the ramp to the boat.

A 25-minute trip ferried us to the island. The 51-seat boat sailed through dhow harbor before exiting Doha Bay to the island 3km offshore. Inquire from the terminal for departure times. It is normally available hourly though they may provide half-hourly departures like during weekend after 2pm.

Once we arrived at welcome center, I checked-in by giving my ID and luggage slips. Official check-in time is 3pm. We wandered around the island for more than an hour as the villa was not ready when we reached the island at 13:35. We went to the beach, checked public pool with usual slides, tried a bowling game, before finally checked-in. Next to Welcome Center are Dive Center, Riva Italian restaurant and Balance Wellness Center that houses several other restaurants, a gym and wellness-centered services, and indoor botanical garden.

We met an Indonesian Duty Manager who then kindly drove us using a buggy to our booked villa passing through a lush garden confining golf course and on a dirt track along villas. We learned that the resort open for public visitor during weekday only as it gets crowded or fully booked during weekend. There are many version on how much a visitor should pay to visit the island that I urge you to contact its reservation directly (was informed that it was QR200 before  (QR80 for boat trip plus remaining credit to use in any restaurant but it was raised recently)).

We found our villa was nice, brand new, and all functioning and nicely decorated with tropical plus Arabian mix. This two-bedroom villa has a foyer leading to dining room then main bedroom. There is also a direct door access to the second bedroom. A pantry with a door access to front yard also available and has a microwave, fridge and tea and coffee making facility. Plenty of water supply provided as well as a generous welcome fruit.

The main bedroom has sea-view and pool view. When you wake up you can use automatic button by the bed to open window curtain. Ipod docking station and Bose soundsystem is also provided. A mix of English, Arab, sports and lifestyle channel is available.

The bathroom is really huge with a standalone tub, a long mirror, rain shower and toilet. The second room does not come with tub.

Our private pool measures 4x10m with around 1-m depth. A nice feature is that it is temperature-controlled.

Later in the evening we spent exploring the island by walk; went to Teens Club and Children Club and dined at nearby Ted’s American restaurant. We also met an Indonesian chef from Bandung who personally came and greeted us after being informed by one of the waitresses. I think he has done an excellent job in preparing our dinner: surf and turf (meat skewer and fried prawn, onion ring), cheese fries, and chicken steak. We admitted that this is our tastiest burger/steak/fries ever. To his nice gesture he added a nice dessert – free of charge! Total damage cost was QR276 for above menu plus beverages just so know.

Teens club and children club are housed in the same building featuring air hockey table, fuss-ball, playstation, movie room and obstacle course for small children. The island also has bowling (QR50 per game per person), and free cinema (check its listing at cinema/bowling counter). At the time of our visit, surf pool was in operation offerings artificial wave to learn surfing.

Being close to Hamad International Airport, the island is subjected to noise from a plane revving up for take-off. However a view of this plane taking-off, sea, and Doha skylines is an added experience in itself.

The following morning we spent our breakfast at Q Lounge as it is closer to our villa than Azraq, all day dining restaurant, near Welcome Center. In addition to dining, Q Lounge has a nice jacuzzi, and shisha lounge. Close to it is a Spa building and over water villas.

While my kids wanted to take another plunge to the pool I spent exploring the island 800-m beach. The crescent shaped beach has many umbrellas dotted along the beach and beach staff would kindly offer you to prepare for your beach chair.

Throughout our stay we fortunately met helpful and attentive staffs in general. We were warned that a request for buggy could be long before it came but we found out that they came in less than 10 minute when we checked-out. Case may be different at night or a busy period; anyway the island is small you can opt for walk in a pleasant season.

We left the island with a stronger family-bonding and a wonderful quick escape from Doha.

I let the pictures below speak themselves. Check two videos at the end of this post: a buggy ride and villa tour.

The Villa

Private pool on a two-bedroom sea view villa
Private pool on a two-bedroom sea view villa
A closer look to the pool and gazebo area
A closer look to the pool and gazebo area

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Main bedroom in the villa
Main bedroom in the villa
Large luxurious bathroom in the villa
Large luxurious bathroom in the villa
The second bedroom
The second bedroom
Main bedroom directly facing and has an access to a private pool
Main bedroom directly facing and has an access to a private pool
Foyer leading to dining room then main bedroom
Foyer leading to dining room then main bedroom
Small pantry with direct access to front yard
Small pantry with direct access to front yard
That Nespresso machine is really a treat
That Nespresso machine is really a treat
Dining room leading to main bedroom
Dining room leading to main bedroom
Welcome fruit basket. I like it has mangosteen
Welcome fruit basket. I like it has mangosteen
View from villa toward island beach
View from villa toward island beach
Crossing ship from backyard. Crossing this fence is at your own risk.
Crossing ship from backyard. Crossing this fence is at your own risk.
Rain shower is a nice feature in the bathroom. I wish its flow could be much stronger
Rain shower is a nice feature in the bathroom. I wish its flow could be much stronger
The pool at night
The pool at night
Enjoy the splash kids!
Enjoy the splash kids!
Ornamental lamps
Ornamental lamps
Iphone docking station
Iphone docking station
Fitted with Bose soundsystem
Fitted with Bose soundsystem

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The Beach

 

This man-made island offers a 800-m beach
This man-made island offers a 800-m beach
Panoramic view of the beach
Panoramic view of the beach
Another panoramic view
Another panoramic view

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Looks inviting?
Looks inviting?
Nice couches in front of Q Lounge
Nice couches in front of Q Lounge

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Restaurants

 

A list of restaurants and their opening times
A list of restaurants and their opening times
Ted's Restaurant
Ted’s Restaurant
Surf and Turf - meat skewer, fried prawn, vegetable skewer and onion ring
Surf and Turf – meat skewer, fried prawn, vegetable skewer and onion ring
Mini burger
Mini burger
Chicken steak
Chicken steak
Ended with a nice cupcake
Ended with a nice cupcake

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Breakfast at Q-Lounge
Breakfast at Q-Lounge
Q-Lounge
Q-Lounge
Q Floating Lounge
Q Floating Lounge
Q Floating Lounge
Q Floating Lounge
Outdoor seating offers a view to pool and further afield Hamad Airport
Outdoor seating offers a view to pool and further afield Hamad Airport
Jacuzi at Q Lounge
Jacuzi at Q Lounge
Al Nahham Arabian Mediterranean restaurant
Al Nahham Arabian Mediterranean restaurant

 

Zest - Organic Cafe
Zest – Organic Cafe

Surroundings & Facilities

 

Banana Island map. This was a part of welcome package.
Banana Island map. This was a part of welcome package.
An iconic Welcome Center
An iconic Welcome Center
Welcome to Banana Island Resort
Welcome to Banana Island Resort
Been there
Been there
A happy family escape
A happy family escape
A direction to Dive Center - just left to Welcome Center
A direction to Dive Center – just left to Welcome Center
Majority of guests are from Qatar and Arab GCC
Majority of guests are from Qatar and Arab GCC
Check-in Area at Welcome Center
Check-in Area at Welcome Center
Inside Welcome Center
Inside Welcome Center
Jetty to Embarkation/Disembarkation Point
Jetty to Embarkation/Disembarkation Point
Golf Course near hotel-type buildings
Golf Course near hotel-type buildings
View toward Ted's American restaurant and Pool Area
View toward Ted’s American restaurant and Pool Area
Driven to our villa using Buggy/Club Car
Driven to our villa using Buggy/Club Car
Villa areas
Villa areas
Main road access in the island
Main road access in the island
Hotel staff cycling around the island for their work
Hotel staff cycling around the island for their work
Surf Pool
Surf Pool
Surf Pool
Surf Pool
Cinema and Bowling
Cinema and Bowling
Bowling is not free. QR50 per person per game
Bowling is not free. QR50 per person per game
Teens Club and adjoining children club
Teens Club and adjoining children club
Movie room at teens club
Movie room at teens club
Hotels at night
Hotels at night
Inside Balance Wellness Center
Inside Balance Wellness Center
Enjoying Doha skyline from the island
Enjoying Doha skyline from the island
Doha Skyline from the island
Doha Skyline from the island
West Bay and The Pearl
West Bay and The Pearl
Being close to Hamad Airport, the island is subjected to noise generated from plane taking off
Being close to Hamad Airport, the island is subjected to noise generated from plane taking off
A serene late afternoon: a plane taking off, sea, and Doha skyline
A serene late afternoon: a plane taking off, sea, and Doha skyline
Island at night
Island at night
Pool area at night
Pool area at night
Lagoon area at night
Lagoon area at night
Azraq restaurant at night
Azraq restaurant at night
Al Nahham restaurant
Al Nahham restaurant
Doha skyline at night
Doha skyline at night

Departure and Boat Trip

Al Shyoukh Terminal is where it starts and ends
Al Shyoukh Terminal is where it starts and ends
Once you enter the gate, drop your car for valet parking
Once you enter the gate, drop your car for valet parking
Then get boarding passes
Then get boarding passes
A 51-pax capacity boat seen berthing here
A 51-pax capacity boat seen berthing here
The boat has 2 x 18x2-seat and 5x3-seat configuration
The boat has 2 x 18×2-seat and 5×3-seat configuration
How it looks like inside the boat
How it looks like inside the boat
A comfortable and reclinable seat
A comfortable and reclinable seat
Passing through dhow harbour before sailing on Doha Bay
Passing through dhow harbour before sailing on Doha Bay
Doha's skyline can be enjoyed on the way to Banana Island
Doha’s skyline can be enjoyed on the way to Banana Island
Almost there
Almost there
Almost there (seen here An Nahham Restaurant and Balance Wellness Center)
Almost there (seen here An Nahham Restaurant and Balance Wellness Center)
Almost there...pier and welcome center
Almost there…pier and welcome center
Finally arrived after 25-min sailing
Finally arrived after 25-min sailing

How Much Is It?

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Videos

Buggy Ride from Welcome Center to Villa

Villa Overview Tour

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Al Safliya Island

A barren island, Al Safliya is only a stone throw away from Doha Dhow Harbaour at Corniche. This manta ray-shaped island probably doesn’t offer you anything interesting from the island itself. But, the view towards Doha West Bay and its skyline, especially during sunset, is just stunning.

Located just south of The Pearl, Al Safliya can be reached by taking a boat or dhow. If by the latter, it is approximately 30-40 minutes sailing. Go to tour agent, or hire a dhow from Dhow Harbour near Oyster monument at Doha Corniche. When we (Institut Teknologi Bandung Alumnus Association Chapter Qatar) went to the island last weekend, each person paid QR70 for a dhow with full capacity of 35 people (so total per dhow QR2450). A full dhow hire will normally include bottled water and BBQ facilities on top deck for the duration of 5 hours. Toilet, safety vest, AC-ed room, audio-video entertainment are available on dhow.

The dhow couldn’t go very close to Al Safliya Island. They would anchor 50-100m away and transfer you to the island by boat (rental fee QR1000/5hours), or you may swim as you wish.

A wooden umbrella-shaped shade are provided along southern beach. Trash bins are there but no toilet facilities are available. The area is like a dumpsite for excavated/building materials, except few meters strip of beach. The water is clear and suitable for water sports. The northern part is a bit muddy and shallow that boat and dhow may keep off from the area. You can walk westwardly along the tail to see West Bay towers quite closely.

A stunning sunset with Doha skyline from Al Safliya Island
A stunning sunset with Doha skyline from Al Safliya Island
Sunset over Doha from Al Safliya Island
Sunset over Doha from Al Safliya Island
A typical dhow for you to get into Al Safliya Island
A typical dhow for you to get into Al Safliya Island
Dhow Harbour where it all started
Dhow Harbour where it all started
Rent a boat or dhow to go to Al Safliya Island
Rent a boat or dhow to go to Al Safliya Island
Doha skyline with Dhow Harbor
Doha skyline with Dhow Harbor
Dhow Harbor is located next to MIA. Entrance through Corniche Road with Oyster monument
Dhow Harbor is located next to MIA. Entrance through Corniche Road with Oyster monument
Steaming out, passing MIA and MIA Park
Steaming out, passing MIA and MIA Park
The "7" at MIA Park
The “7” at MIA Park
A familiar Doha picturesque view
A familiar Doha picturesque view
Sail me away to the island...
Sail me away to the island…
"You jump, I jump"
“You jump, I jump”
Doha skyline from sea
Doha skyline from sea
Faiq & Fathan on upper deck
Faiq & Fathan on upper deck
Al Safliya Island and The Pearl towers
Al Safliya Island and The Pearl towers
The view like this that would  make the trip unmissable
The view like this that would make the trip unmissable
Inside the driver's room. The room is well air conditioned
Inside the driver’s room. The room is well air conditioned
Qatar Emiri Navy
Qatar Emiri Navy
A reflection on a dhow window
A reflection on a dhow window
So, this is the island
So, this is the island
A closer look of the dhow
A closer look of the dhow
Pulling the rope to connect all three dhows that we used
Pulling the rope to connect all three dhows that we used
All three dhows are now connected
All three dhows are now connected
So that we can be easily transferred to the island
So that we can be easily transferred to the island
Transfer boat
Transfer boat
Al Safliya Island is just a barren land
Al Safliya Island is just a barren land
Al Safliya Island beach
Al Safliya Island beach
Kids would love clear water
Kids would love clear water
The island is being 'touched' though tourist-oriented amenities are not fully available
The island is being ‘touched’ though tourist-oriented amenities are not fully available
Don't forget to pray wherever you are
Don’t forget to pray wherever you are
The whole group, Institut Teknologi Bandung Alumnus Chapter Qatar
The whole group, Institut Teknologi Bandung Alumnus Chapter Qatar
Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) Chemical Engineering Alumnus
Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) Chemical Engineering Alumnus
What a view
What a view

Summer Dune Bashing

It’s almost four months back when I had my last offroad desert drive. Amid summer, I went to Inland Sea along with other 21 cars. Though it was 41 C during the day, a night in Inland Sea saw cool temperature of around 22-24 C, much cooler than average of 29 C in Doha.

In the morning, we rocked and rolled over the dunes, down slided barchan dunes and shared a laugh to bogged down cars.

One other thing that makes living in Qatar is more enjoyable.

 

Morning in Rock Islands, Inland Sea
Morning in Rock Islands, Inland Sea

 

Sunrise in Rock Islands, Inland Sea
Sunrise in Rock Islands, Inland Sea

 

Our favorite fishing and camping spot in Inland Sea
Our favorite fishing and camping spot in Inland Sea

 

 

Before that….

Only darkness and few meters of light in front of us
Only darkness and few meters of light in front of us

 

Among friends, everything is fun!
Among friends, everything is fun!

 

Fathan , iPad and his friend
Fathan , iPad and his friend

 

Our neighbor
Our neighbor

 

Fish you luck :)
Fish you luck 🙂

 

and when the adventure begins….

 

Rocking and rolling amid summer morning (photo by Rudy)
Rocking and rolling amid summer morning (photo by Rudy)

 

Got stuck was certainly fun. No worries
Got stuck was certainly fun. No worries

 

Lined up for dune bashing (photo by Rudy)
Lined up for dune bashing (photo by Rudy)

 

Sliding is always on the agenda
Sliding is always on the agenda

 

Qtel (Oreedoo) Tower #2 - end of Inland Sea "Highway Road"
Qtel (Oreedoo) Tower #2 – end of Inland Sea “Highway Road”

 

A signboard at Qtel Tower 2, Inland Sea
A signboard at Qtel Tower 2, Inland Sea

 

Thanks to my "white professor"
Thanks to my “white professor”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singing Dunes

Visited Singing Dune last weekend, my fourth visit. The dune is one of the 30 singing sand dunes in the world. It requires the right combination of sand particle size, temperature and humidity for sand dunes to “sing”. However, they are not singing by themself. You need to slide on it to make an avalanche. The bigger avalanche the louder the sound is. The sound produced resembles “hoooooooooo…..” that Marcopolo described as the sound of the evil’s spirit.

During winter the dune is normally shy to sing. Although I managed to get it sing when slide it down with car (hence very big avalanche), spring to autumn is the good time to hear them singing. (I visited once in August 2009 and it sang happily).

When we visited last weekend, the dune is deteriorating however; it’s smelly (don’t know why), littered in many places…ggggrrhhh…*heard that it was used for Christmas party few days back attended by 1,200 people*. Having said that many people flocked the dune in the afternoon just to get an escape to city life. Unlike the dunes in Sealine area, here you are a bit free from flying SUV or quadbikes.

We pitched a tent amid very cold night and morning (around 11 C). It seems the area is 2-3 C colder than Doha city. I also tested my new toy for the first time. The white professor (my 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee) made several attempts up and down and slide the dune. He seems happy in his habitat. Enjoyable!

Singing sand dunes in Qatar located on the way to Mesaieed from Salwa Road, about 15 km from Salwa Road. Drive Salwa Road and take Exit 24 to Mesaieed. Follow 15 km, pass through 2 roundabouts until you find intersection to Al Kharara. Road to Al Kharara is a road belongs to QP for access to its transmission plant. This single carriageway road will lead you to pipe crossing where you will find fork intersection. This is the start oor a corner of rectangular road encircling singing dunes.

Singing Sand Dunes

Coordinate: 25°2’21″N 51°24’26″E
Map: http://wikimapia.org/#lat=25.0398396&lon=51.4079807&z=14&l=0&m=b&show=/23780782/Singing-Sand-Dunes

 

Waypoints:
Exit 24 Messaied: 25°10’24″N 51°19’31″E (15-km more to turnoff Al Kharara)
Turnoff Al Kharara: 25°4’41″N 51°25’52″E (5-km more to the dune)

Kids so happy up and down the dune
Kids so happy up and down the dune
...or playing sandboarding
…or playing sandboarding
Enjoy the view of the singing dunes
Enjoy the view of the singing dunes
White Professor in its habitat :)
White Professor in its habitat 🙂
Slide down baby
Slide down baby
Slide and slide (Photo by Satrio)
Slide and slide (Photo by Satrio)
...or tug of war :) (photo by Satrio)
…or tug of war 🙂 (photo by Satrio)
The narcissist Jeep family - you won't understand
The narcissist Jeep family – you won’t understand
Singing Dunes area
Singing Dunes area
Amid cold night enjoyed nature
Amid cold night enjoyed nature
Indomie for breakfast
Indomie for breakfast
Very versatile breakfast: Indomie
Very versatile breakfast: Indomie
Don't go to the dunes if for littering, please!
Don’t go to the dunes if for littering, please!
A road to Messaied from Salwa Road
A road to Messaied from Salwa Road
Al Kharara Road leading to Singing Dune
Al Kharara Road leading to Singing Dune

Purple Island Revisited

Revisited Purple Island on 22 Dec 2012 for a family field trip of Association of Indonesian Petroleum Engineers (IATMI) Chapter Qatar. As a trip leader, I had 19 cars in tow in the foggy morning that turned out to become a slightly hot day. Nevertheless, it was still an interesting trip. And as always the most interesting part was while crossing the first two water breaches. Two kids were perfectly wetted due to slippage during the crossing 🙂

With us was one geologist who happy enough to share his knowledge on rock formation. Interesting!

We also had a small clean-up drive; collecting rubbish dumped by irresponsible people. We found usual and interesting items: from energy drink cans, plastic bottles, plastic bags, instant noodle cup to – I’m sorry – co***m. Fiuuhh.

Some pictures from the visit below.

See old post here including Directions how to get there.

The start of the causeway
The start of the causeway
Migrating bird on transit in Purple Island
Migrating bird on transit in Purple Island
Mangrove in Purple Island
Mangrove in Purple Island
Crossing the breach is always fun
Crossing the breach is always fun
Crossing the breach
Crossing the breach
Halopeplis perfoliata
Halopeplis perfoliata

 

Glossonema varians
Glossonema varians
Fathan interested in this insect mound
Fathan interested in this insect mound
Faiq and Fathan climbed up the hill
Faiq and Fathan climbed up the hill
This portion of the island is full of seasnail shells - source of ancient purple dye
This portion of the island is full of seasnail shells – source of ancient purple dye
Seasnails fossil in the making
Seasnails fossil in the making
Area as seen from one of the hills
Area as seen from one of the hills
Clean-up drive
Clean-up drive
Mangrove is well-known for fish breeding spots
Mangrove is well-known for fish breeding spots

 

Al Khor Community as seen from the island
Al Khor Community as seen from the island

Flora of Qatar

While searching for information on flora of Qatar, I found a good book detailing all floras in Qatar. In this 67-page book, Unesco Office in Doha provides an up-to-date scientific reference on Qatar’s habitats and vegetation. There are 110 vegetations listed, each has detailed information on scientific name, growth form, status, habitat and distribution and uses.

Due to copyright issues, they can’t be displayed here but you can access and download the book from this link. Look at page 48 for the pictures of 110 vegetations that make up the list.

Have you ever spotted one of them?

 

Unesco's An Illustrated Checklist of the Flora of Qatar
Unesco’s An Illustrated Checklist of the Flora of Qatar

Al Thakira Mangrove Beach Camping

Al Thakira Mangrove is regarded as one of the finest mangrove area in Qatar

Went for camping to Al Thakira Mangrove Beach on 29-30 Oct 2012 along with more than 30+ cars, 25+ tents, 2 boats, and lots of fun.

Al Thakira Mangrove is located in Al Thakira, accessed by following Al Khor- Al Thakira Road until the last roundabout then turn left (to supermarket area) and left again and follow a road leading to offroad track. Few hundreds meters afterwards is mangrove area. Our camping site is further km away, following the same offroad track encircle the bay, enter a fence opening and end up the other end of the bay facing Al Thakira. Offroad track is smooth although some have to be negotiated, sedan can go however.

Our campsite is adjacent to several reserved semi-permanent winter camp. In fact, our site is already reserved but only started to use on 1 Nov. Otherwise, some empty spots are available though not strategically located.

Campsite: 25° 44′ 41” N, 51° 33′ 39” E

Supermarket :   25°44’15″N   51°32’40″E
Starting Track : 25°44’21″N   51°32’20″E
Waypoint 1 :     25°45’34″N   51°31’28″E
Waypoint 2 :     25°45’56″N   51°32’10″E  (fence opening)
Waypoint 3 :     25°45’11″N   51°33’30″E

Offroad track to Al Thakira Mangrove – sedan can go!

 

Passing area with lots of tiny sand hills yet the track is nothing but smooth

 

Another view of offroad track

 

Approaching our campsite

 

Mangrove area near our campsite

 

Our campsite

 

BBQ starts

 

Another view of our campsite

 

With glowing Ras Laffan Industrial City as a background

 

What makes camping unmissable is until-late-night chat with friends

 

Our two boats made a part of camping participants

 

View of Al Thakira town at night

 

And view of Al Thakira town in the morning – shown here navigation aid (red pole)

 

Sunrise from Al Thakira Mangrove Beach

 

Enjoying sunrise
Though the beach is not that magnificent. kids still love it
Our green 6-person tent. Behind our tent is a reserved semi-permanent winter camp